If you are planning to start a small business, you already know about the trials and tribulations involved when searching for seed money and investment funds to help you get off the ground. Much like a child, your start up requires a huge amount of cash, time and energy, almost to the point that everything else in your life becomes secondary.

Finding cash to keep the business going – not to mention your personal life – can be a real challenge, and every little bit of funding can help keep you afloat for one more week. Thankfully, many different grant schemes exist across the United Kingdom that can help your start-up transition into its next important phases.

Read ahead to learn about some valuable information that will help you find, plan, apply and hopefully win the grants necessary for your start-up’s success, both in the short-term and across the long haul.

What is a grant?

Think of a grant like a loan that you do not have to repay. Don’t worry if this sounds too good to be true – they aren’t really handed out like sweets! In order to qualify for a grant, you usually must satisfy a series of requirements, fill out extensive (and often complex) application forms (known as grant writing) and ultimately be chosen as the recipient.

Grants are usually made available for students, not for profit organisations and yes – for small start-up businesses. A government department, corporation, foundation or trust usually disburses the funds, and as mentioned above, they do not have to be repaid. In some cases, you must also fulfill requirements after the grant money has been awarded and produce proof that your proposal was carried out with help of the monies.

How to qualify for a UK start up grant

  • Create a detailed business plan – In order to qualify for any grant, you must be able to prove that you have a detailed, professional business plan that shows just how you plan to make your start-up business a success worth funding.
  • Innovate – Innovative businesses are far more likely to attract the attention of seed funders and grant givers – if your start-up can prove that you are truly doing something outside the box (within common sense, of course), you will have a better chance of being awarded the funding that you seek.
  • Reach out to the administrators – It is always a good idea to reach out and make contact with the admin support of the grants in which you are most interested. Ask them a few questions pertinent to your application, and ensure that you clear up any grey areas. Doing this will help you to gain an understanding of exactly what the deciding forces are looking for in a successful application.
  • If necessary, reach out to a professional – If you are struggling to fill out your grant application, it is a good idea to hire a professional grant writer. A professional will be able to ensure that your proposal is filled out correctly and up to standards, thus increasing your chances of success.
  • You must not already have started the project – Grant funding is usually contingent on the project (or even the business itself) not already having commenced. If you are applying for a grant to fund a specific project, you need to be able to demonstrate that the project has not already started.

You will need to put up some of your own funds

Remember, if you are looking for a small business grant in the UK, it is very rare for an organisation to provide you with 100% of the funding that you will need to build a successful company. You will still need to put up some of the money yourself, so it is a good idea to get started with saving and amassing capital any way that you can.

Where to look for UK Start-Up Grants

Even the most learned experts can have trouble keeping track of the myriad grant and funding opportunities that come and go across the UK.

Your first point of research should always be the Gov.uk website – their ‘Finance and Support For Your Business’ page currently lists over 531 grants and sources of funding available across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (this number is subject to vary).

Remember to read the fine print carefully – some of these funding awards are only available to you if you live in a certain region or satisfy other requirements based on age, gender, ability level and of course, the type of business in which you plan to engage.

Once you do this, another great source of information is your local business association. They will have had experience with similar businesses attempting to get started, and they might know of grants that are not widely publicised. In some cases, they may even offer grant opportunities themselves.

Some other great places to start your search include websites such as www.j4bgrants.co.uk, www.grantnet.com, www.grantfinder.co.uk or www.grantsonline.org.uk. These sites aggregate all of the available grants across the country and help you search easily for one you may qualify for.

How easy is it to get a start up grant?

Sadly, getting a grant for small business in the UK can actually be quite difficult – there is only a little bit of funding to go around, and the competition is fierce. Your best chance of being selected for this lucrative funding is to write an excellent grant application, do your research and be persistent. Good luck!

Written by Anna Lemos