Growing or diversifying your business can be a daunting undertaking, especially when you’re looking to diversify into a completely new business area like tourism. However, the truth is, there has never been a better time to consider doing this. With interest rates at an all-time low, political uncertainty still on the horizon and rural grant schemes becoming more accessible to smaller businesses, now is the time to think big and look for wider opportunities.

We run through the reasons why you should consider building your business now and how to put your best application forward for an RDPE Growth Programme grant.

Why you should be investing in developing your business

1. Interest rates are at a historic low

Low interest rates are synonymous with a good investment period. Low interest rates allow businesses to borrow money at a lower cost. The lower rates often influence banks to lend more money to help stimulate revenue.

Businesses with cash in the bank will not see a high level of income being generated from interest. Investment into business development now can help access a higher return on investment.

2. Future-proofing ensures future resilience

With uncertain political, climatic and consumer demands, future-proofing a business can be difficult but it is essential for future resilience. This can be done by way of either developing an existing business or diversifying into an additional enterprise to help spread risk and widen income sources.

3. Keep your business up-to-date and competitive

Agricultural science and technology are developing at the speed of knots. Businesses need to keep at the forefront of these developments to ensure they are not left behind as well as being able to increase production and efficiency. Utilising grant aid is a perfect way to achieve this as well as reducing capital expenditure on the product itself.

Applying for RDPE Growth Programme government funding

Back in November, DEFRA announced £35 million in funding for rural businesses who want to grow and diversify. However, the window to express interest is very short (expressions of interest close 16 February 2020) so here are our top tips on getting your application in on time and getting it right.

1. Start your application early

Allowing time to plan the development and fully complete the necessary information into the EOI application can be a time-consuming process. Varying bits of information are required such as farm and business details, sources of funding, project costs and details, as well as the projected outcomes from the project and justification for the development.

Starting early is key as it always takes longer than thought to complete the paperwork.

2. Seek professional advice

Utilising professional advice can help to streamline thought processes, ideas and condense this into a structured application.

3. Focus your application so it meets the criteria

Funding is awarded based on how well the application fits into the aims and targets of the grant. The RDPE Growth Programme’s aim is to increase jobs and create growth within the rural community.

Showing that an application meets these requirements is fundamental in achieving success. Applications that fulfil this are seen as good value for money by not only helping the recipient of the grant but also the wider rural community.

4. Make sure you are eligible

Ensuring your business is eligible for the grant ensures no time and effort is wasted in submitting an application. It is a good idea to make contact with your Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) contact to sense check the idea with them in the first instance.

The RDPE Growth Programme is for:

“Small and micro-businesses (and farmers who are diversifying) are eligible to apply, and your project must be in a rural area.”

The programme is split into three areas to cover a wide range of farm business:

  • Food processing
  • Business Development
  • Rural tourism infrastructure

The varied sections allow for a large variety of applications from many areas of agriculture and food processing.

5. Plan your application and know your dates

Ensure applications are submitted correctly and on time with all the necessary information included. Applications submitted late or partially fulfilled are rarely taken forward. Remember the deadline to submit an expression of interest for an RDPE growth Programme Grant is 16 February 2020. All successful projects must be completed by 30 September 2021.

6. Understand how the grant process works

Once your expression of interest is submitted, it will be assessed by the Rural Payment Agency (RPA). The RPA will aim to get back to you within 30 days. If successful, you will be asked to submit a full application. Your full application may take two or three months to complete so allow yourself time to do this (it may take longer if the project needs planning permission).

If your full application is approved, you sign the grant funding agreement and begin your project.

7. Know your project costs

Having an idea of how much the project will cost allows financial planning to begin and the economic feasibility of the development to be assessed. Getting at least three quotes for potential work to be undertaken will speed up the application process if your expression of interest is successful.

8. Talk to your bank manager

The application you are submitting may fulfil all of the targets set out in the grant and be fully approved. However, a minimum of 40% of the project cost will be grant-aided, leaving 60% to fund.

Getting your bank manager involved early allows time for funds to be brought into place and secured, ensuring no time is wasted trying to source funding if successful. Also, bank managers do not like surprises! Talking to them early and discussing ideas proves to be the most successful way to begin.

How ADAS can help you

Our team of experienced farm business consultants have a high success rate in supporting all types of farming grant applications. From tailoring your application so it has the best chance of success through to delivery, we are on hand to help.

Contact Hugh Guinan or call 01942 493255 to discuss more.