You don’t get anything for nothing

At the Food For Thought workshop in February we were lucky enough to have a presentation from Janet Herniman looking at both what grant funding is currently available and also sharing some of her top tips for making funding bids successful.

BREXIT has undoubtedly introduced uncertainty in the grant funding landscape, but the government is expected to continue supporting investment in our business performance one way or another both before and after March 2019; small businesses are an essential part of the UK economy.

Janet is in a rare position as she works closely with several of the grant awarding authorities in Devon and is in an excellent position to give us the most up to date information about what is available in which area.

Also, this experience gives her detailed knowledge of building a strong funding application; the difference between a fantastic application and one that is not successful.

Whilst some funding opportunities have recently closed to new applications there are still funding streams open and many other businesses are still working on full application preparation.

Janet has four points to consider when writing an application:

1. Need for the money
Grants are available to support investment that would otherwise not take place. You will need to show that the grant money is needed to enable the project to go ahead.

2. Market need and demand
Information on market size, trends, who your target customers are, evidence that you can acquire the extra customers forecasted and that your project will not impact on competitor businesses is an important part of your application.

3. Quantify
When it comes to explaining why the plan you have should be backed by grant funding you’ve got to have more than vague ideas for what the benefit will be. Grant assessors want to see specific proof in terms of: Finance for Food & Drink Businesses Workshop
– what new sales you can generate?
– who will buy your new product or service?
– how much more profit will you make?
– how many jobs will you create as a result?
– what about benefits for your suppliers and other local businesses?
– how do you know all this?

4. Evidence
As well as explaining clearly what your project is, the benefits it will bring to your business and importantly how your project fits into the programme funding priorities you will need to back up your statements with evidence.

Evidence can be supplied in a number of ways such as quantifying specific outputs, sharing your own or independent market research and getting letters of support from suppliers and customers.

In rounding up, Janet stressed that while a successful application can take a lot of work and preparation, the benefits are worth it financially and many applicants say it makes their business stronger as a result.

Where there’s magic there’s margin

At the Food For Thought workshop in February one of the high points was the presentation by Charles Baughan, MD of Westaway Sausages. He gave an energising and inspirational talk which left everyone in the room wanting to hear more.

He began by sharing some of his own survival tips for small business:

As Westaway’s has grown the customer base has become more diverse; now they sell to retail, wholesale, and food service customers both in the UK and abroad. Charles talked us through a comparison of the different channels and markets and discussed the reasons for pursuing this strategy.

It was evident from this that the broad range of customers offered a chance to spread risk and also smooth any short term fluctuations in sales volumes.

However the advice was quite clear: “Sometimes it is better to spend time and effort choosing your customers instead of reacting to every opportunity”, something that supported the business planning discussion from earlier in the day.

Questions that would help work out whether an opportunity was the right one for your business included:

Can they pay their bills?
Do you like them?
Are they high maintenance?
Is their business strategically right for you? (Not just about profit!)
Is the market expanding?
Why are you the best choice for them? Are you cheaper? Better? Faster?

From my point of view this final question is fundamental; success is not just about why “they” are the right customer for you but also why you’re the right supplier for them. That’s where the magic comes in – if you can supply something that fits the customers needs better than the competitors you can make the margin.

The message to take away was clear: make a plan, aspire to great things and then get out there and succeed.

You can find more details of what was discussed at the workshop here