At some point, your startup needs to accelerate its growth. No matter how great your business, there’s always the chance that a competitor will get ahead if you take too long to progress. So you need to make sure you’re driving your business forward, even if you don’t currently have the available capital to do so.
Startups have several options when it comes to growing their business. These may include:
– Bootstrapping: Using your own resources, rather than external finance
– Bank loans: Applying for a small business loan from commercial banks
– Angel investors or crowdfunding: Using sites such as Kickstarter
– Government grants: Money conditionally provided, which you don’t have to repay
Government grants can be a popular choice because you avoid taking on debt or giving up equity in your business. Many grants also have associated free advisory and assessment programs for startups to help with strategy and scaling.
Depending on your location, there are hundreds of government grants available to support new business. They can be from the federal or state government, or even from local councils. There are also some grants available from philanthropic organisations and trusts.
The Grants Available
So what’s available for your business? A good way to start is by visiting the government Grant Finder website, which lets you search for grants by industry type, business size/age and location. Some key grants available for startups Australia-wide include:
– Accelerating Commercialisation: These grants (of up to $1 million) help entrepreneurs, inventors, startups and SMBs commercialise “novel intellectual property”, which may be new products, processes and services
– Export Market Development Grants (EMDG): This scheme offers financial assistance to existing and aspiring exporters, via a rebate for the cost of marketing and promotional activities
Applying for a Grant
Applying for a grant is time-consuming, so make sure you focus on the right grants for your business. It may even be possible to shape your business strategy to align with a particular grant. For example, you could open an office in a specific location to qualify for a regional investment grant.
Meeting the deadline is critical. Figure out how much time you need to write your application (this may take several weeks if only one person is working on it) and avoid grants with closing dates that are too close.
Do your research. Seek advice from your industry association as well as other business contacts, including companies that have already applied for and won similar grants. Many government websites include case studies of successful recipients.
Professional help from a grant consultant is also an option. These are specialists who can do everything from identifying suitable grants to writing the applications for you. Their services will of course come at a cost, and there’s no guarantee of success.
If you don’t qualify for a grant, you may instead qualify for a tax offset or a government loan. These have to be repaid, but usually at a low-interest rate, or even on interest-free terms.
Above all, make sure you have a solid business plan. You will need to provide a detailed strategy and projections for most grant applications, so make sure your accounts are in order and you are ready to grow.