Caribbean Small Business Grants: What to Know
At some point in their journey, most entrepreneurs will dream of receiving a grant to help finance their businesses. After all, who doesn’t need funding to start, grow or fuel their venture? And what’s better than funding that requires no collateral, bears no interest, and is non-repayable? It may seem like a pie in the sky that’s just too good to be true, but there are grants available for Caribbean entrepreneurs and businesses. Discovering, qualifying for and accessing these opportunities, however, can be challenging. Here are some of the top grant-funding opportunities and what you need to know to apply.
Compete Caribbean supports innovative projects through its highly competitive ‘innovation window’ facility. Firms and entrepreneurs with can compete for up to US $500,000 in financing for transformational yet high-risk ventures that stand to considerably advance the economic development of the Caribbean if successful. Qualifying submissions must meet strict criteria such as being cutting edge, commercially viable, environmentally friendly and socially impactful, among others.
The Social Entrepreneurship Program (SEP) is an Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) funded program that offers grants to private and non-profit organizations that provide financial, business or social and community development services to vulnerable or disadvantaged communities. The SEP earmarks US$10 million annually to fund eligible ventures in 26 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Arthur Guinness Projects has been providing grant funds to social and high impact enterprises ranging from US$10,000 to over US$50,000 over the last few years. Entrepreneurs are typically considered in categories such as technology, environment, social and community regeneration, culture and arts and community well being, among others.
The Caribbean Investment Facility is funded by the European Union and aims to mobilize funds for development projects through the blending of grants and loans from other sources for infrastructure projects in transport, water and sanitation, energy, disaster prevention and information and communications technology.
USAID has multiple grant opportunities for entrepreneurs and micro and small businesses in the Caribbean ranging from sustainable development and rural agriculture to poverty reduction, energy, and climate change issues among many others.
The World Bank also provides numerous grant opportunities to entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Caribbean to encourage innovation, sustainable development, increased exports and manufacturing, and technological advancements among others.
By now you may realize there’s a pattern in the grant funding opportunities available to Caribbean businesses. Many are offered by international development or donor agencies and are focused primarily on driving problem-solving and developmental activities. The common threads tying these sought-after facilities together are innovation, creativity, rural development, agricultural transformation, social impact, clean or renewable energy, employment, poverty alleviation, manufacturing, production and exports, and infrastructure development.
Additionally a relatively small number of grants are available each year, and are typically open to several countries at a time, making it very competitive for those who meet the strict eligibility requirements. Grant writing has therefore become an intricate art with many winning proposals being written by experienced consultants who have intimate knowledge of the selection criteria and process.
While the eligibility requirement for each grant opportunity may be different, most typically require formal business registration, financial statements for at least two years, counterpart funding provided by the applicant, and proven management expertise and competence and so on.
The widely held belief that this type of funding is free money with no strings attached is a myth as there are considerable costs to preparing proposals, obtaining matching funds and satisfying the reporting obligations. Many grants come with strict conditions, and complex reporting mechanisms which often necessitate an experienced and highly skilled administrator who can maintain progress reports, and liaise with the donor.
In fact grant funds are often disbursed in tranches based on the achievement of pre-set milestones and deliverables. Therefore, grant awardees must not only be highly qualified and operating in transformational areas but they have to be top performers, or risk losing funding and support.