Aside from the slight stumbling block on the 'lockdown route map', most British businesses are now back at work or expecting to reopen in the next four weeks.
However, the SAS Accounting team works with hundreds of small companies and sole traders, some of whom feel that they face a substantial mountain to climb to get anywhere back to pre-pandemic profits.
If that sounds familiar - don't feel you're alone!
There are vast amounts of anxiety across the sectors, with furlough support coming to an end and the Recovery Loan Scheme replacing the prior, more targeted lending.
Here we've collated a wealth of resources to help small businesses grow, whether you need financial assistance rebooting your trade or longer-term collaborations with business development organisations.
Small Business Support Initiatives - Not Just for Lockdown!
First, you can find more information about the Recovery Loan Scheme in our recent blog.
This programme replaces CBILs, CLBILS and BBLS (so many acronyms), so there is still governmental support for businesses impacted by COVID-19.
That said, it isn't a catchall, and if you were, say, starting a new company when the pandemic hit or had plans to expand stifled by lockdown, you may not be eligible.
The good news is, there are several ways to seek assistance, many of which were around far before we'd all learned what a Coronavirus is!
The Start-Up Loan Scheme isn't new; it's managed by the British Business Bank, the very same organisation that rolled out the recent programmes.
Entrepreneurs and those looking to get a new company off the ground can apply for loans of up to £25,000, with terms looking like this:
- Zero application fees or account administration charges.
- Free help with the application process.
- Loans over one to five years.
- Fixed interest, charged at 6% per annum.
- Free templates and guides to help with the application.
- Complimentary mentoring support.
- Values available between £500 and £25,000.
Loans are unsecured and made to the individual, so they are very low risk and aren't tied to your home. You also don't need to offer security or provide a guarantor.
Apprentices are a great way to expand your workforce, offer an opportunity to a young person, and train an exceptional professional to join your team.
There are costs involved, as you'll need to contribute 5% of their training costs, but the government covers the other 95%.
You can also apply for financial support, set at £3,000 for apprentices hired before September 2021.
Note that National Minimum Wage rates are lower for apprentices, so it's an affordable option if you would like to take on a trainee but have budgetary restrictions to think about.
Innovate UK Competitions
The next financial opportunity we'll look at is competitive rather than a grant or low-cost loan.
Innovate UK offers awards, some of up to tens of thousands of pounds, primarily for innovating, diversifying, meeting a social need, or creating something new that will benefit the British economy.
There are many categories you can apply for with new competitions announced regularly - some examples are:
- Sustainable Plastic Packaging - grant recipients share £7 million to help meet the UK Plastic Pact targets.
- Smart Grants - awards of a share of £25 million for R&D innovations that enhance the economy - open to micro, small and medium-sized businesses, individuals and business collaborations and with a broad scope to consider applications.
- Young Innovator Awards - grants of £5,000 towards personal costs and business support to help applicants aged from 18 to 30 wanting to turn an idea into a real business.
You can browse the Innovate UK award categories to see if any would apply to your business.
Federation of Small Businesses
The FSB does charge an annual fee to join (£147 in year one plus a £30 joining fee).
However, that membership comes with a lot of benefits:
- Free legal advice line and insurance protection.
- Health and safety advice and training modules.
- FSB auto-enrolment pension services.
- Cash Advance, with flexible funding offered.
- Debt recovery support if you're owed money.
- Free tax advice and HMRC investigation protection.
Alongside all that, you also get access to the FSB Funding Platform with a 24/7-phone line and a straightforward application process.
The idea is that the FSB funding team helps small businesses identify the correct type of funding and then get their application put together and approved.
Local Business Support
We don't have space here to list the thousands of local support schemes - but there are many other options.
From £5,000 grants for business coaching in the West Country through Business West, the Heavy Duty Vehicle Fund, working to help SMEs become greener, or UnLtd Awards for young business people, there is help out there.
If none of these ideas looks like a fit for your company, a great resource to use is to consult the Small Business Grants database.
This shows a massive range of options, some localised and others nationwide, all directed at SME growth and support.
We hope some of these links are useful and are always on hand if you are struggling with your financial forecasting or working out the best ways to budget for tax and payroll obligations!
Get in touch with the SAS Accounting team for professional advice on any of the schemes mentioned here, or if we can offer our expertise in navigating the trading periods ahead.