Securing grants to fund business growth

By Paula Partridge, Anglia Indoor Karting
After being made redundant in 2014, I decided to take a more active role in my father's business, Anglia Indoor Karting, based on Farthing Road Industrial Estate in Ipswich. I was already a silent director, and with his previous business partner now retired, I came into the business temporarily while I considered what I wanted to do permanently.
Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Autumn 2021
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I quickly realised that the centre had great potential to increase capacity and to alter the way we worked to be more efficient, but this would require investment.

I went along to a networking event hosted by the New Anglia Growth Hub. I approached one of the advisors and said I had some ideas for growing the business and I was hoping they might be able to help me.

Gaining financial investment

The result was that I was advised to apply for funding via the Growth Hub under the Small Grant Scheme. Despite our trepidation, we were successful and received a grant in 2018 for 22k. This enabled us to instal more registration terminals in the centre, create a second access and purchase a new fleet of karts. The total investment was around £75k including the grant.

In 2019, we applied for a second grant of £40k, again via the Growth Hub, under the Growing Business Fund. The total investment this time was £160k, so the additional amount was met by a loan and existing company funds. This enabled us to extend upstairs, turning a tiny circuit into a full circuit. This time for us to be successful in our grant application, we had to demonstrate that the investment would enable us to provide two extra full-time jobs.

Work was completed and the return on investment was very good…until Jan 2020 when we started to feel the impact of Covid. When full lockdown hit in March, we had to put our recruitment plans on hold and I was concerned as to how this would affect the grant, but the advisers were very understanding of the situation.

A year into the pandemic and we decided to apply for another grant of £50k under the Resilience & Recovery Scheme. This allowed us to extend the upstairs circuit even further and to add a fleet of adult electric karts, as well as installing a new attraction, a laser maze.

The total investment was £105k and I felt we were taking a huge risk investing in the second extension in the midst of the third Covid Lockdown using a CIBLS loan. I questioned, a lot, the sanity of doing so, but sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, and this has certainly been the right choice for us enabling us to double the capacity.

Applying for funding can be daunting, but the Growth Hub is still showing grants as being available on their website.

My advice to other businesses thinking about applying for grants would be:

  1. Some grants are linked to jobs, some to business growth, productivity and efficiency, so make sure you apply for the most appropriate and give the evidence and reasoning to support you application.
  2. You will need to provide proof of costs and show you have the money in place to match fund.
  3. Remember you cannot include the VAT aspect of any costs in the claim.
  4. The returns process can seem quite daunting, but the support is there. I made sure that I kept a record of the spend each quarter so when I came to do the return, I could easily pull it together.
  5. When it comes to ongoing claims and monitoring, again just be organised, and be honest if you fall behind in any aspect.

Paula Partridge is Director at Anglia Indoor Karting and Chair of the National Karting Association.
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