Eligible low-income entrepreneurs can apply for grants to help fund education and training and even start-up or operating costs. You may be able to take advantage of federal programs or find funding opportunities in the state where you live. Depending on the grant, you may need to provide matching funds or meet other eligibility requirements.
The government doesn’t offer grants directly to low-income entrepreneurs. What it does instead is provide grants to organizations that then provide financial assistance to low-income entrepreneurs. Through its Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs, or PRIME, program, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, provides four types of grants that fund specific activities, including technical assistance, capacity building, research and development and other comparable activities. Eligible organizations include nonprofits that work with micro-enterprise development organizations, micro-enterprise development organizations that work directly with low-income entrepreneurs and Indian tribes that meet certain criteria.
Low-income entrepreneurs may be eligible for grant funding based solely on where they live, operate their business or plan to operate their business. For example, in 2010, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce in Hidalgo County, Texas, along with the University of Texas-Pan American’s Small Business Development Center, the United Way and Wells Fargo Bank offered start-up grants to help low-income women launch a home-based business. In Washington, the Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help, or CASH, provides entrepreneurs in the state with hands-on education and professional and financial support.
Women Business Owners
Several organizations, including Washington CASH, earmark grant monies for women. The Center for Women and Enterprise, for example, funds education, training and certification programs for women entrepreneurs who work in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. If you don’t qualify for grant funding, you may be eligible for a loan through the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, which provides loans to low-income women business owners. Female entrepreneurs can also apply for a $500 grant from the Amber Foundation. Recipients need to use the funding to upgrade equipment, launch or upgrade a website and similar business-related activities.
Federal Pell Grant
Low-income entrepreneurs interested in going back to school, such as to study business or to learn a trade, may be eligible for the federally funded Pell Grant. To qualify for a Pell Grant, you need to meet financial need requirements and be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen. Also, in order to qualify, you usually can’t have a bachelor’s or professional degree already.
- The Brownsville Herald: Program Helps Low-Income Women Become Entrepreneurs
- U.S. Small Business Administration: PRIME Program
- U.S. Department of Education: Federal Pell Grant Program
- U.S. Department of Education: Federal Student Aid
- Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help: About Washington CASH
- The Center for Women and Enterprise: About Our Work
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Office of Women’s Business Ownership -- About Us
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.