Here, Rob Nicholls, managing director of Plastic Card Services, discusses how his company achieved a grant from the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, which gives support to new and growing businesses.
Give some background on your company.
My business partner and I were made redundant in 1993 as a result of the recession. We saw an opportunity in the plastic card market and decided to establish Plastic Card Services. We opened for business from my home in Wilmslow as the only employees and from that point forward have never looked back!
We operate from our own purpose-built manufacturing plant in Cheshire with the capacity to produce over 80 million plastic cards each year and have a turnover of £5.6 million. Exports account for approximately 10 per cent of the total turnover, with the Scandinavian market being responsible for the majority of these exports.
How did you find out about the grant?
As a member of the British Printing Industries Federation (BPiF) we heard about various funding options available to businesses through our contact there, and subsequently approached the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub directly for further information on their specific options.
What are the full details of the grant?
The grant is through the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub with the funding coming from the European Regional Development Fund and will account for 40 per cent of the overall project cost.
With available grants ranging from £1,000 to £6,000 (average grant £4,000), eligible projects which include a variety of types need to be focussed on creating new jobs within the region. Applicants are expected to cover the full project costs up front and complete all the relevant paperwork.
What was the application process like?
The entire process was relatively straightforward and involved a lot less red tape than first anticipated with assistance available from a dedicated Growth Adviser throughout all stages.
After an introductory meeting with a local Growth Adviser to discuss our specific project requirements and check our eligibility, we completed an initial application form that included a comprehensive specification and indicative budget set aside for the project that would be used to assess the impact the project would have on our business.
The assessment and approval part of the process took less than a week which allowed us to quickly move forward and put together a tender document. We then chose to take advantage of the additional facility to advertise our tender document on the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub website to attract more responses which in turn would enable us to get the very best for our project.
Within two weeks we had more than double the number of submissions needed to fulfil the procurement requirements set out by the European Regional Development fund. We met again with our Growth Adviser to review the individual proposals and score them appropriately in line with the scoring system set out by the scheme and then awarded the contract to the highest scoring submission.
What will you spend the money on?
The funding will cover 40 per cent of the costs incurred to build a fully responsible website for our partner LogoCard in Scandinavia. The new website will act as a storefront to the company and will contain informative and authoritative content dedicated to the Scandinavian territory. It is anticipated that this content combined with an easy enquiry method will see huge increases in the conversion of site visitors into live and actionable enquiries.
Our operation with LogoCard currently works through word of mouth and a pro-active approach to networking with no real online presence, and although this has proven extremely successful to date it barely scratches the surface in terms of potential additional customers. We firmly believe the creation of a brand new fully responsive website for LogoCard that seamlessly links the two companies together will bolster the expertise and services available and help us access these opportunities.
What advice would you give to other small businesses looking for grant finance?
The simplest advice we can give to other small businesses looking for grant finance is to take the time to research what is available, think carefully about opportunities for business growth and don’t be put off at the prospect of lots of paperwork and red tape because it really isn’t that bad!