Small businesses face an uphill battle to keep budgets under control. But there is help available. Financial assistance, in the form of government and community grants, goes a long way to keeping small businesses afloat. This instalment of Spark Spotlight looks at the range of funding out there and how to get it…
Anyone who’s started a small business, or at least got as far as drafting a budget, knows how expensive a new enterprise can be. What starts as an exciting opportunity has the potential to be quickly subsumed by financial headaches. Budding business owners should not be disheartened, however. You don’t have to do it alone.
There’s a lot of talk – notably during election campaigns – about financial help for small businesses. Amid all the rhetoric, figures and lofty promises, what tangible funding and benefits can small businesses access?
Generally, there are no automatic grants for simply starting a business. Rather, there are incentives for things like hiring policy, research and development, innovation, expansion and exporting.
Nor are grants randomly bestowed upon well-meaning businesses. You have to actively apply for them, and be able to report back on deliverables and success.
Your company strategy will determine what kind of grants are available to you. As a rule, innovative, community-minded and green initiatives tend to be the most readily rewarded.
Before accepting assistance, you should understand exactly what you’re signing up for. The difference between a grant, a loan and an investment may seem self-explanatory but it helps to be sure.
Put simply, a loan requires return OF the initial capital, whereas an investment seeks return ON the initial capital. As for grants, it might look like free money, but grants are provided by governments or organisations for a specific purpose. While it doesn’t require reimbursement, a grant is awarded on certain conditions. Criteria needs to be upheld. For example, if you receive concessions for meeting energy consumption targets, you need to keep meeting those targets to continue receiving concessions.
It’s easy to assume that your business deserves a grant simply because it’s built on a great premise. Sadly that’s not quite how it works.
There are over a hundred government grants available to businesses in every state and territory of Australia. Here’s just a small selection of the grants on offer.
For the full list of grants visit business.gov.au/Assistance
Industry Skills Fund
This program aims to prioritise highly-skilled workers. Skills advice and training grants are provided.
Efic Small Business Export Loan
As the name suggests, this is designed to help SMEs take advantage of export opportunities when banks and credit unions aren’t able to help.
Described as the government’s ‘flagship initiative for business competitiveness and productivity.’ It offers support relating to accelerating commercialisation, business management and innovation connections. Buzzwords aplenty.
Minimum Viable Product Program NSW
Technology-based SMEs can get support to solve problems for identified potential customers. This program helps tech companies address needs in industries such as:
Up to $15,000 to fund 15% of approved project costs.
Energy Saver Program NSW
Helps you prioritise and implement the key energy efficiency opportunities for your business.
$10,000 for expertise and implementation. 50% off energy audit.
Access Program VIC
Offering services and export-related assistance to Victorian companies visiting overseas markets. Forge new relationships and set up your operations in new regions.
Free overseas facilities and advice for two weeks. Reduced rates for three months beyond that.
Business Development Fund QLD
Early-stage co-investment for innovative Queensland businesses – basically businesses looking to commercialise new research, innovative ideas, products or services.
This is a direct investment in a Queensland business and should NOT be confused as a loan, grant, or payment to other investors. Some people prefer the theatre of going on Shark Tank…
$125,000 – $2.5 million. The amount will not exceed the amount invested by the private sector co-investor.
Business Model Innovation SA
This program teaches manufacturers to look at new business models in order to create new income streams.
Watch the video on the Business Model Innovation program.
Funding is available for fashion designers, musicians and artistic businesses whose projects aim to commercialise creativity.
Commercial, skills and sector development support is available as well as subsidised travel costs. Grants are awarded twice a year – May and October for design; February and August for music.
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme
Financial assistance for costs incurred when shipping eligible non-bulk goods by sea. It aims to provide equal opportunities for Tasmanian businesses to compete in other markets. Interstate road and rail transport is not an option.
The support refunds the difference between the cost of shipping by sea and road or rail freight costs for equivalent distance.
Regional Economic Development Fund
Supporting business growth throughout all parts of the Northern Territory. Grants need approval from the Minister for Economic Development and Major Projects/Chief Minister.
Up to $25,000, with 50% coming from the applicant or funding partners.
ACTSmart Business Energy and Water Program
Rebates for businesses to help lower their energy and water consumption. Successful applicants are also entitled to a free overview, action plan and strategy for lowering their consumption.
Claim back 50% (up to $5,000) on energy and water upgrades.
More ACT grants
With any grant, it’s important to remember that your timing and strategy is crucial securing the grants you want. Make sure you meet the criteria and follow the application process. To find out what government grants and exemptions apply to your business, check out business.gov.au.