Nonprofit Entrepreneurship Center Provides Tools to Bay Area Handyman to Grow Small Business

He didn’t own a car when he started his handyman and painting business five years ago. Amos Louis traveled by bicycle instead. On his way to work each day, the California resident would pass by the Richmond branch of the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. One day, he decided to stop inside the local office.

Louis, a Haitian native who struggled financially to make a stable living, has no regrets about his decision. The center, a nonprofit that provides training to low- to moderate-income level entrepreneurs, has given Louis what he calls a “business plan.”

Now, after attending workshops and using the resources of the center, Louis is growing his business. He is working on larger projects than before and has been able to hire staff to help him.

Louis is one of many entrepreneurs who have turned to Renaissance since its founding 33 years ago. The center helps go-getters like Louis obtain small business loans, and provides meeting and office rental space. Intensive training classes and workshops are also offered at the Richmond locations and across the Bay Area in East Palo Alto and San Francisco.

Louis attended those classes to learn about finances, marketing strategies and technology like QuickBooks that he could use to build connections, collaborate on projects, and grow his business. These programs are supported by funds from government, corporate, foundation and individual sources.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch and MWBEzone said federal, state and local governments offer various grants and other types of financial assistance to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that help entrepreneurs succeed. Hikind recommends that you check out the small business grants on, the sister site for GrantWatch, displaying grants that a for-profit or individual can apply for (if they meet the eligibility criteria).  One subscription provides access to both these websites. 

In 2017, the City of Palo Alto provided a $100,000 grant to the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center to encourage residents to become small-business entrepreneurs. More than 60 families and adults, 78 percent of whom were women, were served by center programs last year.

U.S. Small Business Administration reports that a majority of companies in California are small businesses, and 49.2 percent of the state’s employees are small business employees. Across the United States, small businesses accounted for 61.8 percent of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.

Hikind said is a helpful starting point for these new businesses and small companies in the early stages of development to begin searching for funds.

Among the current listings across the USA are requests to create and foster new companies and increase local employment (click here) or to establish entrepreneurship education and programs that directly support business planning, startup, and scale-up efforts, and offer skills for accessing capital (click here). Other opportunities simply require business to base operations locally (click here).

Louis, for his part, hopes his business can strengthen the economic fabric of Richmond. He wants to work with public-private programs like RichmondBUILD to train low-income workers and help them gain employment through his company in construction and renewable energy. He also wants to have a warehouse location and employ between 35 and 100 workers performing commercial and residential painting and handyman tasks.

Most of all, Louis wants to provide other people with the inspiration and guidance that he said helped him to develop his business, and he wants to help Richmond build its small business community full of diverse entrepreneurs and companies.

It’s hard, Louis said, for low-income people to not only build businesses, but to envision themselves as business owners. He would know. He said he could not imagine having a successful career until a business owner who gave him work years ago noticed his talent for construction and urged him to get a license. Then, the training at Renaissance helped him realize the potential and learn the business skills he enjoys today.


About the Author: Staff Writer for MWBEzone


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

Get the Eye of the Tiger: Motivation Methods from MWBEzone

Happy #MotivationMonday! Motivation is a crucial to project success at work. With Thanksgiving just a few days away, the excitement for that glorious day off can strip even the hardest worker of sustainable motivation.

In celebration of the #MotivationMonday before Turkey Day, MWBEzone has three methods for motivation to share with all of our incredible customers:

1. Figure out what really inspires you.

If you are passionate about something, you are more likely to devote more time, energy and attention to it. This is as simple as finding something you really enjoy about your work and using that to constantly push harder. Maybe you’re ready to find a new passion; focus, visualize and go at it full force. Keep pushing and keep working towards what is important to you.

2. Set specific goals.

A great way to get your brain into accomplishment mode is to start the day with small victories, like making your bed in the morning, as discussed by Admiral William McRaven (author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World). Set specific goals to achieve throughout the day, month, year, etc. A short-term goal could be running an extra mile during your workout to clear your mind, while a long-term goal may be saving a larger percentage of your paycheck every month for retirement. Maintaining a clear schedule of tasks and goals will ensure you always have something to work on–something that will move you toward your passion (see method one).

3. Reward yourself for a job well done.

Positive reinforcement is critical to staying positive and feeling good about the work you’re completing. Of course, the level of positive reinforcement is different for everyone. For one person, this may mean getting a massage after signing a new client. For another, this may mean purchasing a new outfit or power tool after completing a particularly difficult work week. After achieving one of your goals (see method two), treat yourself to a delicious piece of chocolate or a glass of wine.

Whatever positive reinforcement means to you, make sure you’ve really earned it. Otherwise, the reward will not suitably motivate you. More than anything, don’t be too hard on yourself. Maintaining motivation is hard, but a reward can make it all worth it.

To all of our MWBEzone subscribers, happy #MotivationMonday! As your #1 resource for small-business grants and government contracts, we hope your motivation continues to Thanksgiving!

About the Author: Lianne Hikind the a staff writer for MWBEzone.


3 Stress-Eliminating Tips for #NationalStressAwarenessDay

Workplace-related stress, like anything else, can be frustrating. You work hard and put effort and passion into your work every day. Under pressure, though, everything can become overwhelming.

Here at MWBEzone, we understand that workplace stress can be aggravating and we want to help, in any way that we can, make your workday a bit less stressful. So, in honor of #NationalStressAwarenessDay, and to ease your burden, here are three everyday tips for decreasing workplace stress:

1. Calm down both the brain and the body by using breathing exercises when you begin feeling anxious/overwhelmed. One such exercise is 4-7-8 breathing:

a. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth.

b. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.

c. Hold your breath for a count of 7.

d. Release your breath from your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of 8.

e. Without a break, breathe in again for a count of 4, repeating the entire technique 3-4 times in a row, then resume normal breathing and activity.

2. When you start stressing about everything you need to accomplish throughout the day, destress by planning ten minutes at a time. This allows for complete focus on each task in ten-minute increments and eliminates stress-related mental blocks when there is work to be done.

3. Make sure that your diet is not the culprit, as massive amounts of sugar throughout the day can cause energy crashes and spike stress responses. Sticking to a balanced, nutritious diet can make you feel better and keep your blood sugar stable. According to a study done by Harvard Medical School, the right diet can also boost memory, making it crucial to remembering and accomplishing all the tasks on your to-do list. (Disclaimer: Consult your doctor about making any radical changes to your diet.)

While these tips are effective in decreasing your workplace stress, there is only one way to fully celebrate #NationalStressAwarenessDay: RELAX!

About the Author: Lianne Hikind is a staff writer for MWBEzone.

3 Keys to Peak Productivity

Here at GrantWatch, we believe that productivity can always be improved. So, this week for #WednesdayWisdom, we have three tips for increasing your middle-of-the-week productivity.

  1. Create a to-do list as soon as you get into work, separating quick tasks from lengthier ones. This helps you prioritize the tasks and declutter the brain before you begin to tackle your work. Getting easier/smaller tasks finished early in the day may increase motivation to completing more mentally-tasking assignments throughout the day.
  2. Organize each task into specific time slots: assign yourself slots of time for each task. It’s easy to fall into that middle-of-the-week slump when it comes to your workload; make it easier to accomplish individual tasks by assigning yourself a realistic, but specific, amount of time to finish your assignment. Bonus points if you manage to get tasks accomplished early!
  3. Take a five-minute walk break when you find yourself unable to focus. Sometimes, when focus slips, the best thing to do is physically get up (if your type of work allows for it) and just walk around (inside or outside the office) to get your brain working again.

About the Author: Lianne Hikind is a staff writer for MWBEzone.

National Toasted Marshmallow Day: 4 Sweet Facts About MWBEzone

Here at MWBEzone, we love sweet treats almost as much as the even sweeter unofficial holidays like National Toasted Marshmallow Day! According to The National Day Calendar, this unofficial holiday is sponsored by The National Confectioners Association. You may be wondering how to celebrate this delicious-sounding day. Sure, there are many paths to the nirvana that is a toasted marshmallow, but all the best things in life are shared. Get some friends together, make s’mores and have a ton of fun!

Now, not to sound to cliché, but we would be remiss if we did not “cut the fluff” and explain why, even with the distraction of deliciously toasted marshmallows, MWBEzone is the best grant resource for small businesses and individuals.

Just a few fun facts that make MWBEZone almost as good as a toasted marshmallow:

1. Constant Updates

MWBEzone has an ever-growing list of up-to-date and archived grants, funding opportunities, awards and contracts for small businesses and individuals.

2. Easy Service

MWBEzone associates are always looking to make the grant-searching process seamless by translating complicated grant and contract language into layman’s terms, making it easier for you to find the exact grant you need.

3. Sourced Material

MWBEzone ensures that all its content is current and relevant by researching over 10,000 websites and collecting data from government agencies, foundations and corporations.

5. Membership Benefits

When you subscribe to GrantWatch, you also receive access to MWBEzone. The subscription provides access to our comprehensive contract and grant summaries, the full contact details for the funding source and links to their website from both GrantWatch and MWBEzone.

All in all, MWBEzone may not be as sticky as a toasted marshmallow, but the benefits of being a customer are certainly just as sweet. Happy National Toasted Marshmallow Day! Thank you for being a valued customer.

Grants for Small Businesses and Individuals on MWBEzone

Grants to New York City Businesses for Employee Training Programs

Grants starting at $10,000 to New York City businesses to provide employees with training programs. Interested businesses must submit a pre-application prior to submitting a full application.

Deadline: 12/15/17

Grants to USA IHEs, Nonprofits, For-Profits and Agencies for Scientific Conferences Relating to Public Health

Grants to USA and territories IHEs, nonprofits, for-profits, and government agencies to support high-quality scientific conferences related to public health. A conference is defined as a seminar, symposium, workshop, or any other formal, organized meeting where individuals assemble or meet virtually to exchange relevant information. 

Deadline: 12/12/17 5:00 PM (local time of applicant organization) – For Standard Application

Grants to USA Agencies, IHEs, Organizations, Corporations, and Individuals for Research on Specialty Crops

Grants to USA government agencies, IHEs, research institutions, private organizations and corporations, cooperative extension services, and individuals to address critical needs within the specialty crop industry.

Deadline: 12/08/17 5:00 PM ET Receipt

Grants to North Dakota For-Profits and Individuals to Develop New Agricultural Processing Technology

Grants to North Dakota for-profit companies, groups, and individuals in the value-added agricultural industry for technological innovations. Funding may be used for the development of prototype technologies that improve agricultural product quality, processing, and production. 

Deadline: 12/01/17

About the Author: Lianne Hikind is a staff writer for MWBEzone.