We speak to Milena Fallows, Manager for the Isles of Scilly Voucher Scheme about how now is the time to apply for grant funding.
So, what exactly is the Voucher Scheme?
Voucher Scheme is an investment programme for small and medium companies (which means having between 0-250 employees) who are based on the islands. We try to offer a simple, straight forward process for businesses to access the grant funding. If you have a business growth idea and you meet our eligibility criteria then we can provide grant funding between £1,000 & £100,000 to support your business.
What is the aim of the fund and where does the money come from?
We aim to create jobs, new services and products by funding business growth projects that fast track and enable the step change in their business. The Fund is financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is administered by the Council of the Isles of Scilly and the Voucher Scheme Team. It is a £1.3 million investment fund that aims to create 22 new jobs and support 55 businesses over the next 2 and a half years. Delivering this funding to the business community will be key in strengthening the future resilience of our island economy and sustaining it into the future.
So how is the scheme going so far?
Well, it’s not as easy as you may think getting applicants through the door as sometimes people might think it is too hard to apply or are simply unaware of what we have to offer. However, Voucher Scheme has been here a few years now so people know who we are and what we are about and we have gotten off to a really good start so far. We are keen to reach some of the businesses that we didn’t hear from in the first round and will be arranging plenty of outreach events in the hope of doing so. We try to provide a simple, supportive application process, working directly with our applicants and this year we also have excellent referral partners who can provide support to applicants on some the trickier parts, such as, providing cash flows or business plan support.
We supported some fantastic projects last year and are now on the lookout for more projects that we can help to realise their business growth ambitions. We are looking to support as many businesses as we can before the fund ends in December 2021 so don’t be shy come and see us with any business ideas you might have!
You say the funding ends in 2021, does that mean businesses need to meet some deadlines?
We are at the beginning of the grant so there is still some time, however, I would urge any applicant with a project in mind to register your interest sooner rather than later so that we can get to work allocating the funds straight away. We firstly need to check that it is eligible for the fund and secondly we need to advise you on things that may take some time such as licenses or planning permissions. It is preferable to go through these processes without a tight funding deadline looming over you! Applications of a high value will take a little longer to process and we want to make sure we have time to help, support and get these businesses funded. It doesn’t hurt to get the initial conversations with us underway.
Do you fund start-up businesses as well?
Yes we do, and these can be very exciting as we can be part of the beginning of some very successful businesses. In the last round of funding we worked with gin producers, Scilly Spirit Distillery a start up who have got off to a flying start winning The Drinks Business 2019 award for ‘Best Design and Packaging for Spirits’ as well as a busy start to the gin school. We can fund businesses up to 70% of the total cost depending on the individual project details so it can be a huge help to those trying to launch a business from scratch.
So what could be on my wish list to get funding for?
If you need premises, relocation costs, refurbishment and fitting out of premises, machinery, equipment, technology, professional services such as marketing, web site design or e-commerce site you can add these to your wish list and bring it to us.
Are there things that are not eligible?
Yes definitely, we cannot fund day nurseries, retail facilities, fishery and aquaculture, primary production, synthetic fibres, shipbuilding, processing and marketing of agricultural products, banking, bedspace and insurance or generalised school age education. There has also been a change in the guidance this year so we are unable to fund restaurants and cafes in this round. We would encourage anyone to talk to us if they have any doubts as to the eligibility of their project as we can advise you in more detail.
If I have a project, how would I start the process off?
The process starts by registering your interest and completing an Expression of Interest form found on our website www.iosvoucherscheme.co.uk which should take you about 30 minutes. Then our team will assess the suitability of your business and project for funding. We will then get back to you and work with you on your application. You can also call us directly on 01720 620114 to discuss your project or send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org before submitting a formal application. We are a friendly team so feel free to pop in and see us at our office at the Porthmellon Enterprise Centre on the Industrial Estate.
How long does the whole process take?
This depends on how quickly the applicant can supply the required paperwork and the quality of the documents received. The process is fairly simple and starts by registering interest and completing a short application online. Our team can then assess the suitability of the business and project for this fund. If eligible the applicant then needs to provide procurement and financial paperwork in support to the application. Once all the paperwork is complete we can review and advise on a decision within a few weeks.
For more information on the Isles of Scilly Voucher Scheme please visit www.iosvoucherscheme.co.uk or call 01720 620114.