How to get a small business grant

By Charlotte Yau
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Our handy guide to small business grants breaks down all the essentials.

Getting a small business off the ground is never an easy process. It needs buckets of energy and the ability to work tirelessly for at least the first few years, if not until you retire. However, one area that doesn’t have to be so tough is securing a small business grant, thanks to our helpful guide.

Here, we’ll look at how to get a free grant for a small business, from figuring out your eligibility to the actual application process. Read on to find out more.

What are small business grants?

Start-up grants, also known as small business grants, are basically free money, tools or equipment to help get your business off the ground.

That being said, nothing is ever really free, is it? Some of these grants will expect something in return, such as mentoring or event attendance. There will also likely be expectations that you will use the money you are given for certain things. For example, if you get a grant to buy a new laptop, you can’t go and spend that money on office rent.

Why should I apply?

There are lots of reasons you should apply for small business grants, such as:

- Reducing or even eliminating your start-up costs

- Saving money in the long and the short-term

- Avoiding high-interest rates

- Removing the need to rely on family and friends

How do they work?

Each grant works slightly differently, but let’s look at Government business grants, called a direct grant, as an example.

Direct grants usually expect you to provide 50% of the value of the grant and are used to cover general start-up costs. These might be training programmes for staff or laptops and keyboards for the office, for example. These grants aren’t just for brand-new businesses but also small business looking to grow and expand into new markets.

There are other forms of government funding, such as equity finance and soft loans, however, these are reductions and low-interest loans as opposed to grants.

Are there special grants for people under 30?

Grant availability is shifting all the time, however, the Princes Trust Foundation is a constant. While it doesn’t offer grants upfront, it does offer free training with the Enterprise programme. Once you’ve finished a short course, you become eligible for a mentor and to apply for a loan. If grants become available, you may be considered for one and contacted.

You can find out more about the Princes Trust Enterprise Programme here.

How do you apply?

When it comes to applying for business grants, you first need to concentrate on completing and then perfecting your business plan. No board, organisation or body will take you seriously if you approach them and ask for money without a comprehensive plan.

Once you have your generic business plan, you can then tailor it to each individual grant. While some will require you to have environmentally-centred objectives, others may encourage a business that supports the local community or disadvantaged people within it.

You have a far higher chance of being considered if your proposal and business plan is tailored towards the grant’s objectives. Don’t dither about, though. Schemes and grants aren’t endless and there is almost always a limit to what is in the pot. The sooner you apply, the greater the chance that you’ll be successful in securing the funds or tools.

How much can you get?

This varies hugely but tends to go up to the £25,000 mark.

It should go without saying you shouldn’t take more than you need. Not only will you have to raise more money to match the grant amount, but you may, in turn, be taking away from other entrepreneurs who need the support just like you.

Eligibility

In most cases, you will need to be over the age of 18 and a resident of the UK to apply for a grant.

Further eligibility requirements may apply for each individual grant, however; some may be exclusively for women, or those registered as disabled, for example.

Looking for these positive discrimination grants that suit you could be a great way to find funding that there is less competition for than some of the more generic schemes.

Finding a grant

This Business Finance Support portal gives access to every current scheme in the UK at present. If you are only looking for grants, just tick that box in the left-hand column. You can also get more tailored results by providing information on the stage of your business, your industry sector and the number of employees you have (or aim to have in the future).

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