For any small organisation, the chicken-and-egg scenario is a common one. Many start their own businesses because they have seen opportunities where they can add value, but the challenge is to then find the finance so you can be in a position to grasp them.
As providers of ISO certification, this is something we hear every day. With many government tenders requiring various boxes to be ticked before you can do business with them, there’s a need to speculate to accumulate! So where can businesses find financial assistance to help overcome the chicken-and-egg cycle?
How do you become eligible for a grant?
Unsurprisingly, there isn’t a bottomless pit of money out there for businesses to dip into! However, with determination to navigate through what can be a potential maze, it is out there to be claimed.
A reality is that it’s very unlikely to find funding or grants which cover 100% of the costs. Quite often, match-funding (i.e. 50%) is required from you to demonstrate commitment.
Grants also don’t tend to fund the organic growth of a company. Often filtered down from a European funding, the particular pot you apply for will always have a specific strategic aim, such as creating more jobs in the local area.
In almost all scenarios, a business plan will be expected. A growing business is great for the Government because large and successful organisations pay more tax. However, tax payers’ money won’t be gambled; you’ll have to help to make your case look as risk-free as possible by clearly explaining why you need the grant and how it will help move you to the next level.
You also have to genuinely need the help; if you’ve already starting spending money on an initiative, those responsible for making the decision may reject your application.
Where to look for grants
With the successful UK-wide Growth Accelerator funding programme shut down as part of the 2015 Autumn Statement annoucements, SMEs will have to look local for sources of funding. The Regional Growth Fund has helped support over 12,000 businesses in England. There are more than 30 related schemes. Grouped by area, different geographies are allocated varying amount of funds. In some instances, up to £500,000 of funding is available. For companies based in Wales, take a look at the Business Wales website.
Depending on current policy, you will find funding is often available in more disadvantaged areas, or places where particular weaknesses have been found. You can use the Government’s My Business Support tool to help find more local funding sources. Consultancy firm T4C also run a dedicated page on the latest funds they find.
Given many grants are location-specific, it makes sense to think local. Your Council is the first port of call, followed by your region’s Chamber of Commerce, who often provide mentoring services on top of pointing you towards newly released grants. It’s also worth seeing if you have a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Whilst not directly responsible for grants, their task is help drive local growth at a strategic level.
Thinking outside of the box
You may be disappointed to do all the research, only to find no grants are available to suit your plans. This is where you need to be creative.
Consider other support your business needs in growing. This could be developing new products, up-skilling staff or looking at exporting. Finding support and funding in these areas could help save cash that can be put towards your main goal.
Examples of alternate funding you may not have thought of include a £1,500 grant to take an apprentice or trainee, to up to £10m of funding for the development of an innovative product or service. Don’t forget, there is also tax relief available relating to R&D too.
The government business support finder is not only a tool to help uncover grants, but it also suggests a range of support services to help you in areas such as market research, hiring new employees and management training. The key is to keep checking back, new grants are available all the time and given there is a fixed allocation, it always pays to be one of the first to apply.
Find us on Twitter @TheBABOfficial for more tips on growing a better business.