Funding Options to Start and Grow Your UK-Made Brand
There are a range of ways to fund your business based on what stage you are at, what you need the money for, and where you are located.
How much you need to start your brand, and what you need it for, will depend on the nature of your business. Bear in mind that at the beginning it is best to keep your investment to a minimum by launching with the minimum viable product to test your idea in the market.
With this in mind, often the best place to start is with your own funds.
“The more you’re self-reliant, the better your story will be to investors later down the line. How can you expect others to invest in your business if you’ve been unwilling to do the same?” – Federation of Small Businesses
When you do reach out for funding you’ll need to have a business plan in place and understand how much you need, what you need it for, and how you are going to sell your product.
Here are some of the different types of funding options for your start up brand you might want to explore:
Crowdfunding can be a great way to raise cash for your product-based business, but don’t under-estimate how much work needs to be put into it in order to make your crowdfunding campaign a success!
This type of funding is best suited to those businesses that have a unique or exciting idea that people can get really excited about and want to invest to make it happen. A successful crowdfunder is essentially a marketing campaign that gets customers on board prior to launch.
In all types of crowdfunding you will need to give a percentage of the money raised to the platform that you used to run the campaign, and the fees can vary from one platform to the next.
Unless you specifically want to raise money from overseas look for a platform that has UK-based support and a good audience in the UK.
With all of these platforms make sure to do lots of research to see the types of campaigns that work best on the site, and whether your business and products would be a good fit. Backerkit.com has some good info on the success of recent campaigns.
There are several different types of crowdfunding that you can do, as follows:
This is when you offer something to your ‘funders’ in exchange for their money. Typical platforms that people use for this type of crowdfunding are Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Pros: You can sell your product before you have manufactured it, allowing you to gauge the interest of buyers for new product ideas, usually for a discount on the future price.
Cons: There is a lot of competition on sites like Kickstarter and you will need to find ways of driving traffic to your campaign. So if marketing and PR is not your strength you might find it tough.
On some sites, if you don’t meet your target you get nothing at all, so make sure you have some friends and family to chip in at the end if you don’t quite reach it.
You can sell shares using crowdfunding sites such as Crowdcube or Seedrs.
Pros: If you are happy to sell a share of your business then this could be a good route to go down if you need to raise a lot of cash for something such as machinery.
Cons: Investors will expect to see a return on their cash and you will have them to answer to if the business doesn’t go as planned!
Donation-based crowdfunding is when people give you money to support your charity or cause. Sites that you can run a donation-based crowdfunding campaign on include Go Fund Me and Just Giving.
Pros: If you have a worthwhile cause and a great story to tell they could be an option.
Cons: Not used so much by product-based businesses
Peer-to-peer lending is a way of getting a loan from members of the public – and then paying it back with interest. It’s like a crowdfunding bank! Funding Circle is one such platform that has been around for a while in the UK.
Pros: Can be a quick way to raise money if you need cashflow and can’t get a bank loan
Cons: You have to pay the money back – with interest!
Government Backed Start-Up Loan
You can apply for a government-backed Start Up Loan of £500 to £25,000 to fund a new business.
Unlike a business loan, this is an unsecured personal loan with a fixed interest rate of 6% per year, payable over a period of 1 to 5 years. You’ll need to have a detailed business plan outlining your figures to be approved for the loan and pass a credit check to be approved for the loan.
If your application is successful you’ll also get free support and guidance to help write your business plan and up to 12 months of free mentoring.
Local Enterprise Growth Hubs
LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) are ‘Growth Hubs’ that support businesses locally throughout England. They have information on local funding available from the Government.
Availability of information and grants can vary widely by region, tending to be more available in areas that have higher levels of economic hardship.
What’s available can change on an ongoing basis, and as much of the recent funding came through the EU it remains to be seen what will be available in the future, but your first port of call for grant and loans should be contacting your LEP to find out what they are offering.
➞ Find a LEP Growth Hub near you
Department for Business, Energy Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
You can search for funding via the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy on the Government website.
You can search through available schemes, from grants to expertise and advice based on your location, size and business stage and industry.
When it comes to Government grants, these change all the time, as do the different types of tax relief available, so it is worth befriending a business advisor from your Local Enterprise Partnership to keep on top of what you might be entitled to.
Often grants are given on a match-funded basis i.e. you need to put in a certain percentage of the cash and the grant will match a percentage of it. Grants and funding applications can take up a lot of your time, often having complex forms to complete and a range of criteria your business needs to meet.
You need to assess whether the amount of money you will receive at the end is worth the time it will take you to apply for the funding – or whether your time and resources might be best spent adding value to other areas of your business.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, as they say!
Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme
The Government’s SEIS offers tax relief to people that invest in your business. You can receive up to £150,000 from investors in this scheme and they get a 50% tax break.
Your business has to be under a certain size but be a Limited company. There are various advisors that can help you complete all of the paperwork.
More details on the Government website – written in their usual jargon
Manufacturing Growth Programme
An EU-funded project for manufacturing SMEs. It’s match funded up to 35% but is only available in certain regions.
There are various phases of when the money is available (due to run out in March 2023) and lots of different regional advisors set up to help do all of the paperwork.
UKRI (Previously Innovate UK)
UKRI runs various bids for businesses that want to raise cash for an innovation-based project. The funding is fiercely competitive and often the same companies (who know how to best win a bid) get the money.
Keep an eye on the UKRI website to see the funding rounds that come up and if you might have a project that would qualify.
UK Trade Show Programme
The UK Trade Show Programme is offered by the government to help UK business attend or exhibit at overseas trade shows.
Employing an apprentice
You can get help from the government to pay for apprenticeship training.
You may be able to get an additional payment of £1,000, depending on the apprentice you hire.
UnLtd Starting Up Award
UnLtd Starting Up Award is for those who have an idea or are already making a difference and are looking for support to develop a social venture. They offer funding and support to help you get started or grow. Funds available up to £18,000.