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Giving Very Small Businesses an “EDGE” Over their Competition

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Are you the owner of a very small business?  Have you been in operation for less than 7 years?  Or maybe you aren’t in business yet but want to be, but you just don’t have the capital to get off the ground.  Access to funding is one of the things that most startup and early-stage very small businesses say is one of the hardest things to come by, and one of the most critical needs they have.

The Delaware Division of Small Business (DSB) is helping many overcome this hurdle through its Encouraging Development, Growth and Expansion (EDGE) Program.

EDGE is a competition for grant funding. Five STEM-based companies can each receive up to $100,000 for eligible expenses while five Entrepreneur Class (non-STEM) businesses can each receive up to $50,000. Since the program launch in 2019, DSB has awarded $5.6 million to 90 small businesses.

The first round of the 2024 EDGE Competition began accepting applications Feb. 1, and will close Friday, March 1 at 4:30 p.m. The application and required support materials along with recordings of webinars held in January, and FAQs can be found at de.gov/edge. You are encouraged to connect with a Regional Business Manager in your county to provide you with guidance and answer your questions about the process, as well as offer feedback on your application.

To be eligible to apply for the EDGE competition, your small business must have been in operation for less than seven years and have 10 or fewer full-time, or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees.  Contractors do not count toward your total.    

Small business owners can apply for funding to support expenses that help improve the company’s long-term chances of success and sustainability, such as purchasing needed equipment that can increase production capacity, improving building infrastructure, or contracting for website design or a marketing campaign to help acquire more customers. DSB matches a winning business’s investment on a 3-to-1 basis.

Past awardees include a drone company in need of an indoor facility, a company developing a new product for next generation silicon solar cells, and owners looking to bring a printing and artist co-working space to Kent County. For future rounds, DSB is focused on increasing the number of STEM applicants, particularly those from Kent and Sussex Counties.

DSB operates the EDGE competition twice each year. The second round will be held in August. After each round’s application closing date and a few rounds of internal evaluation, 16 finalists will pitch their grant proposals to a panel of expert judges four to six weeks later, and 10 winners will be notified soon after. A public awards ceremony takes place in the following weeks, though the winners names are kept tightly under wraps until then. If you are interested in learning more about EDGE or any of the services and programs the Division of Small Business offers, visit us at business.delaware.gov.  

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