“I’d love to get some government grants to help run my business!” It’s a common cry from small business owners around the country.
Problem is, there isn’t a government in the country – federal, state or local – which gives out money simply because you run a business. Ironically, realising that fact is the first step towards securing government assistance. That’s because government programs for small business are generally for specific purposes. They target specific industries and specific aspects of doing business.
They also do more than just give out money. There’s expert advice, training programs and other capacity building activities on offer. So, it pays to familiarise yourself with what’s on offer and from which tier of government. Because there is a lot of support out there, but you have to do a bit of digging to find the right opportunity for you.
Look at the state you’re in
The first step in your search should be your State government, and specifically the government departments which deal with small business and industry matters. Depending on which state or territory you’re in, you’ll find a suite of programs designed to help small business. As always with these things, some states offer more than others.
The stand-out state at the moment is Queensland. Advance Queensland offers a great range of small business grants. On their site, you’ll find a diverse and interesting set of opportunities, many focussed on innovation and business growth. In particular, check out the Business Development Fund, which offers grants of up to $2.5m for commercialising research or innovative ideas.
Victorians need to head over to Business Victoria. And if you’re a small business in Victoria, there’s a couple of very handy little programs which offer 50% of the cost of strategic planning and business mentoring. This is a terrific example of a government program which offers both money and support to help grow your business.
Sadly, if there’s a state which is punching below its weight, it’s NSW. There’s a lack of programs in that state which are straightforward, hit a real need for small business and result in dollars in your bank account. But there are a couple of useful opportunities, including the Business Connect program which offers small business advice and the Small Business Grant which offers some relief from payroll tax. For tech firms, the Minimum Viable Product program is worth a look, offering up to $25k matched investment in getting an idea off the ground.
Need a handy guide to what’s available in your state? The federal Government site, business.gov.au has a useful Grants & Assistance Tool, which allows you search all government grants and filter by state. (You’ll find plenty of sites out which offer this service, but this one is free) Another useful feature is that you’ll be able to see both state and federal grants available. Which brings me neatly to…
Head for the Feds
The Federal Government also has a range of support on offer for small businesses and business.gov.au is your starting point here. Here are a few opportunities which should be on your radar.
One of the government’s best kept secrets is the Entrepreneurs' Programme. It’s business management stream offers a free business evaluation by an experienced business advisory, plus a matched grant of up to $20,000 to help implement the advisor’s recommendations. You need to turnover at least $1.5m and work in a small number of targeted sectors, and completing the evaluation can also give you access to a range of commercialisation and research assistance.
On the other hand, one of the most popular programs is the Export Market Development Grant offered by Austrade. It offers a grant of up to 50% of eligible costs of marketing your business overseas (less the first $5,00 spent). It’s a useful program, but highly complex and the compliance processes can be very onerous, so you’ll need to maintain a high level of recordkeeping (down to keeping travel diaries and retaining boarding passes).
Talking of complexity, there’s the Research & Development Tax Incentive. This is a tax rebate for those companies engaging in eligible R&D activities. Like the EMDG, the requirements are many and complicated, but there are many consultants who specialise in these grants and it can pay to engage one to help navigate you through these tricky waters.
Again, take the Grants & Assistance Tool for a spin, and you’ll see the range of help on offer, in areas such as diverse as training, energy efficiency and waste management. Again, think specific, not general.
Local government organisations, particularly those in the bigger metro areas, are also able to offer businesses a helping hand. City of Sydney’s Business Improvement Grant offers funding to help spruce up your shop front. City of Melbourne offers a range of Small Business Grants to help local small businesses grow, innovate and stay present in the local area, as does Perth City Council.
Not sure what your council can do to help? Often councils employ economic development officers who can point you in the right direction to support programs. Time to track them down!
We have plenty of experience assisting clients with grants and we work with a wide network of preferred suppliers to ensure our clients get the right advice for the right grant. If you're interested in learning more, drop us a line. We'd love to help.