Me: Good morning, this is Dana.
[Static and mumbling]
Me: Good morning!
Voice: Hey, my wife was looking for some grant, uh, grant writer people, people who get grants like and saw your website. Is that what you do?
Me: Oh, how exciting - I'm flattered that you called me. Yes, I'm at grant writer, how --
Voice: Hang on, my dog got out the derned truck. [shuffling, muffled yelling and truck door slamming.]
Voice: Yeah, sorry. I'm back on the road now.
Me: Great! Is your dog okay? [silently glad I'm not sharing that road at the moment...]
Voice: So anyway, I got some roofing business. Well, sort of. There are roofing equipment (mumble) and this guy I met Saturday said there's grants I can get on business. Roofing. Hail.. (mumble) ...asphalt ...shingle...(mumble).
Me: Oh, you are a businessman and you are looking for a grant to help you?
Voice: Well, yeah, I mean, I just wondered...'cuz this guy I was talking to said I could get money that I didn't have to pay back or only had to pay some back or....aw, heck, I'll have to call you back, my dog just run off again.
This is my reconstruction of an actual phone call I got not too long ago. Mr. Voice never called back (I hope the dog is okay) and I suspect he never got his roofing business off the ground (sorry for the pun.)
I get phone calls along this vein quite often.
Inevitably, the caller has seen a commercial that described business grants, talked to "some guy" who told them they were available, or went to a "seminar" where someone talked about government grant programs to help small businesses (I am perplexed that these seminars talk about grant programs but apparently give NO information about them...)
Here's what I know about grants for businesses: There aren't too many. At least not in the U.S. And they aren't very easy to get.
If they were, I would be driving a nicer car.
That doesn't mean there aren't resources for people who have a certain expertise and want to begin an enterprise.
If this is you, here's where I recommend you start:
The United States Small Business Administration. http://www.sba.gov/home
If you are an American tax payer, you've already paid for SBA service, so you might as well use it! The website offers all kinds of resources. In fact, it would take days to read all the articles, use the tools, etc. available there. But there's more!
Just in Oklahoma, where I am based, there are 24 SBA offices around the state whose sole purpose is to provide resources and advice to people who own or are considering opening a small business. Free mentoring, free help writing a business plan, free advice - it's all there! You just need to call them.
Guess what? In all likelihood, the people at the SBA will also know about any random business grant programs out there for people who are interested. There's probably no need to hire a professional grant writer.
Although I loved my experience talking to Mr. Voice and I truly hope his derned dog is okay, I also hope he stopped listening to the guy he met while pumping gas at the Nick'n'Run store and gets some really good, free advice from real experts.