Entrepreneurship Grants – Previous Winners
Every three months I give away three no-strings-attached grants of $1,000 each to help budding entrepreneurs. That’s $12,000 for the year.
So far we have given away $9,000 in grants and applications for the final round have just closed. Here are the previous winners:
Non-Stop Lollipops – Caffeine Infused Lollipops
Joshua Byers is a law student who has been working on this idea for a while. Coffee and energy drinks are expensive and get boring quickly. So he has come up with an interesting alternative, caffeine infused lollipops. Check out his infographic above. He is a great example of what I was describing in the introduction. Joshua has done everything needed to launch but is just short of money. He has a manufacturer ready, has launched his website, incorporated a company, done some branding and quite a lot of market research. All he now needs is money to place those first few orders and get his prototype refined.
What the grant will do: Joshua will probably need some more funding before his product hits the shelves, but he is at the stage where getting an investor or interest from a crowdfunding campaign would be difficult. The $1,000 will pay for the prototype to be refined and improved, including putting it in front of focus groups. With that done and provided the feedback is good getting funding or a large pre-paid order should be much easier.
Afrikstart- Crowdfunding Site for African Entrepreneurs
Edwige Boum is a financial consultant turned entrepreneur who has spent the last two years working on her brain-child Afrikstart. In her own words:
I have created Afrikstart out of a real desire to give an alternative source of funding to entrepreneurs across Africa who struggle to get access to capital from banks and investors. Years ago, after seeing my brother give up on his dream to create a retail business in Cameroon (West Africa) for lack of funding, I thought then there must be an easier way to provide easily accessible and affordable financing to entrepreneurs in Africa. Like my brother, I came to realize that many fellow ambitious entrepreneurs in Africa bootstrap for their business, or rely on family and friends. Those who apply for business loans face over 20% interest rates on average. Crowdfunding came to me as a solution to reach many underfunded entrepreneurs in Africa.
Afrikstart is the solution, a crowdfunding platform dedicated to fund African entrepreneurs. After two years of work, countless hours of work and lots of great press, it is almost ready for launch. It just needs some money… What the grant will do: The grant will have two uses.
- Pay a three-month subscription for a white-label crowdfunding platform to launch the first 15 pilot crowdfunding campaigns.
- It will fund a 12-weeks crowdfunding training program for entrepreneurs looking to use the platform.
Hollie Burgess – Blog
Hollie has been working on her blog for the past three years all while working a full-time job. And she has made it a success. The blog is now very well read, has won numerous awards and been featured on countless sites. Including: The Mirror, Daily Mail, The Sun and Look Magazine. But it isn’t doing well enough to pay her a full-time income. Hollie is currently on maternity leave with her first son and is faced with the tough choice of going back to work and a stable income, or taking the risk and trying to make the blog a financial success, but without the income to support her family. What the grant will do: Hollie is due to return from maternity leave and the grant will allow her to not go back to work, but instead dedicate herself full-time to her blog and to looking after her son. She has proven she can make the site work, now she just needs the time and headspace to take it to the next level.
Colin Hayes – M50 Mobile Toll Payment Platform
York Circus School – a Social Enterprise
I am applying for this grant to help me purchase the initial equipment required for setting up the York’s first ever Circus School.
About Me: I am currently a High Performance Computing Manager for the University of York; however, through a cost-cutting centralisation process I am about to be made redundant thus enabling me to start something new and exciting! Since my hobbies include circus related skills, and the fact that I very much enjoy working with children I have had the very exciting idea to start a circus school in York (the nearest circus school is 25 miles away in Leeds)!
Initial Aim: To provide an amazing learning experience for primary school aged children through being taught various circus skills in fun and exciting workshops. These workshops will be designed to be more than just “different” PE lessons: since I am also a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador, students will find themselves learning about gravity, patterns, logical thinking and choreography, both individually and in group work.
In the first year, I will aim to deliver these workshops to as many primary schools in the York area as possible and I will prioritise visiting schools that can be visited on a regular basis. However, in the first couple of months I will start with targeting 2 schools that already know me well, and offer them free sessions in order to test and refine the lessons. This will help build credibility for the business and allow word of mouth to spread the news of what my business can offer other schools.
Medium Term Aim: After the first few terms I hope to build up enough enthusiasm in the children to consider opening after-school clubs in order to be able to start teaching some more advanced skills such as unicycling and slacklining. At this point I will seek out potential volunteers to help teach juggling and slacklining.
Longer Term Aim: Once the business has grown I will then aim to find a suitable venue to hire/buy as a permanent base. This will give the York Circus School opportunities to introduce aerial circus skills and acrobatics. At this point I will be seeking to employ instructors to join the teaching team. It is also hoped that the venue can be shared with the York juggling community and the York slacklining community.
Seed financing: My imminent redundancy pay-out will help cover the initial start-up salary costs for the first 6 months. My application for your entrepreneur grant, if successful, will enable me to buy the equipment needed for the schools’ work and after-school clubs. I will aim to get funding from PE and Sport Premium government funding so that I can provide the workshops at little or no cost to the schools.
Looking further ahead, when I am at the stage of buying/renting a building for the circus school, I plan to apply to charities for funding. Because of this long-term goal I plan to start the business as a Community Interest Company, CIC (a CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders), which will then enable the York Circus School to apply for charitable grants.
Research: I am currently a regular visitor to 8 York schools through running either lessons as a STEM Ambassador or as a York Schools and Youth Trust volunteer helping to run assemblies and lessons. From all the staff I have talked with over the past few months, including 6 friends who are teachers (2 of which are acting heads), there has been overwhelming enthusiasm concerning the idea of the business, including several who have already asked “when can we book you in?”. I have done broader searches in the York area and there appears to be no individuals or organization providing circus training for schools.
I have looked around at the UK national scene, and broadly speaking there are scattered pockets of either individuals or small companies providing circus training around the country, and most of these are charging in the order of £200-300 a day with the schools paying for this from their PE and Sport Premium government fund (an average 200 pupil Primary School receives £18,000/year from this fund). Therefore, there is much potential for starting a financially viable York Circus School business.
Personnel: Initially it will be just myself.
Personnel Skills: juggling of scarves, balls and clubs; club, flag and poi swinging; hand walking; unicycling; slacklining
1.0 Create business plan
1.1 Seek investment and grants
1.2 Open the York Circus School as a Community Interest Company
2.0 Contact primary schools and gain interest
2.1 Check school insurance cover
3.0 Buy initial equipment and insurance cover
3.1 Plan trial lessons for up to 2 schools
3.2 Run PE lessons
4.0 After initial trial lessons seek possibilities of running after-school club
4.1 Look to involve local slacklining and juggling communities
1.0 Seek further funding
1.1 Look to hire/buy building for after-school/evening with possibility of slacklining and aerial work
1.2 Investigate insurance for building and associated circus work
1.3 Buy year 2 equipment
1.4 Advertise for teaching staff to join the team
Thank you very much for reading this plan for my start-up business. If you should award the grant to me, it would be an extremely gratefully received boost to getting the initial equipment bought for this exciting new adventure.
Jenny Lachs – Digital Nomad Girls
My name is Jenny Lachs and I am applying to the Arbing Grant today for my business Digital Nomad Girls (DNG).
I thought I’d tell you my story quickly before I jump into my business vision and why I’d love to win this grant.
I’m originally from Munich in Bavaria, and in my ‘old life’ I was a chemist. I studied for nearly ten years and got my bachelors, masters and then even my PhD in organic chemistry. I was always very passionate about my research and lab work, but during my PhD I realised that focusing on 1 molecule for 4 years is quite limiting and I missed working with people.
I knew Science would not be my future, I only knew that my big passion was travelling. So after my PhD I took off on an around-the-world-trip which has since turned into a full-time lifestyle nearly 4 years later.
I started working online just over 2 years ago. After travelling to South and Central America, Australia and South East Asia asa backpacker, I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand to become a digital nomad.
As a chemist I had no idea what online skills I had, so I set myself a challenge to try any online job I could find. The idea was that I’d see what I enjoyed doing, gained some experience and ultimately would carve out an online career for myself. This is exactly what happened. I started writing articles, ghost writing, translating, doing social media management and even a bit of WordPress design.
Very early on I realised that I was usually the only girl at the coworking space where I worked, and only one of a few girls at meetups. I really wanted to connect with other aspiring digital nomads just like myself and started a Facebook Group called Digital Nomad Girls just over 2 years ago. When I invited the first few girls I’d met into the group, I had no idea that this little project would turn into my passion project and ultimately my business, just a year later.
It was quite clear from the start that there was a huge demand for a space where girls could connect with each other, ask their questions and share their experiences, knowing that this was a safe space for them.
I now have over 12k members, I am about to run my 3rd coworking retreat next month and I have a popular website where I share tips, guides and inspiring interviews with successful digital nomad girls.
What I have learned over the last 2 years running DNG and meeting hundreds of lovely location independent girls, is that what we all have in common is a craving for community. No matter if we have home bases, if we travel frequently or sporadically, it can be isolating and even lonely at times to be a digital nomad.
Most of us are running or setting up online businesses which is a huge undertaking even if you have a consistent support network. Many of us don’t have this network as the digital nomad lifestyle is still pretty new and often family and friends don’t really understand our dreams. Many girls give up before they’ve even started because they either lack the support system or are sold a dream that is supposedly easy to achieve. This is another common problem in the online space that the digital nomad lifestyle is sold as an easy to achieve dream, which I think can be very misleading and discouraging, especially when you’re starting out.
It has become my mission to inspire, connect and empower (aspiring) location independent girls around the world. I want Digital Nomad Girls to become the one-stop destination for all girls who are interested in this lifestyle. I want to give them honest and valuable advice, connect them with like-minded people and teach them the tools and skills they need to start an online career, whether as freelancer or as entrepreneurs.
While the retreats will always play a big role in DNG, what I am currently focussing on is creating a more focusses and valuable space for the girls to turn to. I call it the DNG Inner Circle.
This is my vision for the Inner Circle.
A virtual coworking space that you share with all your business besties and that travels with you wherever you go.
In technical terms it will be a WordPress based membership site using Mighty Networks as the community platform (a very interesting company by the way). And these are the features:
- Mentorship – a group of successful digital nomad girls will mentor and support the new members throughout their journey
- Expert created mini courses – each month I will invite an expert to join us in the Inner Circle who will create a mini course on a relevant topic like finding remote jobs, business accounting, visas, productivity, travelling with family, balance and health while travelling, marketing, branding etc.
- Live Q&A sessions with experts – the experts will hold live Q&A sessions to help the girls with hands on advice
- Goal Setting- we will hold monthly goal setting sessions. It’s impossible to reach your goals if you don’t know what they are
- Accountability – we will pair the girls with accountability buddies to keep in touch with and hold each other accountable
- Masterminding – we will create smaller sub groups based on their projects. We will also hold monthly mastermind host seat sessions where we help the girls in a live session
One of the biggest benefits of the Inner Circle will be consistency. It can be very distracting to move to a new city every few months or even weeks. At each new coworking space you have to reintroduce not only yourself, but also your business or project and it’s hard to get great advice from people who just found out what you do. The girls and mentors inside the Inner Circle move with you wherever you go, and as your business evolves and grows.
Now, what would I use the $1000 for?
I am already in the process of setting up the membership site backbones. I am currently doing everything on a shoestring budget but I am confident I can pull together a functional membership site with good user experience. However, what I am lacking at the moment are the tools and equipment to create high quality online courses. My old iPhone is sadly not up to scratch anymore and I would love to invest in a nice camera and microphone to create mini courses for my members. I know how important video is to tell a story and I think that a great video setup would improve the quality of my courses and the whole experience. The rest of the money I would invest in hiring a VA to help me with the launch of the site which I plan for end of September.
I really hope you consider my application and I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
Jemma Elizabeth – Let’s Go Eventing
I have a small yard of 8 stables, 12 acres, 2 menages, SJ field and great hacking. I employ a full time groom and 2 riders. I have another 2 horses at Somerford Park Farm ( an amazing place!) and 1 in Hampshire. In total I own 11 horses – crazy I know! I am very into Eventing (see here for more info on what eventing is https://www.
Mark Cole – Vintage Refurbished Electronics
It was a cold morning, I drove myself to the office like a typical Wednesday. It was the middle of January 2016. I found myself in an interesting situation, I was sick of the office. Sick of trading time for money. Unlike most people I put in my two weeks’ notice a few weeks after this. This is where you would expect me to start my new business to change the world, instead I headed off to Georgia. The southern terminus of the Appalachian trail to be specific. Every day for the next four months, I would wake up and hike; having plenty of time to think about life and what my next goal would be. After hiking 2200 miles, I decided that I couldn’t go back to work for someone else. I had plenty of ideas like most people but I had never fully committed to any of them. After integrating back into civilization after a few weeks I got to working on the project that provided me feelings unlike anything I have ever had working for someone else. Most people have sold some items online before if that be things you no longer needed or things you imported from a different country. I began working MCO Electronics and Collectibles where I sell any electronics and different collectibles I can get my hands on. Most online market places are specializing in taking products from China and selling them without ever touching the product. This could be a good model but I was more interested in getting my hands dirty and putting in real work to create value. Coming from an electrical engineering background finding out what I wanted to deal in was pretty easy. I could fix vintage electronics and was familiar with a lot of different electronics so I decided to start out by doing what I know. If you scan craigslist or any other online source you’ll see plenty of people offering to buy your old iPhone but you aren’t going to see many offering to buy your old digital cameras, DVD players, and radios. That is where I differentiate myself. I use my expertise to both fix, restore, and flip older electronics. Not only does it have a monetary value, it is keeping these items out of landfills and getting them to customers who enjoy the products. As I continue my business, I find am constantly increasing my knowledge and product offerings. One issue I have that drop shippers do not is that I am constantly in need of new sources for items. My business takes a decent amount of man power at its current state to generate a large profit. I have to research upcoming sales, buy at the sales, restore the products, list the products, ship out the product, and finally deal with customer service. I find most people in this business end up slowing their scaling because there is only so much one person can do. Since I am applying for the grant, I have a detailed plan to what I would do with the influx of cash. I have bootstrapped the business to this point and wish to continue to organically grow but there are some aspects that I could greatly improve on. Currently I have minimal test equipment and am forced to buy chargers for all electronics I test. I am in the market for new testing equipment which will allow me to streamline this process at a cost of about $200. I have been focused on working within the business and need to focus energy on the business itself. In doing so I need basic logos and branding which will increase my return customer rate which will likely cost another $300. I plan to move from a sole proprietorship to an LLC in 2018 as I am beginning to reach sales volumes of over $5,000 a month. I would use the rest of the grand money to help cover some of the legal expenses. Ultimately, I am currently still in the infancy of my business. It’s not a glamourous business like creating the next Facebook or Uber. Instead it is a tangible business that can scale to provide a comfortable lifestyle for myself and hopefully future employees. I appreciate your time for reading it and offering a grant entrepreneurs as it makes a big difference.
Hanna & Edwina – Au Pair, Oh Paris
We are Au Pair, Oh Paris (or APOP for short). The company is now almost a year old and we’ve made a lot of progress on who we are, what we want to become and how we plan to do it. We recently created this video to explain our mission more concisely.
Interestingly, the BBC posted about au pairs today. Their piece was insightful and a major reason for why we set up APOP in the first place. Au pairs are young vulnerable people, regularly being exploited, and too afraid to return home or turn to authorities. The reason for fearing help is either due to their illegal status or fear of their host family and the complications of a language barrier. Our long game is to ease the problems of ALL au pairs by answering questions, providing a support network and developing a community. No matter the status of an au pair. However, we chose to start in Paris and niche down in a city we know well, but we have big goals and would love to expand and aid au pairs in other larger cities, if all goes well. For now, we have created a fun, informal YouTube channel which currently has 522 subscribers and a Twitter account which also has around 500 followers. In the last few months, we have thought long and hard about how to best support au pairs and achieve our goals.
- Firstly, we have finished writing our book. However, we intend on spending money to edit and publish this book as there is only so much we can do ourselves. This book includes a step-by-step guide for the au pair process as well as hundreds of stories.
- We also hope to continue growing our social media following, which requires us both to spend time in Paris, producing content to inspire future au pairs and meet current au pairs.
- We intend on organizing events in Paris such as yoga classes, coffee meet-ups, picnics, and brunches which allow au pairs to meet each other and create community.
- Our next phase is also to launch a blog which will feature funny, heart-warming and relatable stories from au pairs across the world. We’ve already collected and written up multiple stories which will be released next month.
- Finally, and more ambitiously, we want to create a sort of “travel agency”. During au pairs holiday breaks (every 6 weeks) and long weekends, we will lead trips around western Europe exclusively for au pairs and young people who want to travel stress-free.
Currently, we are the only company in Europe that offers help and support to au pairs. No one else caters to the au pair community like we do. Au Pair, Oh Paris has the potential to disrupt the au pair industry that is dominated by overpriced and exploitative au pair agencies. Agencies provide general information for every country, we are exclusive to Paris. Au pairs can spend up to £600 on agency fees, we are a cost effective and personable alternative. We have researched our market and, according to Au Pair World, the leader in the au pair industry, the figures show 590 host families registered for premium membership in 2016. However, this is only families who are taking the legal and traditional route, which is a smaller number than those who bring au pairs over to work illegally. In fact, Facebook groups offer an insight into our audience with the current 2017/2018 academic year au pair in Paris group having 2,477 members. We’re already helping au pairs in Paris on a daily basis through Twitter messages and emails. However, receiving your grant application money would certainly help us reach more au pairs and help keep many young vulnerable people safe. Thank you very much for considering us and also for creating the grant application process which is encouraging us to have conversations we may not have had before! ————————————————————————————————————————— If you’d like to read more, here is a link to our previous application: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DA58g6dgX1p7Abfd21EwCJOaQT394DKxyx6tfnJHKHw/edit Our Official Mission Statement: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AWZJ5dkA3vV6aIdmwWIQ0Sg6L0q37BNfYXr_XeY9wBY/edit And our Twitter and YouTube accounts: https://twitter.com/aupairohparishttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYfg95m_ndj1NjUuTNPWO4g?view_as=subscriber