Federal Express has always been committed to supporting up-and-coming startups in their pursuit to grow further. For years they have implemented the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest to provide funding to help small businesses grow and scale by developing new products or services, expanding to new markets, reaching new customers, creating jobs and much more.
The 2020 FedEx Small Business Grant contest recently ended with grant awards amounting to more than $250,000 to twelve businesses in the US. The application window for the 2021 program has not yet been announced. To prepare for upcoming opportunities and help you win a FedEx Small Business Grant, let’s explore some of the vital information you need to develop a strong application.
FedEx Small Business Grant Eligibility
The FedEx Small Business Grant competition is open to any small business in the United States. Applicant businesses must be in good standing and have been continuously selling a product or service for no less than six months before entering the contest. Applicants to the program must have less than 100 employees.
Additional requirements to be eligible to apply for the FedEx Small Business Grant include sales not exceeding $5 million annually. The business must also integrate a plan to ship products during the coming twelve months, and must have shipped goods to customers during the past year as well.
Nonprofits, reseller businesses, independent consultants and previous winners are no longer eligible to apply for the grant. For more pertinent details about the application, visit the official website of FedEx.
Steps for Applying
Once the FedEx Small Business Grant program opens and begins accepting applications again, the first step is to provide basic business information such as the business name, location, website, the business’s primary contact and social media pages for the business. Other information required is the business EIN number for the business (or SSN if there is no EIN yet).
Once those basic steps are complete, it’s time to move on to the most important part–telling your business’s story and why winning a FedEx Small Business Grant will not only have a powerful impact on your business, but your customers and your community as well.
Writing Tips for Winning a FedEx Small Business Grant
Winners of the FedEx Small Business Grant competition are selected by popular vote so telling a well-crafted, compelling story is critical to success. Here are some tips:
1. Value Proposition:
Create a powerful and compelling–but very brief statement that tells readers what your business does and what makes it so unique. This statement will be used alongside a photo and posted on the FedEx Small Business Grant program website that will highlight those businesses that have been selected to make it to the stage where winners will be selected by popular vote.
2. Create a Story Outline:
Before launching into writing your story, start by creating an outline that illustrates everything you want the reader to know about your business and why it deserves to win a FedEx Small Business Grant. Here is an example of an outline you could use to develop your story. The order of where you place them in your outline is not necessarily important. How you place each will depend on the story you want to tell and what is going to make the story flow smoothly. In my experience working with startups, I’ve found that a great outline starts by answering three important questions:
- Why this? Tell the readers what your business produces or sells and what makes it different from other businesses. This is essentially your value proposition. You also want to tell the readers the problem your business solves and convince them that there is a strong market for your product and that customers want to buy what you are selling. Does your product have a social impact component or does it help solve one or more environmental or social problems the world faces? If so, be sure to make that clear to the readers.
- Why now? In your narrative, clearly and compellingly explain why now is the right time for your business to grow and scale. Some questions to think of include: What has changed in the market to make this the right time for your business to grow and scale? Has your business achieved a milestone (e.g., new product development, etc.) that makes now the right time to scale and grow?
- Why you? Give the readers a compelling reason to choose your business over the other competitors. What makes it so different and how does it add value to your community or to society overall? If the story of how you started your business is unique and shows how you started from nothing or overcame great obstacles to make your dream of being a business owner a reality, then be sure to make that clear.
3. Tips for Creating a Powerful Story
- When telling the story of your business and why it deserves to win one of these coveted grants, think of the process as being similar to developing a strong, compelling pitch that you will present to a group of high-power venture capitalists. It is very important that the story you tell considers the reader’s perspective, not yours. This can be very difficult because by nature, most of us want to say what WE think is important, often failing to consider what is important and meaningful to the reader.
- Open your story with a strong, compelling statement that catches the reader’s attention early on, they will most likely stop reading and move on to the next competitor. Every sentence you write should continue to draw the readers in and make them want to know more and keep reading. Every word must be chosen carefully.
- Be concise and write using plain language that is easy to understand. Don’t confuse the reader and don’t leave them with unanswered questions.
- Don’t use jargon, lots of buzzwords, acronyms (unless you spell them out) or words that are specific to your industry but that the readers might not understand.
- Never assume that the reader has the same background knowledge as you do. When working with startups, helping them to develop their pitches, I always tell them to “speak to the fools in the room.” Basically, this means telling your story in terms that are understandable to everyone, not just those with knowledge of your industry.
- Make the impact of how and why winning the FedEx Business Grant abundantly clear. Tell the readers how you will use the funds to grow and scale your business, while reiterating the social, community or societal benefits that will result from the funds.
- Finally, be sure that your story includes information about how your business’s goals are aligned to FedEx when it comes to delivering quality products and services in the quickest and most efficient manner.
As mentioned above, judges are looking for compelling answers to the essay questions in the application. But that’s not all. Here are some additional tips that can give your FedEx Small Business Grant application a winning edge:
- Social Media: The social media presence of your brand will also factor in because this is an indication of your capability to spread the word nationally or even globally. Judges will also look at how engaged your business is with its customers or fans and get a sense of how people feel about your business.
- Company Website: Make certain your website looks professional. Use clear visuals that relate to what your business does. If the story of the idea for your business or how you started it is unique and interesting, include it on the front page. Your business website should be easy to navigate and compatible for mobile viewing.
- After Submission: Once you have submitted your application, it’s time to get to work building a strong network of customers, users or the general public to vote for YOUR company to be the winner. This work can never start too early. You will only have a limited time to tell the world that your business has made it the voting round.
Throughout the years, the FedEx Small Business Grant has helped many small businesses take flight by growing and scaling. Some recent winners of the grant include Access Trax, which provides mobility solutions for outdoor terrain such as gravel, grass, snow and sand. The company developed portable pathways that are innovative and user-friendly to provide access to locations such as parks, backyards, playgrounds, camp sites and more.
Mancan is another breakthrough winner of the FedEx Small Business grant. The funds were used to help their dream of expanding and scaling their business. The company developed the first exclusive wine-in-a-can in the United States. Mancan’s wine-in-a-can is sustainable, durable and portable. Winning the grant will help them make their dream a reality, and with the help of FedEx, they can ship their drinks straight to your doorstep.
If these up-and-coming startups made it big with the support of a FedEx Small Business grant, then it is possible that you can too. The best strategy is to get an edge to rise above the approximately 4,000 businesses that apply for the funding each year. Your application should emphasize innovation, sustainability, passion, and commitment.
Interested in learning more about business grants and whether they might be right for you?
Contact me today and let’s talk!