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Small Business Tips

How to Get a Small Business Grant

Nigel Graber
photo record store owner

You've had your bright idea, you're breaking out of the nine-to-five and you're ready to work from home, in the garden, in your jim-jams if you feel like it.

Working for yourself, though, can come with some steep startup costs. Wouldn't it be good to know about any Government grants and funding for small businesses? Here's our best advice.

Government grants for small business

You'll be glad to know there are hundreds of Government grants available to small businesses in the UK. They can save you cash, cut your startup costs and help you grow your new venture.There are over 200 Government grants for small businesses in the UK, ranging from saving you money on rates and premises to investing in plant and IT and everything in between.

That's the good news. The bad news is that trying to get your hands on a Government grant for small business can be a long and sometimes fruitless journey. Grants and funding can come with torturous stages and processes, and each will have its specific conditions and criteria.

Most Government grants for small business are aimed at startups. The incentive for the Government in doing this is to boost the economy and create jobs. There are far fewer available for established businesses.

Where can you find government grants for new businesses?

Grants are available from Central Government as well as the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament. A good place to start is the Business Finance Support Finder, where you can apply for a startup loan for your UK business.

If you're in Wales, there's a similar selection of financial help and guidance for new businesses on its Business Grants website. For Northern Ireland, head to Enterprise Ireland and, for Scotland, try the Funding Opportunities website, where you'll find over 600 sources of financial help.

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What sort of business grants are available for new businesses?

The grants come in a range of guises. These could be lower costs, free plant and IT or cash awards. Government grants usually take the form of equity finance, a direct grant or a soft loan.

Equity finance Equity finance is open to businesses under two years old and with fewer than 25 staff. It's not so much a grant as a cut in income tax on investments in new businesses up to £100,000.

Direct grant You can get this money for your new business to help pay for basics such as plant and IT, training and overseas marketing. For many of these business grants, you'll need to match the Government funding, although anything up to £500,000 can be made available in some sectors.

Soft loan Soft loans offer very generous terms to the recipient, far better than what you'd get from a financial institution. For example, the Government-backed Start Up Loans Scheme provides loans between £500 and £25,000 with a fixed interest rate of six percent a year. There's a real perk, too, in the form of mentoring and business support.

How do you apply for small business grants?

Before you rush headlong into applying for your chosen scheme, make sure you meet the criteria. Most small-business grants are specialised and focused on creating specific businesses or regenerating a community. Here's how to go about applying.

Contact the body Have a preliminary chat with the grant awards body to see if you have a realistic chance of success.

Check the objectives Find out why the body is awarding the grant and why. You may need to hire local employees or take on an intern. Tailor your application to the stated criteria.

Perfect your business plan You'll be expected to provide a professional business plan. If you're already in business, you'll also need some evidence of your trading position and balance sheet.

Tailor your application Small-business grants are usually handed out for specific projects. These might be for buying computers or getting WiFi set up. In your application, demonstrate how this will benefit your business and help others.

Match amounts Most grants are awarded on the basis that you'll match the Government funding. If you want a grant of £20,000, you'll need to come up with a similar figure.

Apply early Approval is more likely to happen if you apply soon after the release of a new grant. That's because it tends to be first come, first served as far as the pot of cash is concerned.

Now, you've got the links and you know all the tips and tricks. All that remains is to get out there and knock ‘em for six. Best of British.

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