I'd already set up the business on the basis of not getting funding, but then there was a government summit about tackling unemployment where a range of initiatives were being launched. One, the Future Jobs Fund, was a £1bn fund to encourage companies to recruit people aged 18-24 who'd been out of work for nine months or more.
It came up coincidentally rather than me looking for a grant, but we thought that as it fitted the profile of what we're doing - creating jobs in call centres that are perfect for that age group - that we'd put in an application.
But completing a grant application is complicated and it can be time-consuming.
We committed to employing 45 young people over the next six months, and to giving a level of training and experience that would really help them.
One of my employees had considerable experience in writing government bids at her last job. The process for winning those contracts is very similar to writing bids for funding. I knew Heidi would be more than capable.
We had to put in quite a bit of effort, but for £300,000 it was worthwhile. And I'm very pleased to say we were one of very few, if not the only, private sector organisations that were awarded the grant. And we'll be applying in the second round!
We actually secured the government funding before closing our VC funding. Getting the grant gave us the leverage with our investors, and I think it would have been more difficult with them if we hadn't been given that endorsement by the government.
Outsource the writing of the application if you can, to someone with experience of putting together government bids or grant applications.
There are people who write bids professionally who can help. If you do use a consultant, of course look at what their cost is. You have to make sure the value they bring through the grant justifies their fees. Some companies spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds putting together bids, but if the return is juicy enough it can be worth it.
And remember that it's not just the money that benefits your company if you're awarded a grant, but the endorsement that it bestows upon you as well.
Always have a plan B, because if you don't get the grant, you need another way to fund that part of the business.
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