Finances and Taxes

Top Grants and Loans for POC-Owned Businesses (Plus, Networking Resources!)

Deanna deBara Freelance writer and journalist 

COVID-19 has devastated small businesses across the country—but the economic fallout has disproportionately impacted minority-owned businesses.

According to a research from the University of California Santa Cruz, 41 percent of Black-owned businesses and 32 percent of Latinx-owned businesses closed between February and April 2020—compared to just 17 percent of White-owned businesses.

Minority-owned businesses also faced challenges in securing federal relief funds; according to the Brookings Institute, metro areas with higher shares of minority-owned businesses were less likely to receive loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (with a negative correlation of -0.4)—and in a recent hearing, Ron Busby, President and CEO of U.S. Black Chambers, an organization that represents thousands of Black business owners, told the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship that a staggering 70 percent of his members who applied for PPP loans were denied.

According to the Federal Stimulus Survey Findings report from Unidos US and Color of Change, only about one in 10 Black or Latinx-owned businesses received the assistance they requested—even though more than half (51 percent) requested $20,000 or less in temporary funding.

It’s important that consumers support minority-owned businesses, but if you’re a minority business owner, you may need more than consumer support to keep your business moving forward during these challenging times. 

Make sure you register for a business certification that can qualify you for certain opportunities. Then, explore these financial and support resources for POC-owned businesses, so you can get the support and funding you need to navigate the economic insecurity caused by COVID-19:

Grants

New Voices Foundation

The New Voices Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to offering “women of color entrepreneurs unprecedented access, capital, and expertise to build, grow and scale their businesses with purpose.”

Throughout 2020, the New Voices Foundation will provide up to 60 grants to women of color founders through the organization’s pitch competition program. Each competition will award $100,000 in grant money (with individual grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000), and grant recipients will also gain access to ongoing coaching, mentoring, and business development opportunities.

Who this is for: Women of color-owned businesses.

How to take action: For the most up-to-date information on events, pitch contest, and other grant news, sign up for the New Voices Foundation newsletter. You can also stay in the loop by following them on Instagram @NewVoicesFamily.

Rebuild The Block

Rebuild The Block is a nationwide non-profit fund providing financial assistance to Black-owned businesses. Their mission is to “rebuild the block through the organic growth of resources by redistributing wealth and knowledge to the Black community.” To date, Rebuild the Block has raised $189,000 (with a fundraising goal of $1 million) and awarded six grants to Black-owned businesses across the US.

Who this is for: Black-owned businesses.

How to take action: You can apply for a grant directly through the Rebuild the Block website.

Visa Grant Program for Black women-owned businesses

Visa, in partnership with iFundWomen, is offering ten $10,000 grants to Black women-owned small businesses through their new grant initiative. In addition to the $10,000 grant, winners will also receive an Annual Coaching Membership through iFund Women. 

Who this is for: Black women-owned businesses

How to take action: To be considered for a Visa grant, submit an application by July 31, 2020.

Lowe’s-LISC Small Business Relief Grants

In partnership with home improvement retailer Lowe’s, LISC will be issuing $55 million in emergency grant assistance (individual grants will total $20,000) to small businesses impacted by COVID—and $30 million of that grant money is earmarked for businesses owned by women and minorities.

Who this is for: Businesses owned by women and/or minorities.

How to take action: The application period for Round 5 of the small business relief grants is now open; applications must be submitted by Monday, August 3rd. You can apply for a grant here.

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants 

The National Association for the Self-Employed has a small business grant program called NASE Growth Grants, which provides grants of up to $4,000 to NASE Members. 

Who this is for: All Growth Grant applicants must be current members of NASE. It’s also important to note that NASE Growth Grants aren’t specifically reserved for minority-owned businesses. They are, however, focused on “micro-businesses” that have had trouble securing more traditional financing—a category that applies to many minority-owned small businesses.

How to take action: You can apply for NASE Growth Grant directly through the National Association for the Self-Employed website

First Nations Development Institute

The First Nations Development Institute (FDNI) provides a variety of services for small businesses owned by First Nations entrepreneurs, including grant funding (to date, the FNDI has provided $37 million in grants to support nearly 2,000 Native projects), training opportunities, and business advocacy. 

Who this is for: First Nations entrepreneurs and business owners.

How to take action: While there are no current grant opportunities open through the FNDI, you can learn more about their grantmaking process here, explore resources for grant applicants here, and continue to check for new grant opportunities in the coming months here

Grants.gov 

Grants.gov is a database of federally sponsored grants. The database features over 1,000 grants from 26 federal agencies in a variety of grant categories—including small business grants that may be useful to minority business owners.

Who this is for: Anyone can search for grants through Grants.gov, but eligibility requirements vary by grant.

How to take action: You can search available government grants here; use the search function to narrow down grant options based on keyword, category, or location. Once you identify a potential grant opportunity, you can view relevant information to that grant, including application deadlines and eligibility requirements.

Lending resources

National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) Business Consortium Fund

The NMSDC’s Business Consortium Fund provides financing and technical support to minority-owned businesses that have been underserved by the traditional lending community. The Business Consortium Fund provides both term loans and lines of credit as well as financial counseling services.

Who this is for: Businesses that are certified by the NMSDC and are at least 51 percent minority owned.

How to take action: If you want to certify your business with the NMSDC, get in touch with your closest Regional Affiliate. If you’re already a NMSDC-certified business and want to apply for financing, you can start the application process by filling out the BCF Financing Application and Personal Financial Statement.

Accion

Accion is a nonprofit lending organization that provides small business loans to business owners that have had trouble securing financing through more traditional routes—including minority-owned businesses (60 percent of Accion borrowers come from minority communities). 

Who this is for: Minority-owned businesses in need of a small business loan.

How to take action: You can learn more about Accion’s loan qualifications and start the application process here.

Indian Loan Guarantee

Developed to help American Indian tribes and Alaska Native groups get better access to capital and to bring business opportunities to reservations and tribal service areas, the Indian Loan Guarantee program provides affordable financing (guaranteed up to 90 percent) to federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native groups. Individuals can borrow up to $500,000 (business entities may be eligible for higher loan amounts) to use for a variety of purposes, including working capital or purchasing equipment.

Who this is for: Business owners from a federally recognized American Indian tribe or Alaska Native group. Applicants must also have 20 percent tangible equity in the business/project—and the business/project must directly benefit the economy of the tribal service area or reservation.

How to take action: For more information on eligibility requirements and how to apply for financing through the Indian Loan Guarantee program, refer to the Division of Capital Investment’s Guide for Individual Borrowers or Guide for Tribes, Tribal Enterprises, or Businesses as Borrowers.

State-specific financial resources

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Opportunity Fund (California)

The Small Business Relief Fund from Opportunity Fund provides financial assistance to small businesses in California that have been impacted by COVID-19 in the form of affordable capital, loan payment relief, and free technical assistance (including financial, tax, and legal support)—with a focus on businesses run by women, minorities, and immigrants.

Who this is for: Women, minority, and immigrant-owned businesses in CA.

How to take action: To apply for a small business loan or other financial support through Opportunity Fund’s Small Business Relief Fund, you can call them directly at 888-720-3215 or start your request online.

Greenline Emergency Microloan (Colorado)

Colorado-based Greenline Ventures has established the Greenline Emergency Microloan Program to provide funds to minority, women, or veteran-owned small businesses in Colorado that have been impacted by COVID-19. The microloans, which range from $5,000 to $25,000, have a 2 percent interest rate and six months of no interest or principal payments followed by a 54 month term. The loan also has no fees, collateral requirements, or prepayment penalties.

Who this is for: Women, minority, or veteran-owned businesses in Colorado with 50 or fewer employees that can prove their business has been economically impacted by COVID-19. 

How to take action: Applicants can download the application form and send the completed application with required documentation to microloanprogram@greenlineventures.com

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Malama Loan (Hawaii)

Overseen by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Malama Loan is a loan program that issues loans of ranging from $2,500 to $100,000 to Native Hawaiian small business owners for establishing a small business, growing an existing small business, or for working capital. Loans have a 4 percent APR with repayment terms of up to seven years.

Who this is for: Applicants must be residents of the state of Hawaii and have a current OHA Hawaiian Registry Card to prove Native Hawaiian ancestry.

How to take action: To apply for a Malama Loan,  create an OHA user account and submit an application online.

Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Minnesota)

The Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) is a nonprofit that provides a variety of support—including a loan program, that provides small business loans ranging from $25,000 to $400,000—to minority business owners in the Minneapolis area. 

Who this is for: Businesses that are owned and controlled by entrepreneurs of color.

How to take action: In order to utilize MEDA services (including applying for a loan), applicants must fill out a request form.

Business Center for New Americans Microloan program (New York)

The Business Center for New Americans (BCNA) offers a loan program that issues short-term microloans (loan terms range from six months to three years) ranging from $500 and $50,000 to minority business owners (including women, immigrants, and refugees) in New York. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BCNA has waived all fees for their microloans and lowered interest rates to 5 percent.

Who this is for: New York-based immigrant, refugee, women, and minority entrepreneurs/business owners.

How to take action: To apply for a BCNA microloan, you can submit a loan inquiry online.

Business Center for New Americans Small Business Loan program (New York)

The BCNA also has a small business loan program that provides loans (interest rate is prime plus 3.25 percent with no prepayment penalties and a term of up to 10 years) ranging from $75,000 to $250,000 to small business owners (in Queens and Staten Island) and, more specifically, immigrant, refugee, and women-owned businesses (in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx). 

Who this is for: New York-based immigrant, refugee, women, and minority entrepreneurs/business owners.

How to take action: To learn more about the BCNA small business loan program, including eligibility requirements and information about the loan process, contact Supervising Senior Loan Officer Ervin Gega at (212) 401-6229.

New York Minority and Women-Owned Business (MWBE) Development & Lending Program  (New York)

The New York Minority and Women-Owned Business Development and Lending Program provides support to Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) through the state of NY in the form of technical assistance, direct financial assistance, and access to capital in partnership with a network of local, community, and regional lenders.

Who this is for: Certified minority and women-owned businesses in the state of New York.

How to take action: For more information, contact the Empire State Development (ESD) Regional Office nearest you.

Asian Women Giving Circle (New York)

The Asian Women Giving Circle is a New-York based organization that provides grants to individual Asian women and Asian women-led businesses and community organizations involved in the arts, culture, and social projects. While individual grant amounts may vary, 2020 awards have ranged from $2,500 to $10,000.

Who this is for: Asian women with a business focused on arts and culture in New York.

How to take action: The Asian Women Giving Circle has one grant cycle per year. Generally, the organization releases the request for proposal (RFP) for their grant program in January, with applications due in March, and grant recipients chosen in June. If you’re interested in applying for a grant, visit the AWGC website at the beginning of the 2021 calendar year for more information on the RFP process.

Charlotte Center City Partners Small Business Innovation Fund (North Carolina)

Description: The Charlotte Center City Partners Small Business Innovation Fund is a $2 million dollar fund offers grants of up to $40,000 to small storefront businesses in Charlotte Center City that have been impacted by COVID-19 and need to innovate their business operations or adapt their business model to continue operating through and after the pandemic.

Who this is for: While the fund is open to all small businesses in Charlotte Center City, priority shown to minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses.

How to take action: The first round of applications closed on July 10, but the fund will be accepting a second round of applicants. Continue to check the fund’s FAQ page for information on when they’ll begin accepting the second round of application.

Ohio Minority Micro-Enterprise Grant Program (Ohio)

The Ohio Development Services Agencies is issuing $10,000 grants through their Micro-Enterprise Grant Program to Ohio-based minority and women-owned businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Who this is for: Any minority or woman-owned business based on Ohio that has been operational for at least one year with 10 or fewer employees and $500,000 or less in annual revenue. (Applicants must also be current on all State of Ohio taxes.)

How to take action: You can apply for an Ohio Minority Micro-Enterprise Grant here.

Pennsylvania Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program (Pennsylvania)

The Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program is a $100 million relief program that provides grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to historically disadvantaged businesses, which are defined as “businesses are at least 51% owned and operated by persons who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander because they have traditionally been discriminated against and disadvantaged when seeking financial services and financial products.”

Who this is for: Historically disadvantaged businesses with less than 25 full-time or full-time equivalent employees and less than $1 million in revenue that are located and generate at least 51 percent of their revenues in the state of Pennsylvania. Applicants must also have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and use the grant proceeds to cover COVID-related costs.

How to take action: To qualify for a grant through the Pennsylvania Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program, you must apply through an eligible Community Development Financial Institution.

DreamSpring (multiple states; Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas)

DreamSpring is a nonprofit organization that has been helping a more diverse group of business owners get access to credit and small business loans for 26 years. To date, DreamSpring has dispersed over $210 million in financing to small business owners—and they make sure to disperse those funds quickly; business owners can receive their financing in as little as one business day after loan approval.

Who this is for: Currently, DreamSpring offers small business financing in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas.

How to take action: You can apply for DreamSpring financing by filling out their online application form here.

Micro Enterprise Services in Oregon 40/60 Program (multiple states; Oregon and SW Washington)

Micro Enterprise Services in Oregon (MESO) is an organization offering forgivable loans to female and minority small business owners in Oregon and SW Washington through their 40/60 program. The program offers flexible loan terms that “address the need for capital while also minimizing the debt burden on the business.”

Who this is for: Woman and minority-owned businesses in Oregon or SW Washington that have been in business for at least six months and have been unable to access credit at “reasonable terms.”

How to take action: MESO has yet to release details on how to apply for a 40/60 loan. To be notified when 40/60 loan application information is released, fill out the 40/60 Inquiry Form

Union Bank Business Diversity Lending Program (multiple states; California, Oregon, and Washington)

Union Bank’s Business Diversity Lending Program provides lines of credit and business loans to women, minority, and veteran-owned businesses in California, Oregon, and Washington. While the credit and loan products are essentially the same, the Business Diversity Lending Program has a different credit policy that allows a more diverse group of business owners to access the capital they need.

Who this is for: Woman, minority, or veteran-owned businesses (at least 51 percent) based in CA, OR, or WA with annual sales that do not exceed $2.5 million.

How to take action: You can speak to a banker at your local Union Bank or share your contact information and a banker will get in touch with you

Mentorship, networking, and advisory resources

Our Fair Share

Founded by Sean Combs, Our Fair Share is a resource designed to educate and support minority business owners, non-profits, and independent contractors through the process of applying for and securing a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. The website features resources and educational materials about the Paycheck Protection Program, eligibility requirements, and the documentation business owners will need to apply for a PPP loan.

Who this is for: Any minority small business owner considered applying for a PPP loan. 

How to take action: Visit the Our Fair Share website to get started preparing your application and applying for a PPP loan.

MBDA Business Centers

The Minority Business Development Agency is a government agency that funds organizations that operate MBDA Business Centers, community resources that provide a variety of services to minority-owned businesses, including business development support, access to local, state, and federal government contracts, and easier access to capital. 

Who this is for: Minority business owners.

How to take action: There are a number of MBDA Business Centers across the United States; you can find the MBDA Business Center nearest to you by searching here.

SBA 8(a) Business Development Program

The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program helps minority-owned businesses gain access to exclusive federal contracts. The program also provides financial, management, and technical assistance, including support in navigating the federal contract process, business training, and executive development.

Who this is for: In order to qualify for the 8(a) Business Development Program, the small business must be at least 51 percent owned and/or controlled by “a U.S. citizen who has experienced cultural bias and placed at an economic disadvantage because of their race or ethnicity.”  There are also income and net worth limits for applications; the business must be owned by someone with a net worth of $250,000 or less and with an average adjusted gross income of $250,000 or less for three years.

How to take action: In order to qualify for the 8(a) Business Development Program, you can apply directly through the SBA’s Certification website

Small Business Empowerment Program

Think of the Small Business Empowerment Program as a small business bootcamp. Hosted by Operation Hope, this 12-week entrepreneurship training program gives emerging entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities a variety of tools (including financial counseling, business training, and personal development) to help launch their businesses. 

Who this is for: Emerging entrepreneurs and small business owners.

How to take action: To learn more about the Small Business Empowerment Program, get in touch with your nearest Operation Hope office.

Millennial Entrepreneurs Redefined

Millennial Entrepreneurs Redefined is a program powered by the U.S. Black Chambers Economic Development Program aimed at supporting emerging minority millennial entrepreneurs and business owners. The program hosts free workshops that educate emerging business owners on how to “develop, market, finance, and grow their entrepreneurial ventures.”

Who this is for: Minority business owners between the ages of 18 and 35.

How to take action: For more information on Millennial Entrepreneurs Redefined, email david@usblackchambers.org

Updated: July 31, 2020

Deanna deBara
Deanna deBara Deanna deBara is a freelance writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon.

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