Hi guys, this week's blog post is just a little background story as to how I raised £10k for my business start-up - 'HERSIDE'. Disclaimer though - I was extremely lucky in a unique grant opportunity that came my way, which unfortunately isn't available to everyone, so at the end of this post I've included some links to opportunities that are available to everyone. I hope that helps anyone that's interested in raising some cash for their own business idea. So many people I know are using quarantine to start projects and I hope that if it comes to the point that you need capital to take it to the next level, this post can act as a wee helpful reference.
I was living in London, around 2 years ago, when I decided I wanted to launch my own fashion business. And even though I'd decided that this was definitely the right path for me, I had no money to launch it with. In fact not only did I not have any money I was actually getting further into debt every month, thanks to agreeing to a 6 month unpaid internship I was already throughly regretting by month 2 (it was month 5 by the time I decided to launch 'HERSIDE'). Even with my weekend job, I was still losing money, so I knew for certain I'd need to either move back home and save the money I needed, or ask an investor to get on board. In other words, I had to chose between launching the business in a few years time, or start putting together a serious business plan that made me look I knew what I was doing. And while I'm still confused as to everything that I good business plan should include, I thought working out what kind of aesthetic the brand would offer was a good place to start (in comes my saviour - Pinterest!).
I spent the next few months scrolling through what felt like every image ever uploaded, to build up a clear vision of what I wanted the general vibe of the brand to be. From there, it was so much easier figuring out the voice of the brand, how the packaging should look, what kind of add on services were required, what values the brand should instil and overall what gap in the market, this company would fill. It also felt like a safe way to work on my business as I could start developing ideas without spending anything. In hindsight, not having any money was probably a blessing in disguise. It really forced me to use the time to think about what I was doing before blindly burning through cash.
Eventually, I started contacting suppliers and got a good idea of the kind of prices I could expect for, materials, pattern cutting services, grading, packaging and everything else I thought I'd need. And I remember writing down on a piece of paper that £10,000 would be a healthy amount to get me started. For anyone that's super into the laws of manifestation, you'll be super spooked when I say that come September, my university started promoting their brand new Business Accelerator Program that was offering grant money of £10,000. Needless to say I applied and still can't believe to this day I was accepted!
Now I can't speak for other business funding application processes in terms of what they'll ask, but in my experience, everything I was asked were things I had already thought heavily about so it felt really easy to fill out. I didn't feel like there was any scary business questions - it was just a case of making sure I explained myself clearly in terms of why I was applying and what benefits I thought my business would offer my customers. Basically just things that you'd know already if you were applying for funding in the first place - no one is trying to trick you! But as a guide I've included down below, some of the basic questions, you'll get asked, so if you're not sure how to answer these, I'd recommend taking the time to figure it out before applying to anything. And if you can answer them easily, you're already halfway there.
WHAT PROBLEM IS YOUR PRODUCT / SERVICE SOLVING?
WHO DO YOU BELIEVE TO BE YOUR TARGET MARKET?
WHO DO YOU IDENTIFY AS YOUR COMPETITORS?
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR OFFERING?
HOW / WHERE WILL YOUR CUSTOMERS ACCESS YOUR OFFERING?
This particular blog post isn't supposed to be advice as such, (more just a backstory to 'HERSIDE'), but if I were to offer some, it would just be that a good idea, with some sufficient research behind it, is all you need to get started. I remember feeling like, no one would invest and if they did, I'd have to be ridiculously clever. but in reality there are countless organisations and investors just dying to pour money into business ventures - even without proof of concept sometimes. Don't be put off and think you're not good enough. Not to sound cliche but the right attitude really is everything.
Now just one contradiction to that statement. Many investors or investing organisations are looking for businesses that have something unique and have the ability to grow nationally or internationally. They're not looking for lifestyle businesses. For example if you had the dream of launching a local coffee shop, you wouldn't be an ideal candidate but if you thought of a unique concept for the branding or the distribution process or something that would revolutionise the market, then you'd be highly appealing to an investor. So as promised, here are the links that are worth looking into if you're thinking of financing your idea.
RGU Business Accelerator Program - Available to current Robert Gordon University students or ex students that have graduated within the last 3 years. Application process is simple but the maximum value of investment is capped at £10k, although you will be exposed to investors that can far exceed this investment.
Scottish Edge - Available to Scottish founders, with considerable funding of up to 150k. Application process is highly competitive and there must proof of concept. Additionally it is worth noting that only 40% of the money awarded is considered a grant. The remaining 60% is considered a loan.
F6S - Available to anyone, with unlimited funding. Acts as an online resource where founders can search funding opportunities specific to their start-up.
Kickstarter - Available to anyone but specific to the arts. The platform acts as a crowd funding resource, where creatives can have their projects funded by backers, should the goal funding amount be raised within a specific time scale. Kickstarter takes a 5% fee but projects have a 36% success rate.
That is by no means the entire list but they're a good starting point for anyone who is still at the idea stage or just slightly beyond the idea stage.
Next week's post will talk about the Business Accelerator course its self. This was arguably the most valuable part of winning the grant money because the founders all go through a process that develops their way of thinking, as well as receiving the tools necessary for making smart business decisions. I personally found the experience invaluable and I can't wait to share with you how it changed my approach to building my business.
If you'd like next week's blog post sent to directly into your inbox, subscribe to the blog!
Thank you so much for reading and all the kind messages and support so far!
Have a lovely rest of your day!