With major urban hubs such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, California is indeed a golden place for small businesses. With 4.1 million small businesses scattered throughout the state, California boasts the largest population of small businesses in the US, eclipsing even New York and Texas.
With the most small businesses, however, came the most suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic out of any other state. By 2021, over 40,000 small businesses were forced to close, including one-third of the state’s independently owned restaurants. Also, more PPP loans were taken out by California small businesses than in any other state.
Congress has made it clear that they are not going to allocate any more COVID relief money for small businesses. Programs such as PPP and the Restaurant Revitalization fund most likely will not be given any renewed funding, so small businesses in the Golden State are going to have to turn to grants for relief.
There are still some state and national grants and contests that California small businesses can apply to.
Kapitus’ $250K Building Reliant Businesses Contest
Kapitus has launched its Building Resilient Businesses contest, in which one first-place winner will receive $100,000, one second-place winning will receive $50,000, and five third-place winners will each receive $20,000. To enter, simply send a homemade, 2-minute video briefly describing your business, how it was able to persevere over the past two years, and how you would spend $100,000. The contest is open to all small businesses in the US (excluding Vermont and Colorado) that have been in business for at least a year and have less than $5 million in annual revenue. The deadline to apply is June 30, 2022. To enter the contest, go here.
The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)
These two federal programs serve as a conduit between small businesses engaged in scientific research and development and government agencies seeking to provide them with grants, and especially pertains to California’s Silicon Valley, the world’s largest hub for technology startups. Grants come in all sizes from various agencies. For example, the US Dept, of Energy provides grants to small businesses innovating in energy production. The STTR program requires that applying small businesses have a partnership with a nonprofit scientific research organization. To qualify for either program, click here.
American Express and Main Street America’s Inclusive Backing Grants
California has one of the largest Hispanic and LGBTQ populations in the country, so the American Express and Mainstreet America’s Inclusive Backing Grants national program very much so pertains to the Golden state. AmEx and Main Street America is providing more than 300 grants of $5,000 each over four cycles throughout 2022 to small businesses located in older or historic commercial districts with priority to be given to small businesses owned by the LBGTQ+ community, Hispanic-owned, veteran-owned, and business owners who are women and people of color. Applications for the fourth grant cycle are now being accepted by business owners who identify as native or indigenous people, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ and immigrants and refugees. Membership in the National Main Street Center is not required. Applications for the fourth grant cycle can be found here.
The California Dream Fund
The California Dream Fund is a $35 million small business grant program by the state’s Office of the Small Business Advocate through select centers of the state’s Technical Assistance Expansion Program (TAEP) . New entrepreneurs and small business owners must complete an intensive training program through select participating centers of their local TAEP office. Following successful completion of the training and consulting program, new businesses will be eligible to apply for a microgrant of up to $10,000. Those interested can apply here.
The Job Creators Quest Grants
Southern California business owners who identify as people of color, military veteran or with the LGBTQ+ community with two to 20 employees can still apply for a $100,000 grant program from Founders First, which will choose 30 winners by the end of the year. As a business owner, you need to demonstrate that the grant money would be used as growth capital or to provide premium wage jobs, as well as fix or enhance vital equipment in order to scale up your business. The deadline to apply is Nov. 30, 2022, and the small business applicants must be located in the Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego regions. Those interested can apply here.
The San Francisco Storefront Grant Program
The city of San Francisco is providing $1,000 to $3,000 grants to assist small businesses in low-income districts become compliant with the city’s Accessible Business Entrance program that ensures that businesses are accommodating to those with disabilities. To qualify, your business must have been sued for not being accessible to disabled peoples and be a nonprofit. The deadline for the grant program is June 30, 2022. Interested applicants can learn more about the program here.
Don’t Lose Free Money
Small businesses across the country are being hit with the trifecta of bad economic conditions: skyrocketing inflation, staff shortages and supply chain disruptions, and that condition is being especially felt in the most economically diverse state in the country, California. Small business owners should seek to obtain grants any way they can in these uncertain times.