I have spent the past couple of weeks combing through 178 brilliant entrepreneurship grant applications. Trying to choose just three to award a $1,000 no-strings-attached grant to grow or start their business.

It has been really tough and I really want to thank everyone who applied. There was a lot of businesses that I would have liked to support and choosing just three made the whole process take about double as long as I had expected. What is common among the winners is that they have shown they are truly committed to the business but are in an early enough stage that grant will have a huge impact.

If you weren’t chosen please don’t be disheartened. The competition was fierce and there were lots of very close contenders and some great businesses that I didn’t think were suitable for the grant.

There were a lot of great applications that I felt were too early in the idea stage. And there were also quite a few where the business was already advanced or successful enough that the grant wouldn’t have been a game-changer.

All applicants are invited to apply again for the next round of grants. If you are early in the idea phase then this next three months is a good time to develop it further: find your suppliers, get prototypes done, build a simple website, survey your target market and get your business to the point where all you need to take it further is money.

Simply send your applications with the subject ‘Grant Application’ to grants@sampriestley.com by 31st August. Finalists will be chosen by 15th September and then the winners will be chosen by public vote ending 30 September. So make sure that you don’t include any secrets you don’t want to be made public! Once again three grants of $1,000 each will be given out. For full details and t&cs check out this post.

Now on to the winners all of whom were paid this morning.

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.

3. 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.

 

Congratulations to all the winners. And I cannot wait to see how your businesses develop.