Starting your own business is as exciting as it is daunting. For children’s activity and education businesses, you are getting ready to change lives and share your expertise with the next generation. But, how do you actually turn your passion into a children’s activity business? There are so many elements that go into a successful new venture like writing a business plan, coming up with a name, discovering your why, and setting achievable goals.
There is also, of course, a fair amount of capital that goes into starting a new business. When you begin writing your business plan (see business plan templates in our guide), you should also think about how you can get a small business grant to help you fund your new venture.
How to get a small business grant
In this article we cover:
Types of grants for small business owners
There are 2 main types of grants for small business owners: government, which includes federal and state, and private, which can come from corporations or foundations. It might seem too good to be true, but grants really are free money. However, you need to use the money on what you outlined in your grant proposal, which shouldn’t be a problem given that is the reason you applied in the first place.
To find government grants that might match your organization, start by checking out grants.gov, which is the official website of federal and state grants. As you search for grants, make sure to check off “small business” and any other eligibility you might fall under. Then, look to see which grants make sense for your organization.
You can also consider a competition-based government grant. The goal of these funds is to increase innovation and research. It might not be the best fit for children’s activity and education businesses, but it is worth a shot to take a look. You can find a list of these types of grants on challenge.gov.
On the state level, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) can help you finance your new venture, network with other business owners, and find mentors. Likewise, you can search on the Economic Development Administration (EDA) website to find your state’s local agency and apply for and receive resources from there.
Grants funded by corporations and foundations are also a good option for small businesses, though the competition is generally very strong. For these, our best recommendation is to be as specific as possible. There are private grants specifically for Native Americans and women currently open. In addition, there are minority-focused grants from corporations like Comcast RISE. A little Googling can open the door to a lot of private opportunities for small business owners.
For those who do not fall under a minority group umbrella, companies like Nav, FedEx, and VISA have open small business grant opportunities. Likewise, the National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) offers grants to small business owners who are members of the organization.
Check out our list of grants for after school programs if your new business fits into that category.
How to write a grant proposal for small business
Grant proposals need the following items to be considered:
- Cover letter (Check out our full guide on writing a strong cover letter for grant proposals)
- Table of contents
- Executive summary (See our guide on how to write an executive summary for grant proposals)
- Statement of need (also known as a problem statement)
- Project description
- Goals and objectives
- Methods, timelines, and other project management related plans
- Staffing information
Writing a strong grant proposal is less about what you say and more about how you say it. To win grant competitions and funding from both government agencies and private corporations and foundations, you need to be as specific as possible. Like when you apply for a job, each item on your grant proposal should be tailored to the organization and grant for which you’re applying.
For grant proposals, personalization is key. Do not just find & replace the agency or company’s name and call it a day. Research the organization and include information about their mission, values, and former grant winners. Most importantly, convey why your small business fits with the organization’s mission. Why should they award the grant to you over another company? Because you are building a children’s activity or education business, you have the advantage of being different as well as providing a more direct impact. Use that advantage to your, well, advantage!
Grant proposal template for small businesses
Working from a grant proposal template is a great way to kickstart the process. However, it is important to remember that many other applicants might use the same or similar templates. Therefore, we recommend starting with a template and then making some changes to the formatting or styling to make it feel more your own.
Before downloading a template from the Internet, take a look at the specific grants you are interested in. They might have formatting requirements or examples of what they want. They might even have templates that you can base your work on. If not, speak with fellow small business owners to see if and how they applied for grants. Crowdsourcing is a great way to find what works.
If you are looking online, make sure you use a reputable source. Jotform, a startup that builds powerful forms and pdfs, has a robust grant proposal template that you can download. Similarly, Smartsheet has customizable templates that you can use depending on the type of education or activity business you are creating.
Hopefully, these tips can help you as you start down the path towards winning a small business grant to start or scale your dream children’s activity or education company. If you are looking for more guidance on how to start a business teaching children, the resources and tools offered by Sawyer for Business can help.