Black, Latino, LGBTQ, Asian, Veteran, and Women owned businesses in Ohio can find free grant programs as well as low cost loans to help them finance their business (or start up). There are a number of lenders, government programs, and sources of funding listed below, some of which may cover your city or region. There are loans, grants, mentoring programs and more in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and other Ohio cities that allocate funds to women and/or minority companies.
The money can cover various business expenses, including payroll, sales, rent, website or technology costs, marketing and more. Each lender (or grantor) will have their own terms and conditions in place as well as application process for a free MWBE or BIPOC grant or loan. But each of the programs listed below (which are updated daily) have agreed to provide some of their funds to minority owned as well as women owned companies.
Not only may a small business in Ohio get the funds they need to grow (or save) their business, but there are also programs that help minority or women entrepreneurs, grants for Black women, as well as money for startup businesses. The assistance can come from a bank, foundation, government agency, non-profit, corporation or other lenders.
Find small business loans or free grants in Ohio for women or minority companies
The funds and programs below are updated daily and by month. As noted, some of the low cost loans or grants are allocated to veterans, LGBTQ, Black businesses, Asians, Latinos and women owned businesses.
Year round free business coaching and loan/grant resources
Find year-round assistance programs (free grants, coaching, mentoring, etc.) for women owned, minority, veteran, immigrant as well as disabled businesses in Ohio below, by city or region. They are offered year round. Also scroll down the page for monthly resources.
Statewide free grants and business help for women, veterans and minorities
ECDI is a microlender that focuses on offering low cost loans as well as other support. A focus is on giving financing to veteran, immigrant, minorities, refugees, women, and LGBTQ owned businesses. They also give veterans in Ohio support, offer loans for construction projects, rural loans and so much more. Advice, coaching, marketing help and other services are also offered by ECDI in Ohio. Read more. https://www.ecdi.org/
0% interest rate microloans are offered statewide. Qualified small businesses can borrow from 10 to 40K, at 0% APR, for their businesses. The repayment rate is 1 to 3 years, and most of the free government money is for certified women and/or minority owned businesses in Ohio. Find financial help can be used to pay bills, debt, working capital, and other expenses. Apply here. https://development.ohio.gov/business/minority-business/ohio-micro-loan-program
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, also known as OEFFA, can help Ohio farmers access Capital, as they are a Kiva Trustee. There is financial aid and help from farmers who are in the organic/all natural industry. Microloans of up to $15,000 may be issued from the crowdfunding platform, and there is a zero percent interest rate. Read about the non-profit here. https://www.oeffa.org/
Ohio Women’s Business Coalition is made up of female business owners, leaders, politicians, and community leaders. The organization has a goal of helping female business owners start or grow a business, including helping with venturing funding, capital raises and more. They also accept members to join. Find details here. https://ohiowomenscoalition.org/
Women’s Business Centers of Ohio has multiple sites in the state, including Cincinnati., Cleveland, and Columbus. WBC of Ohio offers free services to women owned businesses or females looking to start a business. Black women businesses can get free grants as well as other women, regardless of race. There are free computer labs, training programs, networking, information on loans, mentoring and coaching from volunteer female business owners (including Black and Brown) and more. Find details on the centers and their assistance programs. https://www.wbcohio.org/
The state of Ohio is offering loans to MWBE and minority businesses. The two financial assistance programs vary, but both can offer either (1) low cost loans or (2) interest free funds to qualified borrowers. Options include Women’s Business Enterprise Loan Program, which is focused on MWBE owned companies. the second option is the Ohio Micro-Enterprise Loan Program. They can pay for equipment, real estate costs, and other bills. More details here. https://development.ohio.gov/minorityservices.htm
A state of Ohio based lender offers the Huntington Lift Local Business program. Millions of dollars are being allocated to help veteran, women, and minority owned businesses. The lender is also working with the SBA to facilitate funds to those disadvantaged businesses. The Huntington Bank will be offering lower credit score requirements, zero origination fees and flexible, longer repayment options as part of their loans. Find more details on the lender. https://www.huntington.com/
Cincinnati area free business grants, free loans and coaching programs
Cincinnati Ohio entrepreneurs can turn to the non-profit MORTAR. They offer a training program that helps entrepreneurs learn the ins and outs of starting a business, creating business plans, raising capital and more. They help low income, underprivilege communities in the city with a focus on minorities. Ongoing support is giving to, including information on free government grants, low cost loans, mentoring and more. Continue reading. https://wearemortar.com/
Cincinnati Minority Business Assistance Center works in partnership with the Northern Kentucky as well as Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce to help people launch a business or get capital for an existing MWBE. They provide advice, supporting, mentoring, access to 0% APR interest microloans from Kiva and other support in 17 counties across all of southern Ohio. The Center also offers Entrepreneurial program, Strategic Growth plans, help with financial statements and more. Learn more on the non-profit. https://mbaccincy.com/
Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative, Inc., or GCMI, is a partnership of non-profits (like the United Way), banks, corporations and charities that work together to help small businesses. There are training classes, classes on raising money from loans or grants, mentoring, and free workshops in classes. A multi-faceted groups with a focus on veteran, women, and minority owned businesses. Find details here. http://www.gcmi.org/index.php
Cleveland/Akron/Youngstown region and nearby county programs for MWBE and BIPOC businesses
Akron Ohio Rubber City Match is a free grant and/or low cost loan program for small businesses that will help develop the downtown area, and that will reclaim vacant building. A major focus is on redeveloping this region of the city, with priority to MWBE businesses/enterprises. There are two “tracks”/components to this financial assistance program. Learn more here. https://www.rubbercitymatch.com/
Cuyahoga Small Business Resource Center will be a source of financial assistance and referrals. There will be information on free government grants as well as interest free, forgivable loans. The center also works with non-profits, corporations and others in the county to support small, women, veteran, and minority owned businesses. Learn more here. https://www.cuyahogacounty.us/covid19/small-business-resources#financial
Erie County Minority Business Empowerment Team helps BIPOC and Blacks, women, Latinos and Asians owned small businesses as well as BIPOC. The agency can be a place to learn about grants as well as mentoring from successful business owners. Networking, workshops, and other tools are offered. Learn more. https://www.facebook.com/MBETSandusky.
Franklin County and Columbus Ohio has several free business development and assistance programs. They help is offered by both non-profits as well as charities – local and national. Some of the examples are New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Columbus OH (call (614) 798-1000) and Ohio Small Business Development Center (dial (614) 287-5294).
Lorain County businesses (both private as well as non-profits) can apply to grants and other support from the Community Foundation. The funds, guidance, and other support is focused on organizations with a social cause, such as addressing income inequality, diversity, educational issues and the like. There is also a focus on veterans, LGTBQ+, women and minorities non-profits and small businesses as well. Find details on the foundation and the free grants here. https://www.peoplewhocare.org/grants-scholarships
Stark County Minority Business Assistance Center, which is run by the local Association, provides a number of free services, including help in raising capital for MWBE businesses from free grant or low cost loans. They also offer workshops, coaching, help with government certification and many other programs. Find details here. http://www.starkminoritybusiness.org/mbac
Small businesses and entrepreneurs in Summit County and Akron Ohio can turn to the Bounce Innovation Hub for information on financial help, free counseling, grant applications and other support. A GROW program is for women and minority tech companies; co-working spaces; free expert counseling; information on low cost loans or grants for capital and more is offered. The name of the grants also go by the term RISE. Read more. https://bouncehub.org/
The Urban League of Cleveland is supporting local minority owned businesses. The programs are run by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well as UBIZ Center. There are loans as well as financial help. Or get free professional consulting services, learn about additional small business capital, contract opportunities for sales, and other support services. There is also an Entrepreneurship Center on site. Get details here. https://ulcleveland.org/entrepreneurship-center/
Youngstown Business Incubator, or YBI, is a regional business development program with a focus on businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans and immigrants among others. There are annual workshops, start-up classes, information on free grants or corporate loans and more. A major focus is to help technology, internet, and high tech-manufacturers or start ups. The goal is to help businesses start and grow in the Youngstown Ohio area. Learn more. https://ybi.org/
Columbus and Central Ohio
Central Ohio African American Chamber of Commerce is a resource for the black community in Columbus and throughout central Ohio. They assist with applications to capital or grants, including the chamber is involved in issuing Kiva loans at 0% interest rates. Staff also help small businesses enter new markets, find resources they need to start or grow, and so much more. Continue reading. https://www.coaacc.org/index.html
Columbus Women’s Small Business Accelerator, or WSBA, offers a number of assistance programs for women-owned businesses, including Latino, Black, Asian, and others. There is information and applications to free corporate or government grants, Angel investors, Power Circles Networking events, mentoring services and more. There are also entrepreneurship classes such as The inspired Entrepreneur as well as information on low cost, or interest free loans. Find details. https://www.wsbaohio.org/
Dayton Ohio businesses (or start-ups) can get help from an incubator program. Assistance is offered by The Greater West Dayton Incubator (GWDI), which focuses on Black, Latino, low income, and BIPOC businesses. They offer microloans as well as other support. Get legal help is starting a business, help with business plan creation, sales and marketing help, website development and so much more. Find details on the incubator program here. https://udayton.edu/business/experiential_learning/centers/crottycenter/strategic-initiatives/the-greater-west-dayton-incubator.php
May and June 2022
Cuyahoga County and NDC are providing low cost, maybe interest free loans, to small businesses impacted by the COVID pandemic. The government is contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the program as well. In aggregate, up to $100,000 is being provided to small women, veteran, and/or minority owned businesses in the county. Apply here. https://ndconline.org/cilf-loan/
Cleveland Foundation has ongoing grants for minority owned businesses. The focus is on social, cultural businesses or non-profits, as well as those that battle income or racial inequality. There is also a focus on minority and black owned businesses that help with community development, health and youth services. Businesses in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga. Find details on the Cleveland Foundation grants. https://www.clevelandfoundation.org/grants/apply-for-a-grant/
United Way of Greater Cincinnati is providing free grants ($5K to $25K) to minority and Black owned businesses that have a social cause. Recipients can be for private businesses or non-profits that are working to address systemic racism in Cincinnati and/or Hamilton County. It can be around helping with poverty, underfunded small Black owned businesses, housing, employment or other barriers. More details are here. https://www.uwgc.org/your-impact/programs-initiatives/black-led-social-change/black-empowerment-works/black-empowerment-works-application
$5,000 government grants are available from the Shelby County Ohio Small Business Relief Program. This is a financial assistance programs for businesses, including MWBE, veteran, and immigrant owned companies, that were impacted by the COVID pandemic. The program is one of last resort and it can’t be combined with other federal government, local, or state programs. The money can pay for salaries, mortgages, rent, and other operating costs. Apply here. https://co.shelby.oh.us/shelby-county-small-business-relief-program/
May and June 2022
Black owned businesses in Cincinnati can apply for free grants from the Lincoln & Gilbert fund. Qualified small and medium businesses can be given either $2500, $5,000 or $15,000. A major focus is on grants for Black women owned businesses in the Cincinnati Ohio area as well as other disadvantaged, even male owned. The amount of money will depend on the applicants revenue as well as other factors, but the free grants can also help Black owned businesses with poor credit scores. Apply here. https://www.lincolnandgilbert.com/
March and April 2022
The City of Columbus is offering free grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. The money will help businesses in low-income parts of the city, the disabled, underserved (such as veteran and MWBE). The business needs to be small or micro-sized and have been impacted by COVID. Find details on the Small Business Recovery Fund here. https://sbdccolumbus.com/columbus-franklin-county-recovery-grant/
The Sisters Accord Foundation is offer 5 businesses free grants of up to $10,000. The financial assistance is part of an accelerator program. The non-profit is based in Mason Ohio but covers the state and wider region. The program is known as the Sister Accord Accelerator and it also includes mentoring, coaching, and ongoing support. Find details on the foundation and accelerator program here. https://thesisteraccordfoundation.org/tsa-accelerator/
February and March 2022
Dayton Human Relations Council’s Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC) is providing microgrants for “underserved” small businesses, which are more often women or minority, veteran owned, and people with bad or poor credit. MBAC is also partnering with First Financial Bancorp on the program as well as other companies. They also help with MWBE certifications, business plan development, referrals to grant programs and other support. Read more. https://development.ohio.gov/business/minority-business/minority-business-assistance-centers
October and November 2021
Columbus and Franklin County MWBE businesses with under 25 employees can apply for the Franklin County Community Equity Fund. Free government grants of either $5000 or $10,000 will be provided. They also help fund startups. The Urban League is partnering with the county on applications. A major focus is on helping Black and Brown businesses that were impacted by COVID. Apply here. https://www.cul.org/initiatives/franklin-county-community-equity-fund/
The Women’s Business Enterprise as well as the Ohio Micro-Enterprise Loan Program provides low cost loans. There are funds for small businesses, start ups, and others with some money allocated to MWBE companies. Micro-businesses can in fact apply for loans at 0% interest rate. The state of Ohio is providing the grant funding for this financial aid program. Learn more. https://development.ohio.gov/minorityservices.htm
September and October 2021
Women-owned businesses as well as minority owned micro-enterprises have access to several million dollars from a loan fund that is run by the Ohio Women’s Coalition. Each qualified business may be able to borrow tens of thousands of dollars. The goal is to help small businesses as well as sole-proprietors, venture capital companies, and well as start ups. Learn more. https://ohiowomenscoalition.org/
Columbus Ohio businesses, in particular Black and people of color, can apply for $5,000 microloans that have very low interest rates (or even 0%). The funds are even for business owners with no or poor credit histories. A major focus is on helping small businesses expand and hire people. The Urban League of Columbus is overseeing the program and taking applications for the loans. One program is known as the Minority Small Business Resiliency Initiative. Continue reading. https://www.cul.org/
Duke Energy and the City of Cincinnati are providing $5000 grants to small businesses that have been impacted by COVID. The Duke Energy Relief Funding program will give priority to women, veteran, and minority owned businesses. The funds can cover payroll expenses, mortgages or rent, legal aid, digital marketing, insurance and more. Apply here. https://www.cincinnatichamber.com/DukeFund
Dayton Ohio Black owned businesses can participate in the Gem City Black Business Month. It is a month long event with workshops and seminars all across the city. Network, learn about grant and loan programs, build partnerships with other minority business owners, find revenue opportunities and so much more. Learn about this free event. https://www.ohiofrn.org/events/gem-city-black-business-month
May and June 2021
Cincinnati area minority, women and LGBTQ owned small businesses can apply for free grants from the Cincinnati Chamber Foundation as well as the Johnson Foundation. Anywhere from 5,000 to $10,000 will be paid out to qualified businesses. The applicant needs a business plan, references, need to be a small business, have sales and more. Most of the financial help is for service businesses (that are “customer facing”) and that have been hot hard by recent economic challenges. Apply here. https://www.cincinnatichamber.com/foundation-grant
Columbus Ohio companies can apply to First Financial Bancorp. The bank is offering several grants of $2500 to Black, Indigenous, Latino and people of color (BIPOC) small businesses. The Columbus Urban League is partnering with the lender. All the grants are part of the Small Business Resiliency Initiative. The money is for Columbus metro area, including all counties around it. Learn more. https://share.hsforms.com/1KZE8VLQ6TEWNSTv-FrZebA4nxxw?fbclid=IwAR2EqDZcUnC6NlMppteljwSZzVqDj7rsWlwA43VAvWKuFhGhR0d4dZh-xLY
Sandusky Ohio minority owned and founded companies can apply for a free $2000 grant. The funds are provided from the Minority Business Empowerment Team. Dozens of businesses will be awarded the money, and the funds can be used to pay aby type of bill. Grants are run in partnership with local non-profits in Erie County Ohio including the Economy Development Corporation. Apply here. https://www.eriecountyedc.org/rise
Minority owned businesses in the city of Cincinnati can apply to the J. Phillip Holloman Endowment Fund. It is run by the City Chamber of Commerce. Minority owned businesses (including Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, etc.) can get funds to help them grow their business. It is an accelerator program. Equity investments, loans, or grants may be issued and free advice as well as business help arranged. First Financial Bank is a partner. Learn more/Apply here. https://www.cincinnatichamber.com/
October and November 2020
Toledo and Lucas County is offering funds to help both (1) non-profits and (2) private, for profit businesses. Most of the funds will be allocated to minority as well as veteran or women owned businesses. The funds can be used to pay utilities, rent, housing, and other small business expenses. Black, Latino, women, LGBTQ, and other disadvantaged business are given priority. Funding is limited, but read more here. https://www.toledochamber.com/grant.html
$8 million dollars is being offered in Franklin County and the City of Columbus. CARES Act funding is flowing to the county, and money can help small businesses as well as start ups. Priority is for vulnerable small businesses that were hot by Coronavirus. Black owned businesses, Latino, women, Asian, and other minority companies are often given priority. This is a free grant program. Call (614) 257-6300 for applications.
Columbus and Franklin County residents can get grants from the A Business Growth and Equity Alliance. About $1.6 million dollars will be allocated by the Urban League of Columbus Ohio to minority (Black, Asian, LAtion, etc.) as well as women owned businesses. In addition, free technical assistance is offered to help them grow their business, increase sales, and get the support they need. The Urban League is disbursing the free grants. Dial (614) 257-6300 or https://www.cul.org/
By Jon McNamara