Small business grants are notoriously hard to come by, but help does exist out there if you know where to look.
In this Q&A we talk to Tom Craig, co-founder of digital marketing company Impression about the help he achieved from the Creative Quarter (CQ), Nottingham’s flagship project for economic growth, enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit.
1. What is your business, how long has it been going and how was it funded?
Impression is a digital marketing agency based in Nottingham that offers SEO, PR, PPC and web design. Founded in 2012, we’ve been entirely profit-funded from the very start.
2. How did you find out about the grant? What did you need it for?
In Nottingham where we’re based, the CQ is backed by local government and EU funding; it serves to support start-ups and established businesses in the Lace Market area of the city.
The team there have always supported us and it was through them that we heard about the CQ’s technology grants.
At the time we were trying to grow from a young start-up to an established agency and one of the biggest costs to this process was IT infrastructure; a big potential inhibitor to our expansion.
3. What was the application process like? What did you have to do?
We had to go through a detailed application process; sharing our business plan with them and then being interviewed by a panel of experts to see if we qualified for the grant.
We pitched our plans for growth and showed them how the grant would support them. We also had to get three quotes for the equipment from local technology businesses, so the grant would also help the local economy even further.
The final step was a visit from the CQ; they came to our offices to meet the team and see our plans for growth in person.
4. How much money did you seek? What were the conditions of the grant?
It was £16,000 to support the next three of years of fast growth within our business. This amount was on the condition that we spent it exactly where we said we would and that we could prove this during regular checkups from the CQ.
5. When you got the money, what did you do with it?
It wen’t on a range of IT infrastructure that was much needed; from standard equipment such as printers, desktops and monitors to wireless routers, cabling installation, phone lines and other additional hardware.
6. What advice would you give to other companies seeking small business grants?
Keep your ‘ears to the ground’ and network to find the best opportunities in your area. Don’t discount any scheme without giving it proper consideration, but only take a grant if you really need it, as that may mean you won’t be eligible for other small business grants in future.