In the next in our series on businesses that achieved small business grants, we talk to Fergus Moore, co-founder and director of recycling enterprise, Revive Eco, about how grant funding has been instrumental in helping to get the business off the ground.
1. What is your business, how long has it been going and how was it funded?
Revive Eco is a waste rejuvenation ‘eco‐prise’ (ecological enterprise), which develops high‐value natural bio‐oils from used coffee grounds.
We first started developing Revive as a second-year class project as part of our business degrees from the University of Strathclyde. We worked in cafes and restaurants at the time, and saw first-hand the amount of coffee going to waste each day. It was then in the summer of 2015, after the three of us had graduated, that we really started to push Revive forward full time.
We’ve secured grant funding from a number of different sources, including Glasgow City Council, Business Gateway and the Shell LiveWIRE programme, which have been pivotal in helping us to get our first pilot plant off the ground.
2. How did you find out about the grants? What did you need them for?
We initially found out about the first few competitions by endlessly trawling through Google.
Once we were successful in one competition, we began getting introductions and invitations to apply to other competitions. We are also lucky to have a number of great start-up competitions in Scotland, such as the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, Converge Challenge and Scottish Edge.
We used these grants for a number of different things, from supporting our branding and website design, through to chemical analysis and packaging orders. They have also helped cover the many unexpected costs for silly things that come up, like ordering business cards and covering travel expenses to trade shows and competitions which are further afield.
3. What was the application process like? What did you have to do?
Every grant application is different, which is good because you have to think on your feet and ensure that every aspect of your business idea is bulletproof! However, it can also be a huge pain as sometimes we have to spend hours on financial plans, videos, marketing strategies, and that is barely scratching the surface.
We’ve seen that more and more grants are being designed to test entrepreneurs’ pitching ability and how well you can represent your company, sell your business and tell your story. They specifically do this by requesting videos and links to your websites and social media pages. More popular grant funds will ask for a written application with set questions, a copy of your business plan and a short video providing a brief introduction to your enterprise.
4. How much money did you seek? What were the conditions of the grants?
The grants can be as small as £100 to £500, or up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some grants have a specific set of conditions attached to the funding, while others allow you to use the funding as you see fit; Shell LiveWIRE, for example, provides funding of up to £30,000 with no strings attached.
The programme also offers a credibility boost and broader business development support to its winners. We took part in the #makethefuture Accelerator back in July, a workshop designed to take start-ups to the next level by bringing in expert advice to help us with key business challenges. Their recently launched Access to Finance Navigator will also be helpful for other companies like ours in navigating low-carbon finance options.
5. When you got the money, what did you do with it?
For most grants it takes a few weeks to come through or some can even be in your account in a couple of days. Sometimes, you have to spend the money before it can be reimbursed, which is when we have had to call in the parents for a wee family loan (all of which has been repaid, of course!).
The vast majority of our funding so far has gone into testing. Science is not our strong suit, so we’ve had to spend quite a bit on thorough chemistry testing, which has included hiring chemistry experts and equipment to analyse exactly what is in our used coffee and oil extracts.
6. What advice would you give to other companies seeking grants?
One: spend a good amount of time hunting for grants. You never know which organisations have funding opportunities or competitions available!
Two: make sure you fit the profile of the grant fund you are applying for. There is nothing worse than spending time and effort on an application only to realise after the 7th or 8th questions that you’re not really as eligible as you thought.
Three: although applications can take a lot of time and eventually you may start to lose the will to live, they are genuinely worth it. Embrace the feedback you’ll receive from the judging panel: it’s worth its weight in gold and will make your submissions so much stronger in the future.