Today I decided to spend some time looking at the required forms and paperwork to apply for a Leadership Grant to start my small business. I plan to start with something simple, inspirational note cards. Using my own photographs, which in all truthfulness are rather nice, I add a verse or two of Psalms. The inside of the cards are left blank so you can write your own note. I’m pleased with the results, and once I figure out how to upload a few samples to this blog I’ll let you see what I’m doing. So far, I’ve gotten some good comments. As I was saying, I’m starting this small business selling just the notecards with the idea to expand later (I have ideas!), once I start making a little money. To begin with, however, I need a small grant to purchase some equipment (digital printer, Mac computer—the preferred computer for artists, and maybe a digital single lens reflex camera, although my point and shoot Olympus has gotten some phenomenal shots.) These are really the only purchases I need to start this small business, so I thought a simple business plan would be enough to apply for a grant for some start-up money, 2 or 3 thousand dollars would buy all that I need plus paper and ink, too. After all, this is a simple cottage industry with me as the sole proprietor—a small business.
I Googled “grants for start-up money for small businesses,” and that is how I found Leadership Grants. Excitedly, I filled out the simple inquiry form, and the next day I received notice that Leadership Grants was happy to accept a request for funds. I was given a password, skipped on over to their web site, and promptly found the information they needed to consider my request (for funds for a small business.) I opened up the first template (business plan) and saw that it was 49 pages long…49 pages for a small business! The first questions were simple and straightforward, something you would expect when asking for money from any funding source: What form of business are you in? What type of business is it? Is it a new business, a takeover, a franchise? What is your product or service? Nothing unexpected. I can do this.
The next questions were about products and service. I could handle those questions, too, although they did take a little more thought. The third group of questions, though, moved me into unknown territory and they had to do with marketing: What are the key drivers, movers and trends in the market? To whom do you market your product and services? How will you educate your customers to buy from you? Who is your target market? I began to feel a little anxious with these questions, but except for the drivers, movers and trends question, I figured this was doable. Mind you, we are still on the first page of a 49 page template.
Turn the page, and now they (Leadership Grants folk) are asking about my competition! Is your service better, faster, cheaper, and if so, why? Is your advantage a temporary window and are there steps you can take to protect your position? What have you learned from your competition? From their advertising? How is their business currently? Steady? Increasing? Decreasing? I realize that the aforementioned folks have to be careful with their money, and that they want to know that they are granting funds to entrepreneurs who have well thought out plans, but for my small business this was over the top! And there was so much more!!!
By the time I got to the detailed Market Analysis portion of the request form, my eyes had glazed over and my brain ceased functioning. When I reached Psychographics, I was laughing hysterically: status seeking or trend setting? Socially or environmentally conscious? Free spending or conservative? Practical or fun seeking? Then the Leadership folks wanted names, addresses and phone numbers of my top three competitors? What???
All I want to do is set up a little side business to bring in a little extra money. I am a photographer and a bit of a writer. I just thought that I could make some simple cards and sell them to some friends and family, possibly some small shops (owners I know) would be willing to sell a few cards now and then for me. Just a small business in need of a small grant for start-up costs.
I closed my file with Leadership Grants, and now I’m back to Google looking for small grants for small businesses.