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In this article, we take a look at the grants offered by three organisations, and how three business owners went about seeking finance through their initiatives.

Shell LiveWIRE

Terence Chung’s cosmetics company FRUU was nearly entirely funded thanks to £2,000 of his savings until he came across the Shell LiveWIRE programme, which awards £5,000 in funding to companies prioritising sustainability in their operations.

‘I discovered the programme while watching Dragons Den and found out that one of the successful companies on the show had won the award,’ he says. ‘Although I have always wanted FRUU to be as sustainable as possible as a business, I did not realise there was grant support available specifically for sustainable enterprises.’

The programme was of particular interest to Chung as it provides funding and advice even to businesses in the concept stages of development. Shell LiveWIRE also gives its winners access to networking events and business advice and support, crucial for any young business.

‘The application process was very smooth,’ Chung says. ‘The judging criteria was very clearly laid out. We simply had to show how much of an impact our business could have in reducing waste.

‘We did this by creating a business pitch and defining the potential environmental effects FRUU’s products could have.’

Chung pulled together statistics that explained why FRUU is a unique business model and highlighted the environmental issues he sought to address – such as that most cosmetics products are made with crude oil or petroleum-based products and, as a result, are unsustainable.

‘I think it was particularly crucial that we provided a compelling business case to show that our business model is profitable and scalable, as many of the sustainable initiative have failed to produce profitable results.’

As well as a £5,000 grant, the Shell LiveWIRE programme offers the opportunity for all monthly winners to compete for the annual title of Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year, which has an additional prize worth £25,000.

‘We were overjoyed when we became the August Shell LiveWIRE winners,’ Chung says. ‘The main condition tied to the award was that we had to invest the money directly into the company – which was fine with us!’

China-Britain Business Council

Robert Boyce is director and co-founder of IceRobotics, which provides data collection and analysis products for monitoring dairy cow behaviour. He learned about the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), which supports trade in and with China, through his involvement in the ‘EIE Shenzhen and Hong Kong’ mission last October. ‘EIE is a showcase for Scottish tech firms looking for investment,’ Boyce says. ‘From there we became members of the CBBC and entered this competition.’

IceRobotics won £5,000 worth of business support as part of the CBBC ‘Ready for China’ campaign.This involved using a self-diagnostic tool online to assess export readiness for China and encourage more UK companies to enter the China market.

‘As this was a competition we filled out a form answering questions about our current work with China,’ Boyce explains. ‘Then, a few months later, we were notified that CBBC selected us. We have had a number of calls and meetings since then to talk through the different steps for using their support and the scope of work that would be done at each point.’

CBBC will help IceRobotics initially in identifying potential partners in market. Both sides will then look at the progress and tailor the continuing support to enable an appropriate market entry strategy to be defined. ‘China is a market that raises the interest of any company,’ Boyce says.

Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub

Rob Nicholls, managing director of plastic card manufacturer Plastic Card Services, approached the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub directly for further information on their grant options after hearing about the organisation from a business contact.

With available grants ranging from £1,000 to £6,000 (average grant £4,000), eligible projects need to be focussed on creating new jobs within the region, Nicholls says. Applicants are expected to cover the full project costs up front and complete all the relevant paperwork.

‘The entire process was relatively straightforward and involved a lot less red tape than first anticipated, with assistance available from a dedicated Growth Adviser throughout all stages,’ Nicholls says.

After an introductory meeting with a local Growth Adviser to discuss the company’s specific project requirements and check the company’s eligibility, Nicholls completed an initial application form that included a comprehensive specification and indicative budget set aside for the project that would be used to assess the impact the project would have on the business.

‘The assessment and approval part of the process took less than a week which allowed us to quickly move forward and put together a tender document,’ he says.

‘We then chose to take advantage of the additional facility to advertise our tender document on the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub website to attract more responses which in turn would enable us to get the very best for our project.’

The funding, which in turn came from the European Regional Development Fund, accounted for 40 per cent of the cost of building a website for a strategic partner of the company.