Before you start any application, make sure you have everything you might need at your fingertips; documents, contact details, photographs, promotional material, facts and figures. Preparation will make the process quicker and easier. Be sure to check out the organisation to which you are applying – check criteria, research what interests them, and follow any instructions closely. Make a note of the date on which you apply, and be sure to make follow up enquiries.
If you’re seeking investment or applying for a loan, here are some things you might find useful to consider:
Co-operative and social enterprise networks and advice organisations can help you formulate a business plan, offer strategic advice and assist with applications. There are over 30 of these organisations in the UK details of which can be found here. For some specialist advice (for housing co-ops, local food, community shops, etc) click here.
Ensure your business plan is concise
Your business plan should be clear and concise. It’s good to include an executive summary.
Is this finance appropriate?
Make sure the finance you are seeking is appropriate to your needs and show through projections that you can service the debt. Do not borrow for a term that exceeds the life of the asset you wish to purchase.
Your rules should reflect governance intentions
If you are a co-operative or community-owned business you need to ensure that your rules allow for your stated governance intentions (eg how decisions are made and what happens to any profits). Test them against the seven ICA principles. If you are a member of Co-operatives UK, you will have access to a specialist legal team which provides advice on all aspects of governance.
Understand your market and check out the competition
Be sure of your market and the competition. Define the gap in the market that you will fill, and how you’ll deal with the competition’s reaction to your presence. List your USPs (unique selling points). If you present a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, ensure you describe how you will exploit your strengths, mitigate your weaknesses, seize opportunities and lessen threats.
Convey enthusiasm, belief and passion
If you want potential investors and financiers to believe in your project (which you do), then you really need to believe in your project. Think about how you can convey passion in every part of your application. Have your members invested their own time and money in the venture? What are your dreams for the project/business/organisation? Why do you want to do this? What values drive the project forward?