Startups need money the way people need air, but how do they get it? You can look to places like angel investors or venture capitalists, but that may mean losing some amount of control over your business. Grants are another attractive option because they don't require you to give up equity. Here are four places to start.

Government challenges: Federal agencies frequently issue challenges on a wide array of topics, whether student architectural design competitions, videos about public safety, fighting corrosion on steel structures, and much more. offers a clearing-house where you can browse to see what money you might be able to compete for.

STEP Grants: Many states receive money from the Small Business Administration (SBA) for State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grants designed to help companies expand their marketing and sales. Visit the SBA website to see if your state is listed, and then do a Web search for STEP and your state to find the government office that handles the program.

Amber Grants: The Amber Grant program awards monthly grants of $500 to women, plus an annual $2,500 grant to one of the monthly winners.

National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants: NASE members can apply for $4,000 grants to finance a specific need, like website creation, equipment, or hiring part-time help.