This post originally appeared on startupnation.com/start-your-business
Small businesses make up an astounding 99.6% of Michigan businesses and 49% of the state’s employees—that’s 1.9 million people. Since the onset of the pandemic, these businesses have been forced to endure a tumultuous journey that has meant drastic budget cuts, layoffs and a complete strategy pivot.
However, businesses haven’t had to face this crisis alone, and as the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, there are still opportunities for startups and small businesses to access relief. In addition to federal-level funding programs such as the Payment Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), there are a number of state-level loan and grant options for small businesses.
Visa grant program to help Black women-owned businesses in Detroit
Earlier this month, on the heels of Black History Month in February and leading in to Women’s History Month in March, Visa announced a grant program to revitalize the ecosystem for Black female entrepreneurs in six cities across the country, including Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
“The pandemic has impacted all small businesses – but those run by women and people of color have been disproportionately affected,” Kimberly Lawrence, head of U.S., Visa, said in a press release about the program. “With this hyperlocal focus on some of the hardest hit cities, Visa aims to make a meaningful difference, quickly, for the communities and their business owners who need it most.”
The grant will provide $10,000 and a one-year IFundWomen Annual Coaching Membership to 60 Black women-owned businesses across six key cities in the U.S.
Applications are open now through April 16, 2021.
When it comes time to apply for funding in the form of a grant or loan, it’s important to take several key things into consideration, so keep reading to learn how to craft a successful application.
Related: Minority-Owned Small Businesses Especially Impacted by COVID-19, Can Get Free Help From SCORE
How to maximize your chances of securing a business grant or loan
When applying for financial relief, it’s vital to act fast or you risk missing out on crucial support. While countless relief programs have launched throughout the pandemic, it’s likely that further rounds and new initiatives will be announced—especially given President Biden’s recent signature on the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and the included promises for small business support.
When it comes to maximizing your chances of securing relief, make sure you’re constantly checking on what’s being announced at the state and federal level so you’re first in line once applications open. Be sure to also stay on top of any updates to existing programs to better your chances of getting an application in early, too.
This means having your finances in order, all year round. If your records are incomplete or inaccurate, your application simply won’t be accepted for a loan or grant relief program. You need to make sure you’re gathering, organizing and keeping documentation and required reports in one centralized place. This removes barriers to access down the road and means that you can apply at the drop of a hat if and when a new relief package is announced.
If you need help getting your books organized and straightened out, you may benefit from speaking to a professional. It’s essential to maintain an accurate set of books throughout the year to properly manage your business. If you haven’t kept up with your books, a professional accountant or bookkeeping service can help catch you up and can help you verify that everything is properly coded so reporting errors won’t stand between you and that all-important funding.
Once you’ve found a relief program to apply for, you’ll first need to make sure you understand the details—especially if you’re applying for a loan that requires the funds be spent in a particular manner only. It’ll also help to separate those loan funds in your books, so your money becomes more easily accountable.
For example, if monies should only be spent on payroll, it may be worthwhile to set up a separate account for the funds to be deposited and then spent down for the purposes of payroll. This will ensure there is no question what the funds were used for and prevents co-mingling with other expenditures for your business.
Ultimately, being ready to apply for financial relief and then boosting your chances of success means maintaining clean and accurate financial records, going through the terms of the grant or loan relief with a fine-toothed comb, and keeping your finger on the pulse of new updates and announcements.
Remember that support is out there to help you not only get back on your feet, but to set your sights on future growth, too.
Editor’s Note: Availability of funding for any relief program(s) listed in this article is subject to change.