We would not have been able to get SmartSnugg to market if we had not maximised every opportunity to bring in funding.
The majority of our funding has come through the sale of equity, but government grants have been another essential element.
This is important to realise because, for many entrepreneurs who have a business dream they are determined to turn into a reality, exploring access to grant funding is something that can also offer hope.
Financial support and mentorship are available, and by understanding positive ways to approach grant applications, entrepreneurs can enjoy opportunities that might not have been possible otherwise, and give their business the boost it deserves.
Here are our five tips for those applying for grants.
1. Read, and reread
Carefully read and think through the application questions and the terms and conditions.
That means don’t just read them quickly, but pause, and think about what the keywords and ideas are in each question.
Remember that each question has been deliberately worded to specific information that is critical to the assessment and weighting of your application.
Do this before you start to think about how you would answer each question and make certain that you have understood what each question is aiming at.
If you find that there is a question which seems odd or out of place, consider that maybe you have not properly understood it, make a note and come back to it later.
When it comes to the T&Cs, you have got to pay attention to obtain what will be required from you if you are successful in obtaining the grant.
2. Consider the opportunity cost
The next step is to consider whether this is the right application for you to spend your time on.
If trying to get a business off the ground, you are likely time-poor (if you’re not, you may need to ask yourself some questions!) and so you should invest that time wisely and where you are most likely to achieve good outcomes.
If you can see that your project is not well-aligned with the grant application, or that your chances of success are low, you should weigh up whether it is worth investing your time.
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At this point, you also need to think about what you are committing to and what you are giving up.
If the grant requires a co-contribution, make sure that you are not over-stretching yourself to achieve the grant.
Also, think about the tax implications of receiving the grant. It may be that the benefit you get from the grant is onerous, and not significantly better than utilising available tax breaks, such as R&D.
3. Stay on track
Once you have decided to apply, you need to plan your response so that you are answering each question and telling the grant administrators what they want to know.
Don’t fall into the trap of padding out your answers with unnecessary description and sales talk.
This is where it helps to start with short, succinct bullet points.
It will help to keep your answers tight and on point.
4. Dive into your projections
If the grant requires you to make projections about future success, you need to invest a lot of time into making sure that your projections are well-researched, and that you understand where there is uncertainty in your estimates.
This is a particular risk if you find yourself working in a sector where you don’t have actual commercial experience.
If you find that you are promising your company will be an overnight success, then you are probably being over-optimistic, your projections are unlikely to be believed, and your application will lose credibility.
If you find yourself in this position, don’t just knock off a couple of zeros.
Instead, try to understand where the problems are in your projections, and if you don’t have inside industry knowledge, see if you can get some advice from somebody who has.
5. Finding the right words
You need to proofread your application carefully.
As you write it your application, you need to have your audience in mind.
Will the person reading and assessing understand industry jargon? If not, take it out and put in more accessible language.
It should go without saying that poor grammar and bad spelling need to be removed too, but you also need to think about the logical flow of your arguments and paragraphs.
If writing isn’t your forte, you might need to write the first draft and then pass it to a professional copywriter or somebody you know who has the relevant skills.
At the very least, you need to have your final draft read by somebody who doesn’t know your project and ask them for feedback.
If you are going to ask for feedback, you need to be prepared to accept criticism and think about whether you need to adjust what you’ve written to address the issue.
By investigating grants that may be available to you — whether they are offered by relevant industry organisations, local councils or incubator support groups — you’re already on your way to securing much-needed funding and mentoring.
Asking for help takes a certain level of self-belief that your project is worthy of support.
If you believe it is, and approach grant applications in a way that is strategic and professional, you will give your business the best possible chance to succeed.