Yes, grants are available at the national, state, and local council level for sole traders in United Kingdom as long as they meet the government’s growth criteria. State-level grants are more or less available for traders that meet the State’s development agenda. This could be regional development, focus on a particular industry, job creation, or to fund research in a particular subject.
Federal grants in these countries are available for traders that meet national growth requirements like support for International trade, commercialization of an innovative product, etc. When you operate your business as a sole trader, you are more or less the only owner, and you control and manage the business.
Note that operating as a sole trader business means that your personal finances are connected to your business, and they are protected in case of insolvency. A sole trader business is easier to set up, requires less reporting, and costs less to maintain than a company.
However, just because you are a ‘sole trader’ does not mean that you can’t have access to business grants. Small business grants are funds given to a business by an organization for a specific purpose. Grants are available to sole traders during their start-up phase, business expansion, and for research and development.
Unlike small business loans or credit cards, grants don’t need to be repaid, and they won’t hurt your business credit score. If you’re awarded a grant, plan ahead before you dive into spending your funds. Meanwhile, note that every grant has a specific focus, and business owners will want to find and apply to those grants that pointedly meet their needs.
Unlike loans, grants can’t be spent on anything the business deems fit. Grants are expected to be applied to the specified areas explained in the application. Depending on the company, that money may be allocated specifically to hiring fees, land, building, technology, programs, sustainability, etc.
Have it in mind that doing carrying out research to find the right grants for your business can be quite challenging. Again, when you find the right grants, the application process can take time to complete. Competition may be very stiff, so it is imperative you spend whatever time is needed to truly portray why your company deserves it. A grant is simply a sum of capital that doesn’t have to be reimbursed to the donor.
It can be awarded by various modes including organizations, foundations, companies, and ordinary citizens who have extra funding to spare. However, grants do come with restrictions—the money has to be spent in a particular way as outlined by the grant provider. And if you don’t play by the rules, there could be penalties.
4 Best Sources of Small Business Grants for Sole Traders in UK
Government grants for new businesses in the UK cover a range of awards – from saving money on premises and rates, through to buying a cheap plant or IT equipment. Grants come in a number of forms, with over 200 government grants for small businesses available across the UK. The four main sources of grants for sole traders and small businesses are:
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Government Grants for Small Businesses
Government grants for small businesses are available from the UK government, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. Note that all publicly-funded schemes strive to encourage growth, bring wealth and create jobs.
To help achieve this, the government leverages a portion of taxpayers’ money to fund businesses in the form of these grant schemes, of which there are hundreds on offer through a variety of organizations and agencies, which offer funding based on specific criteria and objectives. The primary government organizations which offer grants to small businesses are:
- Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills
- The Technology Strategy Board
- Department for Education
- Department of Transport
- Department for Communities and Local Government
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Investment – Northern Ireland
- Business Scotland
- Welsh Government
- Enterprise Ireland
European Union Grants for Small Businesses
Via the European Commission, the EU provides a wide range of grants, such as the famous Horizon 2020, to UK start-ups and small businesses. Despite the actualization of Brexit, most schemes will continue to accept applications from, and distribute funding to UK businesses – though the European Commission has warned that funding to UK enterprises could cease sooner. The European Commission administers a number of schemes through structural funds made up of:
- The European Regional Development Fund
- European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)
- The European Social Fund (ESF)
Have it in mind that local authorities, agencies, and organizations can also offer capital to sole traders as they strive to support and encourage enterprise in their local areas. Established by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills in 2011, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are a perfect example of this in action: they’re voluntary partnerships between local authorities and the businesses in their region, with funds delegated from central government.
Note there are currently 38 LEPs at work across England with the aim of fuelling growth and enterprise at a local level, including in Liverpool, London, Sheffield, and Cumbria.
Region-specific business grants
If you’re running a business in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, you might choose to narrow down your search to grants offered specifically to businesses in those countries.
Business grants in Scotland
Depending on where in Scotland you’re based, you can also apply for grants offered by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, local council, and more.
Business grants in Wales
From the tourism investment support scheme, which supports tourism businesses, to the Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher Scheme, which strives to improve business’ broadband connections, there are a range of grants available to Welsh businesses.
Business grants in Northern Ireland
There are so many grants on offer to Northern Irish businesses, including NISPO II’s Proof of Concept grant for pre-launch start-ups, and Invest NI grants for slightly older companies – which range from the Propel Programme to the R&D grant.
Just like it was explained above, Sole Traders can have access to business grants both in the United Kingdom. If you are organized and prepared by ticking the boxes, your chances of getting grants will be higher, and you will have access to funds and support for your small business sooner than you expect.
However, once you’ve found the right grant for you and your business or start-up concept, it’s time to pull together a convincing and air-tight application that will stand up throughout the rigorous and competitive application process.