How to Leverage a Government Grant to Grow Your Business

by Caitlin Mary 1st of September, 2022
How to Leverage a Government Grant to Grow Your Business
How to Leverage a Government Grant to Grow Your Business

In early 2020, just before Covid, Liz and her business partners saw that the Federal Government Department of Industry had tendered a grant, for a successful grant application to be able to develop a platform and services to help small businesses go digital.

“They were looking for the private sector to do it, to be able to help small businesses go digital and when I read the ad for the tender I realised that is absolutely us. We’re only small but they’re not asking for a big company, so we applied for that grant which gave us $1.9 million dollars in start-up funds, which was nothing to be sneezed at from where we were standing at that point in time.

“It was so exciting, it was hand in glove, what they were looking for was exactly the experience we had and the assets we had, we already had essentially the web platform with all of the learning systems and all of the other technology that you needed to be able to deliver this sort of support and training at scale to businesses across Australia.”

“We already had it for tourism, so for us, what we offered them is a speed to market that they would have never been able to imagine. Plus we had the experience, so it was exactly what we had been doing but in our own specific sector.” Liz said. 

Seizing the opportunity, Navii was launched in November of 2020, not even two years old yet Liz says that Navii is already seeing great brand recognition and is doing quite well.

The core backbone and inspiration behind Navii is the desire to help these small businesses around the country, not just in tourism, and having worked in a corporate environment, Liz identified a “solution to helping these businesses without the political agenda circling around.”

“My business partner and I, we are the directors and owners of our companies and we do have an advisory board and we obtain input all the time but we definitely drive the agenda and can envision the solutions and move really quickly to implement them,” Liz said.


Receiving the $1.9 Million Government Grant

There is a big difference between being government-funded as a business, relying on continuing funding from one financial year to the next and a grant. A government grant is a one-off opportunity that recipients really need to “make the most of”.

Speaking on the grant Navii won, Liz said:

“It’s a balance, you’ve got your government stakeholders who want it to look good so that they feel good about it, their political masters will be happy to announce it and happy to report on it. So you’ve got those kinds of government stakeholders that you absolutely want to do the right thing by, and then you’ve got your own because it’s a grant that has a finite end date, we’re to make the most of that opportunity, a brand new business basically a startup. A startup with an awful lot of infrastructure from a sister company.” 

“Use the money as wisely as you can to help build a brand in 21 months, how are you going to do that? It’s leveraging relationships, it's creating new relationships with the right kind of partners who share the same objective of helping small businesses.” Liz said. 

One of the main takeaways Liz, and her partners at Navii, learned throughout the grant application process has been recognising that it is different to running a business where you receive funding from one strategy cycle to the next. Due to the nature of the grant, you not only have a finite time to maximise how you use the funds themselves, but also the introductions and relationships that will allow you to continue your business growth for this start-up and into the future. 

“Given we went live in November, that was only a 21-month period, so we had to be really good at long-term visioning but short-term planning. It all came down to this short-term planning, but we had a very clear vision that we could talk to that was credible because we had already achieved that vision in tourism already.” 


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Managing the Grant Application

For businesses looking to apply for grants and see what opportunities might be available to them, a clear strength of Liz’s is clearly being able to recognise what you are able to offer, to capitalise on these business opportunities

Liz and her business partners at Navii were able to identify their business strengths. How they not only fit the criteria for the grant that was tendered but also recognise what they could bring to the table.

“There are lots of other key things with managing a grant as we have, but for me writing the final grant acquittal report soon, I feel really comfortable because I feel like we’ve kept our promises to the government and that they will be happy to talk about the results of their investment because that’s what it is when they give out grants they’re investing.” 

“The reason we are able to report those solid outcomes was that we executed well but we kept the planning really tight and didn't think too far ahead.” 

“Achieving as much as we could during this grant period but knowing that what we were doing would set us up for sustainability down the track because those relationships don’t stop on 30th June, all those leads we’ve generated with industry and small business we had to develop all of that as quickly as possible,” Liz said.

“Long-term vision and short-term planning so that you can execute during that grant period.”

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Grant application tips

1. Be a strong contender

You will recognise if you are right for the grant, it will be as clear as daylight that you are a good fit for the grant when you read the grant objectives and guidelines, so you have got to carefully and thoroughly read what they’re asking for. 

It’s a very competitive process, all grants are, it’s like going for a great big job that they will see you as a contender, otherwise, the effort required (because it’s really hard work to apply for a grant) to manage the grant requirements going forward, you have got to be sure that you’re a strong contender. 


2. Show that you understand the problem and know how to solve it

When you’re looking at the government's objectives that they will have articulated in the ad for the grant, you have got to really read the strategy piece that is behind it and pull the magic keywords from that. They will have had a report written at some stage and whoever has written the ad for the grant, the public servant who has written and referenced that, go and read that report and find the problem that they are trying to solve, the government is always trying to fill a gap and solve a problem. 

Go and understand what that is and what their strategic objectives are and highlight the keywords that they’re using, use them back in your application so that it’s really easy for the public servants who are assessing your application to understand that you “get it”.

You need to really understand the question that is on the submission of the application form. Like writing any submission you have got to really answer the questions, and provide evidence to back up your response. 


3. Think of the political master

Whatever you are offering through your business and your pitch for this grant about what is going to be achieved, just imagine the politician that has that department in their portfolio, imagine them launching the program or cutting the ribbon. 

Imagine what they are feeling, would they feel really good about it? Will they think “I’m going to get votes out of this”? There is always that political master there.


4. Work WITH the public servants not against

When you win the grant when it comes to your requirements and the obligations and reporting whatever your deliverables are don’t fight with the public servants. Just make their life easy. 

Give them all the details they need, get it to them on time, and keep them informed so that there are no surprises. Work your relationship with the public servants whose job it is to manage the grant on their side, make their job really easy so that they are going to be very supportive of you so that they will promote you internally up the line. 

Just always remember to make the public servant's life easy.



Tags: government finance loans small business

About the author

Caitlin Mary


Caitlin has a background in media and communications, studying journalism at University and doing various freelance writing and production work over ...

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