Start Up Business Grants

business marketing plan

Finding start up business grants is not the easiest process however stand firm in the knowledge that all publicly funded schemes have, as their ultimate purpose, the encouragement and development of trade and commerce. New and growing businesses create jobs and bring wealth.

Long term, governments strive to create the economic conditions which foster the start and growth of businesses. To achieve this objective public (taxpayer's) money is made available to help and encourage enterprise. The money is distributed by a number of government ministries, departments and quangos, both locally and nationally.

The European Commission (EC) is the main source of extra grant funding, also distributed through a variety of EC and other agencies.

Each awarding body has its own specific remit, objectives and may spend part of its budget on schemes to help achieve these. For example the Department of Education and Employment may offer start up business grants to assist firms to employ or train new workers. It might do this directly through a nationally administered scheme or indirectly, by funding Business Link or the Enterprise Agencies, who will use this money to run their own schemes.

The result of this method of funding is that there are many schemes, offered by a large number of different awarding bodies.

Making An Application

Looking at start up business grants make sure you have thought through all the implications of your project and identified all schemes of potential benefit (See Golden Rules 1 & 6 below).

Before You Apply

Make sure you have the following arrangements planned or in place:
• You have matching funds available to meet any start up business grants you may receive
• You can describe your plans as a project
• You have a written business plan

(see Golden Rules 3, 7, & 9 below for further explanation)

The Application

You should make personal contact with the start up business grants provider before completing the application (See Golden Rule 10).

Make sure your application explains how the project will meet the objectives of the awarding body. Include a work plan, including full costings. Pay particular attention to describing your business's track record - you are applying for public funds and those responsible for making the decision need assurance you will spend it wisely and ensures the project completes.

Time scale

Generally, the more "local" the awarding body, the quicker you are likely to get a decision.

Applications to your local authority, TEC or Business Link are likely to be resolved in a matter of days or weeks. National bodies have more red tape and will take longer, perhaps several weeks, to decide. Many awarding bodies have fast track procedures to speed up the process.

Applications to the European bodies for start up business grants take the longest and waiting times can stretch into months rather than weeks. This is partly due to red tape and the nature of most European schemes.

Most European schemes are not constantly open to applications. Instead there are shorter periods during the schemes life when applications are considered. These periods are preceded by the issuing of notices known as "Calls for Proposals" which are announced in the official journal published daily by the EC.

Golden Rules About Start up Business Grants

The assistance provided to gain start up business grants is limited. There are likely to be more applications than can be satisfied by the resources made available.

With competition you can enhance your chances of success by following the 10 Golden Rules:

1. Keep informed about which start up business grants are available

You cannot apply for a grant if you are unaware of its existence! Grants are continually being introduced but there is no system, which lets you know automatically. You have to keep yourself informed.

2. Do not start your project before you make your applicationIf you start a project and then apply for a grant to help complete it your application will fail. The awarding body will take the view that by starting a project without a grant you must have had sufficient funds to complete it without assistance. Grants are only given for projects, which need them in order to go ahead.

3. Make sure your application is in respect of a projectUsually, grants are given for specific projects, not for the normal organic growth of a business.

If, for example you need new equipment to launch a product make sure your application emphasises the project, not the equipment. State the advantages of the project's success. i.e it will safeguard or create jobs. Explain that the purchase of the equipment is pre-requisite for that success.

4. Apply as soon as possible. The chances of a successful application are always highest just after a scheme is launched. That is when there is most money "in the pot", and it's also the time when those administering the scheme are keenest to get applications in and grants awarded. Competition is likely to be less fierce. Try to keep an eye on new scheme launches and get in early.

5. Write your application proposal to match the Awarding Body's objectives.

This doesn't mean you should be untruthful or misleading in your application, but it should show your proposal in the best possible light. Read carefuly what the objectives are and think about how your proposal fills them, use the same languge and buzz word.

Make sure you mention the benefits the project will bring. These benefits should fit in with the objectives of the awarding body and the grant scheme itself.If there are benefits to others, such as the local community, or the country in the form of potential exports, make sure these are included.

6. Use your imagination. Again we don't mean you should be untruthful or make things up. But you should consider ALL the consequences of your project. In your mind it may be a project to increase business revenue and profits, but that is not the way to make a grant application.Will you create employment opportunities? Will your staff need training? Could you use help in marketing? Are larger premises required? Will the project create export potential? Can you develop the project in a depressed or "special" area? By thinking in these terms you could find that you are eligible for several grants.

7. Have a business plan. Most grant applications require the submission of a business plan. You may have one already written, perhaps to raise bank finance. Alter the plan slightly to emphasise the project and its importance to your company.

Learn more about creating a business plan to aid your application for start up business grants
8. Demonstrate that you cannot proceed without a grantIt is a pre-requisite with most schemes that the project be dependent on grant funds in order that it proceeds. You will therefore need to show that the project is dependent on the grant funding being made.

9. Make sure you have matching funds availableIt is rare for a grant to finance 100% of the cost of any project. Typically a grant will contribute 15% - 50% of the finance required. You will have to prove that your business can fund the remaining cost to complete the project.

10. Talk to the awarding body before you applyMake contact with the awarding body administering the grant scheme.

This has a number of advantages - you will be given advice on whether it's worth applying, before you start spending time and money on making the application; you may get some help and advice on completing the application form, you may get an "insight" into how you should shape your application and, finally, as in any business situation it is helpful if you can strike good personal relationship.

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