Small Businesses

Overview

Connecticut extends a big welcome to small businesses across a wide array of sectors. In fact, we’ve established a special Office of Small Business Affairs to connect business owners with resources that can help spark growth or ease relocation. So whether you’re looking for financing, technical assistance or just a single point of contact to help you navigate the breadth of services available from federal, state, public/private and nonprofit organizations, we encourage you to contact the DECD Office of Small Business Affairs.

Key Facts

  • More than 97% of the businesses in Connecticut employ fewer than 500 people each. Source: SBA
  • Nearly 50% of all Connecticut workers are employed by firms with fewer than 500 employees. Source: SBA

Business Support

  • Are you starting a new business in CT? Try out the New Business Checklist Tool. In a few simple steps, you’ll have a personalized checklist that will guide you through the entire startup process.
  • New financial and technical assistance programs for small business are available through the following organizations:

Statewide

  • Black Business Alliance (BBA)

This program provides financial, technical assistance, and business coaching for entrepreneurs throughout the state. Businesses must be registered and operating in Connecticut as a for-profit entity and in good standing, or on a payment plan, with the Department of Revenue Services.

Approximately 20 grants of up to $15,000 will be awarded each year of the five-year program. Grant funds can be used for the purchase of assets and working capital expenses. Awards will be made two-three times a year. Applications are submitted on the BBA website.

Targeted businesses for funding include those currently engaged in technical assistance services with the BBA. Priority is given to minority, women, disabled, and veteran-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed municipalities.

Businesses that do receive a grant must engage with BBA technical assistance personnel. Assistance includes a minimum of one monthly one-on-one meeting, action plan development, and expert business advice and referrals to other appropriate entrepreneurial support organizations.

Click here to learn more.

  • Girls for Technology (GFT)/Society of Human Engagement and Business Alignment (SHEBA)

Girls for Technology (GFT) and The Society of Human Engagement and Business Alignment (SHEBA) have collaborated to establish new support services for small businesses. The program, which spans over five years, offers training, business acceleration, advisement, consultation, planning, and technical support for 20 small business owners annually. These supportive services extend for up to six months, aiding businesses in their growth and development. Priority is given to entrepreneurs who identify as minority, women, disabled, veteran-owned businesses, and businesses situated in distressed municipalities.

GFT’s Building for Equity initiative, which focuses on business acceleration and pitch competition, offers a two-cohort program for 10 small business owners each. These participants are later referred to the SHEBA loan certification program, where they can gain access to capital. SHEBA’s loan program trains small business founders over a 10-week hybrid learning series. Participants undergo certification and technical assistance programs, which increase their proficiency in the business lending process. They also gain knowledge of the types of information lenders seek and why. Additionally, SHEBA offers services that are crucial in building a solid foundation for small businesses.

The Small Business Accelerator Program is a comprehensive initiative that provides a host of services, programs, and events. The program offers enlightening podcasts and interviews with seasoned professionals with industry-specific expertise relevant to the cohorts.

To learn more about GFT, click here. For more information about SHEBA, click here.

  • Hartford Economic Development Corporation (HEDCO)/Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA)

A grant and technical assistance program for small businesses designed to expand financial support, create an ecosystem of providers and additional resources for small businesses, and offer training workshops, seminars, and support for young entrepreneurs.

Eligible businesses must be a for-profit entity with no more than 25 full-time and/or part-time employees, and be in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services. Priority is given to minority, women, disabled, LGBTQ+, and veteran-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed municipalities.

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The number of grants each year will vary depending on the dollar amount and number of awards made each year. Each grant is capped at $30,000. A closing fee of $250 is assessed for each grant up to $15,000 and $500 for grants up to $30,000.

Grants will be able to cover necessary working capital expenses and will give small businesses the opportunity to hire from HEDCO and SAMA’s Ecosystem of Providers, such as lawyers, accountants, and other necessary resources that may be needed for the enterprises to succeed.

During this grant period, HEDCO and SAMA plan to offer the following technical assistance: business orientation and planning services; training in business operations and information technology; create an ecosystem of service providers for small businesses to utilize, such as lawyers; work collaboratively with local universities to offer training sessions, workshops, and seminars with their schools of business; and establish two mutual satellite offices in the New Britain/Meriden/Waterbury and Willimantic/New London/Norwich areas of the state.

To learn more about HEDCO, click here. For more information about SAMA, click here.

  • Minority Construction Council (MCC)

A comprehensive package of technical assistance services to support and sustain new and existing small businesses. MCC is targeting small businesses in the construction industries located in the greater Bridgeport, Waterbury, New London, Norwich, and New Britain regions.

Priority is given to minority, women, disabled, and veteran-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed areas.

MCC provides numerous services to minority and women business entrepreneurs located in Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New London, Norwich, New Haven, New Britain and other cities and towns throughout Connecticut.

Its services are intended to help build capacity within minority construction contractors to ensure they have the proper skills and knowledge to be successful in the construction industry. Technical assistance includes SAM registration, designation webinars, Concord Business registration, DAS prequalification webinars, development and construction safety trainings, loan and grant assistance.

Click here for more information.

  • Realist Lab Venture Launch Fellows Program

This program is designed to support business owners and build toward a more equitable and inclusive future for Connecticut residents. The initiative consists of two parts.

Phase I, a 12-week part-time program, is structured to enable entrepreneurs to focus on day-to-day business operations while participating in the program. Fellows selected also receive a cash grant to subsidize any costs lost while attending the program. The weekly sessions dive into topics such as business fundamentals, sales and marketing techniques, developing leadership and preparations to raise funds.

Phase II, with a duration tailored to each business, allows a select group of entrepreneurs from Phase I to participate in a program to build their initial minimum viable product (MVP). This program model helps launch founders on a trajectory to scaling successful businesses. Software engineers build out a minimum viable product that is launch ready. And marketers will assist founders on their go-to-market strategy.

Grants range from $5,000 to $25,000, for a total of $200,000 each year of the five-year program. Funding can be used for business operating expenses, entrepreneurship workshops, demo days, tech, or grants to small businesses.

Eligible businesses include venture backable startup companies, new small businesses without technology to scale and increase revenue, must be independently owned and operated (not a franchise location), based in Connecticut, and priority is given to minority, women, disabled, veteran-owned businesses and business located in distressed municipalities.

Click here to learn more.

  • Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC)

The WBDC is expanding its microgrant and technical assistance programs for businesses throughout Connecticut. Interested applicants are encouraged to attend a virtual information session to learn more and how to apply. Business advisors are available for additional help preparing the application.

Eligible businesses must be 51% or more woman-owned; headquartered and registered in Connecticut; owned by a Connecticut resident; have been in business at least two years; between $25,000-$2,000,000 in annual sales/revenue in the last 12 months; in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services; have an established business checking account; using a formal digital bookkeeping/ financial system; and be a for profit entity.

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Priority will be given to minority, women, disabled, and veteran-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed municipalities.

Equity Match Grants are awarded to select applicants who have a clearly defined project where the grant will have a measurable impact on the business, its growth and profitability. Approximately 100 grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded each year of the five-year program. Grant funds cannot be used for operating expenses (e.g. inventory, on-going marketing expenses, salaries), real estate improvements (e.g. construction costs), reimbursement for past purchases or debt repayment.

Businesses that receive funding must participate in WBDC training and/or counseling sessions at least once per quarter during the year to support the growth of the business.

Click here for more information.

Greater Hartford

  • Social Enterprise Trust, Inc. (reSET)

A grant and technical assistance program with different components for new and existing small retail and food related businesses located primarily in the greater Hartford region. Grant awardees must have participated in a corresponding technical assistance program.

ReSET is prioritizing businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, and those located in distressed municipalities in the greater Hartford region, as well as entrepreneurs living in or serving the greater Hartford area who are interested in developing and scaling a food business, including food products and services.

For Accelerator-level programs, companies should have some revenue or on track to revenue, and have done some customer discovery, and are thinking about scaling up. For incubator level programming, entrepreneurs should have a clear product vision and direction. For the Digital Marketing Mastermind, companies should have a product and sales and are looking to increase their skills in digital marketing.

The incubator and accelerator programs are three months in duration and the Digital Marketing Mastermind program is 9 weeks. All programs include content delivery, peer-to-peer interaction, expert lectures and mentorship.

Between 36 and 45 grants will be awarded each year over the five-year span of the program. Grants range from $500 to $2,000.

Click here for more information.

Greater New Haven

  • The Community Foundation Mission Investment Company – Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

A financial and technical assistance program designed to build a more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem and a more resilient small business landscape in Greater New Haven.

Eligible small businesses must be in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services and Secretary of the State. Businesses also need a business plan or high-level executive summary, projections, and a description of how funds will be used. Priority is given to minority, women, disabled, and veteran-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed municipalities.

The foundation expects to award 175 grants each year of the five-year program. Grants range from $500-$50,000. Eligible uses of the funds include rent, utilities, staff, marketing, machinery, equipment, supplies, inventory, and consultants.

Technical assistance is provided through a partnership between the foundation and area entrepreneur support organizations ensuring participants have the resources they need to achieve expected outcomes.

Click here to learn more.

Middlesex County

  • Middlesex County Revitalization Commission (MCRC)

A grant and technical assistance program for small businesses in Middlesex County that are still recovering from COVID-19 or those affected by ongoing road and infrastructure projects. Applicants must demonstrate that the operating funds are necessary and sufficient, when combined with any other sources, to sustain the business and retain jobs.

Eligible businesses must be registered and in operation for at least two years, a for-profit entity, and be in good standing with all state and local agencies. Priority is given to minority, women, disabled, and veteran-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed municipalities.

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Over the five years of the program, up to $200,000 will be distributed annually. Each grant award, based on the needs of the business and available resources, is capped at $25,000. Grant recipients receive technical assistance through the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, The MEWS+ (business support through innovative educational programs, access to mentors, and a local community of peers), and associated network organizations. Workshops, webinars, office hours, etc. are provided in the areas of marketing, accounting, human resources, legal, and other topics to benefit the long-term viability of participating companies.

Grant funds can be used for rent/mortgage, inventory, equipment and technology, software as a service use, and other fixed costs. For Middlesex County small businesses impacted by planned and ongoing road/infrastructure projects in Middlesex County, such as the Haddam/East Haddam Swing Bridge reconstruction project, uses may include costs associated with supply chain disruption, increased employee travel time/mileage expenses, increased vendor costs, loss of income, additional marketing expenses.

Click here for more information.

Southeastern Connecticut

  • Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region Corporation (SeCTer)

A grant and technical assistance program that provides seed and growth funds to startup and existing businesses in southeastern Connecticut.

SeCTer is targeting companies with a focus in advanced manufacturing, the offshore wind supply chain and renewable energy, childcare services, and agriculture/aquaculture production. Priority is given to minority, women, disabled, and veteran-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed municipalities.

SeCTer expects to award 95-100 grants each year of the five-year program. Grant amounts range from $500 to $200,000, and can be used for working capital, equipment, and business debt consolidation.

Technical assistance programs include workshops in business fundamentals, pitch events, and business planning competitions. SeCTer has in-house staff to provide assistance and is partnering with Connecticut’s Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and the Women’s Business Development Council, as well as subscriptions to LivePlan and Strategizer.

To learn more, click here.

  • Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, Inc (CCAT). CCAT provides grants to start-up companies that are housed in Connecticut incubator facilities through the Small Business Incubator Grant Program.
  • Connecticut Innovations (CI). CI is a quasi-public organization that serves as Connecticut’s strategic venture capital arm. Working in partnership with a number of public/private partners, CI offers strategic guidance, timely connections and equity investments to help promising businesses thrive.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA provides loans and loan guarantees through lending institutions.

Other Statewide/Regional Lending Partners

  • Community Economic Development Fund (CEDF) — provides loans and technical assistance to small businesses.
  • Connecticut Community Investment Corporation (CTCIC) — provides access to capital that may not be available elsewhere as well as financing opportunities for expanding businesses looking to purchase real estate and/or machinery and equipment.
  • BDC Capital — pools money from many financial institutions to share the risks of helping promising companies expand. BDC Capital provides financial assistance with loans, mezzanine and equity investments, guarantees, and financial services to businesses of every type and description.

Regional Loan Programs

  • Hartford Economic Development Corporation (HEDCO) and Greater Hartford Business Development Center (GHBDC) — working in tandem to provide small businesses throughout the region with alternative financing.
  • Waterbury Development Corporation (WDC) — focused on offering one-on-one business support as well financial assistance to Waterbury’s business clientele at all stages of the business cycle.
  • SouthEastern Connecticut Enterprise Region (seCTer) — a public/private regional economic development agency offering loan programs and business development assistance to businesses in New London County.
  • Northeast Connecticut Economic Alliance — provides resources to both existing and startup manufacturing and service companies in Northeastern Connecticut.
  • Community Capital Fund — supports economic development projects that benefit low- and moderate-income people in the Greater Bridgeport area.
  • Middlesex County Revitalization Commission — offers a Revolving Loan Fund to help create/retain jobs in Middlesex County.