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Grants are not nearly as common or as easy as the TV commercials say. They are selling lists of government programs so they want to get you interested enough to buy their lists. There are some special programs, though, so it's worth trying. The first thing to do is browse the Small Business Adminstration (SBA) website at www.sba.gov to search for information there. There are some programs that favor women and minorities. If it comes down to applying for an SBA loan, you do that at a local bank, and that bank contacts the SBA for you because the local bank lends you the money that the SBA guarantees. Another good way to get going on this is to contact your local small business development center (SBDC). There are about 1,000 of them in the U.S., and you can pick up a list at bplans.com/sb/. These are business development agencies funded by the SBA, state governments, and local education, and they give you good information for relatively low cost. The SBDC is an especially good starting point because there may be some local provision or local program to help you and the local SBDC might know about it even if the SBA website doesn't. Federal programs tend to flow through the SBA, but for state and local programs of course every state and local area is different, for obvious reasons. You're smart to be asking for help. Why reinvent the wheel?-- Tim Berry
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