Money Everywhere“It takes money to make money,” “money doesn’t grow on trees,” “money makes the world go round,” “time is money,” and dozens of other money-clichés illustrate the “power of a dollar” for your small business.

It goes without saying that capital is essential to the success of any small business, and there are many ways to get it– investors, loans (such as an SBA loan tailored specifically for small businesses), re-invested profits, or from your own savings. However, all of those options have costs.

Free money—with no strings attached that doesn’t ever need to be repaid—is a much better option, and can provide a real advantage to a small business. Wait you say, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” While that might be the case, there are a number of contests and grants available to small business owners that truly do provide cash awards that are designed to help small businesses grow and flourish.

The following contests are currently open:

  • CBS Local’s Small Business Marketing Makeover Contest
    Open to all US small businesses (as defined by the SBA), the contest asks you to provide basic information about your business, and provide three 600 character answers to the questions, “Tell us about your business. How is your business successful? When did you start your business? How have you grown since launch?” “What inspired you to start your business?” and “What are your current marketing tactics and why do you deserve a marketing makeover?” The winner, as judged by a panel of small business experts, will get a $25,000 marketing makeover package that includes production and distribution of a streaming radio ad on CBS radio’s online stations in a selected market, online display ad production and distribution on CBS’s local websites in a selected market, 6 months of CBS Local online search advertising, a one-year subscription to Constant Contact’s toolkit, and expert mentoring advice to get the most out of the marketing campaigns. The second place winner gets a CBS radio and display ad package valued at $5000, and third place gets a CBS radio package.
    Get all the details and enter here. The deadline is June 30, 2014
  • Wells Fargo Works Project Contest
    Open to all small businesses in the U.S. that have been in operation for at least 6 months, this contest will award $1000 to each of 25 finalists, and an additional five $25,000 prizes to the selected grand prize winners. Additionally, Wells Fargo will donate $5000 to a local charity chosen by each of the five grand prize winners. To enter, you are asked to submit basic information about your business, as well as a 2.5 minute video or 600 word essay with a photo that answers four contest questions about your business including why you started the business, what your purpose or mission is, what your biggest challenges are and how the $25,000 prize and mentorship can help you address them, and either what your biggest achievement to date is or how your business is actively engaged in your community. The first round of judging is public online voting, so your video or essay will provide branding exposure even if you don’t win. Professional judges will pick the winner from the finalists in round 1. The contest began in May, and voting determines the finalists, so the sooner you get your entry in the better. (If you just want to view the entries and vote, you can do that here.)
    Get all the details and enter here. The deadline is June 30, 2014.

In addition to contests, you could also qualify for any number of grants provided by the government, non-profits, and private companies that are committed to investing in small businesses. With a grant, you submit an application asking for money for a particular purpose, for example starting a new product line, a Research & Development project, or opening an additional location. If the grant committee selects your project, you get the funds with no requirement to pay them back.

Many grants are designated for a particular group such as veterans, minorities, or women; or a specific industry such biotechnology or farming. Some options that are available to a wide pool of small businesses include:

  • National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants.
    Open only to NASE members ($120/year), these grants provide up to $5000 to a “micro-business” owner with a specific financial need—for example purchasing a piece of equipment, buying software, launching a marketing campaign, or hiring part-time help. Applications are accepted any time, and you can apply here.
  • US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Enterprise Grants Program
    Open to small businesses (under 50 employees and under $1M annual revenue) in “rural” areas (“Rural” is defined as any area other than a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000.), the program provides grants of between $10,000 and $500,000 to encourage rural business development. A wide variety of projects are considered from infrastructure development to training and technical assistance, with priority given to smaller loan requests. Applications are accepted any time and submitted to your Rural Development State Office.
  • 2014 Huggies® MomInspired™ Grant
    Huggies is awarding selected winners $15,000 in seed money as well as business resources to support the development of original product ideas and startup businesses that “are designed to help make life easier for parents so that they can better enjoy everyday moments with their little ones.” (Note—the product/business does not need to be diaper related, and you don’t actually need to be a woman or a mom to apply.)
    Get all the details and apply here. The deadline is September 30, 2014.

For additional small business grant opportunities, check out businessgrants.org. The site provides detailed information about a number of available small business grants, as well as help with finding other grant opportunities on your own, and help with completing grant applications.

What could you do with a bit of extra cash? Launch a new product…Strengthen your brand…Embark on an ambitions advertising and marketing campaign…Hire more staff to improve customer service… the possibilities are as limitless as your imagination and your drive. Enter one of these contests, or apply for a grant. You have nothing to lose (except a bit of your time), and even if you don’t win a prize or get awarded a grant, you will have generated some great publicity for your small business.

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Image Credit: Money Everywhere by ota_photos, on Flickr

Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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