Grants

Enterprise Allowance scheme – Good for business?

Recently the government has announced the new Enterprise Allowance scheme to support people who have been unemployed for more that 6 months into self employment.

The support is 3 fold

1. A financial package of £2000

2. Business mentors

3. £1000 loan for equipment

What has not been made clear is the amount of cash being made available for the first 6 months of trading. In the past schemes such as test trading offered unemployed people the opportunity to test their business idea by enabling them to stay on their benefit whilst trading.

Details have not been announced how the £2000 will be distributed. Is it is going to be a weekly or monthly payment or is it be

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Disabled and in business? What to do if you become disabled and are self employed.

Becoming disabled is a difficult time for people, as it could affect every aspect of there life. For people who are self employed, becoming disabled can have a disastrous effect on their business.

The first piece of advice I can give to you if you find yourself in this position is to fight! This is not the time to feel sorry for yourself; you may have people who rely on you. I suspect if you are in business you are used to having to fight and if you want to keep your business you will need to act fast!

If you are self employed and have recently become disabled from sight loss (registered blind or partially sighted), become deaf or have mobility issues etc… it could have a negative impact on your business.

There is support out there to keep you in business. The last thing the government wants is for you to quit your business and sign on to full time benefits. In this article I will guide you through the support available and were to find it. Support which is designed to help you remain in business can take time to implement. The quicker you can apply for it, the faster it will be put in place, which should limit the impact on your business.

The main support available to people in business who have become disabled is.

1. Benefits
2. Access to work
3. Grants

1. Benefits

If you are newly disabled and in business, you could qualify for benefits which are designed to support you with the extra cost of living caused by your disability. Benefits such as, Disability Living Allowance are not means tested and could be paid to you whilst you are trading. This extra financial support could help you until you can fully operate your business.

There could also be support if your income drops during this time. You maybe eligible for Working Tax Credits, housing benefit, counsel tax benefit, which will supplement your income.

The key to accessing these benefits are working with the people who understand your disability. You need to contact local charities who operate in your area and specialise in you disability. You can find these by looking in the phone book or using the internet. These charities usually have staff who can help you access support.

2. Access to Work

Access to Work is a Government organisation who can provide funds to pay for a support worker, equipment or adaptation to your working environment to enable you to run your business (see ATW article for more info)

3. Grants

There are 2 different types of grants you may qualify for to enable you to continue in business. The first one is hardship grants if your disability is affecting your income and you are having difficulties in paying your utility bills, rents, child costs etc…the other type is a business grant (see business grants)

The key to remaining in business is knowledge and speed. Work with as many organisations as possible and get all the support you are entitled to.

Business grants – get everything before you start

disabled person getting the most from a grantWhen starting a new business most people will need some sort of capital to pay for things like, advertising, equipment and stock. They will either finance it themselves by using savings, borrowing it from family or through personal/business loans. My favourite way is through grants, simply because if things don’t work out you don’t have to pay them back.

When starting your business and looking for grants you must remember one thing. The vast majority of grants available are for business start up. After you start up in business there is virtually no financial support available. A lot of disabled entrepreneurs I work with have trouble with this concept. They write their business plan, list the items they need and look for the grants to buy them. Once they have matched the grants to the equipment they need, they stop looking.

This is a big mistake, pre-business start up gives you the greatest chance of getting your hands on some free money. Many entrepreneurs don’t look ahead and think about the things they might need in the future. A year down the line they might want a website, PC or newspaper advertising. These are all expenses they will now have to fund themselves which will come out of their profits. If they thought about how their business might develop they could have put a grant application in for these items and got them when they started up.

So, before making that leap into self employment make sure that you have fully exhausted any grants available, because once you start your business, you might find that financially, you are on your own.

Getting the most out your grant or loan – Disabled person’s guide

disabled person getting the most from a grantWhen starting a new business most people will need some sort of capital to pay for things like, advertising, equipment and stock. They will either finance it themselves by using savings, borrowing it from family or through personal/business loans. My favourite way is through grants, simply because if things don’t work out you don’t have to pay them back.

When starting your business and looking for grants you must remember one thing. The vast majority of grants available are for business start up. After you start up in business there is virtually no financial support available. A lot of disabled entrepreneurs I work with have trouble with this concept. They write their business plan, list the items they need and look for the grants to buy them. Once they have matched the grants to the equipment they need, they stop looking.

This is a big mistake, pre-business start up gives you the greatest chance of getting your hands on some free money. Many disabled entrepreneurs don’t look ahead and think about the things they might need in the future. A year down the line they might want a website, PC or newspaper advertising. These are all expenses they will now have to fund themselves which will come out of their profits. If they thought about how their business might develop they could have put a grant application in for these items and got them when they started up.

So, before making that leap into self employment make sure that you have fully exhausted any grants available, because once you start your business, you might find that financially, you are on your own.

Getting the most out of your grant and loan

grany moneyFor a disabled entrepreneur grants for starting up in business can be few and far between. Even if grants are coming at you from all angles it’s extremely important to prioritise the items you need and match the item to the funder. For example some granting organisations will not pay for motor vehicles and only grant IT equipment. If you need a business grant for a van then make sure that you are not applying for a website via the only organisation who will give you a grant for a vehicle.

In my other article Looking for grants guide for disabled entrepreneurs I talk about how you should contact as many granting bodies as possible. I would then make a wish list of all the items I need to start up in business and prioritise them with the most important at the top of the list. I would then try and match the item with the grant provider to make sure I had everything covered.

It’s worth asking the business grant provider what they do and do not offer grants for. Not only will it give you a better chance of getting everything you need, but it may also increase your chance of getting the grant, especially if it’s something they usually fund.

In the past organisations such as the Prince’s Trust gave grants and soft loans to fund a vehicle. Your Disability Employment Adviser may have a discretionary grant which was traditionally used to fund clothing for people who did not have the finances to buy something suitable for an interview. Other uses for the grant would be to purchase tools for jobs which required the person to have their own set. Now disabled entrepreneurs are taking advantage of this grant when they start up in business, suing it to fund specialised safety clothing required for their new business. By matching the item to the grant, you can increase your chance of getting what you want.

Business grants for disabled entrepreneurs? No such thing as a free lunch

business grantsGuess what? Everyone wants free money! And one way to get it is a business grant. As I have discussed locating a business grant can be difficult if you don’t match anyone’s criteria. Being eligible to apply for this “free money” is only the first hurdle in the race to claim your prize. Applying for a business grant can be a long and laborious process with many hurdles, and it’s not only you in the race.

Other entrepreneurs are gunning for these grants, armed with a business plan and determined to get their share of the pot. It’s worth remembering something; these grants are only available for a short period of time or even stop once the pot runs out.

It can be a case with these grants of who shouts loudest will get the grant. An entrepreneur can greatly improve their chances of getting the amount they need by working closely with the grant company and contacting them for regular updates.

Every grant provider will want a business plan and a list of all the items you need. The problem is each provider may want to see something different in each business plan. It’s not uncommon for an entrepreneur to be applying for several grants, working with several organisations and having several versions of the business plan.

This is where the hard work comes in and you realise that there is no such thing as free money. It can be quite demoralising if the business plan you have slaved away on is not what is required to get the grant and when you have got it right for that organisation, another granting body may want you to make changes. Don’t take this personally, every person reading a business plan will expect something slightly different and will want you to make changes. You will save yourself time by listening and working closely with the organisation and making the changes as quickly so that you don’t delay the process.

As I have said, with some of these organisations it can be a case of who shouts the loudest wins, so you can’t afford to sit back and wait for things to happen. Phone for updates regularly and ask them if they need anything else to process the application. You never know, applications for business grants sometimes get lost so it’s worth a phone call to check everything is in place.

All in all applying for business grants can be a time consuming process, but that’s the price you pay for “free money”

Need money for your business? Soft loans, the disabled entrepreneur’s friend

Soft loans are another source of finance when starting up a business. I would always advise people to first try and obtain a grant but if your business has a large amount of start up costs then a soft loan may be unavoidable.

For any disabled entrepreneur taking on a loan should not be done lightly and careful consideration should be given to the interest, the size of the repayments and the overall cost.

Soft loans are usually offered to disabled entrepreneurs by national and regional organisations like the Prince’s Trust and charities who work with the visually impaired, deaf, those in wheelchairs etc.

A soft loan is like any other loan, such as a personal loan or a business loan offered to a person with a disability. Basically you borrow an amount of money to eventually pay back, in regular payments, plus interest. The main differences between a soft loan and a regular loan are;-

1. Soft loans tend to come at a lower rate of interest than your standard business or personal loan. On some soft loans rates are even at 0%, but often there is an administration fee.
2. There is usually a holiday period from when the loan hits your bank account to when you have to start your first payments. This can be up to 6 months.
3. Sometimes organisations supporting the disabled entrepreneur will offer holiday periods if the person gets into trouble paying back the loan. This can be useful to a person with disabilities if their business is on a downturn or illness is dictating how many hours they are working.
4. The biggest advantage of a soft loan is in some circumstances if the business stops because of ill health or lack of business, it can be possible for the debt to be written off by the organisation who granted it. This would be at their discretion and the person with the disability would have to show that they have really tried to make the business a success.

The other thing to remember when being granted a loan is to include the repayments into your business plan and cash flow. This way you will be able to see if you can really afford it.

Looking for grants guide for disabled entrepreneurs

pound notesIt has been a Government initiative for the past few years to get disabled people off Benefits and back into work. This can benefit the disabled entrepreneur as this often means financial help and support distributed by various business support companies, the local Government, charities and Job Centre Plus partners.

Each organisation will have a grant for a certain purpose and for a certain type of person. So when enquiring about a grant it’s always worth mentioning that you are trying to get off Benefits and get back into work!

Working as a business advisor I have helped people in obtaining grants ranging from £500 – £15000. To get these amounts you will need three things; a sound business idea, a strong business plan, and a lot of patience.

If you have already started up in business, are in employment or have some finance available in a bank account, then your chances of getting a substantial grant are incredibly small. So for the purpose of this article I will be concentrating on grants for disabled entrepreneurs who are unemployed

Many clients who come to me want to start up in business yesterday. That’s fine if you have the capital behind to start up quickly, although I would not recommend it. If you require grants to start up in business, be prepared for a long wait.

Grants like most things, are a numbers game. The more you apply for the more chance you have of getting one. So where do you start? The best place is your DEA (Disability Employment Advisor) at the Job Centre. The DEA can be helpful in three ways;-

They may have a capital grant for you to apply for things like equipment or advertising.
They will have information on Benefits that you can still receive whilst in self employment.
Most importantly, they may know other organisations who do offer grants and loans.

This is the best way to play the numbers game with grants. Often a trip to the job centre will unearth other organisations that could help, but again more importantly they may know of other organisations and so on. Do you see how this can snowball?

The main ones are Job Brokers – These are partner organisations that work alongside the Job Centres to give specialist advice on how to return to work. They sometimes have a grant of between £250-£500 available when you start work/self employment. The Job Centre may work with several Job Brokers so it’s important you sign up with the one who is offering you the most money. I would phone each one up and ask them what they can do financially to help you start up.

After exhausting this avenue, I would then do some research, either on the Internet or via telephone and find other organisations that could help. National organisations such as your local Council and Business Link may have small pots of money, but again, always ask if they know of others who could help.

The next set of organisations I would try is Charities specific to your disability. The best place to start is the big national ones. If I was visually impaired for example, I would contact the RNIB and ask them for assistance. Again I must stress, even if they can help always ask if they know of others. Then I would try the local groups, but not only the charities. Often neighbourhood services and community groups will have small pots of money to help you get back into work.

Business! Where to start? Try your local DEA Disability Employment Adviser

Dea on telephoneA question I am asked regularly by disabled entrepreneurs is “Where do I start?” The answer more often than not is with their DEA or Disability employment Advisor at the local Job Centre. Every disabled person who is not in work and is claiming Benefits should have a DEA. A DEA’s job is to help people into employment or in this case, self employment, so in theory they should be a fountain of knowledge on the subject. Unfortunately because the subject is so broad (deafness, visual impaired, dyslexia, mobility problems) it’s impossible for them to be an expert on every disability and know every scheme, Benefit and organisation who could help you into self employment.

Nevertheless they are a good place to start. I would arrange an appointment with one of them, tell them about your plans to go self employed and ask what support is available.

There are 3 questions I would ask my DEA;-

1. What business organisations do they know of who can offer you support?
2. What Government schemes/benefits can help you start up in business?
3. Do they have any grants available for business start up?

1. Business organisations

They should know business organisations in your local area who can help you, but it’s important that you do your own research on who else is out there. It won’t be the first time your DEA has been asked for self employment advice and they should have had dealings which other organisations offering business support.

2. Schemes and Benefits

Your DEA should know different schemes and Benefits you are entitled to when starting your business. Schemes such as “Permitted Work”, “New Deal Test Trading” and “Return to Work Credit” can be ways of receiving Benefits whilst being self employed.

3. Grants

Sometimes a DEA has a discretionary grant to help people into employment, which could be up to £300.00. Traditionally this grant was used to buy clothing such as a suit for a job interview or some safety clothes for a building site. Now DEA are allowing people starting self employment to buy items needed for their business.

Does a disabled person need specialist support to start a business?

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