“I’d love to get government grants to help run my business!” – it’s a common cry from small business owners. However, there isn’t a government in the country – federal, state or local – that gives out money simply because you run a business.
Government programs for small business are generally for specific purposes. They target specific industries and specific aspects of doing business.
They also do more than just give out money. There’s expert advice, training programs and other capacity-building activities on offer.
It pays to familiarise yourself with what’s on offer, and from which tier of government. There is a lot of support out there, you just need to do a bit of digging to find the right opportunity for you.
Look at the state you’re in
When looking for a grant, the first step in your search should be your state government, specifically the government departments that deal with small business and industry matters.
Depending on which state or territory you’re in, you’ll find a suite of programs designed to help small business. Of course, some states offer more than others.
The stand-out state at the moment is Queensland. Advance Queensland offers a great range of small business grants. On their site, you’ll find a diverse and interesting set of opportunities, many focused on innovation and business growth. In particular, check out the Business Development Fund, which offers grants of up to $2.5m for commercialising research or innovative ideas.
Victorians need to head over to Business Victoria. If you’re a small business in Victoria, there are a couple of very handy little programs that offer 50% off the cost of strategic planning and business mentoring. This is a terrific example of a government program that offers both money and support to help grow your business.
New South Wales
Sadly, if there’s a state which is punching below its weight, it’s NSW. There’s a lack of programs that are straightforward, hit a real need for small business and result in dollars in your bank account. There are still a couple of useful opportunities, including the Business Connect program which offers small business advice and the Small Business Grant which offers some relief from payroll tax. For tech firms, the Minimum Viable Product program is worth a look, offering up to $25,000 matched investment in getting an idea off the ground.
Looking for more?
The government site, business.gov.au, has a useful Grants & Assistance Tool, which allows you to search all government grants and filter by state (you’ll find plenty of sites which offer this service, but this one is free). Another useful feature is that you’ll be able to see both state and federal grants available.
Head for the Feds
The Federal Government also has a range of support on offer for small businesses and business.gov.au is your starting point here. Here are a few opportunities which should be on your radar.
One of the government’s best kept secrets is the Entrepreneurs’ Programme. Its business management stream offers a free business evaluation by an experienced business adviser, plus a matched grant of up to $20,000 to help implement the adviser’s recommendations. You need to turn over at least $1.5m and work in a particular targeted sector – completing the evaluation can also give you access to a range of commercialisation and research assistance.
The Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) offered by Austrade is one of the more popular programs. It offers a grant of up to 50% of eligible costs of marketing your business overseas (less the first $5000 spent). It’s a useful program, but highly complex and the compliance processes can be very onerous, so you’ll need to maintain a high level of recordkeeping (down to keeping travel diaries and retaining boarding passes).
Talking of complexity, there’s the Research & Development Tax Incentive. This is a tax rebate for those companies engaging in eligible R&D activities. Like the EMDG, the requirements are many and complicated, but there are many consultants who specialise in these grants and it can pay to engage one to help navigate you through these tricky waters.
Again, take the Grants & Assistance Tool for a spin, and you’ll see the range of help on offer, in areas such as diverse as training, energy efficiency and waste management. Again, think specific, not general.
Local government organisations, particularly those in the bigger metro areas, are also able to offer businesses a helping hand. City of Sydney’s Business Improvement Grant offers funding to help spruce up your shop front. City of Melbourne offers a range of Small Business Grants to help local small businesses grow, innovate and stay present in the local area, as does Perth City Council.
Not sure what your council can do to help? Often councils employ economic development officers who can point you in the right direction to support programs. Time to track them down!
By David Sharpe, director of business advisory at Generate. A version of this article was originally posted on their Better Business blog.
Generate are not your typical accountants. We provide operational and strategic support to creative and innovative businesses of all stripes and colours.