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4 Funding Opportunities and Grants for Green Startups and Innovative SMEs

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

New startups and small businesses experience unprecedented pressure in the ongoing economic crisis -especially with the record-high financial burdens. Whether you want to grow your startup or start a new one, getting business funding can be challenging.

At the same time, your business must adapt to changing consumer perceptions to survive in a competitive landscape. At least 90% of Generation Z embrace sustainability, and brands that support similar trends can win a bigger market share. You can easily access grants to actualize your vision if you run a green startup or SME with unique innovations.

1. Federal SMEs Grants

Government agencies offer generous funding to businesses in different industries. While the application process may be overwhelming, federal grants offer lucrative funding opportunities to scale your business operations.

The USDA runs the Rural Business Development Program mandated to empower and grow SMEs operating in rural areas. However, your startup must have less than 50 employees to qualify. Your annual revenue should also be less than $1 million and be established in an eligible community.

The SBA is among the most prominent government agencies supporting small businesses in a drive to diversify and strengthen the U.S. economy. However, the SBA doesn’t provide direct grants to startups. Instead, they provide financial capacitation to PRIME, which offers significant grants to enterprise development organizations. In turn, these organizations finance and train deserving enterprises creating positive social and environmental impacts.

2. The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

The SBIR grant program is designed for entrepreneurs focusing on innovations with a significant potential for commercialization. The main focus areas include sustainability approaches like land revitalization, safe drinking water, green building designs, and other technologies that can revolutionize your industry.

Typically, the funding helps businesses partner with research organizations to conceptualize and develop highly-beneficial solutions like environmental monitoring tools and systems. The SBIR is mandated to encourage and support women-owned businesses and initiatives, which minimizes gender inequalities. If you are interested in their offers, you should first contact associated government agencies with open calls for grants supporting business areas you’re involved in.

3. Regional Small Business Grants

Since federal grants can be limited and highly competitive, looking for appropriate government-backed business grants at the local and state levels can be rewarding. They can help your business establish partnerships with market intelligence firms like Diligence International Group to ensure your business makes the right decisions.

The United States Economic Development Administration offers resources and grants to local communities so they can support innovations that contribute to economic growth. Relevant agencies at state levels help innovative startups secure funding, find appropriate business space, and hire talent. 

Similarly, the MBDA is mandated to operate a network of resourceful business centers designed to nurture and promote minority-owned business initiatives. The business development centers can help eligible businesses access capital, win contracts, and compete in uncertain markets.

Local MBDA agencies help businesses apply for and get significant business grants targeting local SMEs. While the centers run annual grant competitions, they can also help you access other forms of financing to support your business.

4. Corporate Grants for Small Businesses

Most big corporations have philanthropic initiatives that issue significant grants to startups and small businesses. While some corporate grants focus on non-profit organizations in specific industries, others fund for-profit companies dealing with important societal issues.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce runs the largest SME awards. It recognizes small businesses’ economic contributions by offering up to $25,000 in grants to qualifying enterprises. Typically, the awards fund businesses in different categories, but green businesses and initiatives commercializing emerging solutions have a competitive edge. However, your business must be operational for at least one year to qualify for the grants.

The Small Business Growth Fund, financed by Progressive and Etsy, runs an annual funding program that helps small enterprises scale their business operations. This program can offer between $5,000 and $25,000 in grants to businesses with less than a million in revenue.

Endnote

Launching an innovative startup is easy, but growing the business into a profitable venture can be challenging, especially with a shoestring budget. Typically, most companies take some time to generate optimum revenues and achieve profitability. Grant programs can offer relief to entrepreneurs and often make the difference between success and failure.

Besides providing strategic funding, grants can empower startups in multiple ways. If your business specializes in creating green or sustainable solutions, you can qualify for funding from various agencies.

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
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