19th March, 2021
The Government is offering co-funded grants of up to $480,000 for startups that are owned and led by women. Here’s what you need to know and do to apply for the funding.
In a bid to increase gender diversity in the Australian startup sector, the Government has opened its second round of the Boosting Female Founders Initiative.
This funding scheme is offering between $25,000 and $480,000 in matched funding to female-led businesses that are looking to expand their offering into domestic and international markets.
Applications are currently open and are set to close on 21 April 2021.
As with any grant application, the key to applying for this incentive is being aware of its eligibility criteria, understanding the submission process and making sure that your proposal scores highly against the grant’s assessment and merit criteria.
To be considered eligible for this grant, a business needs to meet two basic criteria, one relating to corporate structure and the other relating to female involvement.
From a corporate structure standpoint, the startup must either be operating as a sole trader, a partnership, or an entity incorporated in Australia.
Assuming the business setup is correct, the Government requires the business to provide a signed declaration that the business is ‘female founded’, which it defines as being majority owned and led by women.
Additionally, the startup needs to confirm that it will remain ‘female founded’ for the duration of the grant period.
Once the business is comfortable with its eligibility, getting to know the application process is the logical next step.
Similar to the way other competitive grant schemes are administered, the Boosting Female Founders Initiative involves a two-step application process: an Expression of Interest (EOI) phase, followed by the main application itself.
First, the applicant company needs to complete the online EOI form, which is a shorter and less intensive version of the main application. While many of the same questions are asked in both applications, key elements of the main application process such as outlining project milestones, putting a comprehensive project budget together and providing a full-fledged business plan are not requirements of the EOI process.
EOIs are reviewed by the program committee, and those who are deemed to be genuine grant candidates are shortlisted and invited to submit the main, more intensive application. The committee then reviews all of the main applications submitted and makes recommendations to the program delegate.
Of the 2,200 submissions received in the Government’s first round of this funding scheme only 51 businesses were funded – so preparing a strong and compelling submission is crucial.
To prepare a strong EOI and subsequent main submission, the applicant business needs to score as highly as possible against the follow three merit criteria of this grant program:
The first criterion, which is worth 40 points (out of 100), requires the applicant to describe how the grant funds will enable them to “scale-up and expand” into additional markets, allowing the business to become self-sufficient.
To score highly against this one, providing clear narrative around the growth opportunities of the proposed project is normally a great start.
More specifically, by including the number of new employees that the funding will allow you to bring on, providing evidence of product or service interest from new markets (both locally and internationally), and outlining the revenue increases expected to result from the grant, the committee is more likely to be impressed by your application.
Assessment criterion number two is worth 30 points and is all about demonstrating track record, capability and capacity to deliver the proposed project.
Putting forward a compelling argument requires the business to outline the skillsets that their team possesses that align with the project, and how it plans on addressing any personnel gaps. Providing information about the business’s governance structure and advisory board can often go a long way in applications like these as well.
Finally, criterion three, which is also worth 30 points, looks at grant impact and where the business intends on obtaining matched funding from.
When dealing with co-funded grants, the Government often looks for applicants that leverage off investment from strategic venture partners to come up with the matched funds, as such arrangements are generally further reaching than other funding options.
Preparing grant submissions is about a lot more than filling out a Government form. It’s a multi-dimensional process that requires commitment, discipline and plenty of creativity.
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When considering preparing a submission, there are a number of key points to bear in mind:
The timeframe between preparing an EOI and finding out whether you’ve been selected as a grant recipient can take months.
So, before getting started, make sure to review the grant guidelines carefully and create an application timeline that you can follow rigorously.
Preparing grant submissions can be quite costly for a business. Whether you make it the project of someone on your team, or you engage a consultant to assist, the process tends to require substantial resources.
Before pulling the trigger, it is always worthwhile to consider the value of the potential benefit, the likely cost, and the chances of success.
In all likelihood, there will be hundreds (if not thousands) of EOIs submitted to the committee, so creativity is essential if you are looking to rise to the top of the pile.
Taking a look through the list of previous grant recipients and seeing what the Government has backed in the past is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
Whether it be the EOI or the main application, do your best to avoid submitting at the last minute.
Give yourself enough time to review what you’ve put forward and obtain feedback from other team members, as doing so almost always increases the robustness of any grant application.
With grant amounts ranging substantially, it’s important to remember that the level of detail and evidence you put in the application should align with the amount of grant funds being sought.
For those applying for smaller amounts, the Government won’t scrutinise your application to the same degree as they would with those looking to claim the larger amounts. In fact, in its overview of the grant opportunity, the Government explicitly states that grant applications should reflect the amount of funding being applied for.
By following to these tips and staying across the both the eligibility and assessment criteria, your female-led business will be well placed to submit a high quality and compelling application for the Boosting Female Founders Initiative.