Free money (honestly) and where to find it

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      By Andrea Reynolds, CEO at Swoop

      Grants are available to cover business costs, they don’t have to be paid back… and yet only 30 percent of businesses have ever even applied for one. Andrea Reynolds, CEO at Swoop, says that every business should be getting the help that has been allocated to them. 

      Government is a difficult job, but there’s something that the UK government could be doing a LOT better. 

      There is free money out there for businesses – grants, usually tax-free, provided by the government – but right now, the government is doing a TERRIBLE job of telling people about them.

      The proof is in the numbers: 70 percent of businesses have NEVER applied for a grant. Again this is free money: you don’t have to pay it back and in some cases it can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Which business wouldn’t want that to drop into their bank?

      On 28 June, I was the guest on an Instagram Live with Holly Tucker MBE – entrepreneur, campaigner and champion of small businesses everywhere (watch us talk about grants here). With an audience of SMEs, I had the opportunity to explain exactly how they could use the Swoop platform to get their hands on grant money to help with startup and growth. 

      Where can you get a grant?

      If your business pays business rates, you’ll know that from 1 July, relief has reduced from 100 percent to 66 percent. In response, the government has set aside £450m for restart grants targeting those businesses which have suffered thorough lockdown. You would qualify for a Restart Grant if your business requires face-to-face service such as hospitality, retail and leisure. 

      Keep in mind that some authorities are really proactive in getting this information out to businesses, while others will need to be approached and chased. If you haven’t heard from your Local Authority, call them right now! 

      The Restart Grant is not the only grant in town. To get access to other local/regional grants the next stop are the Business Growth Hubs within what are known as the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). There are 38 LEPs in the UK and the Growth Hub is there to guide businesses to grants and support within their LEP. Not sure where to start? You can find the one most relevant to you on Swoop’s dedicated grants page. Typical grants currently on offer are the Recovery and Resilience grants which match funds up to £50,000. There are many other grants available, such as a £5,000 grant to make your premises more energy efficient… that’s right, you can get money to reduce your utility bills. 

      National grants are administered slightly differently and are designed to encourage manufacturing and innovation. 

      Grants are often awarded on the basis of matched funding: that is, if you need a new van, for example, the awarding body will go halves with you, covering up to 50 percent of the cost. 

      Innovation grants often require specialist writing as they are more complex to apply for. 

      The good news after Brexit is that there will be more grants available later in the year, so it pays to keep checking on what you may be eligible for. Join our LinkedIn group to stay informed of new sources of funding. 

      As we go into the rest of the year and (hopefully) recover from lockdown, there are a number of things you can do for your business that will help it return to full health. 

      1. Check for savings that can be made throughout your business 

      At Swoop, we use Open Banking to identify savings that businesses can make across a range of products and services, from FX to utility bills. These savings add up, and with our platform, it’s easy to check how much you can save. 

      2. Check your eligibility for grants 

      One of the first features of the Swoop website was our Grant Finder Tool which helps SMEs quickly identify the grants for which they may be eligible. 

      3. Invest to grow

      Businesses thrive when they have investment and there are a number of sources, from equity to loans and commercial mortgages. While a grant does not have to be paid back, other sources of funding come with strings attached: investors who put their money into your business will expect to take a share of future profits, while loans and commercial mortgages will have to be paid back (terms vary). While some businesses are cautious about getting into debt, my experience of working with hundreds of SMEs (and running my own) is that the right cash injection at the right time and on the right terms really can be a game changer. 

      To sign up to the Swoop platform, click here and find out how your business could find the fuel it needs to grow! 

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