10 Business Grants for AAPI Entrepreneurs (+ Where to Find More)

Courage and hope reside at the heart of building a business. Hope for a better quality of life, financial stability, and, if we’re lucky, generational wealth for our families.

However, for Asian American and Pacific Islander entrepreneurs, spinning an idea into a profitable business requires startup funding that is often difficult to access because of systemic barriers.

As an alternative to venture capital, angel investments, and loans, business grants can help bridge this gap by awarding money that doesn’t require repayment or equity exchange. This post will explore where AAPI entrepreneurs can find business grants, and how to apply for them successfully.

Why are grants helpful for AAPI business owners?

Although the AAPI community owns around 2 million enterprises, including small sole proprietorships, and is the most rapidly growing ethnic group in America, grant opportunities specifically for AAPI businesses are scarce.

Beyond the absence of support for these aspiring business owners, AAPI entrepreneurs are also hesitant to apply for the small number of available funds and grants due to cultural and language barriers. According to a survey conducted by Bank of America, 37% of AAPI business owners don’t feel sufficiently informed on how to apply for capital and 23% don’t know where to apply. The National CAPACD also reports that 58% of AAPI entrepreneurs struggle with federal, state, and local relief programs for small businesses.

There is a clear need for more visible resources and mentorship related to business development and funding opportunities so that a new generation of AAPI-founded companies can make culture-shifting and innovative contributions to society. The first step to picking the right resource for you is understanding how much money you’ll need.

How much does it cost to start a business?

Finances are unique for each person or company and depend on the type of business, the number of employees, and other details. According to Small Business Trends, on average, startup and first-year costs fall between $30,000 and $40,000, although it can cost significantly less for service providers and online businesses. There are several variables to consider when evaluating how much money you’ll need to launch, including:

  • One-time and ongoing costs
  • Essentials such as equipment, software, and supplies
  • Fixed and fluctuating costs such as rent and utilities
  • Marketing expenses
  • Legal and accounting fees
  • Insurance
  • Licenses and permits
  • Employee salaries and benefits
  • Taxes

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a handy worksheet for calculating startup costs. After determining how much money you’ll need, you can assess your options for funding, whether it’s pulling from your personal accounts, courting investors, applying for a grant, or seeking lending options through banks.

The Difference Between Investors and Grant Programs

This money doesn’t appear like an ancestral blessing with no strings attached. Investors earn a return on their investment through equity and earning dividends in the form of cash or shares of stock, or in some cases, repayment with a pre-decided interest rate.

On the other hand, business grants are non-dilutive, meaning you keep full ownership of your business and don’t have to pay back any money. Many grant programs award the money upfront, while some pay as reimbursements after expense reports are submitted.

Where To Find Business Grants

The main types of grants for entrepreneurs include general business grants, industry-specific grants, grants for women minority-owned businesses, and COVID-19 relief grants. Each grant is unique and differs on who is eligible, the use of the money, and the award amount. Here is a list of grant-making organizations.

  • Search and apply for federal funding on Grants.gov, a database with grants from around 26 federal agencies, such as SBA, MBDA, and USDA. The agencies award grants for critical recovery initiatives, innovative research, and other projects for non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, and other entities. Annually, this site helps award approximately $500 billion across more than 1,000 federal grants.
  • Non-profit organizations can offer grants to support small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Private foundations offer industry-specific grants.
  • Local Asian Chambers of Commerce offer grants, funding opportunities, networking, mentorship, and financial literacy resources to Asian American-owned businesses.

10 Grants for AAPI-Owned Businesses

Although the list isn’t long, there are a handful of grants for AAPI entrepreneurs that could be your ticket to accelerate the growth of your business.

1. Gold House

Gold House invests in AAPI entrepreneurs disrupting their industries to give them the capital and tools they need to scale. It offers two grant opportunities: SAFE Gold House Ventures and Gold Futures Challenge.

Gold Futures Challenge gives awards to organizations/projects that support API communities and help them feel seen, heard, empowered, and united. It’s a challenge-based fund and the public votes for winners from a pool of finalists chosen by a selection committee.

  • Grant Amount: Prizes range from $25k – $100k
  • Eligibility: AAPI-serving organizations registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofit, fiscally-sponsored projects, or government organizations.
  • Application Date: Apply by June 15, 2023

SAFE Gold House Ventures invests in AAPI entrepreneurs disrupting their industries. It’s a 12-week startup accelerator with 1:1 advising, masterclasses, and networking opportunities.

  • Grant Amount: $150k investment for each winner
  • Eligibility: Open to founders of C Corp companies who identify as AAPI. LLCs can apply but are required to convert to a C Corp to receive funding.
  • Application Date: Fall 2023 applications open in August

2. USA Funding Applications

USA Funding Applications is an online funding resource that gives you access to 20K applications and grant sources. AAPI entrepreneurs and business owners can apply within the Minorities/Demographic section, and there’s no limit to the number of grants you can apply for.

  • Grant Amount: Varies by grant and case-by-case basis.
  • Eligibility: See eligibility requirements for your category after signing up.
  • Application Dates: Applications accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

3. Hawai’i Foundher

Hawai’i Foundher is a six-month accelerator program that provides five businesses with grant funding, flexible child and elder care stipends, a workspace on each major Hawaiian island, two core mentors, and access to an advisor network. The program helps Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Asian women and mothers with businesses in the five core markets of Hawaii: food, health and wellness, fashion, tech, and education.

  • Grant Amount: Undisclosed
  • Eligibility: Must be a for-profit, early-stage business with 50% of founders being women of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or Asian descent and based in Hawaii.
  • Application Dates: 2023 – 2024 dates to be announced

4. AAPIStrong

National ACE’s AAPISTRONG has a grant page updated annually with available opportunities. At the time of this writing, two grants have deadlines in May, and you can sign up for new grant alerts here.

The National ACE and Verizon Small Business Digital Ready Program Grant will provide $1 million in small business grants in 2023 to help with marketing, equipment, team building, and more.

  • Grant Amount: $10,000 each
  • Eligibility: Complete any combination of two Small Business Digital Ready Program courses, coaching events, and community events before applying.
  • Application Dates: 2024 dates to be announced.

The Greg Hill Foundation and GrubHub Community Fund Grant will provide $1.25 million to small business restaurants. A portion of this fund is dedicated to supporting minority-owned businesses for technology and equipment, marketing services, staff training and wages, and more.

  • Grant Amount: Ranges from $5,000 to $25,000
  • Eligibility: Must own only one restaurant location with 50 or fewer employees in Boston, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia.
  • Application Dates: 2024 dates to be announced

5. Asian Pacific Community Fund

APCF provides alternative funding for Los Angeles County nonprofit organizations serving low-income and underserved Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities. It offers long-term funding opportunities, core operating support, and resources beyond traditional grant-making. APCF has awarded over 260 grants and distributed over $1.6 million in funds.

Firecracker Fund

  • Grant Amount: Undisclosed
  • Eligibility: Nonprofit organizations with programs that promote healthy lifestyles through nutrition and physical fitness for AAPIs in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
  • Application Dates: 2023 dates to be announced

APCF Operating Grant

  • Grant Amount: Ranges from $5,000 to $15,000
  • Eligibility: Organizations that serve AAPI community members needing the most assistance in Los Angeles County and beyond.
  • Application Dates: 2024 dates to be announced

Asian Pacific Community Giving Circle

  • Grant Amount: Undisclosed
  • Eligibility: Organizations that serve AAPI communities throughout Greater Los Angeles County. The area of focus changes each year and previously included organizations with programs for mental health, youth leadership development, language access, bullying prevention, environmental justice, and financial literacy.
  • Application Dates: 2024 dates to be announced

6. Asian Women Giving Circle

AWGC believes funding is a form of activism. Its team has granted $1 million in the past 16 years through 100 grant projects. Annually, they award 8 to 10 grants to help fund projects led by Asian American women artists and community groups in NYC that bring progressive social transformation and raise awareness of critical issues affecting Asian American women, girls, and gender-expansive people.

  • Grant Amount: Typically $8,000 each, depending on how much AWGC raises for their annual pot.
  • Eligibility: Open to 501(c)(3) organizations and individual artists. Projects must incorporate art, highlight women and gender-expansive people’s leadership, and be applied to a specific project, not ongoing programs or operations.
  • Application Dates: 2024 dates to be announced

Tips for Successfully Applying for Business Grants

1. Start early.

Having a small window of time to draft a business plan, gather the necessary paperwork, and fill out a grant application will make it harder to complete. Start the process early to give you enough time to plan, write, and submit the best application possible without any additional stress that comes with feeling rushed and overwhelmed.

2. Do your research.

When preparing to apply for a grant, thoroughly research to understand the organization offering the award. Treat it as though you’re preparing for a job interview and customize your application to show why you’re the best fit to receive their funding. Take your time while reading the grant guidelines and application requirements to ensure you’re addressing all the necessary points and letting your proposal and vision shine.

3. Get help from a grant writer.

You’re capable of completing your grant application, but if financially possible, hiring a professional grant writer with experience crafting award-winning applications can help increase your chances of receiving funding.

4. Apply to more than one grant.

Grants are limited and competitive, but don’t let that discourage you from applying to as many of them as possible. The more applications you submit, the greater your chance of being awarded. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity; ensure your applications are customized for each organization.

Mistakes to Avoid With Business Grants

1. Falling for a scam.

Be cautious when applying for grants. Scams exist to trick you into paying money or sharing sensitive information. Verify the authenticity of a grant opportunity (they are always free) before applying.

2. Committing fraud.

Misrepresenting how you plan to utilize grant money can result in serious consequences, such as being barred from receiving future funding, civil lawsuits, and criminal prosecution in some cases. When applying, be honest about how your business will spend the money.

3. Forgetting to pay your taxes.

Most business grants are taxable because the money is considered income. Research federal and state tax laws to understand how much of your grant needs to be claimed for your tax return, and work with an accountant to guide you on how to report it. The organization that awards the grant can also clarify some of these details.

Rise to the challenge of launching a business.

Obtaining funding can be intimidating, but now is your chance to turn your ideas into an operating, money-making business. If you aren’t offered money during your first round of grant applications or raising capital, keep trying. If those funding sources aren’t working in your favor yet, consider looking into business loans or crowdfunding. You always have options.