Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Are Business Grants, and Are They An Option?

Many small business owners out there have probably wondered what small business grants are, and whether they are a financing option for their new business venture. In this article, we look at what small business grants are, and how they can help your business plan to get funded.

What Are Business Grants?

Business grants are usually either from government, or from individual companies, usually as a part of a corporate social responsibility program.

Often, business grants don’t come in the form of cash, but rather in the form of equipment, tools, or other physical items that your business may need to get started. For instance, if you are planning to start a carpentry business, you might find business grants that will buy you machinery and tools that you need to start your business. There are also business grants that pay for specific training that you might need.

Who Qualifies for Business Grants?

Business grants are usually issued as a part of a social upliftment program, by government or businesses. That means that there are usually strict criteria about who qualifies.

In some cases, those criteria may be that the company is owned by a person from a specific group (BEE ownership for instance, or ownership by a woman.) Other criteria may be that the company will be operating in a rural area, where jobs are scarce, or that a certain number of jobs will be created, often for an underprivileged group.

Most companies and government departments that offer business grants will have their own criteria for selecting recipients, so you will need to contact each one individually, to find out whether you qualify?

What About Cash Grants?

As mentioned, in most cases, business grants won’t be for cash funding. That’s usually because the company or department that are offering the grant want to be sure that the people receiving them are genuinely committed to starting a business, and won’t use the funding for personal items!

In some cases, however, business grants are available to companies that have already received an order that they lack the capital to complete on their own. In those cases, you will need to provide proof that you have received a valid, irrevocable order, and some form of surety. You may also need to undergo a credit check.

Some business grants are also structured as loans, where you are required to repay the money you receive, albeit with a longer term, and relaxed conditions. Make sure that you find all of this out before accepting a business grant, to avoid nasty surprises later on!

Is It Worth It?

Getting a business grant is not an easy process – and with good reason. The companies and government departments who offer them want to be sure that they’re helping serious business people, rather than people who are just looking for easy money.

That’s also why business grants often come in the form of equipment or other items, rather than cash. However, while finding and qualifying for business grants can be difficult, and while you will probably not receive cash in your hand, business grants can be exactly the leg up that new business owners need.

So if you’re serious about starting your business, it’s definitely worth investigating the business grants that are on offer to your industry, area, race group or gender from government and big business. It might be just the boost that your business needs!

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How to Start a Business

If you sit at your desk every day, dreaming of being your own boss, and earning more money while also not having to work for someone else, then you’re probably just a few steps away from taking the plunge and becoming an entrepreneur. However, while most people have those thoughts, going from dreaming, to figuring out how to start a business is what sets true entrepreneurs apart from everything else.

The good news, if you’re wondering how to start a business, is that the process is the same for just about every business, in every industry. In this article, we look at the steps that will take you from dreaming to owning your own business.

1. The Idea

Every new business is born because of one thing: the idea. Without an idea, you cannot have a business. You cannot follow any of the other steps in this article, and you’ll be dreaming at your desk forever!

Business ideas can come from anywhere: they could be based on a need that you’ve identified, or they could be a brand new invention, product, or service. More often, however, business ideas aren’t breaking new ground. They’re based on existing products, services, or ideas. So if you don’t already have a business idea, think about what you’d like to do, and what kind of business you think would work well in your community.

2. The Plan

Once you’ve decided what your business idea is, the next step is to work on your business plan. That means doing as much research as possible, learning how to create a business plan for a new business, collecting ideas and information, and putting it all together in your own business plan.

A business plan is a road map to success, and something that every new business should have, so make sure that you devote enough time to crafting a well thought out and viable business plan for your business idea.

3. Finance

Once you’ve created a business plan based on your idea, you will have a good idea of what it will cost to start your dream new business. That should also give you an indication of the amount of capital you will need. Consider whether you will be self-funding or bootstrapping your business, or whether you will need to seek outside finance. Investigate the various financing options for your new business, and approach companies or individuals who can help.

Business finance is not always easy to come by, but if you want to start your business badly enough, and you have a great idea and a solid business plan, and you persevere, you should find a way to make it happen.

4. Hard Work

Once you’ve found the perfect business idea, written a business plan, and secured financing, the hard work really starts! Entrepreneurs are some of the hardest working people out there, and if you thought being your own boss would be relaxing and stress free, think again!

In fact, for the first few years at least, you will probably work harder on starting and building your new business than you ever worked for any boss! Of course, you will also be richly rewarded for all of that hard work when your business takes off, but prepare yourself for a long hard slog!

Every small business out there will follow the same basic steps from idea to organisation. Those who have done it before are more likely to use business plan services to create the a professional business plan. The process may take a little longer in some cases, and you will certainly learn a lot while you’re starting your business. However, there’s no denying that owning your own business is one of the most rewarding things out there, so if you’re determined to be your own boss, stop dreaming and start doing!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where to Find Help With Writing a Business Plan

If you have a great business idea, you probably already know that you’re going to need a business plan. Whether you’re looking for funding, or you just want to start your business with a solid idea of where you are going, having everything on paper is a great place to start.

However, for the average entrepreneur, writing a business plan is not as simple as it sounds. If you need help with writing a business plan, then read on. In this article, we discuss where you can find the help you need, and what you can expect.

Small Business Incubators

There are several options out there when it comes to small business incubators, and many of them are government run, and therefore free to use.

Small business incubators are programs that are set up to help new business owners to start and run their businesses. Many offer assistance with writing business plans as a part of their service, and they usually have a team of experts on hand for just that reason. Nearly every city and town will have some form of small business incubator program, and you can usually find out more from your local chamber of commerce, or online.


Many small business owners find that they don’t need help with writing a business plan, so much as they need help preparing financials for their plan. If you’re going to use your business plan to apply for funding, then you will almost certainly need a well-written, well thought out plan, including accurate financials.

Hiring an accountant to help you to write the financials section of your plan is therefore a good idea. Most accountants will have a good working knowledge about small business finance, and can help you to create a financial plan that’s well thought out and viable, so it’s often worth the expense!

Freelance Writers

If it’s not the financials you’re struggling with, but you need help with the actual writing of your business plan, then freelance writers are a great resource. There are freelance writers in just about every city or town, and you can even find them online! Most will be able to take your business plan idea and outline, and give it the polish it needs to impress investors, but remember, you will still need to write the plan yourself, so that it’s your ideas that go onto the final document!

Business Students

Another great idea, particularly if you are short of cash, and can’t afford professional services to help you write your business plan, is to approach business students at your local college or university. Most final year students have in depth business knowledge, and will be willing to offer you a consulting service at a fraction of what a professional would charge!

Business Planning Software and Templates

Possibly one of the simplest options, in terms of time and effort, when you’re looking for help writing a business plan, is to invest in business planning software and templates. These vary in complexity and functionality, but most offer some form of interface where you enter your business information and other parameters, and the software does the hard work for you.

Whichever option you choose when you’re looking for help writing a business plan, remember that this is probably the single most important document for your business start up. Whether you use it to secure funding, or simply as a road map to success, your business plan really can make or break your business. So take enough time, consider investing financially to make it as perfect as possible, and you should get the best possible result.