Business grants can be an important source of funding for many small businesses. As well as helping you to get your business off the ground, they can also help your business grow and develop and reach new markets. There are hundreds of business grants available for small businesses, so here’s how to get one.
A small business grant is a sum of money awarded to a business. Grants are usually provided by the government or a private organisation for a specific purpose.
Unlike most other forms of finance, you don’t need to pay back a grant, nor do you need to pay interest on it. You also don’t need to give away a share of your business in exchange.
However, some grants will require you to invest the equivalent amount in your business. As an example, if you’re given a grant for £15,000, you might also be required to invest £15,000 into your business.
There are several types of small business grants and they will usually have strict eligibility criteria. Whether you will qualify for one might depend on factors such as:
Each grant will have its own requirements and criteria for applying, so be sure to check them carefully.
There are more than 200 government grants for small businesses available across the UK. However, competition is fierce which means it won’t always be easy to get one. Most grants are awarded to help launch startups, with fewer grants available for more established businesses.
Government figures show that during the COVID-19 pandemic, smaller businesses across the whole of England received £21.3 billion through the government’s COVID-19 Local Authority Business Support Grants scheme.
There are a number of places you can find out about startup and small business grants. For example:
The government’s finance and support for your business online tool contains lots of information about the types of business grants available and how to apply. You can select ‘grants’ in the tick box and then filter by how long you’ve been trading, the industry you’re in and the region you’re based in.
If your business is in Wales, take a look at the Welsh government’s Funding Locator to find different grants. Small businesses in Scotland can use the Scottish Enterprise website to find suitable grants, while those in Northern Ireland can explore funding options on the Enterprise Ireland site or NI Business Info.
You can also search for business support in your local area by using the Local Enterprise Partnerships Network website. This lists the 38 regional Growth Hubs so you can locate the one nearest to you. These can provide funding and advice to help boost your business in your local economy.
It’s also worth finding out whether your bank offers any small business grants. If you’re an existing customer, it’s possible that you might have a greater chance of qualifying – though you’ll still need to meet the eligibility criteria.
Swoop has a list of accessible grants you can apply for, whether you’re an established business or a startup. You can view the many options available to you by registering with Swoop. You will need to enter a few details such as how much funding you need, the activities you would like to fund, and your estimated spend on Research & Development (R&D).
The Prince’s Trust supports young people aged 18 to 30 who are looking to start their own business. It provides both funding and resources as well as training and mentoring.
Before you start the grant application process, it’s crucial to check you meet the eligibility criteria. It can also be worth speaking to the grant awards body to assess your chances of success.
Don’t rush your application, but also aim to apply as early as possible in case there is a limited pot of funding to invest.
When you apply, keep the following points in mind:
There are a number of other funding options that are worth exploring if you feel a business grant isn’t right for you, or your grant application isn’t accepted. These options are outlined below:
Business loans are not only offered by mainstream banks. Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, for example, is a type of business loan provided by a number of private investors. These could be individuals, businesses or institutions.
The idea is that lenders and borrowers get a better rate than they would do through the banks. The application process can also be quicker.
An angel investor, or business angel, is an individual who is prepared to invest their own money into a startup business in return for a share of the company’s equity.
Angel investors might invest between £50,000 and £500,000 and can work on their own or as part of an angel network. They usually also have a wealth of experience which means they’ll be able to offer their own skills, contacts and expertise to help your business succeed.
Like angel investors, private investors usually inject capital into your business in return for a share in the company. Private investors could be friends or family, private equity firms or venture capitalists.
You can also choose to raise funds through equity crowdfunding. If you go down this route, you’ll need to source finance from a ‘crowd’ of individuals or organisations, usually through a crowdfunding website or platform. In exchange for their investment, these individuals get a share in the company.
Keep in mind, however, that many appeals for crowdfunding are not successful. You’re more likely to have success if your business has good growth potential and offers an innovative idea.
No, grants do not need to be paid back and you will not need to pay any interest. However, most grants will require a level of matched funding for the project.
There are hundreds of small business grants available in the UK. Many of them are aimed at specific industries, community groups and types of business. For example, you might be able to choose from:
To apply for a small business grant from the government, it’s best to use the government’s business finance tool which will guide you to the correct website where you can start your application.
There is no set timeframe for how long it takes to get a business grant. However, if the awarding body is local to you, the process is likely to be much quicker. Some grants, for example, can be sorted within a few weeks.
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