October 29, 2008

Grant Us This Day

Last week some time I got a robocall offering small business grants. In a fit of curiousity, I left my name and number, and yesterday, spoke to someone from the Small Business Funding Company in Henderson, NV (right there I'm suspicious). The schtick goes this way - there are millions in grants available, just waiting to be applied for. Many go unclaimed. This company knows how to put together the proposals and applications. They ostensibly interview you, check their database, and come back with some huge figure (in my case $384,000) that is "set aside" for me.

Very convincing, really. Their interview sets up scenarios - a transportation grant (buy a company car). Employee grants (hire people). Rent grants (pay ones office rent for a year). Capital equipment grants. I'm a woman (big plus). I'm in greater Hartford (urban development grants). Yadda yadda yadda. Bob the solicitor is quite charming about it all. Calling me Judy, keeps telling me I sound 36.

They faxed me a gazillion pages of stuff (semi impressive, although real companies would just email PDF files these days). When I spoke with them Tuesday en route to library yoga, and the sticky details started to emerge. There is a $7300 fee, $2600 of which they want up front (retainer, heretofore unmentioned) and the rest they will take out of the "grant". I decided to poke around a bit....

Found a bunch of small website queries (here, here, and here) about them before hitting the motherlode here, which pretty clearly spells scam.

They take your $2600. You wait and wait and wait while they do research. They try to convert you to a non-profit or not-for-profit (the better to be eligible for grants) at a cost of $7000 or more. They charge you to develop a business plan for $6000 or more. Etc. Etc. No thanks....

For a few moments visions of emerging from the financial lethargy I have been in for the past decade floated through my head. Temporarily forgetting my own more cynical and jaded nature, I let myself believe it all. You can see how folks get sucked into this stuff.

All in all, cleaning and organizing my office has been MUCH more therapeutic and good for my business.

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