There are virtually no grants available to start or expand a business. The adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, is a good guide. A grant is a direct financial contribution made without expectation of repayment but with very specific expectations about outcomes. Organizations that give grants have criteria to meet that, by and large, excludes for-profit businesses.


Foundations, for example, normally fund nonprofit organizations that qualify for public charity status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These nonprofit organizations are usually charitable, educational, scientific, religious, literary or cultural in nature. Your local public library may have a foundation and grant directory available.

The government grant program designed to fund for-profit businesses is called the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). Small businesses with strong research capabilities in science and engineering that are currently doing high quality research and development are the most likely to compete for funds to continue their research. The program is not an assistance program for small business – it is highly competitive and merit-based.

USDA often has rural or value add agriculture business programs and child and adult care food programs.

Export assistance programs such as the ‘Export Voucher Program’ may also be available through the Washington State Department of Commerce:

Sometimes corporations offer seed money programs aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs.

A Native American living or working on a designated Reservation may be eligible for grant funds. Other than that, there are no Washington State or Federal programs that provide grants for individuals meeting those criteria. That is not to say that assistance is not available. The most significant is preferential status for bidding on government contracts. Certification of preferred status is through the Office of Minority and women Business Enterprises. Nonprofit organizations that serve women, minorities, disabled people or veterans may offer grants or other forms of assistance.

See Internal Revenue Service’s Publication 557, “Tax Exempt Status for your Organization” This publication will provide general information about obtaining tax-exempt status, filing requirements, and detailed information on 501(c)(3) organization.

Online Resources


ASBDC seal 125px

Contact Washington SBDC

(833) 492-7232