If you have a small business you understand the importance of having enough funding through all stages of your small business life cycle. In the startup phase, you need to have enough money to create your business plan, to register your business, to conduct research and development, to market/advertise, to have a website and hosting, to maybe hire help, or to pay yourself. The expenses seem to go on and on.
But what if you don’t have enough funding?
Do you shut down before you begin or do you try and search for funding, such as a government grant?
Well that brings us to our next success story straight from Birmingham, West Midlands, England.
Walter and Lonnie from Birmingham, were able to get everything they needed for their small business thanks to a government grant in the amount of £75,000. We were lucky enough to have them come back and share their success story with us. Below you will see our conversation with Walter and Lonnie about their business and their government grant success.
Tell us a little about your startup.
Both my husband and I are disabled, so most of our time is spent at home. We decided one day to start a business and get some extra money on the side to pay for some luxuries. Before my accident, I was a chemist working for a pharmaceutical company in London, and Walter worked as a engineer. Our passion however was keeping the earth green. This is how we started producing our products. We started making soaps and laundry detergent and eventually this took us to body wash, shampoos and other personal care items. Local shops and our website was how we sold our products, but it was very small in terms of how much we could make at home. The demand for the product was huge. So we knew we needed to take it a step further.
What made you want to start this business?
Our two children have a skin condition and using products that are sold in shops with the chemicals that are put into them, often result in itching and burning feelings, so we needed to make something for our kids. That’s what led us to see the value in what we had and wanted to share with others.
What were your challenges starting up?
Money was the number one challenge. Being disabled and unemployed, our income was very minimal to be able to invest into our business the amount that we needed to meet the demand we had and the to make our idea exactly what we wanted. Going to a bank to get some help was useless since we were unemployed and disabled.
How did you overcome those challenges?
Well we knew that certain government agencies provided funding to small business startups who work with those that are disabled, so this was our mission to find these schemes and apply. Any help would have been great.
What brought you to UKStartups?
We spent plenty of time looking for these schemes that could have helped us, but if you’ve ever looked for funding from the government you know the challenge. It’s impossible to find. The government site is great, but the “government” that we all know isn’t the one that gives out the money. It’s actually a huge process to go from agency to agency to agency to agency before you even get an answer as to where to go and apply. What brought us to UKStartups is Facebook. We saw one of our friends, who is also disabled ask a question on your Facebook page. This showed us that you have a funding database with all government schemes. I think Walter registered the next morning and started looking for the schemes. It was much easier. A time saver.
How did you benefit from our portal?
The startup portal and the funding database just saved us huge amount of time. I know we weren’t that busy being at home all the time, but it’s just a pain to search and search without any luck on Google. So instead this was of great help. All the schemes were listed along with the criteria, the agency, the reason to apply, the qualifications and even the funding application. We even used your business plan tool to make our own business plan.
Was the process difficult?
Not at all. Once we registered it was pretty self explanatory. We accessed the tools you provided us with right away and were able to start searching for the schemes in minutes. Our business plan was a bit hard to do due to the number of products we had, but it was all fun. The entire portal is very easy to go through,
How did you apply for funding?
We found a few schemes that seemed to be perfect for us. We literally sent in the applications within a week of getting our access to your portal. There was some extra work that had to be done to ensure that we provided all the necessary details, but aside from that it was as simple as finding the scheme and filling out the application. Sort of like applying for a credit card, or a mortgage.
How much funding did you get?
We got funding from two schemes. One was for purchasing tools and equipment to help us grow our business. The other was for hiring others who were disabled to help us out. This was great, and we ended up getting a total of £75,000 from the two schemes.
How long did it take?
The entire process from application to money in our hands took a little under 3 months. Because a few different disability agencies had to get involved to provide some documentation regarding our situation, I believe it could have went a lot faster if that wasn’t the case. But it worked out because we got the funding to buy the equipment in the first month, so we were able to start setting everything up before we started the hiring.
What did you use the funding for?
One of our challenges was that we were doing everything by hand, but there was tools out there that did exactly what we needed. Cheaper, faster and better. So we purchased some tools and equipment that we needed with the money we got. The rest was used to help us find 6 employees and that were also disabled to assist us part time.
What is next?
The next step is to start branding our products and see if we can get into bigger stores to be able to sell more. We are already in talks with a few larger chains, again thanks to the funding we were able to get and the volume we are now able to produce.
What is your advice to others?
The government has schemes that can help your small business. If we were able to get funding for what we were doing, you will be able to no problem. Just focus on what you are good at, don’t waste your time researching, get help from experts who have already done the work, such as UKStartups and apply for multiple schemes – that seems to always work.