Restaurateurs Prove For-profits, Small Businesses, Startups Eligible for Grants, Too


After two years of hosting pop-up dinners to test the market, James and April Forbes are confident that downtown Pontiac can become a hotspot for foodies. But without a loan and grant, their plans to renovate a 90-year-old building into an “artistic eatery” would not have come to fruition.

“Being in the restaurant industry for (32-years), you see that not many business loans are given to restaurants because it’s so risky,” said James Forbes, who operated the pop-up restaurant in Lafayette Market after regular business hours, where it served as a kitchen incubator for chefs and caterers to rent and offer three- or four-course meals with local ingredients. “And receiving a grant for a restaurant? That’s almost unheard of.”

Thanks to a $25,000 grant from Flagstar bank and a $35,000 small business loan from CEED Lending, the Michigan couple will turn the former Masonic Lodge into a 4,000 square-foot, 120-plus seat restaurant featuring southern-comfort cuisine and live music.

Many for-profit companies are unaware that they are eligible for grants, like the Flagstar project. Small business or startups of all sorts — from wineries to manufacturers — can receive funding; especially if the projects impact the environment or economy. Small businesses can also crowdfund to meet a community need, and give contributors free vouchers for opening night.

Flagstar’s small business development funding program is a part of its five-year $10 million pledge to help vitalize Pontiac. The Troy-based bank partnered with the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council’s CEED Lending initiative, where they committed $500,000 in grants and $200,000 in loans, respectively, towards economic development in the city. The funds will be offered annually to small businesses that apply over the next five years.

MWBEzone is a good starting point for small businesses looking to tap into these types of funding opportunities. The database of small business grants is constantly updated as new funding opportunities become available from the federal government, state agencies, community development organizations and corporate players. And MWBEzone staff is available to help for-profits with any questions they may have in a timely manner.

Small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups seeking funding to bring a project to life are encouraged to follow the steps listed to ensure that they get the most out of the MWBEzone experience.

  1. An ever-expanding database of funding opportunities does no good if you cannot access the information. Head over to to purchase a subscription (one subscription — two databases, MWBEzone for small businesses and GrantWatch for nonprofits) and sign up for a weekly newsletter with the latest grant-related news and a list of relevant funding sources.
  2. After your payment has been processed, start your research! Look for grants for which your business will likely qualify. Double check to ensure that you fit all funding source eligibility requirements.
  3. Decide on how to procure the grant application. Are you writing the proposal? Or if you need to hire a professional grant writer, GrantWriterTeam can help you select from a list of qualified candidates best-suited for your unique application. All grant writers have been screened and are held to the highest professional standards.
  4. If you need any help with navigating the site or the application processes, call our team at 561-249-4129. We are happy to assist you with any questions.


About the Author: Staff Writer for MWBEzone.


Sweet Deals: Downtown Revitalization Grants Attract Small Businesses

The owners of Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop know a sweet deal when they see it.

Thanks to a small business economic development grant provided by city officials, the specialty candy and soda shop was able to renovate an old existing building in downtown Middletown and expand to another Ohio location. With five destinations – two in Pittsburgh and three now in Ohio — the store owners hope to become a regional attraction for old-fashioned glass-bottled specialty sodas, homemade donuts, ice cream and a giant selection of confections.

Middletown officials used a $10,000 grant as an incentive for Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop to re-invest and lease a 4,000 square-foot building that had been vacant for the past two years. For their part, the owners of Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop are investing $75,000 of their own money into the building while creating four full-time and 12 part-time jobs and a new payroll of $310,000 to aid the local economy.

The upside of creating a busy downtown business districts is borne out by the numbers. More than 108 million consumers across the country spent $12.9 billion during Small Business Saturday, the shopping holiday following Black Friday designed to increase patronage at independently owned community enterprises. Nearly 80 percent of those shoppers say they do so specifically to support small businesses.

The problem for small businesses has always been generating or locating enough capital to support themselves through the early stages of development. Finding funding can be tenuous and challenging for even the most forward-thinking of these entrepreneurs.

To make things easier, MWBEzone, a service of GrantWatch, lists the funding resources to direct small businesses and startups through the complex maze of financing opportunities at the federal, state and private levels. The listings include upcoming programs and deadlines, project descriptions and eligibility requirements.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch, said economic development agencies are eager to fund a wide spectrum of projects including downtown planning, affordable housing finance, technical assistance, capital infrastructure and workforce development that promote sustainable communities.

“Service sector business owners are important contributors to the economic base of any downtown district,” said Hikind. “And these businesses owners, in turn, have a vested interest in the success of the district and will serve as valuable ambassadors for the community.”

At each location, the owners say Grandpa Joes is committed to becoming an integral member of the local community. That means joining the Chamber of Commerce, sponsoring Little League teams, involvement in other activities and, in some cases, keeping the local staff that operated the store before.

Although government agencies provide most of the grants to small business owners looking to grow, Hikind said many corporations or large companies have a philanthropic division that offers financing opportunities to both for-profit and nonprofits servicing specific industries.

About the Author: Staff Writer for

Six Ideas to Grow Your Nonprofit or Small Business







We  have multiple ideas to grow your nonprofit or small business. GrantWatch and its affiliates make them easy by providing platforms for searching for funding, acquiring funding, and promoting your organization.

6 ideas to grow your nonprofit or small business:

  1. Identify the program goals and timeline of your organization
  2. Search for grants that may fulfill those goals on and
  3. Hire a grant writer to help you create a grants calendar, and write/complete or review your written applications on
  4. Create a crowdfunding project on Uhelp
  5. Develop your social media presence to attract contributors to your crowdfunding project
  6. Write an article about your organization on

First, it is most important to identify your program goals and to create a timeline of your organization. This means, if you’re a nonprofit, identify why you are looking for funding. What will the money go towards and what is an overall, encompassing goal? By when do you plan to have your program up and running? This is also to be taken into consideration.

Use and to locate funding. One subscription gives you both. These sites help you search for grants for nonprofits or small businesses. MWBEzone is geared toward small businesses. You can search from categories ranging from Aging/Seniors to Youth/Out-Of-School Youth. Once you’ve identified grants of interest, buy a subscription to to view the grants in their entirety and get the funding source information.

Now, it’s time to get a grant writer. A grant writer from can assist you with tasks such as creating a grants calendar to be aware of all deadlines. He/she will also help you write your grant proposal(s). This means that they may write different sections of the proposal, the whole proposal, or review a proposal that you prepared.

Why stop there? While applying for grants is the traditional way for nonprofits to acquire funding, the enterprise includes a crowdfunding platform. At Uhelp, your organization can create a crowdfunding campaign and open it up for the public to fund. Many nonprofits and small businesses have already created campaigns with us, but it is important to remember that you must proactively promote your campaign.

One way to do this is through a strong social media presence. Create a blog page where you post up-to-date blog posts about your efforts. These posts can be about how you are working towards new and improved programming at your nonprofit or small business. You can use the ideas from your grant proposal to write blog posts. Then, post these posts to your social media accounts like at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, among others. Grow your friends’ list, too. Upload your contacts to your social media accounts and ask them to be your friend or connection.

Lastly, publicize your organization, your struggles,needs and successes, and your attempts at funding on Many organizations have already interviewed with our copywriter and editor to have promotional write-ups about them in the newspaper. welcomes articles about:

  • New trends within the nonprofit and small business communities
  • Grant writing, crowdfunding, and social media tips to share
  • A model initiative.

For examples of previous write-ups, check out some of the following articles:

Bottomless Closet – Meet the New Executive Director

Hattiesburg Arts Council

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation