Are there grants for convicted felons to start a business? Yes! Former felons can apply for government grants, as well as grants offered by nonprofit organizations and large corporations.
The grants for ex-felons to start their own business range from small microgrants under $1,000 to much larger awards reaching $30,000.
Grants For Convicted Felons To Start A Business 2023
A new business needs some startup money, and that’s where felony grants enter the picture. Obtaining a grant gives you some crucial capital to get off the ground.
Startup business grants help you meet your living expenses during the early days of your venture, or invest in equipment or stock. Unlike small business loans, felony grants don’t have to be repaid.
Some business grants for felons are limited to specific minorities, women, and veterans, and some others may be limited to businesses in certain industries.
When you apply for a grant, you’re competing with other entrepreneurs for a limited pool of grant money. For each grant you look at, read the requirements carefully and make sure you meet the eligibility criteria.
Let’s explore some of the organizations with business grants for felons you may qualify for.
What Felony Grants Are Available From The Government?
Local, state, and federal government grants are available to entrepreneurs starting small businesses. These grants aren’t specifically designed for felons, but most don’t restrict felons from applying or being eligible for funding.
Grants.gov is the database listing all current grant opportunities offered by federal government departments.
To find grants you may be eligible for, head over to the grants search page at https://grants.gov/search-grants.
Use the filters to find small business grants.
- Under Opportunity Status, select “posted”
- Under Funding Instrument Type, select “grant”
- Under Eligibility, select “small business”
Before you apply for a grant, you’ll need a unique entity identification number from the System Award Management platform. Register your business at https://sam.gov/content/home.
Once you’ve got your unique entity ID, make an account on Grants.gov and apply for small business grants.
SBA Grants and Loans
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal government agency. Through grant programs and small business loans, the SBA supports thousands of entrepreneurs.
While you can’t get a grant from the SBA directly, you can apply for SBA funds through your local representative.
The SBA makes funding available through the STEP program, which helps small businesses develop international trade. To find out if you can get STEP funding for your business, contact your local advisor.
Find your local advisor at https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/grants/state-trade-expansion-program-step.
Small Business Loans For Felons
The SBA works with lenders to offer a loan guarantee, making financing easier to obtain. SBA loans don’t restrict felons from applying and the interest rates on these loans are typically low interest.
For entrepreneurs just starting out, the SBA microloan program offers financing up to $50,000 for eligible applicants.
Learn more at https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/microloans.
Another second-chance financing provider for formerly incarcerated business owners is Entre Capital. Their slogan is “Unless you have a criminal record, we can’t lend you money”.
An Entre Capital loan can be used to start a business or grow an existing venture.
For more information, visit https://www.entrecapital.com/
Local and State Government Grants For Convicted Felons
Most cities and states offer grant funding to support small businesses and entrepreneurs. These aren’t specific government grants for convicted felons, but you’re welcome to apply as long as you meet the eligibility criteria for the grant program.
Contact your local economic development office to see which grants are currently available.
In addition to grants, local governments also provide training programs and tax incentives.
Use the search tool at the U.S Economic Development Administration to find economic development offices in your area.
Second Chance Grants For Felons
Rise Up Get Started second chance grants for felons are available through Determination Incorporated.
Helping felons in the Kansas City area get started in business, the program offers a 12-month training program that includes business coaching and mentoring.
Program participants learn how to develop a business plan and manage a budget. During the program, participants will save $300 of their own funds and receive a grant of $750.
Learn more at https://determinationincorporated.com/.
The Transform Business Grant is another grant program designed for former felons and other oppressed groups. Recipients are awarded a $1,000 microgrant and a customized business strategy plan.
Visit https://www.transformgrant.org/the-grant/ to learn more.
The Georgetown Pivot Program from Georgetown University is fairly unusual. As well as awarding grant money, the Georgetown Pivot Program provides a one-year program helping former felons develop business skills.
Participants attend classes, get hands-on experience through an internship, and present their business ideas at the Pivot Pitch Competition for a chance to receive startup funding.
Participants must have been incarcerated within the past 5 years, be at least 25 years old, and possess a high school diploma or GED.
For more information about these second chance grants for felons visit https://pivot.georgetown.edu/
The LEAP Virtual Entrepreneurial Academy is a nonprofit organization offering second-chance grants for felons through a business skills program that runs twice each year
The program lasts for 3 months. Students attend classes twice a week and then present a business plan to the judging panel for an opportunity to win a cash prize. Graduates of the program are eligible to apply for a $1,000 microloan.
To qualify, you must be a formerly incarcerated woman with access to a computer.
Learn more at https://leapforladies.org/employment-and-entrepreneurship.
Business Grants For Felons
Former felons are eligible to apply for grants offered by corporations and nonprofit organizations. Your criminal record won’t necessarily be a barrier, although you may need to go through a criminal background check for some grant providers.
In addition to business grants for felons, some nonprofits offer second-chance business training to former felons. This valuable training helps felons learn the necessary skills for running a small business.
The Nav Small Business Grant
Nav is the leading financial health platform for small businesses. The Nav small business grant distributes $10,000 of funding every quarter to help entrepreneurs finance their business goals.
Visit https://www.nav.com/company/ to learn more.
FedEx Small Business Grant
To obtain this grant, you need to enter a contest. The contest is open to FedEx customers using shipping services. The FedEx judging panel selects 10 winners each year who receive $30,000 grants.
To stand out, you’ll need a unique or innovative product or service because, as you can imagine, lots of businesses are hoping to secure one of those $30,000 grants.
To enter the contest, sign up for a FedEx shipping account, then visit the grant contest page at https://www.fedex.com/en-us/small-business/grants.html.
National Association For Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants
NASE awards Growth Grants of up to $4,000 to small businesses. Felons are welcome to apply for this small business grant.
To be eligible for one of these grants, you must be a member of NASE. With a monthly membership, you’ll need to wait for 3 months before you’re eligible to apply for funding. NASE members with an annual plan can enter an application right away.
When you apply, you’ll need a business plan that explains how you’ll use the money if you’re awarded a grant. Some eligible business uses are marketing, hiring employees, and buying new equipment.
Find out more at https://apply-nase-gs.smapply.io/.
Small Business Growth Fund
This grant is available through Hello Alice. Funding for the grant is provided by Etsy and Progressive, and felons are welcome to apply. Awards range from $5,000 to $25,000.
To apply for this grant, you’ll need to show how the funds will help your business reach a growth milestone in the next year.
Get more details at https://helloalice.com/grants/sbgf.
Comcast RISE Grants
Comcast RISE selects certain cities for its grant program. In 2023, those cities were Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia, and Portland. Grants were awarded to 100 recipients in each city.
Grant winners receive $5,000, business coaching, education resources, a 30-second TV commercial with a 180-day placement schedule, and a technology makeover.
Find out about the next grant opportunity at https://www.comcastrise.com/
Incfile Fresh Start Business Grant
Incfile offers grants of $2,500 to aspiring business owners. In addition to the grant, winners receive Incfile’s Gold business formation package.
This package provides a full business formation service that handles your LLC registration as well as a tax consultation.
Felons are eligible to apply for this small business grant which accepts applications 3 times a year.
Complete an online application, submit a sample business plan, and create a short video describing how entrepreneurship will improve your life.
Learn more at https://www.incfile.com/entrepreneur-grant.
Amber Grants For Women Entrepreneurs
WomensNet is a nonprofit organization providing grant funding for female business owners.
Former felons are welcome to apply for one of several grants.
Monthly Amber Grants
These grants are awarded each month when Amber Grant judges select 1 winner and 4 finalists. The winner receives a $10,000 grant, the 4 finalists receive $1,000 each. The $10,000 recipient is also entered into the annual contest.
Annual Amber Grant
Two winners each receive grants of $25,000. The awards go to one of the monthly Amber Grant winners and one of the Business Category grant winners.
The Startup Grant
Awarded once a quarter, the winner of this grant receives $10,000.
Business Category Grant
This monthly grant is awarded to women running businesses in underrepresented categories. The grant provides $10,000 in funding for one winner and entry into the annual Amber Grant contest.
Learn more at https://ambergrantsforwomen.com/
GrantWatch is a database listing over 27,000 grant opportunities for entrepreneurs, including those with felony criminal records.
Go to https://www.grantwatch.com/ to search the database for grants you can apply for.
Grant Money For Released Prisoners
Grant money for released prisoners is administered through local reentry organizations. You’ll need to contact local agencies to find out what grants you may be eligible for.
Grant money for released prisoners is typically limited to small amounts to cover living expenses while you get back on your feet.
Find your local reentry organizations by calling the free 24/7 United Way helpline on 2-1-1.
Federal Grants For Released Inmates
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) offers grant funding to support released inmates. In 2020, the DOJ awarded $92 million in funding to programs working with released inmates.
Learn more about federal grants for released inmates at https://justicegrants.usdoj.gov/.
Ex Felon Assistance Programs
Professional advice is an invaluable resource for felons. Here are some ex-felon assistance programs to explore.
CareerOneStop – This platform for formerly incarcerated individuals provides tools, tips, and resources to help entrepreneurs advance their careers. Visit https://www.careeronestop.org/.
Inmates to Entrepreneurs – This nonprofit provides mentoring and courses on a wide range of business skills. Get help with business planning, financial management, marketing, and more with their free online and in-person courses. Visit https://inmatestoentrepreneurs.org/.
Defy Ventures – This nonprofit helps former felons become entrepreneurs. You’ll learn business skills and develop the right mindset to succeed. Visit https://www.defyventures.org/
Don’t let your felony hold you back. If you’ve got an idea for your own business, you’re eligible to apply for felony grants and small business loans to generate the capital you need to get started.
Ex-felon assistance programs will also help you learn the skills you’ll need to become a successful entrepreneur.
Read Also: Temp Agency That Hires Felons
Charles Greg is the Co-Founder, Author, & Head Developer behind RentingtoFelons.org
With a lifelong passion for humanity.