After close to four decades making old furniture look like new for communities in Miami-Dade County, the owner of Chair Care Upholstery in West Park, Fla., says business has never been better.
Aurora Ocasio credits an investment from the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program with transforming morale at Chair Care Upholstery, which, in turn, has played a significant role in improving customer relationships and productivity.
Since 1999, the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program has been providing financial and technical assistance to for-profits like Chair Care Upholstery in all 13 districts of Miami-Dade through the County Commissioner’s office. Small business that offer projects with a green or sustainability initiative receive an additional $1,000.
Beyond Florida and across the nation, policymakers are increasingly adopting plans that provide capital and technical assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs. But, Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said despite government investments in the local economies, far too many small businesses are missing out on these opportunities to benefit their operations.
At least 60 percent of small businesses have never applied for funds to support their initiatives, according to BMO Wealth Management, which surveyed more than 1,000 small businesses in the United States. More than a third of these small businesses choose not to seek funds for fear of taking on additional debt.
But, Hikind said, unlike loans, government grants are forms of free financing for small businesses. She said MWBEzone.com, an ancillary service of GrantWatch, lists government grants and contracts available to small businesses. Women and minority-owned firms generally get added point when applying for government grants. MWBEzone access is part of the GrantWatch.com subscription. Libby Hikind said, "We separated the grants available for small business and individuals to simplify the search – one subscription – get two websites."
Funding through the Miami-Dade Small Business Grant Program can be applied to purchase inventory and supplies, equipment, marketing and advertising, building and business insurance, minor renovations, security systems, work vehicles, and professional services.
Another 44 percent of mall businesses, according to the survey, weren’t sure how to apply for a grant, and another third were unaware debt-free funds were available. MWBEzone makes the search for identifying federal and local financing simple. Grants are listed online by industry or by specific location. Each funding opportunity will offer a grant summary, amount of award, eligibility requirements, and open and closing dates.
Small business earnings have reached a 45-year high, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Yet, some economists believe the new tax law and lower regulatory barriers will fuel even further optimism across small business sectors. Thanks, to a small business grant, Chair Care Upholstery is on board.
“We are really excited about the future of our business, said Ocasio, who applied his mom and pop small business grant toward the purchase of a commercial sewing machine to be used to re-upholster sofas and chairs and, as a result, saves his customers money. “The support of this great city gives us a real feeling of hope and resilience in this great community.”
For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for business grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend by signing up. One subscription provides access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.com.
About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com