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Free money: how to get your hands on government grants for small businesses

2 November 2016

Oh, to be a kid again. It might be the only time in your life free money existed. Sure, you might have to do some household chores for your pocket money, but occasionally, someone – grandparents, aunts, uncles – would give you money just for being you. A nice concept, but when you’re a grown-up managing the cash-flow of a media agency (i.e real responsibilities), hand-outs don’t exist. Unless, of course, you ask the government. 

That’s right. If the cash flow of your agency needs a boost, government grants and tax incentive schemes (TIS) are worth investigating. Government grants for small businesses are often overlooked because the application process seems too onerous. But for those in the media or creative industries, there are billions – yes, billions – of dollars set aside every year that fund non-repayable grants, low interest loans, and training programs.  

If you’re strategic about the process, it doesn’t have to be too difficult and it’s an easy way to boost your cash-flow. Read on for some clever tips that will get you started.

Government grants to suit all needs

Depending on your business needs, there’s assistance available for a variety of scenarios, from film projects to digital content.

For example, Gelatissimo, a successful dessert retailer, received $60,000 to expand their business internationally and now have stores in Philippines, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. On the more artistic side of the scale, awarding-winning musical duo Angus and Julia Stone received $73,935 to finance a consultant, and Sarah Blasko received $20,000 to conduct a six week international tour.

Some other lucrative grants include:

  • International Marketing Support: Screen Australia provides up to $20,000 for the promotion of Australian content and talent at key international festivals and awards events.
  • Regional Flagship Events Program (NSW): Destination NSW provides $10,000 to support the marketing of events that play an important role in bringing visitors to regional NSW.
  • Digital Media Fund (Tasmania): up to $25,000 encouraging Tasmanians to demonstrate an entrepreneurial approach towards online screen content. This includes cross media, trans-media, computer games, and online webisodes.
  • ScreenACT (Canberra): a total of $400,000 is available to support production of high quality feature films, television series and other screen projects in the ACT.
  • Regional Events Scheme (WA): a pool of $850,000 to support established and new regional events in Western Australia.
What do you need to do?
  1. Check the eligibility criteria

10% of grant submissions are knocked back because of ineligibility. Many grants are very specific. This is great if your needs match the criteria, but assessors look for reasons to knock applicants back, so matching nine of 10 eligibility guidelines won’t cut it. The good news? Tax incentive schemes (TIS) are not competitive and if you do match all the criteria, you’re guaranteed inclusion.

  1. Be aware of deadlines                                                                                                   

Don’t underestimate the time and effort required to prepare a grant application. For larger, more competitive grants, you’ll need to start the process about three to four weeks in advance of the due date. The only exceptions are TIS. They don’t have deadlines and are only influenced by policy reform.

  1. Word your application correctly

As mentioned, many grant assessors look for what’s wrong with an application instead of what’s right. There’s a fine balance between writing a concise, yet persuasive and interesting application. In addition, you’ll need to present relevant supporting material as well as a detailed budget and overview of your cash management strategy. If you think you might need help, then consider a grant or TIS advisor. We used CharterNet recently. Our application was processed quickly and approval was granted with no questions asked. 

  1. Establish credibility

Endorsements from customers and industry groups, financial data, and previous approved grants will all enhance your credibility. Additionally, assessors like to see agencies that are managed by leaders with varied experience.

  1. Ask questions

You won’t be penalised if you need clarification, and asking the right questions can save you a huge amount of time. Each grant will have a project leader that you can contact, or a grant or TIS advisor may be able to help you.

Ready to start researching government grants?

Starting your grant research can be a little overwhelming but the best place to start is The Australian Government’s Grant Finder. You can search by industry, state and opt to include advisors, events and contacts in your search.

If all goes to plan and you’re awarded a grant or TIS, then pop the champagne! But remember, you’ll need to satisfy certain reporting requirements and provide accurate cash flow forecasts (easy to do with platforms like Skippr). This will retain your funding and make future grant applications even easier.

There you have it. It’s not quite the no-strings-attached pocket money of your youth, but government funding should be considered in your agency’s cash management strategy. Get applying…and good luck!


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Topics: SME Grants

Written by The Skippr Team

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