Where can I find reliable grant sources for starting my own homebased IT consulting business, and what are my chances of receiving funding from them?
A: Grants for starting a business are few and far between. A search through The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance ( www.cfda.gov ) will lead you to two types of grants: one for rural businesses and one for minority business enterprises. However, even for these, there are qualifiers.
Eligible applicants for the rural money are public entities and nonprofit corporations that may in turn award money to the residents they serve. They have a strong emphasis on helping existing businesses grow. Similarly, the grants for minority enterprises are awarded only to established businesses and community organizations.
Some individuals may find grant money for starting a business from vocational rehabilitation funds administered by state agencies serving the disabled. One way to find out if your state will do this is to contact your state representative or senator.
From time to time, private grant money is given to very small businesses. For example, The Amber Foundation ( www.womensnet.net ) favors businesses already underway, although this foundation has not awarded grants in two years.
As you can see, grants are neither readily available nor easy to get. Thus, most people start a business by bootstrapping, tightening their living expenses, turning to savings, lining up business in advance or cajoling loans from family and friends. If you qualify, you can apply for a federal microloan administered through private organizations in various communities. Visit www.sbaonline.sba.gov/financing/microparticipants.html for more information.
Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is The Entrepreneurial Parent. Send them your start-up business questions at www.workingfromhome.com or in care of Entrepreneur.