Entrepreneurship Grants – Previous Winners

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Every three months I give away three no-strings-attached grants of $1,000 each to help budding entrepreneurs. That’s $12,000 a year.

 Here is the original post announcing the spring 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.

I love that it is for a good purpose, I love that the grant will be crucial, and it really tickles me that my small grant to help one entrepreneur will enable investment for lots more entrepreneurs.

 

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.

The Autumn Winners were chosen by a public vote. See the voting here.

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

The Timetable

Year 1

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

Year 2

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

SUMMARY:

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.

Yours gratefully

Stuart Priest

York, UK

Jenny Lachs – Digital Nomad Girls

Website: http://www.digitalnomadgirls.com/

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.

Thank you,

Jenny Lachs