Our Blog

Your Stories & Actionable Tips

Subscribe now to get instant access to stories from business owners like you, funding opportunities from Hello Alice and our partners, and tips from small business experts.

An illustrated image of Ziggy looking at a screen with various cards on it
Small Business Tips and Tools

5 Simple Ways to Organize Your Small Business Finances

If improving your financial literacy is once again sitting at the top of your resolutions list, threatening to go the way of last year’s unused gym membership, dive in and finally check it off for good. Here are smart ways to organize your small business finances this year. After all,  prioritizing your financials means prioritizing your business growth. Separating your business and personal finances with a dedicated bank account and accounting system may be the single most important goal you set!   Our new milestone, Organize Your Finances, will help you get started.  Here are five ways to organize your small business finances.    Access the Milestone 1. Open a Business Bank Account (and Get the Most Out of It) There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to business banking these days. Traditional, local, and online banks offer an array of services and add-ons tailored to small business owners.   Our guide will help you determine the considerations and services that matter most to you and choose a bank that meets those needs, whether that’s seeking out 24/7 instant account access, low or no fees, or a physical branch run by a banker you know and trust.   Access the guide 2. Invest in Bookkeeping and Accounting Tools Did you know that a majority of small businesses do accounting in-house? Are you… ahem… one of these small businesses?  Here are the best tools for managing your finances in the year ahead:   For bookkeeping needs: Pilot Bench Wave QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping  For accounting needs: QuickBooks Online Freshbooks Xero  Access the guide 3. Build a Business Budget (Especially if You’re Brand New) We know.  We know.  Creating even the simplest budget can be downright intimidating. Thankfully, accounting platforms (like QuickBooks Online and Freshbooks) integrate budgeting and forecasting tools, but early-stage businesses may still find it difficult without sales data to work off of. Follow our guide to simplify the process and learn where you can find estimates to plug into your forecast if you’re just starting out, including: SBA’s startup cost estimator tool Trusted online publications related to your business’ industry, niche, and size Industry-related associations and member organizations Contacts and mentors within your network Let’s get to it! Access the guide 4. Know the Cost of Taking an Owner’s Draw Taking an owner’s draw is the easiest way for solopreneurs to get paid. It’s as simple as writing a check to yourself from your business account, but wait!   Make sure you’re familiar with these stipulations before you do so: You can’t take any amount you want. Your owner’s draw is limited to your equity in the business. Taxes aren’t automatically taken out. You’ll have to self-report your draws and pay federal, state and local income taxes, self-employment taxes, and potentially estimated quarterly taxes on them) Access the guide 5. Pay Your Bills No Matter What It typically takes two years for a business to turn a profit, so how do you pay your business and personal bills with no income? Here are some creative ways to keep the lights on: Treat your business like a side hustle to guarantee a profit stream Bootstrap (rely on savings or sweat equity) Seek micro-loans from friends and family Crowdfund with platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or GoFundMe Find more ways to pay your bills in our Determine How To Pay Yourself guide. Access the guide At Hello Alice, we believe 2022 is The Year of (Your) Small Business! Start it off right by getting your finances in order and ensuring you’ll have everything in order come tax season.  You’ve got this! For more small business tips and inspiration create a free account on Hello Alice or subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Jan 14, 2022 • 3 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

8 Good Small Business Ideas for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Some entrepreneurs seem to intuitively know what kind of business they want to start and how. But for many others, the task of deciding exactly what kind of business to start is daunting. There’s no such thing as the “perfect idea” but there are many good small business ideas that are growing quickly and require limited capital to start up. If you have the drive, determination, and never-give-up attitude but are stuck on an idea, let us offer some options. Here are good small business ideas for your consideration:  1. Vending Machines The vending machine industry is great for first-timers or for established business owners looking to add a side or weekend project to their plate. The cost of entry is low; used machines sell for $1,000-$3,000 and are a good investment to learn the ropes before branching out. Additional costs include stocking your machine and whatever overhead you’ll pay in gas, fulfillment, maintenance, etc. The key to success in this business relies almost solely on location. Think of places you’ve used or seen vending machines – schools, office parks, medical centers, dorms, apartment buildings or outside places where food options are limited like hospitals or the DMV. Cold calling can work for smaller locations or somewhere you have an “in”. Your local Chamber of Commerce can provide information about businesses that employ many people as well as how your state governs vending.  2. Mobile Mechanic If you have experience and skills as a mechanic, you can offer your services conveniently and easily. Many people avoid the auto shop for simple services like oil changes or battery replacements because it’s an inconvenient and annoying chore. Offering your services at your customer’s home or place of work can be a game-changing benefit that customers are willing to pay for. And all you need is your own vehicle, tools, and ideally, a customer base of friends and family willing to spread the word.  3. Mobile Car Washing and Detailing Like a mobile mechanic, there is a market for people that will pay a premium to bring the carwash to them. Being mobile also cuts down on overhead costs immensely. Auto detailing start-up kits are available online to start. YouTube is a great resource for detailing instructional videos and tips and tricks. There’s even an entire niche of car cleaning videos on social media — a great place to advertise your business and show your most stunning before and after shots.  4. Handyman There’s a gap in the market for experienced people that can do simple jobs around the house, are easy to reach, and available on short notice. Working with contractors, plumbers, and electricians isn’t typically easy. They book up quickly and can turn down small jobs that a handyman could tackle. And when you finally get the work done you may have to unearth your checkbook. If you’re the person your friends rely on for small, odd jobs, consider starting a handyman business. Set up a free, separate Google Voice number for your customers to text you on and quickly respond. Accept payment via PayPal or Venmo and watch the referrals roll in. 5. Cleaning Company Like car detailing, there’s a corner of the internet dedicated to watching other people clean. There’s something satisfying about seeing a space transform, but a lot of people don’t want to put in the elbow grease to achieve sparkling results. The barrier to entry is low here. You’ll need supplies and a means of transportation to start. Consider targeting small businesses in your area. The amount of work can equal that of a larger home but with higher corporate rates. Another great market if you live in a popular tourist area is vacation rental homes or rooms. Owners book back-to-back stays and require thorough cleaning, fast. Check out the cleaning communities online for the best products and methods and start making your own #cleantok content. 6. Professional Packer According to a recent survey, 45% of respondents said that moving is the most stressful life experience. If organization is your thing, you can hire your services out to individuals and even businesses moving corporate spaces. Partner with a realtor and/or moving company to share leads and generate business. If the move is local, you can double your services by offering unpacking as well. The best part of this small business is that all you need is yourself. You can factor in the cost of boxes, tape, and other supplies into your rate.  7. Food Truck Food trucks offer much lower overhead than a brick-and-mortar restaurant and as the past 20 years have shown, the popularity of food trucks isn’t going anywhere soon. In a competitive and saturated market like this, research is key. Contact your local health department to find out what is needed to start a food truck business in your area. Look into your competition to see what might be missing from the food truck scene and scout locations. After years of on and off pandemic-related lockdowns, visiting a food truck can feel like a real treat. Consider reaching out to suburban neighborhood associations or developments. Setting up on a cul-de-sac on a Friday night can bring in as much money as a Saturday at the downtown farmers market with hordes of competition.  8. Postpartum Doula Last but not least in our round-up of good small business ideas... If nurturing is in your nature, consider making a career of it. Postpartum doulas offer emotional and physical support for families. From light housework to infant soothing, interacting with an older child, and caring for the mother, postpartum doulas serve to ease a family into life with a newborn. While the industry is not formally regulated there are a variety of workshops and certifications you can acquire to legitimize your business. And besides patience and a love of babies, you need little else to get started!  Enjoy this list of good small business ideas? For more small business inspiration and funding opportunities, create a free Hello Alice account or subscribe to our newsletter.
Jan 13, 2022 • 4 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

How to Brainstorm Your Way To a Stronger Brand

Is there a secret sauce to creating a stronger brand? How do people come up with a successful creative representation of their business? How can you tap into your own artistic energy and really get the most out of your branding efforts? Houston-based barber, yoga instructor, and gallery curator Juan Valentine (aka YogiBarberJuan) has spent years perfecting his own brand identity and has a few tips to get your creative juices flowing for a stronger brand. Reflect on why you became an entrepreneur and how you want to be remembered.  “I started my barber journey when I was 10 out of necessity— Mom not having enough money to send us to the barbershop,” Juan says. “I wanted to create something that I could eventually pass on to my kids. More specifically, I created YBJ Studios because there wasn't anything like it, and it was a niche that I felt like I had the skillset and experience to create. Something truly unique and one of a kind.” Your turn.  Create your vision statement now. Decide the story you want to tell.  “A good haircut isn’t always what it takes to build a good barbershop. A lot of times it’s those real intangible things you have to work on, doing self-discovery work to find out: Who am I? How am I going to present this service and business in a way that’s different from everyone else, but is still authentic to who I am?” How would you answer those same questions? Conduct a brand audit now. Think about the impact you want your business to make in your community. “What's most important about the identity of my company is that it's genuine. It's real. It's authentic,” Juan says. Pinpoint the exact words that represent your own identity. They’ll help you develop your brand voice and Create a Brand Personality. Head to our new milestone, Create Your Brand Identity.  Through this milestone, you’ll learn how to: Envision and communicate exactly what your company stands for Audit your existing brand to find its existing strengths and weaknessesCreate the look, feel, and voice of your brand  “Anybody can do this,” Juan says. “I'm not some special person. One of the biggest aha moments I’ve had is that I've always had the potential to run the business and create the brand that I wanted to. It starts with just a little seed, and you water it, you nurture it, you spend time with it. And before you know it, you’ve got a little stride going.”  So let’s get started.  See you in the Create Your Brand Identity milestone! For more small business tips and inspiration, join Hello Alice and/or subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Jan 12, 2022 • 2 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

Join our FREE, Three-Week TikTok for Small Business Sprint

You might have heard of the “#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt” phenomenon sweeping the nation. In fact, 74% of TikTok users said TikTok has helped them decide what to buy after seeing it advertised or promoted on the platform. [1] Isn’t it time your small business gets in on the action? TikTok is an ideal place for small businesses to express their authentic self, find community, make connections, and get discovered. You don't need big budgets or sophisticated creative skills to succeed. TikTok is all about real and relatable.  Audiences want to hear you tell your unique story in your own way and will reward it with their views and engagement. To learn how to get started creating content that your customers crave, we invite you to join our free TikTok for Small Business sprint. Kicking off January 10, 2022, and running through January 28, each week brings a new step-by-step guide to help you make the most out of TikTok. You’ll also get access to live mentor sessions that provide tips and insights straight from TikTok experts. Let’s go over what you’ll take away from each week of the sprint. Week 1: Get Started on TikTok This week’s guide highlights how to get started on TikTok, build community, and get discovered by your target audience.  Week 2: Create Scroll-Stopping Content on TikTok Learn everything you need to tell your business story in a way that is both authentic and in line with the platform’s unique style and culture. No technical skills required!  Week 3: Boost Your Results with TikTok Tools With this guide, discover how to meet your marketing goals and grow with TikTok’s variety of ad solutions, creative tools, and e-commerce features. ____ Register for the TikTok for Small Business Sprint  Starting January 10, 2022 ____ [1] Marketing Science US Holiday Shopping Behavior Research 2020 conducted by Walnut Unlimited
Jan 4, 2022 • 2 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

How to Deal with 2021 Supply Chain Issues

Shipping delays and shortages are common enough during any holiday season but are even more omnipresent in 2021 due to the pandemic. In this article, we chat with small business owner and Hello Alice owner Emma Mann of Soap Cauldron about her experience with 2021 supply chain issues. We also exchange tips on how to manage supply chain disruptions.  What Is Causing Supply Chain Issues? Several pandemic-related factors are causing disruptions in the 2021 supply chain worldwide including: Shortage of employeesShortage of raw materialsIncreased spending on hardgoods  With consumers unable to enjoy experiential activities such as dining, bars, and travel as frequently, there has been an increase in shopping for material items. This paired with shortages in employees in manufacturing and production of raw materials has all contributed to 2021 supply chain issues.  How 2021 Supply Chain Issues are Affecting Small Businesses While supply chain issues are affecting both big and small businesses globally, it can be especially challenging for small businesses. Side effects of supply chain issues on small businesses can include: Increased cost of manufacturing and suppliesDelayed shipping Customer dissatisfaction Jeopardizing retail placement “As a smaller entrepreneur, we simply do not have the buying power that larger competitors do, nor do we have the cash reserves” Emma Mann says. Her business, Soap Cauldron, is a line of handcrafted all-natural soaps and skincare. “We are competing in a frenetic marketplace to source packaging, raw ingredients, and labor," she adds. Additionally, she notes that backorders put securing shelf space with retailers at risk. If they're unable to produce enough product to fill retail orders due to supply chain issues, they lose the shelf space. This is especially frustrating as it can take small businesses years to earn this valuable placement.  Similarly, building customer loyalty is more hardfought for small businesses. To maintain customer loyalty, Emma is maintaining her prices for as long as possible while facing dramatic price increases on her supplies.   “Every vendor we have has raised prices,” she recalls. “Our bath tube supplier had four increases this year alone.” Several other vendors increased their prices multiple times as well. Simply put, maintaining these savings for customers can reduce net profit for each item sold.  When Will 2021 Supply Chain Issues Be Resolved?  As of October of 2021, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell projected that 2021 supply chain issues will continue to disrupt businesses through 2022. Discouraging though this may be, it’s also a reminder for small business owners to proactively do what they can to alleviate the negative side effects as soon as possible.  How to Deal with 2021 Supply Chain Issues Here are some strategies small businesses can take to deal with ongoing supply chain issues: 1. Tell Your Customers Now Be open and honest about what your customers can expect and do it as soon as possible. Being proactive in communications will help to keep expectations clear for the holiday season. Let your customers know via newsletter and/or social media what challenges you are facing and how they can support your small business. The following talking points can be a helpful to include when speaking to customers about backorders or other fulfillment delays: Honest and clear timelines about product availability and/or order fulfillmentContext about why any backorders or delays are happening How your team is working to address these concernsAppreciation for your customer's patience and support Sincerity can set you apart and help keep customer relationships strong.  As an example, Emma chose to address shipping delays earnestly with her customers. Rather than offering free shipping as a perk, she was candid about the challenge it posed on her business. “We were transparent that as a smaller company we cannot absorb that cost,” she says. “Our hope is that the value proposition is enough to warrant them choosing us.”  2. Keep the Dialogue Open Update your employees and customers frequently and answer all questions as quickly as possible. While no one likes to deliver bad news about backorders or delayed shipping times, it is better to keep your customers updated and informed. Consider adding a banner to your website or updating your order confirmation emails with up-to-date processing and shipping times.  Similarly, being clear with your employees about supply chain issues prepares them to act accordingly and even invite problem solving as a team.  3. Get Creative with Your Offerings Find fun ways to encourage customers to shop early for the holidays to account for shipping delays. If supply chain issues have caused low stock in popular items, encourage your customers to buy gift certificates that they can redeem when a product/service is available. Some other ideas might include: A giveaway raffle for early holiday shoppersIf you have a loyalty program, awarding extra points A small gift with purchase you can produce affordably, or better yet, with recycled scraps that would otherwise go discarded If you have a local business, offering pickup and delivery 4. Adapt Your Sourcing Strategy Take note of any inefficiencies you experience throughout the rest of the year. Then, if you haven’t already, look into alternative sourcing for supplies and shipping for the new year. As predicted above, supply chain issues will likely continue into 2022 so it’s not too late to course correct for the new year.  For example, Emma invested in greater quantities of inventory at a time to make up for delayed shipments. She also recommends not relying on one or two suppliers. “Have four to five back up buyers in your reserve,” she suggests.  During the pandemic, she found it beneficial to reach out to unconventional vendors to continue operations. “When restaurants closed during the pandemic, we found that bakery and ingredient suppliers could not sell their drums of oil,” she explains. “So many reached out to us. This allowed us to develop a list of additional suppliers and create a symbiotic relationship that benefited both companies that were struggling.” Final Thoughts Without a doubt, the current challenges in the 2021 supply chain are an unfortunate side effect of the pandemic for small businesses.  “We will come out the other side,” says Emma, “but too many businesses have fallen along the way.” However, as with other entrepreneurial challenges, it also marks an opportunity to develop greater adaptability and resilience.  “The lesson in all of this is that it is critical for a business to learn how to pivot and hustle in this environment to survive,” Emma concludes. “This entails a radical rethink of established practices.”  Be sure to check out Emma’s small business, Soap Cauldron, to enjoy an assortment of all-natural bath and skincare products. You can find them on Instagram here.  For more insights into running a small business, create a free Hello Alice account to access dozens of how-to guides or subscribe to our weekly newsletter. 
Nov 19, 2021 • 4 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

How to Grow Your Small Business Through Hosting on Airbnb

It’s no surprise that funding is a top priority for many small business owners. But what if you can raise funds — on the side — using what you already have? Listing your space on Airbnb can be a great way to earn extra income and grow as an entrepreneur. In fact, new Hosts on Airbnb have earned more than $1.2 billion globally from March 2020 to March 2021 alone. [1] As travel begins to rebound, now is the time to offer up your space — whether you've got a spare room or an entire place — and gain the financial flexibility to invest in other ventures, fund hobbies, or retire early. And because hosting is on your terms, you can be flexible and do it regularly, while on vacation, or just a few times a year. To learn how to fund your small business through hosting, we invite you to join our free Host Your Space on Airbnb sprint in partnership with Airbnb. Kicking off November 29 and running through March 2022, each week brings a new step-by-step guide to help you make the most out of hosting on Airbnb. You’ll also get access to live mentor sessions that provide tips and insights straight from seasoned Airbnb Hosts. Let’s go over what you’ll take away from each week of the sprint. Week 1: Help Fund Your Business Through Hosting This week’s guide highlights what you can get out of sharing your space on Airbnb, and helps you create a hosting business plan. Week 2: Start Hosting on Airbnb Learn how to craft a compelling Airbnb listing, create your hosting calendar and routine, and prepare to host your first guest. Week 3: Maximize Your Earning Potential Take hosting to the next level by optimizing your listing, continuing to provide a great guest experience, and maximizing your earning potential on Airbnb. Register for the Host Your Space on Airbnb Sprint Starting November 29, 2021 _____Explore the World of Hosting Hosting adds a revenue stream packed with potential. Check out how other entrepreneurs are finding success sharing their spaces on Airbnb, plus learn the ins and outs of hosting. Try hosting _____ [1] Airbnb, 2021
Nov 17, 2021 • 2 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

How to Submit a Strong Grant Application for Your Business

Applying for grants can be daunting, but any owner can submit a winning application for their business with the right approach. Just ask Marsha Stephanson. The entrepreneur started applying for grants during COVID to help keep up with the supply and demand for her postpartum care package company, Cater to Mom. More than a year later, Stephanson has been awarded several small business grants and was recently named a $10,000 recipient of the 2021 Stacy’s Rise Project via Hello Alice. To help others follow in her path, we spoke to Stephanson to discuss her top tips for submitting a strong grant application and getting the funds to grow your small business. 1) Check the Eligibility Requirements Before beginning the application process, Stephanson says to always check the requirements to make sure that you’re eligible. The requirements for most grant programs can be found in their terms and conditions or official rules. For the Stacy’s Rise Project, the requirements are found in Section 2 of the terms and conditions.  And if you’re not qualified for a grant, don’t fret — there will be more grant opportunities to come. “Sometimes, a grant that you may apply for may not be fit for you. It may not be the best fit for your business,” she says. “I would recommend never giving up and continuing to the next grant and apply for it.” 2) Prepare Your Answers When you're ready to get started, scan the application to determine what information they're asking for. This will help get organized and gather any supporting documentation. “Once I look at the requirements, that’s where I map out potential questions. I put together an outline for myself,” says Stephanson. This allows you to think through your responses and provide answers that are thorough and thoughtful. For example, the Stacy’s Rise Project application included questions such as your business structure and annual gross revenue, as well narrative questions about your personal motto and how your business supports your community. 3) Explain How You’ll Use the Grant “Most grants want to know your story, what are your plans for that particular grant, and how would you spend it,” explains Stephanson.  Your proposed use of funds is often a judging criterion that grantors, or the people reviewing your application, will use to score your application. You can find the judging criteria for most grant programs in their terms and conditions. (Stacy’s Rise Project laid out its judging criteria in Section 7 of the terms and conditions.) Use the judging criteria as a guide to inform your responses. And when writing your proposed use of the grant, Stephanson recommends identifying the specific areas of your business that need support. “I recommend looking into the overall aspect of your business and see where the actual need is, so when you’re applying for that grant, you know that this funding would help in this area of your business, whether it’s inventory, marketing, or scaling and growing your business,” she says. “Definitely know where it is that you need that funding.” 4) Tell Your Story Many grant applications will have personal narrative questions where you can share more about your business and why you do what you do.  “I always refer back to my story and my ‘why’ for starting my business,” says Stephanson. “Just put it out there and say, ‘This is why I started my business. This is why I think it’s so important that other people need to know what I’m doing and how I’m able to help people.’” Review the judging criteria in the grant program’s terms and conditions to help identify the parts of your story to highlight. For example, one of the criteria that the grantors looked for in the Stacy’s Rise Project applications was "thoughtful responses" to questions. So take the opportunity to use the personal narrative questions to share your story.   Also, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in your application — your passion for your business will shine through to grantors and make your application memorable. “The way you convey your message is important because for somebody that’s reading it, they don’t see that side like you really care about your business and what you’re doing,” says Stephanson. [Hello Alice Guide: Embed Purpose Into Your Business] 5) Keep Applying, Even if You Were Rejected in the Past If you get rejected for one small business grant, it doesn’t mean you’ll get rejected for other opportunities. “I’ve applied for grants and have been rejected. It was like, ‘Okay, at the end of the day, you know your business, and you know that you’re doing something meaningful.’ So continue to do what you do best, and when the next grant comes up, apply for it,” says Stephanson. “Never give up because you got rejected.” Filling out grant applications can be costly on your time, energy, and effort, but it’s almost always worth it to apply. Don't let rejections stop you from seeking funding opportunities — continue looking for grants that are a good fit for your business. 6) Don’t Be Afraid to Hit Submit! The grant application can be an intimidating process, but Stephanson says not to let fear get in the way of funding opportunities for your business.  “A lot of small businesses are looking at these grants that are out there, and some of them question like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m not qualified for it.’ But you just never know,” she says. “I’ve always told people it doesn’t hurt to apply. It’ll either be a yes or no — just go for it and believe that you know your business is doing something to support and help people. If you believe in your business, other people believe in it as well.” _____ Have Grants Questions? Post in the Small Business Grants Forum on Hello Alice today to connect with other small business owners sharing the same experiences and ask any grants-related questions. Our experts will be chiming in with tips, advice, and updates on new opportunities. Join the forum
Oct 19, 2021 • 4 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

A Pep Talk for Small Business Owners on Applying for Grants

At Hello Alice, we hear lots of reasons why people don’t apply for small business grants.  Reasons Why People Don't Apply for Small Business Grants To name a few reasons why people don't apply for small business grants:  “It’s too complicated!” (It doesn’t have to be.) “I just don’t have the time!” (We hear you, but it might be worth making the time.) “I’m not going to be selected anyways!” (3,000+ Hello Alice grant recipients beg to differ.)  “Others deserve the money more!” That last sentiment — that some people don’t “deserve” an opportunity — is one of the hardest to combat. Imposter Syndrome In truth, we all have moments of what’s called imposter syndrome. There are days when even the most accomplished entrepreneurs get caught up in self-doubt. Looking at a grant application, it’s easy to find reasons why someone else needs the funding more. But that’s often not the case. If you have a goal and a plan for how the grant funding can help you get there, you deserve the check as much as anyone else. Why You Should Apply for Small Business Grants Anyway Hello Alices Director of Grants Administration Jenee Fortier says: “Everyone is deserving of financial support to make their dreams come true.” After all, that’s part of what grant applications are asking: What are your dreams, and how would this check help you achieve them? Think about it. You’ve already taken the leap into the world of entrepreneurship. You’re already seeking out funding opportunities to grow your idea. As Jenee said in a recent grant workshop, “Writing a grant application can be absolutely overwhelming, but so is starting a business.” So enough with the pep talk! We can’t wait to read your grant application. Visit the Small Business Funding Center for the curated grant opportunities and lending opportunities from 90+ partners. For more small business tips and inspiration create a free account on Hello Alice or subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Oct 12, 2021 • 2 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

Is This Grant Worth Your Time?

Your business needs funding, and grants can be a great, no-strings-attached way to fund growth and scale your impact. But as a small business owner, your time is valuable. So valuable, in fact, that it might not always make sense to apply for a grant. So how do you determine if a particular grant application is worth your limited time? One answer is a simple cost-benefit analysis. This process helps you understand what you’re getting out of a transaction in return for the time and resources you’re putting in.  It’s a pretty simple equation, which means that even someone who hates math can run the numbers and make an informed decision in just a few minutes. Let’s get started! Step One: Establish Your Cost Per Hour How much is one hour of your time worth? It’s a subjective question that only you can answer.  For the purposes of this example, let’s say your time is worth $100 per hour. Step Two: Determine How Long the Application Will Take Not all grant applications are equal. A typical Hello Alice grant application can be completed in less than an hour. Some government grants, on the other hand, might require paperwork and documentation that takes you many hours to complete. For our example, let’s say an application will take you 10 hours to complete from start to finish.  Step Three: Do the Math To determine the cost of the application, you just need to multiply the hourly cost of your time by the number of hours it will take to complete the application. [Cost Per Hour] x [Hours for Application] = Cost of Application In our example, if your time is worth $100 per hour and the application takes 10 hours, the ultimate “cost” will be $1,000.  To be clear, we say “cost” in quotes because grants typically do not charge fees or require payment. The $1,000 figure is simply the opportunity cost of devoting your time to the grant application as opposed to other business activities! Step Four: Assess the Benefit This part is easy. Is the grant amount more than the cost? If the answer is yes, then you should probably submit an application!  Looking at our example, the cost of the application is $1,000. That means if the potential grant award is more than $1,000, the benefits outweigh the costs. It’s worth your time to apply! That Said: Consider ALL the Benefits With cost-benefit analysis, the benefit is often cash — but not always. It’s important to understand that receiving a check is only one positive outcome of the grant process. Submitting an application gives you an opportunity to dive into your business model and reflect on your strategy. Even if you are not selected, you might be able to repurpose some of your application responses as marketing materials or email content, for example.   To get a sense of all the benefits, we polled small business owners on what they stand to gain from submitting a grant application. These were some of your responses: “Money” “Hope”  “Confidence” “Funding for my dream” “Access to possibility” “Choice” “Recognition” “Opportunity” “Exposure” It’s hard to assign numerical values to feelings like hope and confidence, but no small business can operate without them! Submitting an application opens the door to recognition, exposure, and possibilities that can be worth as much as any check.  At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself one question: Do you need money to attain your business goals? If yes, you should probably submit that application!  We can’t wait to read it. Visit the Small Business Funding Center for the curated grant opportunities and lending opportunities from 90+ partners.
Oct 12, 2021 • 3 min read
Small Business Tips and Tools

So You Want to Apply for a Small Business Grant

Small business grants are out there, but doubt, intimidation, and busy schedules can make it difficult to move forward with the application process.  That’s why Hello Alice Director of Grants Administration Jenee Fortier and Manager of Engagement and Social Media Danielle Telleria hosted a recent workshop with small business owners. In conversation with nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs, we shared tips on telling your story, what reviewers are looking for, and other strategies to help you put together a successful grant application. Below, we’ve included the full recording of the session and go over the biggest takeaways of the presentation.  Step One: Believe in Yourself To kick off the workshop, Jenee recognized that the funding process can be intimidating. But with the right tools and the right mindset, anyone can submit a successful grant application. “Writing a grant application can be absolutely overwhelming, but so is starting a business,” Jenee said.  As proof of what’s possible, she pointed to the more than 3,000 small business owners who’ve received Hello Alice grants to date. Thousands and thousands of other owners have been funded by other organizations. If you’re interested in securing a grant for your business, Jenee said that success boils down to preparing yourself and getting your application organized.  Questions to Prepare Yourself One of the most common things we hear from small business owners is that the grant process is too complicated. But there are some simple, concrete steps you can take to easily evaluate whether a grant application is a good fit. First, you need to set aside 15 or 20 minutes to read the grant brief in full. This is an overview that tells you about the grant program, who is eligible, and any criteria the judges are looking for in applicants. If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria, that’s OK! You only spent a few minutes reading the brief, and you can save your energy for the next opportunity. But if you do qualify, it’s time to go a level deeper. Is there mission alignment? Remember, just because you are eligible does not mean it’s always a good idea to apply. Do you believe in what the granting organization stands for, and do they believe in what you stand for? Next, you need to verify that the payment model works with your business plan. For example, many government grants work on a reimbursement model where you provide a service or product and get paid after the fact. If you don’t have the cash flow to support that, the opportunity is probably not a good fit. Other organizations might portion out the grant over a series of payments, meaning that you only get a small amount at a time. And of course, some grants are one-time payments where you get the whole amount at once (this is how Hello Alice operates). Each model has its place — but before you spend time on an application, verify the payment schedule can support your goals! Finally, what are the reporting requirements? While Hello Alice grants do not typically carry this requirement, other organizations ask for monthly or quarterly reports on your finances or other data. This can be a hidden cost, and you’ll need to budget for the time and effort required to monitor and report this information.  If you get to this point and still feel like the grant is a promising opportunity, you should definitely move forward with the application. Let’s Get Organized Every grant application is unique, but there are some common elements that you’ll see again and again. Jenee recommended that you keep a folder of common documents that will come in handy as you craft your application. First, gather documents that flesh out your narrative. Mission, vision, and value statements are key elements to store here. These help you craft your elevator pitch, evaluate mission alignment, and save time as you apply. You should also gather any data that demonstrates your knowledge of your business and/or customers. Quite simply, numbers wow people. If you’re able to provide data on your company’s impact or the need for your product, that will be a powerful asset for your grant application.  A lot of grants will also ask you to submit a budget along with your proposal. You may or may not have this document ready, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you need a budget template, Jenee recommends using SF-424A — a standard budget form developed by the federal government. This document is a useful and intuitive template that works for a variety of funding applications. You can download SF-424A from grants.gov.  Staff members are a huge part of how you will achieve your goals. It’s helpful to keep a folder of resumes and/or bios of key staff to help funders understand the experience of your team and how they will help you achieve your goals. Put It All Together With the information from these documents, you should be able to craft a clear narrative for why you need the grant and how the funding will help you achieve that goal.  You can use reverse logic to figure out the main idea of your proposal. What are your business goals? What specific activities do you need to accomplish to reach those goals? And what resources do you need to accomplish those activities? Your answers to those questions will be the heart of your grant application! Here’s a short example: You need $10,000 to purchase a machine to ramp up production of your most popular product by a certain date to reach your holiday sales goal.  This statement provides a clear understanding of why you need this money to accomplish your business goal, which is exactly what funders are looking for!  Final Thoughts Yes, it takes time and effort to apply for grant funding, but anyone can craft a successful application if they are organized and prepared. Jenee pointed out that even if you’re not selected, it’s probably worth your time to apply — the reflection and hard work you put into this process can pay off in your company’s marketing, sales, and strategic planning efforts. Finally, Jenee dispelled the myth that you don’t have a chance at receiving the grant. As she pointed out, “You have a better chance than the thousands of people who didn’t apply!” _____ Have Grants Questions? Post in the Small Business Grants Forum on Hello Alice today to connect with other small business owners sharing the same experiences and ask any grants-related questions. Our experts will be chiming in with tips, advice, and updates on new opportunities. Join the forum
Oct 12, 2021 • 4 min read