Startup Business Grants: Your Guide to Startup Support
As a new business owner it seems you’re constantly spinning plates and putting out fires all while trying to keep your head above rising tides. You don’t have to go it alone! With the help of small business grants, a supportive mentor and savvy networking, your business can truly thrive.
Half of all small businesses fail within five years, show figures reported in a nationwide study in the Financial Times. Now, we’re not saying this to unduly worry you, but the facts don’t lie.
As a startup business owner you’ll be under no illusion of the difficulty of your chosen path. Yet, those that do succeed, running a successful business for the long term, do so because they are well prepared to grow, and manage to take advantage of the support available to them as pioneering small business owners.
The good news is there is plenty of support accessible to startups, from government grants, capital investment, mentorship and networking. Take advantage of new business startup support, and with a solid business plan in place, there’s no reason why your business will not only survive, but go from strength to strength.
What type of startup business grants are available?
Let’s start with the important stuff, the lifeblood of any business, the dough, the dosh, the wonga, the cash.
There are various types of grants available to small businesses, from reduced cost and free equipment, to direct cash investments strictly for specific uses.
The majority of government grants are direct grants. Direct grants can be used to pay for essential business requirements including equipment purchases, exports and skills training.
The small business grants vary by region, with each being coloured by local concerns. What each grant will have in common is their strict qualifying criteria, so before your business applies for any grant, it’s important to consider whether your business fits the purpose of the grant, and if your application is likely to be accepted.
For some grants you will need to match the amount of capital provided by the grant scheme, with some grants providing an injection of up to £0.5 million.
Application success will hinge on a number of factors, commonly whether investment in your business will lead to job creation in the local area. Grants aren’t handed out easily, you’ll have to clearly lay out how you intend to spend the capital in your business plan, and provide evidence for any assertions that you do make.
Visit gov.uk to explore a directory of finance and business support available across the UK.
We review some of the main types of grants available below.
Local redevelopment grants
This type of grant will be very specific and targeted to regenerating local areas. Perhaps your business has a social impact on an area, bringing communities together, this vital work could mean you are eligible for a government grant.
Alternatively, your business could be one of few serving a local area, this increases the significance of your startup in your town, city or region, and your worthwhile work will be supported by a range of grants to guide you to success.
Visit gov.uk to be signposted to the community project grants in your area.
The world is waking up to the urgency of the climate crisis more day by day, and if your business is having a positive environmental impact, we salute your efforts.
Support can be sought for a range of projects, from boosting the energy efficiency of your business premises to reducing the footprint of your production processes by following energy saving processes.
You’ll find environmental support from centralised government bodies, local councils and special interest environmental groups.
Government financial support for ethnic minority entrepreneurs has helped 11,000 businesses become established and stay afloat. Since 2012, more than 11,000 businesses run by minority entrepreneurs have benefitted from loans of up to £25,000.
Female entrepreneur grants
There are various grants aimed at increasing the number of female led businesses receiving venture capital funding. A report in Venture Capital found that all-male business teams were four times more likely to receive capital funding than teams with even just one woman in a senior position.
One such scheme to address this imbalance is the Women in Innovation Awards which is a government run programme offering a £50,000 grant, mentoring, coaching and business support to eight innovative UK businesswomen every year.
Coronavirus business support grant funding
During this uncertain time for us all, maintaining the regular and profitable running of a business is exceptionally tough. As such, the government has made available loans, tax relief and cash grants.
If you are self-employed you can apply for up to £2,500 per month in grants for a minimum of three months. Or, if you have employees that you temporarily cannot afford to pay, then you can apply for staff to get 80% of their salary paid by the government. All of which might just keep your business afloat, while you wait for calmer waters to return.
Find out what type of financial support you and your business are eligible for under the COVID-19 support.
Maximise your chances of securing a grant
1. Thoroughly research the application criteria – is your business’ use case closely matched to the grant’s aims? Make sure there is synergy between what you want to use the grant for and what the body who administers the grant is looking to achieve before applying. The more closely your business’ aims and the grant bodies’ aims are allied, the more likely you’ll be successful
2. Prepare a sound business plan – by formulating a thorough business plan, which lays out what you plan to spend the grant capital achieving and how this will generate jobs and stimulate the local economy, you’ll stand your business in good stead for securing a grant
3. Apply early – the less competition for securing grant funds, the greater your businesses’ opportunity for being considered worthy
4. Discuss your application with the body – talk with the grant body representatives, they’ll be able to outline what exactly they’re looking for, and you’ll be able to tailor your application to suit their expectations
5. Assess the capital requirements – if the grant affords you £10,000 capital, assess whether you have the ability to raise matching funds, should the grant have this as entry criteria.
Startup support - networking
Securing investment is not a sure path to startup success. A fantastic and often underused resource for new startups is networking with the small business community in your local community.
Not only are other businesses in the same boat as you, with the same concerns, challenges and practical advice to offer, they will be able to put you in contact with potential clients for your business, put you in touch with reliable suppliers and even share resources and innovative business strategies.
Networking is a vital resource for small business survival and growth, and it also provides a sounding board for you during probably the toughest challenge of your life. Websites like Meetup show you the networking events in your local area.
Startup support - mentoring
Mentoring like networking is an often untapped source of support and wisdom. Unlike networking, mentors are less likely to be peers and more likely to be respected experts and business people recognised for being at the very top of their respective industries.
With the invaluable guidance of a mentor you’ll discover the reserves of innovation and grit within you, and have a shoulder to lean on it the toughest of times. With support like this you won’t always feel that the weight of your company is on your shoulders, and you can look forward to seeing your business go from strength to strength. Perhaps, you’ll complete the cycle and become a business mentor yourself.
Mentors me offers free access to quality mentoring organisations for startups and small businesses. Allowing users to search for mentors in their local area.
Maximise your resources
Now you have advice and support from your networking groups and mentors, an important step for ensuring your startup reaches the heights you’ve envisaged is smartly maximising all the resources you have at your disposal.
Startups in the UK can call on a rich supply of free resources aimed at giving a helping hand to new businesses. The British Library has a number of resources for you to glean useful advice from, learn about growing your business, find out about the latest networking opportunities and events in your area and more.
If you are a business bank account customer, your account will probably qualify you for free business banking support, which will include advice and guidance on how to grow your business.
Free marketing resources can also come in handy when your cashflow is moving at more of a trickle. Tools like Canva allow you to create marketing materials, from brochures to flyers to logos – creative assets that you can use in marketing campaigns to raise awareness of your business. Read our 4 easy (and free) ways to promote your business online.
When looking to reach a wide audience, social media promotion is a key tool, and will allow you to reach highly segmented audiences which fit your target market – and you could even use your Canva designs to make your business look more professional and visually appealing to time poor social media users.
If you’re particularly strapped for cash, you can further maximise every free resource available to you with our tips for starting a business with no money.
Compare business loans and business banking
Grants are a fantastic resource for new and growing businesses, they help your business get established during its toughest times.
However, despite the obvious benefits of grants, it may not be the right time to apply for a grant for your business, you might find grant terms are too restrictive, or alternatively you might find it difficult to find a grant which suits your business needs.
In which case you might be keen to review your options for securing a business loan. Comparison resources help you find the best business loan for your business.
Are you getting the best deal possible with your business banking? You might be surprised at the number of favourable benefits your business is missing out on. Explore business bank account comparisons and refine your banking strategy to boost your success.
Finance Director at NerdWallet UK and business adviser to SME's Nic is spokesperson for small and growing businesses with a strong understanding of the financial needs of business Read more