prison cell blurredI’ve talked about small business grants in the past. Today, I want to talk about Small Business Grants for Felons. Years ago, I had the opportunity to provide training at the prison when I worked for the ND Small Business Development Center. It was wonderful to see soon-to-be-released prisons who were eager to return to society. The individuals I served in the prison had developed trade skills or had artistic abilities that were marketable. However, having a felony on their records definitely closed doors. Often times, starting their own business offers advantages over applying for jobs and checking the felon box.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my brother lately, who also has a felony. He’ll be released in a few months to restart his life in society. It’s led me to think of opportunities that might be available to entrepreneurs who have felons.

Finding Small Business Grants for Felons

Grant Application Form for Small BusinessWhat I’ve found is that you may be able to get help from grant programs specific for felons. Small business grants for felons can provide the financial assistance needed to launch and/or grow a business, giving you an opportunity to succeed with your entrepreneurial pursuits.

Finding these types of grants can be difficult as there are not many available due to limited funds. However, there are opportunities out there, if you know where to look. The following provides information on how to go about finding small business grants for felons that could potentially help fund your venture.

Research Local Nonprofits & Organizations

Defy Venture Logo - Small Business Grants for FelonsMany local organizations offer resources specifically designed for formerly incarcerated people who want start or expand their own businesses. These groups typically have relationships with potential funding sources. They may have connections with private foundations and government agencies that may offer grants specifically targeted towards helping former prisoners become successful entrepreneurs. I suggest that you do some research online or contact local nonprofits in your area that work with formerly incarcerated individuals. Check out what type of support they provide regarding small business grants for felons.

One example is Defy Ventures. Defy Ventures is a nonprofit organization based out of Los Angeles that works with formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs. The organization provides mentorship, entreprenerial bootcamps, access to business accelerators, and alumni programs. Additionally, Defy Ventures connects form inmates to lending partners who can provide loans and grants.

Check Community Development Financial Institutions

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are specialized banks, credit unions and loan funds that focus on providing access to capital in underserved markets and communities. These include those coming out of prison backgrounds who want start a small business but lack access to traditional forms of financing. CDFIs often partner with other organizations dedicated towards supporting entrepreneurship among, including formerly incarcerated people. Definitely check out their websites or contact them directly see what kinds of opportunities they might have available regarding small business grants for individuals with felonies. The ones I’m going to list next don’t specifically provide grants to those with felonies. However, they also don’t exclude based on the felon label.

For example, Nav’s Small Business Grant previous provided up to $10,000 to businesses looking to overcome a challenge. Currently they’re in the process of revamping their grant program to help more individuals. This is definitely one to keep on your list of follow-up organizations. They also share links to other grant resources.

Contact Your State’s Department Of Corrections

Finally, each state has its own department of corrections which oversees reentry initiatives aimed at helping former offenders successfully transition back into society. They offer assistance in the areas of employment training, education programs, etc. I encourage you to reach out directly to them and inquire about any resources related specifically towards starting up a new enterprise after release from incarceration. Plus, they may even be able connect you with other relevant partners outside the agency who can assist in locating potential sources of funding. This may include private foundations or non-profits offering small business grants geared towards assisting felons achieve their entrepreneurial goals.


Though it might require extra effort, researching all possible avenues is worth the time when it comes securing much needed financing. It’ll help enable you to launching successful venture by obtaining one more several available small business grant. As I mentioned earlier, not all financial resources solely for the benefit of formerly incarcerated individuals. However, they also don’t exclude those with felonies, who wanting pursue self-employment dreams, from access funds.