So the TIGER (Thames Gateway Innovation, Growth and Enterprise) fund has been launched although it’s not open for applications until 8 April. It is sure to be swamped with applications for the £20M on offer as match funded interest free loans that are unsecured.
But how do you stand out from the crowd and make sure that you get the match funding too? It’s a big challenge. Expansion East Kent has had a slow start primarily because the quality of the applications submitted had not been thought through. This is not ‘free’ money - that era of government support has gone – you will have to work hard to secure a loan. In fact you have to secure 2 sources of finance, so careful planning needs to start now.
Then where do you start? The first port of call is some ‘joined up thinking’. What is the real reason that you need the money, what are you going to do with it and what will you achieve as a result. Can you achieve the same results in a different way? For example, do you have piles of stock tying up your cash and if you sold that stock would you have enough cash to do the same project? So joined up thinking must come first.
Then it’s down to writing and lots of it…
1. What is your story? This will need to clearly articulate the vision for your business – your company manifesto if you like. If you are not sure what a brand manifesto is then here is some advice Brand Manifesto How have you got to where you are now and where are you going?
2. Write the objectives of the project down – do they make sense are they achievable, relevant and specific? What will you achieve?
3. It’s really easy to write numbers into an Excel spread sheet for your cash flow forecast but do you know what those numbers mean? How realistic are they? Do you know how many units you need to sell to hit your sales forecast and where will those sales come from? You will need to stress test these forecasts and a quick way to do that is to do optimistic, pessimistic and realistic projections – yes that’s 3 cash flow forecasts and 3 sales forecasts! When you have completed these you will at least know the best case and worst case scenarios.
4. Now to write your project plan. That’s the who, what, why, how and when plan. Match this with your budget and stress test it again.
5. Now you need to find the match funding – after all TIGER isn’t going to give you the money if you don’t have the match in place. The awarding body will be happier if you apply with your match already in place. Not always possible, but you should at the very least run both strategies side by side. Chances are that the other funder will want certain bits of information from you so find out the specifics and write those down too.
6. Now you should be in a much better position to actually complete the application and the supplementary information for the application. Once you have written it put it to one side and then review with a fresh pair of eyes, be critical and check for waffle! Better still run it past someone who will give you some constructive feedback. Make it easy for the person reviewing your application to understand it rather than having to sift through for the information.
The team managing the TIGER fund have worked really hard to secure the funding from central government and we will know how funding can help businesses really grow. Successful applicants from the Expansion East Kent fund are testimony to that. The money is not there as a right – it has to be earned and respected.
Further information, and the guidance notes are posted at www.tiger20million.co.uk
Good Luck with your application – remember that joined up thinking will win the day!
These are my own views and opinions and are not necessarily those of anyone directly associated with the TIGER Fund
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