Lauren is starting her own business and is sharing a little of her journey on Startacus. (here's a handy link to The Startup Blog - Week 1 and to The Startup Blog - Week 2). This week she shares some good news with us all (funding!) and what this funding will mean for her big idea...
This week, I managed to enjoy my first mini celebration in the steps to starting my own business. I applied for grant funding from the finance pot of the Welsh Assembly’s local investment fund and it was approved. This is a small but significant achievement for me for two reasons: 1) my business plan was scrutinised by those making the award, which means its passed its first viability test, and 2) the funding will help pay for the development of the website, which I can now make a start on.
I first heard about the finance option several months ago when I met with a business advisor from the Welsh Assembly to discuss my idea. These funds are hard to come by and limited. When I originally applied, they were waiting on a new pot of money from the central office and I debated whether it was worth the time to still apply. Obviously, in starting up a business I’m eager to get it off the ground and don’t want to be held up by months of paperwork and red tape, even for a much-needed financial grant. However, in hindsight it was the right decision. Spending significant amounts of money early on in the life of a start-up is a dangerous game because there are still so many unknowns, and the extra time has allowed me to narrow down my idea and get my requirements completely clear in my own head before handing out money to a supplier.
I would definitely recommend to any aspiring entrepreneur that they seek help from local business advisors as early as they can – if you look on the government Business Link website (or Business in Wales, if you are in my area), you’ll find the relevant contact details. These things take time but these advice services are often free and they can be a great source of information for things such as financing. With banks restricting their lending to businesses, other avenues such as grants can mean the difference between some businesses being able to launch or not. Of course, being in Wales I’m not able to use the start-up loans scheme that is available in England, but I would also recommend looking at this as the mentoring plus loan package looks very attracting – and they recently removed the age restrictions of 18-30 (a big thumbs up from those of us who do not consider a 30-something to be ‘past it’ in the business world!).
So how will my grant funding be used? Well, my business plan is for a gift website so it will be used to fund a beta site to test my idea. Although a gift website might sound a bit boring, it does have some unique characteristics which I will talk about in the coming weeks. However, the grant money means I’ve now been able to secure the services of a designer and a developer to begin work on the beta site. I’m fortunate in that I used to work for design agencies myself, so I’ve been able to do a lot of the initial legwork to structure and define what the site will look like, and now I’ll be using the talents of my suppliers to bring it to life. Initial timescales are around 6 weeks but since I’ve done this for a living I know it is likely to take a bit longer than that before it is completely ready for launch.
Next steps for me: Whilst the website is in development, I will be turning my attention to some initial sales activity. I will be starting to approach potential customers for my business and I will be looking at starting SEO activity for my new website in preparation for the launch.
And we look forward to hearing more from Lauren over the coming weeks. And at this point a little reminder that you can read The Startup Blog - Week 1 and to The Startup Blog - Week 2 via this handy provided links! If you would like to write about your startup story or tale - feel free to give us a shout too at [email protected]
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