How to apply for a grant to start a business

Startups looks at how to navigate your way through the business grant application 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 applying for a grant you need to ensure you have matching funds available to meet any grant you receive, that you can describe what you plan to do with the money in terms of a ‘project’, and that 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 that if there are any problems, or your grant application doesn’t seem to be progressing, that you’ve always got someone to call who knows 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 business the grant, the awarding body will be meeting their objectives. To do this you need to include:

  • A work plan
  • A breakdown of costing
  • 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.

See also: Small business grants – where to get them

How long does it take to get business grants?

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, Local Enterprise Partnership 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 grants schemes are not constantly open to applications and are usually open for short periods during which they are considered.

The only practical way you can find out about when these periods occur is by checking the official journal published daily by the European Commission.

Grant consultants

If you’re 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. Therefore, you might be forgiven for thinking there’s no need to get a third party involved. However, there are ways in which grant consultants can prove to be helpful. 

Firstly, with the huge number of schemes out there, tracking grants 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 a grants consultancy  make sure you properly assess their track record. 

There are a number of grants schemes which forbid applications not made directly by the company involved, so ensure you clarify this detail before getting a grants consultant involved.

To find out more information on finding small business grants, visit our guide here.


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