Announcing The Winner’s Of The First Round Of Entrepreneurship Grants

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@arbing.co.uk 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.

  • Moshe Heideman

    Amazing winners, and kudos to you for the idea and execution! I am stuck though on how $1,000 will allow someone to quit their job??

    • It doesn’t really, you’re right. There were a few applications from people living in much cheaper areas of the world who it would allow 2-3 months of time off to try their own thing. Also there were a few students who would have used the grant to not get a summer job but rather focus on their business. Hollie was also a special case. Her blog is making some money, just not enough to justify quitting her job. The grant helps push it from ‘irresponsible to quit her job’ to ‘risky but could work out’.

      • Moshe Heideman

        Interesting, I see. I didn’t consider international costs of living. Best of luck to her and all the winners!

  • John

    Interesting choices Sam, have to say I really disagree with the last one – it seems like a cop out or something. The first two genuinely seem like innovative and interesting ideas while the last is just giving someone money to focus on their blog. It’s something that requires minimal start up cost whereas many other businesses need some initial capital to create prototypes or place initial orders.

    I’m a big fan of the blog usually but the last choice seriously angered me; surely out of 178 applications there was one that had more merit than simply throwing someone some cash to focus more on their blog.

    I’d appreciate a bit more insight as to why you actually chose to support a blog rather than a business with more start up costs. I understand you’ll give reasons such as trying to make it a financially viable career but that doesn’t really seem credible here – business is supposed to be hard and if she cannot make it viable while working what makes you think it could be viable if she doesn’t have to work.

    I look forward to your response.

    John

    • Hi John. Thanks for the feedback. I will try my best to explain my thinking. It was a hard decision, and to be honest there were quite a few I would have been happy to declare winner. That is one of the reasons I am doing a public vote in the next round, it takes that pressure off my shoulders and allows me to pick a much broader range of finalists!

      Ok onto my thinking. In very general terms the applications were split into the following groups:
      – Product based business. Like the lollipop company.
      – Businesses to do good. Or just plain charities. There was over 10 based in Africa.
      – Content/media businesses. Blogging/podcasting/YouTube/News sites/publishing companies
      – Consultants/life coaches/one-to-one gurus/motivational speakers.
      – People looking to start any old business for an income stream.

      Interestingly there weren’t really any SAAS businesses (well none that were more than just an idea). I suppose because the grant amount was too low. EDIT: Actually there was one that I really hope applies for the next round. Unfortunately he was still at too early a phase and didn’t express a use for the money.

      I didn’t want to choose two from one category and I don’t particularly like the final two categories. Which left me with the content businesses. It then ended up being a toss-up between a few very good applications. I like that her blog is pretty unique (not just another travel blog), that her following likes her content and that the money will actually make a difference. Her application itself was also good, including quite a bit more detail than what I said in the write up and more details of her plans to expand the business.

      I’m also quite partial to content businesses and spend a lot of my time reading blogs and listening to podcasts. Just because I’m not in her demographic doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in her blog.

      • John

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply Sam, another reminder of why I love your blog.

        I do find those reasons interesting and they do validate your choice to some extent.

        I’d be interested to hear more about the product based businesses that applied and were good but didn’t quite win. Can you give a few details on some of them?

        What did the good products have in common and what did less good ideas seem to lack?

        Thanks,
        John

        • I don’t want to give details of anyone’s business without their permission so I am going through and contacting some of the other applicants to see whether they mind me posting and would like to be featured on this page with links to their businesses. I’ll reply again once I am able to give more details.

          I had two main issues with some of the ideas. One was that a few were too easily copied and having a brand added no value. For instance if the item was a cocktail stick – they might do well when they’re the only seller in the market, but after a while it becomes a race to see who can sell it for cheapest.

          The other issue was the ideas were too vague. “I know that there is a gap in the market to sell to people interested in this hobby, here are 15 potential products but I don’t know which, and I don’t know how much they’ll cost to produce”. I’m not against that sort of business plan, and one of those almost won. But it would needed to have either better arguments as to why there was a gap in the market, or a narrowing down on the final product. Ideally with potential factories lined up who could supply it.

          I’m probably being a bit too general! There were good ones that ticked all my boxes. You’ll get a better idea when I post some links.

    • KingHear

      Ah John. If it made you ‘seriously angry’, perhaps you should apply during the next round for $1,000 for some anger management training. I’ll vote for you.

    • SFG

      John, it’s his money and his choice. What part about that do you not understand?

  • Irina Harau

    Very good choices. I love all the projects and I can see the reasons why they were chosen. Good luck to all of them! 🙂

  • Tom

    The last one if a bit weird. She’s even had mainstream 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’ surely an underdog would have been better off.

  • Edwige

    Hi Sam. Thank you so much for awarding the $1,000 Arbing grant to Afrikstart. I am really grateful for that. I look forward to launching the first pilot crowdfunding campaigns, and share our progress with you. Many thanks 🙂

  • Edwige

    Congrats to fellow winners: Joshua Byers and Hollie. All the best for your ventures! Edwige