Part one of this blog series from Sage Business Expert Tracey Bird provided some resources to help find funding opportunities to finance a business idea or invest in growth plans. Once suitable funding options have been identified, there will usually be a formal process to present the business or idea to potential funders, provide information about how the funds will be used and provide details of what outcomes will be achieved as a result of the funding.
So how do you put together a successful funding application? People who have achieved success and have gone through the process themselves can offer valuable advice and encouragement …
Orwell and Goode is a young, dynamic design company established in 2011. Orwell and Goode successfully applied for two small grants from Business Gateway. The grants were match funded which means the business had to match the funding from the grant provider. One of the grants enabled Orwell and Goode to attend a major trade show which helped position the company as a serious player in the home interiors market. In 2013 Orwell and Goode won the prestigious Best New Home Product award at Top Drawer London and they now have over 80 stockists in the UK and Europe and continually extend their product portfolio and design collections.
Co-founder of Orwell and Goode, Bronagh O’Kane (Mrs Goode), provides her top tips for achieving funding success …
- Be clear about your project and make sure it will significantly help your business. Do not create a project to suit the requirements of the funding. This is a false economy. Choose a project that will have significant impact on your business. Examples include attending a trade show, expanding production capabilities or developing new products or markets.
- Write a thorough business plan. This will take considerable time but is a fantastic exercise to focus yourself on your goals for the future of your business. Support your application with accounts and other evidence to back up your claims. Include a cashflow forecast and make this as detailed as you can, then keep it as a ‘target’ sheet to refer to monthly as you move forward. It may be scary to see these figures at first but if you want to achieve your goals you must achieve the numbers you set for yourself!
- Liaise with the funding ‘peeps’ as much as you can. They are generally very helpful people and genuinely want to give this money to support great business ventures like yours! Ask every question you have. If you are successful don’t forget to thank them and stay in touch. They can often offer further help by pointing you in the direction of other agencies that can offer services to assist you.
Ian Whelan established Avisius Research in 2002 and successfully obtained Smart funding to help research and develop insect control technologies which are now used across international human and animal healthcare markets in household brands including Hedrin and FLEE. Ian also acts as an innovation consultant to some of the leading global pharmaceutical companies and has won several awards for innovation. In 2014, in recognition of his services to the industry, Ian was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Entomological Society.
Here are Ian’s top tips for achieving funding success …
- Innovation is key! Go for innovations that have a wide interest to capture the imagination of the reviewer, incremental changes don’t really excite and nor does the impression you have been working on an idea for years.
- It sounds obvious, but research the market, the financials and the societal impact. It’s amazing how even multinationals don’t do this thoroughly enough.
- Check the Intellectual Property status. It takes minutes to research your idea on websites like Espacenet.
- Get the proposal read by non-experts, particularly those who have had success winning funding previously. This checks how accessible the proposal is and may give you an idea as to its strength.
- And finally, make it clear that your project involves people who have all the necessary skills to deliver your promises.
Social enterprise and community organisation Scottish Traditional Boat Festival secured funding in 2012 for their project Portsoy Organisation for Restoration and Training (PORT).
Chairman Roger Goodyear has a wealth of experience in sourcing funding for projects with a social purpose and offers these top tips for achieving funding success …
- Research carefully to ensure that you are approaching the right funder(s). All of them describe what they are interested in supporting. Talk to the funder before you start applying. They are always prepared to help and it can save a lot of time and effort. Check what grants they have given. Look carefully at their geographical record.
- Read their guidance notes very carefully. Don’t treat it like “oh, I don’t read instructions” – because you must. It will tell you their type of language and will provide very useful advice.
- Be honest and consistent! Make sure that everything you put down is correct and provable, in so far as possible. Different funders talk to each other and inconsistencies in your applications or black marks on your reputation will get put around.
- Include third party evidence or support wherever you can. Your track record is very important with most funders, so have clear evidence of it and endorsement from others wherever possible.
- Keep it simple and interesting. Fund assessors invariably have to plough through many applications. Make sure you excite and motivate them!
- Remember that the job of funders is to give money – not to avoid doing so – but help them rather than hinder!