Empower Digital Grant

FY2021 

Beginning in May 2021, $3,800,000 will be made available for a grant program for the development of digital capabilities known as the Empower Digital Grant. The Empower Digital Grant is a match of up to $5,000 awarded to small businesses in Massachusetts. This program provides funding for the needs of small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals seeking tools and services to develop their digital capabilities in partnership with a Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) provider.

SBTA providers are the door to this grant program for applicants. SBTA providers will sponsor small businesses to apply and support the effort of the small business applicants through technical assistance in the application process. The small business applicants, with the help of their SBTA sponsor, will work with a Qualified Professional in the area of their greatest digital need(s) to pursue a digital development plan.

Additional consideration will be given to businesses owned by women, minorities, immigrants, non-native English speakers, U.S. Military Veterans, disabled individuals, LGBTQ+, low-to-moderate income owners, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and businesses operating in Gateway Cities.

These funds were appropriated through the Commonwealth’s Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) and will be administered by MGCC. These funds will be made available for eligible businesses until funding is fully disbursed.

APPLICANT ELIGIBILITY

Must be a small business that:

  • Is based in Massachusetts with a public-facing, brick-and-mortar (physical) location, or storefront, operating within Massachusetts
  • Is employing 1-20 FTE employees
  • Is the business owners’ primary source of income
  • Has an annual revenue not exceeding $2,500,000
  • Has been nominated by a Technical Assistance Provider through MGCC’s Small Business Technical Assistance Program
  • Has completed and submitted the Digital Assessment to their SBTA Sponsor for review*
  • Has been in business for a minimum of one year (older than 6/15/2020) at the time of application
  • Is NOT a home-based business
  • Is NOT owned by someone employed by the sponsoring SBTA
  • Is NOT a nonprofit, not-for-profit, or charitable organization
  • Is NOT a business supplying digital services to other businesses (e.g. website design/development, SEO, programming)
  • Is NOT a franchise with more than 2 locations, including those individually owned-and-operated (Franchises with up to 2 locations will be considered, but MGCC reserves the right to limit grant funding to one location)
  • Is NOT a real estate rental/sales business
  • Is NOT a lobbyist
  • Is NOT a cannabis related business

Owned by:

  • An individual of 18 years or older at the time of application
  • A United States citizen or permanent resident

*IF YOU ARE OTHERWISE ELIGIBLE BUT YOU DO NOT HAVE AN SBTA SPONSOR AND WOULD LIKE TO BE CONNECTED WITH AN SBTA SPONSOR, DO NOT SUBMIT THIS FORM - fill out your information here: https://forms.gle/FXh5WBKKGeiZe3Nh6


TIMELINE

This will be a rolling application. Existing applications will be reviewed on a monthly basis. Applicants can expect to hear back within six weeks of your completed submission of their grant application, including all necessary supplementary documents and information. This program opened on June 15, 2021.

SMALL BUSINESS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROVIDER (SPONSOR)

Prospective applicants will be nominated and sponsored by a Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) provider from MGCC’s network. Prospective applicants without an SBTA Sponsor will be introduced to a [few] relevant SBTA provider[s]. If the introduction results in the SBTA provider sponsoring the applicant, the applicant can move forward with applying for the grant.

Partnership with a SBTA Provider as a sponsor will help to maximize the potential positive impact of this grant. Our SBTA Providers’ understanding of the landscape of small businesses in Massachusetts, familiarity with small businesses’ areas of greatest digital needs, and extensive network of collaborators helps to optimize this effort.

The SBTA Sponsor will support the applicant in the following ways:

  • Review the applicant’s Digital Assessment for coherence and completeness before allowing them to begin the application process for this grant
  • Assist the applicant to complete the grant application by:

              - Helping applicant review the results of their Digital Assessment,

              - Helping to identify and prioritize digital development goals,

              - Helping to identify Qualified Professional service providers to achieve digital development goals,

              - Scoping the project for achieving digital development goals,

              - As necessary, implementing the digital development project, and

              - Facilitating communication with all parties involved

  • As applicable, using grant awarded funds to pay qualified professionals involved in the digital development plan

APPLICATION SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS

Applicant needs to work with their SBTA Sponsor to access this grant program. Our list of potential SBTA Sponsors can be found on our website. The SBTA Sponsor will then help the applicant to fill out their application electronically, including any attachments, through MGCC’s online application portal, Submittable. Hard copies or electronic copies submitted in any other way, such as mail or email, will not be considered. Additionally, only complete, accurate, and legible applications will be considered.

Applicant must submit the following to MGCC for approval:

  • Proposal for digital development project (Digital Development Plan) including draft of proposal from Qualified Professional including deliverables, cost of the project, fees, project timeline, and clear success metrics and deadlines (can be written as durations not specific dates, e.g., 2 weeks after implementation; 1 month after implementation, etc.) to benchmark progress towards the growth of their business

              - Businesses may choose to work with a Qualified Professional they select independently with approval from their SBTA Sponsor, choose from MGCC’s list of approved Qualified Professionals, or partner with a Qualified Professional approved by an SBTA provider to develop their Digital Development Plan and identify the most effective digital solution(s).

  • Completed application (via Submittable) answering all the questions and providing information regarding the business status, services needed for digital development project, project costs, and projected outcome(s)
  • Supporting financial statements

              - A complete copy (all schedules) of your filed 2019 (or 2020 if available) Federal Business Tax Return as submitted to the IRS. If you file Schedule C income, please upload that document in place of a Business Tax Return

              - A complete copy (all schedules) of your latest filed Federal Personal Tax Returns (2019 or 2020) as submitted to the IRS for each business owner with 20% or greater ownership

  • Other supporting documentation

              - A copy of project proposal(s) from each Qualified Professional(s) involved in the Digital Development Plan including scope of work, costs associated, and deadlines (as many proposals as necessary for the project)

              - A copy of the business owner's valid photo identification (ID). This ID must match the business owner who is an authorized signer that signs this application. Please submit a photocopy of the front and back of the ID. Examples include (submit one): State-issued driver's license/ID card, U.S. Passport book or card, other valid, state or federal issued photo ID

              - Copy of lease statement, tenant at will agreement, or mortgage statement for verification of brick-and-mortar, public-facing physical business location

TERMS

  • Funds must be used to develop their digital capabilities (e.g. Digital-based operations, ecommerce solutions, digital marketing, and social media engagement)
  • For every approved grant, MGCC will provide up to $5,000 per applicant less a $250 fee. Applicants will be required to complete digital project(s) prior to MGCC grant fund release.

              - Above referenced $250 fee will be paid to the SBTA Sponsor

              - SBTA Sponsor may choose to waive the $250 fee at will per applicant

  • Final approval by MGCC of the Digital Development Plan prior to releasing funds to the SBTA Sponsor

              - Will require a signed grant agreement with signatures from the Small Business Owner(s), and SBTA Sponsor, and the Finance or Grant Department of the SBTA Organization if required by the SBTA, prior to releasing funds to SBTA Sponsor

  • Grant covers customized services from Qualified Professional(s) above and beyond the services normally provided by the SBTA organization to achieve their digital development goals
  • Applicant will submit only one application for developing digital capabilities during the given fiscal year
  • Applicant, with the assistance of their SBTA Sponsor, also agrees to complete follow up reporting requirements including but not limited to: success metrics, benchmarks that have or have not been met, and updates on progress towards digital development goals
  • If a person owns multiple businesses and submits an application for each business, MGCC reserves the right to limit grant to one business per owner


APPROVED USES OF FUNDS:

  • Fees for Qualified Professional Services/Consultants, as specified in their Digital Development Plan, including but not limited to:

              - Designers (Graphic/Motion)

              - Digital Marketing Strategists

              - Social Media Strategists

              - Website/Content Developers

              - POS Implementation Specialists

              - Photographers

              - Writers

  • Software, as specified in their Digital Development Plan, including but not limited to software for:

              - Design

              - Online Financial/Bookkeeping

              - POS/CRM

              - Productivity/ Team Collaboration

              - Social Media/SEO/Marketing

              - Cybersecurity

  • Other use of funds for the development of digital capabilities not specified by a qualified professional service/consultant must be justified clearly

EXCLUSIONS:

These grants are intended to increase the digital capabilities of the applicant by providing funding for professional services, training, or digital products according to the digital development plan detailed in the application. Grant funds are not intended for ongoing business expenses.

COMPLIANCE WITH FEDERAL FUNDS, LAWS AND REGULATIONS:

Applicants must comply with all applicable laws.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT ON SUBMITTABLE:

Visit the Help Center: https://www.submittable.com/help/submitter

OTHER QUESTIONS:

Contact MGCC
Email the Program Manager, Yuna Oh: empowerdigital@massgcc.com

Please use the subject “Empower Digital Grant”
Program Manager: Yuna Oh, Digital Communications Manager

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.