Know what you are getting into
There is no free lunch in the business world. 47% of all new businesses close within 3 years, and 24% close within their first year. High-risk businesses close at a higher rate. With such high failure rates, any organization that simply hands out “free money” would have run out of money years ago. That said, there are smart ways to finance a business. Check out the options below.
The library owns a number of books on financing a business. Search the library catalog using the following search terms to find material of interest: small business - finance, new business enterprises, entrepreneurship.
Are there grants to help start a business?
There are very few grants available for starting or expanding a business unless the business involves research and development or high technology. Many grants have caveats,such as:
It often takes a lot of work to apply for a grant.
You often have to provide a personal guarantee (putting your house on the line) and/or take on responsibility for raising 10-30% of the finances from your own sources(e.g.savings, loans from relatives). You often have to report on your use of the money, or follow particular rules. You can explore the SBA's list of Federal Grant Resources, but you'll soon realize that most grants are not available for the typical business.
Here's what the Small Business Administration says about the pervasive idea that they give out grants to businesses:
"SBA does not offer grants to start or expand small businesses. SBA's grant programs generally support non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions,and state and local governments in an effort to expand and enhance small business technical and financial assistance." -- Source: SBA.
Read The Myth of Free Government Money, from Business Week magazine.
What about the guy with the bow tie?
Several books are advertised as listing "free money" available from government agencies,etc. The advertisements for these books tend to exaggerate the money that is available. They often don’t mention that most of the entries in their books are for loans, loan guarantees, tax credits,and other business assistance, rather than grants. The grants and loans listed are often only available in specific circumstances to specific kinds of people or organizations. The books often duplicate the contents of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, which is a list of all the government assistance programs the US Government offer.
What About Private Foundations?
Most foundations give their grants exclusively to nonprofit charity-type agencies. You can choose to form a nonprofit agency or charity, but few foundations will give grants for operating expenses such as salaries. For information about nonprofits, explore the library's page on Fundraising Resources.
The federal government's Grants.gov allows you to browse for grant postings by government agency. This includes grants for all kinds of entities, from nonprofit organizations to governments to businesses. It includes grants for all kinds of purposes, from starting a business to starting a literacy program. So sometimes it's hard to find grants for businesses, since they're not common.
Washington State Government Grants
Innovate Washington - focuses on stimulating growth in Washington's high tech sectors. The emphasis of the grants is on research and development.
Govloans.gov "Five federal agencies -- U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs -- have come together to create this single point of access for federal loan information on the Web." Browse or search for loans for farming, businesses, students, disaster relief, and more. Includes a glossary of loan terms and links to additional resources.
The U.S. Small Business Administration helps businesses with less than 500 employees. They don’t give grants to businesses, but they do work to help improve the loan situation for businesses by guaranteeing loans that a business owner gets from a bank.
Northwest Business Development Association A local SBA Certified Development Company.
The Evergreen Community Development Association is a SBA Certified Development Company that lends in the whole state but doesn’t have a Spokane office. The closest office is in Yakima.
The Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program. Licensed and regulated by the SBA, SBICs are for-profit investment firms that make capital available to small businesses through investments or loans - basically venture capital firms. They use their own funds plus loans obtained with SBA guarantees and/or by selling their preferred stock to the SBA. They help startups and established businesses. Some SBIC's specialize in certain kinds of businesses, some serve many kinds of businesses.
The Washington State Office of Trade and Economic Development's Business Finance Unit administers a number of loan programs for businesses getting started or already established.
Washington Economic Development Finance Authority Provides credit-worthy small manufacturing and processing companies can access below-market-rate financing through tax-exempt bond programs for up to $10 million.
Micro-Loans and Revolving Loans
Local revolving loans and micro-loan funds are intended to fill financing gaps and provide access to capital to entrepreneurs who cannot access bank loans. Their policies vary depending on the needs of the local economy. Often, training courses and technical assistance are provided or required as part of the loan process,particularly with micro lending. Some revolving loan funds and the majority of micro loan funds are targeted for low-income and minority entrepreneurs.
SNEDA (Spokane Neighborhood Economic Development Alliance). This nonprofit organization seeks to provide loans up to $25,000 to startups that are located in specific low-income areas around the city of Spokane. They also offer business advice.
Northwest Business Development Association's Micro-Loan Program. Loans up to$10,000 at market interest rates. Pre-loan and post-loan management assistance is provided by Spokane Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP).
SNAP Microenterprise Development Program. Microloans from $500 - $10,000 to start or expand businesses in Spokane County.Also offers classes and business plan assistance.
Venture capital and angel investors are usually interested in investing $500,000 and above. The library has a nationwide directory of venture capital firms, but the links below connect you with regional firms, Directory of Venture Capital and Private Equity Firms.
Regional Angel Investors
Seraph Capital Forum – Women Angel group in Seattle interested in Northwest companies.
Also of Interest
The Northwest Entrepreneur Network helps entrepreneurs make the connections and access the resources they need to succeed. Focused on helping entrepreneurs build their business network, the Northwest Entrepreneur Network provides the knowledge, mentoring, and access to investors that creates and grows successful companies.
Grants, Loans and Assistance for Businesses in Small Cities and Rural Areas
Washington State Office of Trade and Economic Development's Rural Washington Loan Fund provides gap financing to businesses which will create new jobs or retain existing jobs, particularly for lower-income persons.
Community Development Block Grant Float Loans for businesses in small cities or rural counties. Available to businesses through cities and counties which are eligible to receive Washington State Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program assistance (cities less than 50,000 or counties less than 200,000 population).
Washington State Office of Trade and Economic Development's HUD Section 108 Guaranteed Loans for businesses in small cities or rural counties.
Business Programs of the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Business Cooperative Service. With the goal of preserving or creating new employment for rural people, companies must be in the countryside or towns up to 10,000 or 50,000, depending on the program. Another grant of interest is the Value-Added Agricultural Product Market Development Grant.
Rural Opportunities Loan Fund and Micro Financing, TRICO Economic Development District (TEDD)in Colville. Serves rural Spokane county and other area counties. Their Rural Opportunities Loan Fund can be used for most business purposes including new business startups, when commercial financing is not available.
Minority Business Development Agency, of the U.S. Dept of Commerce. The closest office in San Francisco. This is the only federal agency that was created specifically to help minority-owned businesses start or expand, by helping them get loans and venture capital.
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Northwest Regional Office
911 NE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97232, 503-231-6754.
Assists Indian tribes to establish or expand businesses. Operates a guaranteed business loan program for Indian tribes and individual tribe members.Will guarantee up to 90% of the loan amount (up to $500,000 for individuals) subject to availability of funds. Their Wellpinit Office of Business and Economic Development may also be able to help. P.O. Box 389, Wellpinit, WA 99040, 509-258-4561.
Northwest Native American Business Development Center
Management and technical assistance for Native Americans including financial and loan packaging.
The Center for Veterans Enterprise, from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.Click on Assistance Program Pages to find out what services you are eligible for.
The Abilities Fund, Centerville, IA
The first and only nationwide community developer and financial institution targeted exclusively to advancing entrepreneurial opportunities for Americans with disabilities.
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, U.S. Department of Commerce. This agency helps small, minority-owned, women owned, disabled owned and veteran owned firms get contracts with the Department of Commerce and its prime contractors.
Northwest Business Development Association's Minority and Women's Revolving Loan Program. They serve Spokane County.
Child Care Facility Fund, from the Washington State Office of Trade and Economic Development's Business Finance Unit. Loans are available to start, expand or improve a child care facility. Grants are available to improve safety and health or buy equipment.