Small Businesses Sign On to Facade Improvement Grants to Attract Customers

After paying for extensive renovations that amounted to a new roof, entrance and restrooms, Martin Whitfield still had fish to fry at his Indianapolis seafood restaurant. The owner of Sea Kings Seafood Kitchen had plans to install a new sign, add exterior lighting and seating and paint the building a bright blue and orange, but no longer had funds for these projects.

That was until the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a community development nonprofit, stepped up with a $15,000 grant that enabled Whitfield to tackle his to-do list and create an entirely new look for his small business. LISC, which operates nonprofit organizations in 30 urban and dozens of rural areas across the United States, has awarded more than $3.1 million throughout Marion County through the Small Business Façade Improvement program.

Eligible small businesses can qualify for LISC grants of up to $25,000 that can over as much as 50 percent of the cost of improvements to a building’s street-front exterior. LISC’s facade grant program uses a combination of public and private funds to help property owners pay for new signs, entryway improvements, exterior painting and new windows. What’s more, these grants have helped leverage more than $10.6 million in investment by property owners since 1994.

Façade grants do more than just provide nonprofits and small businesses with funds to make cosmetic improvements.

Grants to Provo, Utah Businesses and Building Owners to Enhance Downtown Buildings and Create Jobs

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said these projects help to increase sales and overall property values and encourage other small business owners in surrounding areas to make their own improvements, often resulting in a completely revitalized downtown area. Grant programs aimed at façade enhancements can be identified on and on GrantWatch.

Not all façade funds are designated for small business. Plenty of funding opportunities have prepared nonprofits as well to make enhancements to their facilities. The Charles R. Wood Theater is a nonprofit, which will apply a $39,158 grant from the Local Development Corporation in Glenn Falls, N.Y., to install a catwalk to improve safety and efficiency for lighting crews setting up for shows.

Historic preservation often drives façade improvement funding. That’s the case with Paradise Garden Foundation, which will take a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to preserve a quirky wedding-cake looking structure in northwest Georgia called the World’s Folk Art Church.

The overriding theme of these incentive programs is to bring new life to physical landscapes that once had charm or put an entirely new spin on long-standing buildings that are struggling to attract visitors. Sometimes a sign is all that is needed.

Arin and Tony Lindauer put up a banner instead to save money after relocating and making significant renovations at the new site. But, it wasn’t until the owners received a $4,700 grant from LISC to pay for a sign, new windows and multi-color paint job that walk-in customers began noticing Transformation Fitness and Wellness on the corner of 25th and Delaware streets in Indianapolis. Now, the owners say they gain a customer or two each month who has driven by, noticed the sign, and stopped in.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at By registering, subscribers gain access to both and GrantWatch.


About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch


Free Financing – Small Business Grant Transforms Miami Mom-and-Pop Upholstery Shop

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, 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, 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 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 to GrantWatch. One subscription provides access to both and



About the Author: Staff Writer for