How to apply for a grant to start a business
Navigating your way through the grant applications process
Once you’ve found a grant which you think your small business is eligible for, you need to begin the lengthy and sometimes frustrating process of trying to obtain the money.
Before you start you need to ensure you have matching funds available to meet any grant you receive, you can describe what you plan to do with the money in terms of a ‘project’, and you have written a clear and concise business plan.
It’s a good idea to try and make a personal contact within the awarding body before sending off your application. This will mean if there are any problems or things don’t seem to be progressing you’ve always got someone to call who know you and your business and can give you the right advice.
It is also important in your application to make sure you have outlined clearly how, by giving your firm the money, the awarding body will be meeting their objectives. Therefore make sure to include a work plan and a breakdown of costing. You should also ensure you’ve given a good account of your company’s business history so as to convince those with the cash you are going to behave responsibly with it.
How long does it take to get a grant?
The most frustrating aspect of applying for public money is how long it can take. The general rule of thumb is that the more local your awarding body the quicker you’re likely to get your hands on the money. So, for example, applications to your local authority or Business Link would probably be resolved in days or weeks. However national organisations are more bureaucratic and could take months to come to a decision, although many have begun to put ‘fast track’ procedures in place.
When it comes to applying to European bodies, you may well find your patience stretched to the limit, and many months might pass before you receive an approval. Most European schemes are not constantly open to applications and are usually open for short periods during which they are considered. Sadly the only practical way you can find out about when these period occur is by checking out the official journal published daily by the European Commission. This could be a good time to think about asking for help.
If you are applying for public money, your forms are going to face a good amount of scrutiny and no-one is going to be able to give a more accurate representation than the person who runs it. You might therefore be forgiven for thinking there’s no need to get a third party involved. There are also a number of schemes which forbid applications not made directly by the company involved. However, there are ways in which grant consultants can prove to be helpful.
Firstly with the huge number of schemes out there, tracking them down can be difficult and time-consuming, therefore someone with experience in this area is going to speed up the process and save you a lot of hassle. It’s a sensible idea to use a grants service which you can access on an ongoing basis to ensure you can keep up to date with what’s going on.
Secondly if you’re applying for a large amount of cash and the awarding body is large, difficult to approach and very bureaucratic, then appointing a consultant can be beneficial, particularly in applications to European bodies. However, consultants are not cheap and in many cases their cost will outweigh their usefulness, therefore, if you do decide to appoint one, give their track record a thorough going over.
The more local your awarding body the quicker you’re likely to get your hands on the money.