Grants are a very popular option for start-ups and small businesses looking for additional funding. But what grants are available and how do you apply for them?
These non-repayable sums of money can make a big difference to a business looking to expand, and there are plenty of options on offer. From large-scale national grants to region-specific grants, there are schemes that can help with start-up costs, website development, training costs, consultancy costs, new equipment purchases, property improvements, marketing activities, and many other areas which businesses may struggle to fund themselves.
Each grant will offer different levels of funding- ranging from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands of pounds- depending on the provider and your own business needs. However, businesses should also remember that they will typically need to contribute a percentage of the project costs themselves, as very few grants will provide 100% funding.
The application process
As you search for funding, you should double-check the eligibility criteria of each grant. Most schemes will specify that funding is only available to businesses of a certain age, size, income, location, and sector, for example, and applicants will need to meet every requirement to stand a chance of receiving any money.
Similarly, you should also check the overall objectives of each grant provider as they often have a series of wider aims that they want their funding to achieve. These could range from boosting and rejuvenating the local area, creating jobs, and encouraging the development of new, independent businesses. In your application you need to make sure you show how your planned use of the funds aligns with these objectives.
To do this, you will need to describe the specific project you want funded. Successful grant applications will clearly explain how they intend to use the money, outlining how the planned activities would benefit the business and also how they fit in with the provider’s own objectives. The more detail you include the better, as simply having an aim of expansion with no concrete plan of action will not be enough to secure funding from most providers.
In many cases, particularly for larger grants, you may also have to submit a business plan and your financial history with your application. In general, the bigger the sum you apply for, the more rigorous the application process can be, potentially involving several different stages such as interviews and a presentation to a panel of assessors.
Although assessing your eligibility and putting together a grant application can be time-consuming, businesses shouldn’t delay in applying! Even if a grant has a specified deadline, it is best to send your application in as soon as possible as most schemes will only have a limited pot of funding available. So, the sooner you apply, the more likely you are to have your request approved.
Because grant schemes are likely to be highly competitive, there are always going to be some applicants who are left disappointed. It is important to remember, however, that grants are not the only form of funding available, and that other options like a business loan may be something to consider.
Where to find small business grants
Businesses have several possibilities when searching for grants. They could consult the Government’s Finance Support Finder (which also lists loans and other forms of funding), their regional business hub, or see if any organisations in their sector are offering grants.
Applicants to national grant schemes will normally have to wait longer to receive a decision, and will often face more competition due to the large volume of applications. However, they may find some relevant grants that are worth applying to, such as funding to help with broadband installation, to encourage research and innovation, and to help them adopt low-carbon measures.
Regional grant schemes will provide businesses with further options for funding, with specific grants for each county/area, as well as for individual towns/cities. These smaller grants are typically targeted at start-ups and SMEs, helping them to fund activities that will not only result in business growth, but also bring benefits to the local area.
Some of these grants are more general and open to a range of businesses, such as the many regional growth grants across the country. They can offer businesses up to several thousand pounds for a certain project, such as market research studies, social media advertising, and SEO activities, among numerous other ventures. Meanwhile, there are other grants that are targeted at start-ups, specific sectors, or for set projects like energy-efficiency measures, shop front improvements, or marketing/tourism activities for example.
You can find more detail about the types of grant on offer from this comprehensive list of small business grants.