Free government grants are available for small to mid-sized businesses in Tennessee. There is financial assistance for minority and female owned businesses, and the applicant may be given a grant or a loan. Find the main lenders, charities, corporations, and business development centers in Tennessee near you below.
The funds are for any entrepreneur, small business owner (regardless of race), or startup company. However each of the financial assistance programs will be allocated some of the grants and/or loans to minority owned small businesses (including Black, Latino, Asian, LGBTQ) or veteran or female owned businesses. Most of the funds are for businesses in Nashville, Knoxville, or Memphis, but there are funds statewide.
In addition to the free government grants or interest free loans, minority as well as female small business owners are given ongoing support. There are free mentoring and business coaching services in Tennessee; help with creating business plans; SEO and online marketing services; networking events and so much more. The focus is on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) as well as MWBE (Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprises), can loans or grants can help anyone who is qualified.
Small business loans or free grants for females or minorities in Tennessee
As noted, any business can apply, and the free grant as well as loan programs listed below are updated daily. Each agency or lender will allocate some funds to minorities, women, or other disadvantaged businesses such as veterans, Asian, or LGBTQ among others.
Find year round free grants, loans, and business coaching programs
Find details below by city, region, or category. These will be non-profits, corporation or other places that give financial assistance as well as ongoing support to MWBE owned businesses in TN. Or continue to scroll down the page for more resources that are offered by month.
Statewide resources for Tennessee minority, veteran, and women owned businesses
Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville area businesses can apply for Pathway Lending Flex Fund. it is a source of Capital that combines low cost (or even 0% interest loans) with equity conversions. There is a Veteran Outreach center, information on free government grants when they are released, SBA loans and a women’s center. Other assistance is given too, including advice. Learn more here. https://www.pathwaylending.org/
TN Minority Business Alliance is a charity organization that operates statewide. There is a small monthly fee to join, but members can get free mentoring, networking services, as well as information on and access to grants, loans, and funds for their business. There is a free trial period as well, but the organization advocates and tries to help disadvantaged businesses in TN start, grow, and get the capital they need. Learn more. https://tmbaclarksville.mn.co/
Chattanooga and Hamilton County area
Chattanooga based businesses can turn to the United Way for assistance. The non-profit is helping Black, Low income, and Minority businesses (among others) apply for loans, free grants, and other support. There are workforce development programs, an Entrepreneur Center, sales and marketing help, and more. The goal is to help all businesses, with a focus on disadvantaged ones, grow and be successful. Find details here. https://www.ulchatt.net/
Chattanooga startups can also try CO.LAB. They assist with all phases or starting a business. They also help facilitate 0% APR microloans from Kiva, as the company is a trustee. There are also various accelerator programs for MWBE businesses including for consumer product businesses, outdoor product focused companies, and there is also a gig-tank, 365 degree mentoring service. Other assistance, including information on grant funding, is offered too. Continue reading. https://colab.co/
Knox County grants and loans as well as free coaching
Knoxville Black owned businesses can get assistance from 100Knoxville. This is an ongoing, quarterly program that has a goal of increasing the number of, and success of, Black owned businesses in Knoxville. The program is run in partnership with First Bank and quarter a number of Black owned businesses can apply for grant money, get help with creating strategy as well as IT/technical assistance and more. Free mentoring is also given, and find details on 100Knoxville here. https://100knoxville.com/
Memphis region loans, free grants, and financial assistance
The City of Memphis, Goldman Sachs, Historical Black Owned Colleges, and Hope Enterprise are working together to help Black women and male owned businesses. Qualified start up companies, or small businesses, can get small dollar loans. Other assistance ranges from business classes to coaching, help with procurement in Tennessee and more. Read more on the Collaborative. https://hopecu.org/deep-south-economic-mobility-collaborative/
Memphis area small businesses, in particular Black owned ones, can get financial help, advice, and coaching from the Entrepreneurship Powered Innovation Center (Epicenter). Over 50% of their clients are minorities, mostly Black business owners or start-ups. There is help in applying for loans, government grants, technical advice and other support. A major focus is on entrepreneurs too. More information is here. https://www.epicentermemphis.org/
Memphis and Nashville businesses (as well as outlying areas) can get support from the Tennessee MBDA Business Center, or Minority Business Development. They help minority companies get capital (loans and grants), create and retain jobs, and get other help. Both entrepreneurs and current small business owners can turn to the center. Read up on them here. https://www.mbda.gov/business-center/tennessee-mbda-business-center
Nashville area small business programs for women and minorities
Nashville Corner to Corner is a multi-faceted non-profit that offers many services, one of which is entrepreneurship for MWBE businesses. The main service for women, Black, and minority businesses is The Academy Program. It is a multi-week class and workshop to help people start a business, gain new skills, learn and more. As part of this low interest rate loans may be offered too. Often the graduates will be given some funding for their business. Find details here. https://cornertocorner.org/programs/the-academy/
Nashville Business Incubation Center is an organization of small to mid sized business owners and entrepreneurs in Davidson County. There are also local, “established” minority and women business owners involved. The organization helps businesses increase sales, network, get free coaching from successful business owners, access government grant programs and so much more. It is a working space and the goal is to take a holistic approach to help people start or grow a business. Get details here. https://nbiconline.com/
Nashville Entrepreneur Center offers a number of assistance programs, including the Twende program which helps businesses owned by people of color. There is individualized mentoring programs, counseling, information on grants or low cost-interest free loans and other support. A major focus is on technology, health care, and other “cutting” edge industries. Twende is run in partnership with corporations such as Cummins, Verizon Wireless, UBS, the state of Tennessee, LBMC, Wells Fargo, Citizens Bank,, AT&T, Butler Snow nd others. Read more on the center here. https://www.ec.co/
Williamson County Black Owned businesses can get assistance from the Black Business Coalition. Various minority (Black) owned leaders, business owners, corporations, and others partner together to support each other. Learn about grants, workshops, professional development opportunities, networking, low cost loans and other local resources at the coalition. Learn more. https://williamsonchamber.com/bbc/
Pathway Lending, in Chattanooga, will be lending a total of $7.5 million to minority and underserved businesses in Hamilton County as well as Chattanooga. Any small business can apply, regardless of religion or race. Some of the loans will be held back and reserved/paid out to women and/or minority owned businesses. They also offer COVID relief, invest in start ups and other financing solutions. Read more. https://www.pathwaylending.org/
Davidson County and Nashville Black entrepreneurs and start ups can apply for (1) a pitch program and (2) free grants. Cummins as well as the Nashville Entrepreneur Center are running a “competition” called Pitch for Good. Winners with the best business idea, plan, and potential will be given grants to help fund their business. Apply here. https://form.jotform.com/210828321150141
January 2021 and February 2021
Small businesses located in Memphis can get financial help from a program known as EDGE – Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County (EDGE). Over 80% of the funds paid out from EDGE in the past have gone towards Black, Latino, Female, Asian, and minority owned businesses. $5,000 to $10,000 can be paid out for each qualified business and the money can help pay a variety of bills. The funds are for local business owners – not national organizations. Read more. http://www.growth-engine.org/business-assistance/tax-incentives/edge-neighborhood-emergency-economic-development-need-grant/
The state is providing $50 million in funds in total to small business across Tennessee. It is to help pay the bills and debts that businesses may have incurred due to business shut downs, COVID, extra expenses, and more. This is a government grant program. At minimum 10% of the funds will go to women, minority, veteran owned businesses. The free government grants can pay for payroll costs, rent, mortgages, utility bills, etc. Each applicant can get up to $30,000. Read more https://tncaresact.tn.gov/serg
Black Business Association of Memphis is offering small dollar grants (of up to $300) for black women and male owned businesses. There are also mentoring, coaching, and technical assistance programs. The free grants are only for certain types of industries in Memphis and Shelby County, including cosmetologists, estheticians; personal trainers; hair braiders; barbers; make-up artists, massage therapists; hair stylists; and nail technicians among others that were hit hard by COVID-19. Read more or apply. https://bbamemphis.com/covid-19-fund/
By Jon McNamara