Can I get a small business grant?
Finding out if you qualify for a small business grant can feel a bit daunting – there are often a lot of boxes to tick. Take a look at the grant's criteria so you don’t invest time applying to something you're not eligible for.
When it comes to selecting the small businesses to give funds to, each grant scheme will have its own qualifying factors. Although, there are four things nearly all of them will be considering.
Key eligibility criteria for a small business grant
Your business’s purpose. Primarily, what industry sector are you (or will you be) operating in, together with the problem you’re trying to solve, and how much of an impact you want your business to have.
Your business’s location. As so very often, it comes down to: location, location, location. This can go from country to county, all the way down to an individual town.
Your business’s size. How many staff do you employ? Certain schemes require fewer than 250, while some go down to 50, 20 or even less than 10.
Your business’s time in operation. Some grant schemes are only available to start-ups, while others don’t consider how long your business has been running at all.
Where can small businesses go for a grant?
Grants for small businesses come from three main sources: local council, the UK government and the EU (Brexit depending). There are also other organisations that provide grants, such as charities, corporates and universities.
There are hundreds of sources offering small business grants. However, to list them all would make this short guide a very, very long one. So, here are just some of them.
UK government grants for small businesses
These are available from the UK government, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly with the aim to encourage growth, bring wealth and create jobs.
To help achieve this, the government sets aside a chunk of money collected from UK taxpayers to fund these grant programmes. Here’s a little taster.
R&D Tax Reliefs
Designed to reward innovation, R&D Tax Reliefs are great if you’re looking to find extra funding for research and development.
If you’re looking to employ more staff, it might be worth considering taking on an apprentice. Especially as you can get funding towards their training through the government apprentice scheme.
Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme
Struggling to afford a broadband speed of at least 2MB per second? Then you could get up to £350 from the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme.
Local authority business grants
Local authorities are understandably keen for cities and towns within their borders to thrive and prosper. One of the ways they do this is by offering small business grants. It was through a local authority supported initiative that the business in our case study secured its funding.
It often depends on the individual local authority as to the type of grants available. Below are what some councils are doing, but don’t get too excited, check with your own local authority before you start making a shopping list.
Energy Efficiency Grants, Warwickshire
For businesses looking to cut down their carbon emissions, Warwickshire District Council will fund up to 40% of the installation of energy efficient equipment like LED controls and renewable technology. As well as the energy efficiency grants, they also offer free energy audits.
South East Creative, Cultural and Digital Support Programme
Grants are usually between £1,000 and £3,000, but can go up to £20,000 to support local businesses that operate in the creative, cultural and digital sectors.
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Grants For Growth
Looking to expand your premises or buy new plant, machinery or equipment? Well if your business is in the borough of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, you’re in luck. Grants are available from £10,000 to £160,000, providing you privately input a percentage of the project’s cost.
EU grants for small business
Now the elephant in the room here is clearly Brexit. But don’t worry too much, at the moment. ‘Most’ schemes will continue to accept applications and distribute funds until the UK has officially left the EU.
The EU currently offers a huge range of grants that are distributed through structural funds made up of: The European Regional Development Fund. European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). The European Social Fund (ESF).
These grants are then passed on to regional governments, local authorities and private organisations in the UK to support small businesses (like the schemes mentioned previously). There’s also an EU grant scheme that you can apply directly to.
Horizon 2020 is designed to drive economic growth and create jobs by making it easier for the private and public sectors to work together. It’s open to everyone and employs a simple structure to help projects get off the ground quicker.
Benefits of a small business grant
Receiving a chunk of free cash might be the obvious benefit of a small business grant, but it can help in many other positive ways too. It’s not all about the money, money, money.
Find out how it helped the business in our case study and discover some of the other ways a grant can give your business a boost below.
If you receive a small business grant, you can keep equity in the company that you might have previously had to release to fund your growth plans. Giving you added security and more sleep-filled nights (hopefully).
You know you and your team are working hard to make your small business succeed. So, when a large organisation approves your plans and ideas, it will naturally give you a boost of confidence you’re on the right path.
They say nothing in life is free. Well, small business grants are – within reason. There might be certain restrictions on how you spend the money, but ultimately you could receive anything from a couple of hundred pounds to thousands of pounds that you don’t have to pay back.
Boost in structure and organisation
To qualify for a small business grant, you’re normally required to punctually deliver detailed plans and progress reports. This inevitably needs a degree of organisation, which can lead to your business working in a more structured way.
Drawbacks of a small business grant
Understandably there are many benefits of a small business grant. However, it’s not all plain sailing.
If you only had to fill in a one-page form and sit back as the money rolled in, every business would be doing it. And although this isn’t the case, there are plenty of small businesses still applying, which is one of the downsides. Here are just some of the drawbacks of a small business grant you should consider before you rush off and start filling in your application form.
There are normally restrictions on grants to how the money can be spent. Make sure you check exactly which areas of your business the money can be used on. A new coffee machine probably isn’t one of them.
The day you receive the grant money in your bank is a really special one. But to get there can take time.
Time in the duration of your application being processed. And the time you need to invest in doing all the research required to understand what type of small business grant is right for you. Although, hopefully this guide will help speed things up for you.
The other option you can consider is paying a consultant to do the research and application for you. This might be costly initially, but it allows you to stay focused on the business, and the grant money (if you get it) will off-set the consultant’s fee.