Grant and Loan Options for Disabled Entrepreneurs


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Are you an entrepreneur with a disability? According to the CDC, the term disability refers to any physical or mental impairment that makes it harder for a person to participate in certain activities or interact with the surrounding world. This includes many physical and mental conditions. If you’re looking to start a business or fund a side hustle and live with a disability, there are a variety of funding resources available to you.

Grants for Disabled Entrepreneurs

Federal Grants

The federal government offers a variety of grants for people launching a new business, many of which do not need to be repaid. The best place to check for federal opportunities is, a constantly updated clearinghouse that makes it easier for funding-seekers to find resources.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also publishes a grants list, as does the Department of Health and Human Services. Entrepreneurs with disabilities should keep an eye on these lists, but the eligibility requirements vary and in most cases, these grants are open to all business owners, which creates more competition.

Transform Business Grants

The Transform Business Grant is open to applicants in the United States who are members of “systematically marginalized groups,” including those living with disabilities. The $1,000 grants also include a year-long growth-based mentorship program in which awardees receive pro-bono leadership training. To be eligible, you must identify as a member of a marginalized group, your business must align with Transform’s mission, your business must be social-impact oriented and you must be in financial need.

NASE Growth Grants

The National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) offers $4,000 business grants that help entrepreneurs grow their enterprise. The grants can be used for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities and other important business needs. To be eligible, applicants must become a NASE member ($120 annually) and provide a statement of grant use, a business plan, a recent tax return and other documents explaining how your business is structured.

NAACP and Leslie’s Certification Boost Grant

This funding opportunity is designed to help entrepreneurs obtain business certifications, including the Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) certification. The grant program provides $5,000 to small business owners in urban and rural areas in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas. To be eligible, businesses must be in one of those states, be at least 51% owned by someone who has a disability and operate in the food or consulting industries.

Feed the Soul Foundation

Through its Restaurant Business Development Grant Program, the Feed the Soul Foundation offers $10,000 grants and six months of business consulting to entrepreneurs launching a culinary enterprise. To be eligible, the business must be 51% owned by a person who identifies as marginalized, the business must be in the United States with more than four employees and the applicant must be willing to attend weekly trainings.

Other Resources

If you’re looking for other grant opportunities or additional resources for your business, keep an eye on GrantWatch, a clearinghouse of funding opportunities supporting a variety of philanthropic initiatives. It’s also worth looking into the National Arts and Disability Center, which publishes and updates a list of resources for people living with a disability.

Loans for Disabled Entrepreneurs

Federal Loans

SBA 7(a) Loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) loans offer funding from $50,000 to $5 million for established businesses with under 100 employees or partly funded startups needing a large loan to scale. They help small business owners in underserved groups, including the disabled population. These funds can be applied toward things like vehicle purchases, inventory, equipment, working capital, marketing and expansion.

SBA Microloans

The average microloan is $13,000, but the SBA offers up to $50,000 to small businesses and certain nonprofits. You can get up to $50,000 for hiring staff, remodeling work spaces and more, though these loans may demand personal collateral. (For non-SBA microloans, check the Association for Enterprise Opportunity or try the AEO’s DreamFund, meant to address the funding gap for underserved communities.)

SBA Express Loans

An SBA Express loan is similar to a 7(a) loan, but it’s typically faster and has a lower maximum (up to $500,000). The SBA will guarantee 50% of the loan, while private lenders will fund the rest. Interest rates and repayment terms are typically set by private lenders.

USDA Business Loans

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) helps rural businesses and can be a good source of funds, as a large share of disabled Americans live in rural communities. The most popular USDA program is the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program, which partly guarantees loans for rural businesses in towns with under 50,000 residents. You must have good credit and enough business revenues to qualify, and collateral may be necessary.

CDFI Loans

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are private entities that typically invest in businesses in disadvantaged communities. Many CDFIs use Disability Funds-Financial Assistance (DF-FA) to lend money to organizations and businesses that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities.

Assistive Technology Business Loans

These are good for people with less than 550 FICO scores. Often, lenders are local, like the National Disability Institute, which offers assistive technology loans of up to $30,000 for New Jersey and New York residents at below-market interest rates. Credit history can impact eligibility.

StreetShares Short-Term Business Loans

StreetShares is a short-term lender providing business loans to veterans and service-disabled veterans. Small businesses must have low revenue and be in business for at least a year. You also need at least a 600 personal credit score. Term loans are $2,000 to $100,000 and the most funding you can receive is 20 percent of annual business revenue.

Related: 5 Best and Fast Small-Business Loans

Accion Opportunity Fund

Nonprofit community lender Accion Opportunity Fund offers small business loans ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. They can help with assistive technology, accessible workplace and adaptive work vehicle costs. Businesses must guarantee the loan, and personal guarantees are often required. Requirements differ depending on locale.

Related: I Have Dyslexia, and I Became a Successful Entrepreneur

State-Specific Loans

Many states have loan programs that help business owners with disabilities. For example, the Advantage Illinois and the Iowa Able Foundation each have business assistance and credit-building loans. To combat the high cost of assistive technology, the Maryland Department of Disabilities runs an Assistive Technology Guaranteed Loan Program that provides low-interest loans on everything from cars to home modifications for eligible state residents. In some cases voice-recognition software can be applied toward the startup costs of a small business. It’s always important to check local resources.

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