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Introduction: Navigating Funding Challenges as AAPI Entrepreneurs

We all have dreams of creating a better life for ourselves and our families. As Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) entrepreneurs, we face unique challenges in accessing startup funding. That's where business grants come in. They offer a ray of hope, providing money that doesn't require repayment or equity exchange. In this article, we'll explore how AAPI entrepreneurs can find and successfully apply for these grants.

The Importance of Business Grants for AAPI Business Owners

Grants are like a lifeline for AAPI business owners because there aren't many grants specifically designed for our community. Despite owning millions of enterprises and being the fastest-growing ethnic group in America, we often lack the support we need and feel unsure about navigating the application process.

Understanding the Funding Gap and Cultural Barriers

Cultural and language barriers add to the complexity, making it even more challenging to seek available funds. According to a survey by Bank of America, 37% of AAPI business owners feel uninformed about capital application, and 23% don't even know where to begin. The struggle is real, with 58% of AAPI entrepreneurs finding it difficult to access federal, state, and local relief programs for small businesses, as reported by the National CAPACD.

To tackle these obstacles head-on, we need visible resources and mentorship that focus on business development and funding opportunities. This will empower a new generation of AAPI-founded companies to bring innovative ideas to life and make a meaningful impact on society. It all starts with understanding how much money is needed to start a business.

Determining Your Startup Costs: How Much Money Do You Need?

Startup costs vary depending on the type of business and other factors. On average, it can range from $30,000 to $40,000 for the first year, but online businesses and service providers may require less. Consider one-time and ongoing expenses, such as equipment, supplies, rent, utilities, marketing, legal and accounting fees, insurance, licenses, permits, employee salaries, benefits, and taxes. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a handy worksheet to help calculate these costs.

Investors vs. Grant Programs: Knowing the Difference

Now, let's differentiate between investors and grant programs. Investors expect a return on their investment, usually through equity or repayment with interest. On the other hand, business grants are a different breed. They are non-dilutive, meaning you retain full ownership of your business, and you don't have to pay back the money. Some grants provide upfront funding, while others reimburse expenses based on submitted reports.

Where to Find Business Grants for AAPI Entrepreneurs

When it comes to finding business grants, explore general grants, industry-specific grants, grants for women and minority-owned businesses, and even COVID-19 relief grants. Each grant has its own eligibility criteria, specific use of funds, and award amounts.

Exploring Federal Funding Opportunities

Websites like are excellent resources for federal funding opportunities from various agencies, including the SBA, MBDA, and USDA.

Non-profit Organizations and Industry-Specific Grants

Don't forget to also explore grants offered by non-profit organizations and private foundations, which often cater to specific industries.

Local Asian Chambers of Commerce

Local Asian Chambers of Commerce can also be valuable sources of grants, funding opportunities, networking, mentorship, and financial literacy resources for AAPI-owned businesses.

Grants for AAPI-Owned Businesses to Consider

  • FoundHer: An accelerator program tailored specifically to the needs of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and/or Asian women and mothers starting businesses. Thus far, FoundHer has awarded $240,000 to 10 companies.
  • AAPIStrong - National ACE’s AAPISTRONG has a grant page updated annually with available opportunities.
  • Asian Women Giving Circle: This distinct approach involves a dedicated team of Asian American women in New York City who voluntarily provide funding for projects spearheaded by Asian American women artists and community groups. So far, this group has contributed $1 million to support various activist groups and organizations.
  • Gold House Ventures: This funding initiative supports Asian and Pacific Islander (API) entrepreneurs who are driving innovation and transformation across industries. In addition to providing financial support, it also offers a startup accelerator program to further empower these entrepreneurs.
  • APCF: APCF offers an alternative funding option for nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles County that serve low-income and underserved Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities. They provide not only long-term funding opportunities but also core operating support and resources that go beyond traditional grant-making. With a track record of awarding over 260 grants and distributing more than $1.6 million in funds, APCF is dedicated to supporting and uplifting these communities.

Corporate Small-Business Grants

Many large corporations and companies have incorporated philanthropy into their operations by offering small business grants. These grants are available to both nonprofit organizations serving specific industries and for-profit companies.

  • National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE): NASE members have the opportunity to apply for monthly small business grants of up to $4,000. Additionally, there is an annual $3,000 college scholarship available for the dependents of NASE members. Grants are awarded throughout the year, with applications reviewed quarterly in January, April, July, and October.

  • Fast Break for Small Business: This program is a collaboration between LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA, and NBA G League, and Accion Opportunity Fund. It offers $10,000 grants and up to $500 in LegalZoom services for small business owners. The focus is on supporting businesses in underserved and underrepresented communities. Applications are accepted twice a year.

  • Small Business Growth Fund: The Small Business Growth Fund, a partnership between the Global Entrepreneur Fund and Alice, funded by Etsy and Progressive, will award grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to small businesses in 2023. Eligible businesses must be for-profit, based in the U.S., and have had less than $1 million in gross revenue in 2022. The application deadline is July 21, 2023.

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Top Small Business Awards: This award program recognizes small businesses for their contributions to the U.S. economy and offers a $25,000 grant. The competition also includes awards in various categories, such as emerging business and green/sustainable business, with associated prizes. To qualify, businesses must have been in operation for at least one year. Applications for the 2023 cycle close on July 7.

  • Visa Everywhere Initiative: The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a grant competition that provides funding to tech-forward startups across five regions worldwide. Applicants must showcase how they have creatively incorporated Visa's products into their products or services. The overall winner of the competition receives a $100,000 small business grant, with additional grants awarded to other finalists. The application deadline for the North America region is June 26, 2023.

  • Venmo Small Business Grant: The Venmo Small Business Grant program awards 20 eligible small businesses with $10,000 in funding. Recipients also receive public promotion on Venmo and PayPal websites and social media accounts, business resources, and professional consulting services. To qualify, businesses must have a U.S. Venmo account, a valid business profile on Venmo, less than $50,000 in annual sales, and 10 or fewer employees.

  • Lenovo Evolve Small Grant: The Lenovo Evolve Small initiative supports small businesses in the U.S. and Canada through grants and technology donations. In the latest cycle, 30 small businesses received $10,000 in funding, along with a Lenovo laptop and business support. The winners for the 2023 cycle have already been announced.

  • Verizon Small Business Digital Ready Grant Program: Verizon's Digital Ready program offers free courses, educational materials, and the opportunity to apply for grant funding. Entrepreneurs can become eligible for a $10,000 small business grant by completing at least two courses, live coaching sessions, or community events. Once the tasks are completed, a grant application can be submitted. Verizon has allocated a total of $500,000 in grant awards for 2023.

  • FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: FedEx's annual grant competition awards over $250,000 to 10 small businesses, including a $30,000 grant and $1,000 in FedEx print credits to the grand prize winners. The contest is open to U.S.-based for-profit small businesses

While the list of grants for AAPI-owned businesses may be limited, there are still valuable opportunities to accelerate your business growth.

It's important to do your research, identify the grants that align with your goals, and take action by applying for them. Grants can provide the financial boost needed to overcome barriers and achieve your entrepreneurial dreams. With the right support and resources, you have the power to thrive as an AAPI entrepreneur and make a meaningful impact in the world.

*Note this list will be updated as new resources become available

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