I have been getting a lot of calls lately from folks who want me to help get them grants to start a business. Most of the time I have to issue bad news: there is no free money! Contrary to what you hear on infomercials or see on the internet – there is not a pile of free government money somewhere for the taking.
Generally speaking grants are given to non profit organizations for the purpose of implementing programs which have a clear and measurable public benefit. These funds may originate from public or private foundations or government agencies. If you are an individual trying to start-up a for-profit company your chances of getting a grant (ie. money that you do not have to pay back) are virtually 0%. There are some exceptions – from time to time the federal and state governments may allocate funds to stimulate very specific industries such as renewable energy or manufacturing. Check with your state EDC (economic development office) to see what is available. Or check www.grants.gov (typically for established companies).
Most of the time you are better off seeking low interest commercial loans or SBA loans. This search tool may be useful: http://www.sba.gov/loans-and-grants.