Posted at 2:57 PM
I’m Sophia He, an intern with the Minority Business Development Agency, and my days are spent doing some pretty interesting things. I was given an assignment to call small businesses that were recently awarded up to $225K in commercialization grant funding from Federal Government Laboratories to see if they had any advice to share with other business owners. I was hesitant to call at first, but after I got going, I learned a lot and was provided with some very useful information.
The funding they received is from Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. You see, each year, billions of American taxpayer dollars go into funding research and development at our federal laboratories, with the intent for those innovations to return their investment and move from the laboratory to the marketplace, thereby boosting our economy.
Agencies that offer SBIR funds want to collaborate with small businesses so that the federal research needs are met and small businesses can develop new products. Let’s say there’s a government request that is applicable to your business and you want funding to support your company and resolve that problem. So now what? Here is what successful SBIR recipients had to say:
Step 1: Know the problem
The first step requires you to fully understand the problem. Before proposing a solution, a thorough understanding of the question is required. Make sure you research the relevant topics that are mentioned and also related ones that may be relevant when you submit your proposal.
Step 2: Make a team
The next step is to form your team. Without a group to collaborate and pull resources together, producing a solution will be difficult, if not impossible. Creating a successful proposal and product requires addressing every aspect of the solution you are proposing. Having multiple people working together will help by including problem elements one single person may have missed.
Step 3: File your proposal
Know your audience. When making your proposal, you are competing with several other firms to get this grant. Your goal for this proposal should be to make it “un-rejectable.” Tackle every part of the problem and have answers to all the questions that they may ask. Because you will have competition from other people, make sure to establish an edge for yourself. Put yourself in the position of the reviewer and make sure that the solution is viable, practical, and profitable.
Throughout the entire process, always keep your audience in mind. Because you are applying to serve a government need with SBIR grants, it is essential that what you are working on addresses that need. If you deter too far from that, the proposal may be considered scattered and unreliable.
According to seasoned SBIR grant recipients, one of the most important components of applying to these grants is perseverance. A lot of businesses want to get these federal grants and private sector grants. It is essential that every time you apply for one that you do everything in your power to give yourself an edge in the group. A lot of money is out there that the government wants to give you to help you and your business thrive and create jobs and getting a grant is one of the best ways to utilize that resource.
This summer, I’ve decided to commit to learning as much as possible about technology transfer and its related resources that are available to minority-owned businesses. Good luck with your applications and stay tuned for more articles!
Sophia He is an intern for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency. She is currently enrolled at Boston College studying English and economics. She hopes to join the ‘Teach for America’ program after graduation and eventually dedicate her career to minority advocacy in the legal field. This summer she is working with MBDA’s Inclusive Innovation Initiative to get more minority businesses and entrepreneurs involved in federal technology transfer.