The company that secured a £1.5 million council grant

Here, we talk to Adam Carnell, co-founder of Instantprint, about the £1.5 million council grant that accelerated the company's fortunes.

James Kinsella and Adam Carnell, of Instantprint, secured a huge council grant

James Kinsella and Adam Carnell, of Instantprint, secured a huge council grant

Instantprint is a South Yorkshire based web-to-print business, providing promotional print products for small and micro businesses. The company is now in its seventh year and has placed 50th on the Virgin Sunday Times Fast Track 100.

Here we talk to co-founder, Adam Carnell about the process of seeking a £1.5 million council grant.

1. How did you find out about the council grant? What did you need it for?

Bryan, one of our directors, had applied for funding in the past and decided to look into it further for our company. He turned to an adviser who specialises in helping business seek out government funding. She ran us through the different options available and we determined that we had the best chance of success through a council grant via Sheffield City council.

We are a very fast-growing business, and as we produce all of our products in-house it makes us very capital intensive.

At the time we were unable to attract the full funding package we required because we were investing in doubling our capacity, which meant we needed to move to larger premises.

The total invest plan was for £11.6 million and at the time, we were only turning over around £5.5 million. Having a grant enabled us to give the confidence to our investors and provide us with the cash flow we required.

2. What was the application process like? What did you have to do?

We were funded via Sheffield City Council through Round 5 of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The application process was very long and detailed with multiple stages.

We had to produce detailed forecasts for the next five years, including job numbers and the salary levels for these positions, as well as the usual P&L and balance sheet.

They required detailed market analysis and a full business plan as well as evidence that we could fund the rest of the investment, which was very much a chicken and egg situation, with neither side wanting to commit to funding us first in writing.

Everything we stated had to be evidenced and backed up. However, given the level of our council grant, I don’t believe they were particularly onerous in the information they required.

It took us around 14 months from starting to acceptance, and then a further six months to agree the finer points.

This was a considerable amount of time, far longer than advertised and committed to. Given that the different projects must be shovel-ready when applying this could have caused us problems, however, fortunately the year or so delay actually fitted in without causing too much disruption.

Since the project that we applied for was very detailed (and by this point very well thought-out), once we got the money it was a situation of ‘pushing the button’.

3. What advice would you give to other companies seeking grants?

Firstly, get an adviser with experience in grants and ideally with a working relationship with the governing body. This gave us an incredibly useful insight into the system, processes, and preparation required to successfully apply for a grant.

Secondly, be patient – very patient. You have to be prepared to put significant time into getting the funding and producing extensive documentation.

Treat the grant like another investor; we found the governing body to be very professional and to take the responsibility of ensuring the outcomes require as you would from any other investor.

Further reading on business funding

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