How to get a business grant

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For a new or pre-launch start-up, applying for a business grant can be an excellent way to kickstart growth.

But with thousands of grant schemes available in the UK at any given time and every one of them in high demand, how do you maximise your chances of winning the one you want?

Each grant will have a different application process, with different entry criteria and requirements to fulfil and different processes to follow. The larger the grant sum, the more complex the application process will be.

Adding to this the fact that grants are notoriously difficult to secure – competition for them is often fierce – it’s worth being prepared for a bit of stress and frustration if you decide to apply for one.

On the flipside, the growth and development a grant could afford your business is undeniable – so it’s certainly worth seeking one out and doing your best to overcome the competition.

Want to find out how? Read on to learn how to get a business grant…

How to get a business grant

First thing’s first; you’ll have to do some in-depth research and find the grant that best fits your business before you start sending applications. Applying for a scheme you’re simply not suited to or eligible for will prove a waste of time.

You can see more about grant eligibility at the bottom of this page, and find help with finding grants in our guides to where you can find business grants and the types of grant schemes available to start-ups and small businesses.

When you’ve found a grant you think your small business is eligible for, you can begin the lengthy process of trying to win it. Here’s how to apply for a business grant.

Before you begin the application process, make sure you have:

  • A thorough, up to date business plan – download a free business plan template here.
  • A clear work plan, including a breakdown of what you plan to use the money for.
  • A good account of your company’s business history – this will convince the awarding body that you are going to behave responsibly with the funding.
  • An outline of how the awarding organisation will be meeting their objectives by awarding you the money.
  • Funds available to match the grant sum. Grants don’t exist to finance 100% of your project, and many grant schemes will require you to invest an equal amount into the business yourself.

Top tips for applying for a business grant

There are a few things you can do to shoot past the competition and give yourself the best possible chance of winning your chosen grant. Here are our top tips…

1. Apply as soon as possible

The very best time to apply for a grant is when it first opens: the awarding body will still have the full fund to give away and fewer businesses will be aware of it, meaning competition won’t be so strong.

Make sure you’re continually keeping an eye on the space so you know when a relevant grant is upcoming.

2. Make a personal contact at the awarding body before you apply

This will mean that if there are any problems or your grant application doesn’t seem to be progressing, you’ve got someone to call who knows you and your business and so can give personalised advice.

3. Consider appointing a grant consultant

A grant consultant can help you to track down the grants best suited to you, saving you hours of research, and will also have a better chance of communicating with the organisation and keeping tabs on your application’s process.

This is particularly useful if your application has been submitted to a large organisation that’s difficult to approach, like a European body.

On the flipside, consultants can be expensive to work with, so you’ll need to weigh their cost up against their usefulness to you. Be wary also that some awarding bodies don’t accept applications submitted through consultancies.

4. Avoid making too much business progress before applying

This might seem counterproductive, but awarding bodies need to see that you truly need their assistance in achieving real traction.

Assure them that there’s no way you can proceed successfully without their help.

5. Pay close attention to the grant’s objectives

If an awarding body wants to fund innovative solutions to the technological skills gap in the UK, for example, highlight and emphasise how your business is doing this (only if it actually is, of course).

Be clear on the benefits your business will bring to the area of the grant’s attention, and explain that you need the money to fulfil these specific objectives (and not that you need it to grow a profitable business).

6. Don’t be untruthful

If you need to bend the facts about your business to fit with the grant’s criteria, it’s not the right grant for you.

How long does it take to get a business grant?

The most frustrating aspect of applying for public money is how long the process can take. The general rule of thumb is that the more local your awarding body, the faster you’re likely to get a result.

Applications to your local authority or a Local Enterprise Partnership, for example, would probably be resolved in a matter of weeks, or even days.

However, national organisations are more bureaucratic and could spend months coming to a decision. Similarly, European bodies can take many months to process your application.

Grant eligibility

With so many grants on offer for a dizzying variety of purposes, you will need to dedicate time to finding the best one for you.

There are no businesses or industry sectors that are excluded from applying for financial assistance. But often, grant schemes will determine which businesses are a good fit for their money based on a strict set of eligibility criteria, and you should use these to narrow down your options.

Such criteria usually include:

  • The business’ purpose – the industry you’re operating in (or plan to operate in), the problem you’re tackling, and the impact you want your business to have.
  • Where you’re located. Separate countries and regions across the UK have their own awarding bodies/schemes which focus solely on companies in their designated area. Certain areas in the UK also qualify for special assistance funding from the EU.
  • The size of your business. Certain schemes are restricted to businesses which employ less than 250 staff, while others are stricter and only deal with firms that have fewer than say 50, 20 or 10 employees.
  • How long you’ve been in operation for.

Be sure to save yourself some time by making sure you fit all of a grant’s eligibility criteria before applying to it.

If you can obtain one, a grant can bring a huge boost to your business – but to get the best result, you’ll need to dedicate time to researching the most fitting schemes, and be prepared for a difficult application process. Patience and perseverance is key – but the rewards are worth the effort!

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