As Brits we are all given the opportunity to succeed in life; one way being your own boss and a small business owner. The UK economy is a prosperous one allowing entrepreneurs with support from the government in the form of government funding. Today, we will be sharing our latest interview with one individual who was successful at becoming a government grant recipient and obtaining over £65,485.
The below interview was conducted over the phone with Darren Clifford from Cambridge, East England as he shared his experience dealing with UKStartups.org as well as the funding agency which provided him with the government grant for his small business.
Tell us a bit about your small business:
Sure. Our company started at the end of 2016 with hopes to grow to be one of the largest door security companies in the region. You are probably wondering what that means; no we are not bouncers but we provide bio metric locks and access fobs to office building, retail stores and some private and residential locations. Instead of being old school and having a key to get into your office or home, we provide the technology to help you swipe a key fob, an access card or even your smart phone to get in. This is much safer, more secure and every visitor in and out can be tracked and monitored.
What made you want to start the business?
Right out of school we saw a increased demand for this type of service. In fact, my partner and I while living at the university dorm we often lost our keys. So eventually the school upgraded the locks system with pin pads and a special number of each student/resident to get in and out. Not because of us, but the times were changing. So we started planning this project some 10 years back and finally got enough planned out that we wanted to start it up.
What were some of your challenges starting up?
The greatest challenge, which pretty much took all of that time was getting everything organized and planned out. We are both perfectionists and we needed to make it perfect in order to launch into the market. A big challenge was sourcing the technology (like the physical technology needed). The idea was pretty easy, but it got expensive trying to do the R&D without making any money.
How did you hear about government funding?
It was actually something we’ve been contemplating for a while. I think it was from school that we heard about it. Some special entrepreneurial scheme. But once we started digging into it a bit more recently before our launch we started seeing a few sites out there promoting the idea of getting a government grant to startup. So we tried to seek more.
How did you find out about UKStartups.org?
UKStartups.org was actually one of the websites we found and got more information from. One of the guys that was helping us out with the financial stuff actually recommended UKStartups as he’s had other clients as your members and shared some good feedback. I think that’s the main reason why we registered with you. That and the fact that we could use help with the business plan.
How difficult was it to get started and find funding?
Finding funding on our was near impossible. The government website didn’t really offer us much. But once we started with UKStartups.org, your Funding Database was so simple to use and really helped us narrow down the 3 funding schemes which seemed to be perfect for us.
Did you have to meet any specific criteria to get funding?
With the funding that we obtained, yes we had to provide a business plan and they pulled our credit score. We also did put in £35,000 towards the business ourselves in order to get the partial contribution grant of £75 thousand. The business plan plaid a big part because we were constantly questioned about everything for about 3 weeks straight.
How did UKStartups.org help you?
Well with you guys we actually did our business plan and found the scheme in your funding database which eventually led to the funding we received. We also used your pitchdeck presentation to pitch a few private investors; but as we were too early on we didn’t get a bite.
How much funding did you get?
We got £65,485 in funding total. It was from 2 different schemes. One was for £35,000 to do additional research and development to improve our product and service, and that was the grant that was requested of us to put in the same amount of our own money. The money was non repayable so that was great. The £30,485 was a grant to help us with the purchase of inventory to get our initial contacts filled.
How soon after applying did you get it?
We applied at the start of 2017, I think it was mid January and got approved for the R&D grant of £35k within about a month and a half. The other grant we got for inventory was later on, I believe in September that we got approved for it. So it took some time.
What is your next step?
Our next step is to continue our growth locally and expand to the rest of the region this year. We have already applied for additional funding from another scheme, but this time it was a low interest loan of £250,000 – we are waiting on that for now. That loan will help us obtain additional inventory and be able to rapidity expand and hire additional staff.
What is your advice to other startups?
Government funding is definitely available and it’s something every single small business should try and take advantage of. I mean, you are paying taxes so it’s up to you if you want to try and get some of that money back in the form of a grant or even a loan to help you and your small business. My recommendation is to perfect your business plan as it’s in my option the number one thing small businesses need in order to attract and impress a funding agency.