One of the most common questions we get asked here at Shell LiveWIRE is “where can I get funding for my business?”
Everyone needs money to support their business idea(s), but sadly there aren't many free grants around and the ones that are available tend to be for small amounts of money, or very specific about what they will or won’t pay for.
Furthermore, although grants are appealing because they are seen to be ‘free’ and ‘no strings attached’, the application process can sometimes be slow and laborious so you need to decide if it’s really worth your while or if you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Sources of Funding
Instead of looking to cover all your costs with grants, it’s much more likely that you will have to finance your enterprise from a range of sources including;
The Community Development Finance Association provides a handy list of organisations providing funding across the UK, whilst the National Enterprise Network website shows all the Local Enterprise Agencies that can help you raise funding or at least point you in the right direction.
Organisations like Business Gateway (Scotland), PSYBT (Scotland), Flexible Support for Wales, NIBusiness, and UnLtd can also provide access to funding, and don’t forget to contact your local authority too as most (if not all) will have an enterprise team whose role it is to help new businesses in the area, and may be aware of special incentives, rates or schemes to get you started.
Grants are financial assistance for specific projects, eg the production of promotional materials or the restoration of a shopfront. The obvious benefits of grants are:
• they don’t have to be repaid, unless you fall foul of the grant criteria!
• they cover some of your project costs, so free up money to be spent in other areas of your business
Business competitions and awards offer more than just money, providing winners and finalists with great PR opportunities and prestige which can open doors and help leverage more funding from other sources.
Crowdfunding (derived from the term 'Crowdsourcing') is a relatively new way to raise investment for your business or project from a wide range of independent sources, potentially from anywhere in the world.
In order to help your business grow, you might want to bring in outside investment in return for a stake in your business and a share of your profits. An investor can do more than just provide money. They can help you plan or run your business, provide valuable business contacts and act as a personal mentor too.
The term ‘elevator pitch’ is used to describe the overview or presentation that an entrepreneur might give to describe their business, products or services to an investor or business angel.