Like many of you, I have applied for numerous grants for our business, Jeany’s Caribbean Elixirs. Here are a few tips that I received, based on a grant reviewer’s feedback. Since I have implemented these tips, I have found that I have been able to obtain larger grants and/or exposure that have greatly impacted our reach:
1) Complete Every Question
I know it sounds counter-intuitive. You are probably thinking, “I already do that, Jeany!” However, even if a question does not apply to you, it is important to give the grant reviewer more context into why that question may not be relevant — for you. If your application is incomplete, chances are likely that you may be automatically kicked out of the selection process. Don’t let this happen to you.
2) They want to hear your story!
Start from the beginning and give all the details. Assume that your grant reviewer is not familiar with your industry, business or your unique selling proposition. Tell them everything! What were the insights and data that led you to your business idea? What is your backstory? Why is it so challenging for your particular industry?
3) Be clear on how you will use the funds
When you are able to clearly explain how you intend to use the grant money, it shows the grant reviewer that you know what your priorities are for your business and how you are going to achieve them. It also shows another important thing; budgeting skills.
Instead of saying, “I will use this $10,000 grant for social media help and to have a more comfortable space to complete orders.,” say this:
“I will use $5000 of the grant money to contract with a social media engagement specialist (STATE NAME OF COMPANY/PERSON) who will post 3-4 times a week, develop a content calendar and edit video content for reel creation on three social media platforms. The other $5000 will be used to pay for a downpayment for a commercial refrigerated cargo van to be used for wholesale and farmers market deliveries across Central Texas.”
4) Keep a Paper Trail
Like you, I am constantly receiving emails about potential grant applications, due dates, etc…. I have learned that, with my busy work schedule, it is important to keep both a paper and digital reminder of when the grant applications are due. Also, many of the questions on the grant applications are similar. Save a copy of your old responses to a cloud sharing system (i.e., Google Drive) so that you do not have to re-invent the wheel each time a new grant application opens up.
If you have applied to a grant before and were rejected, look through your responses and switch up your answers. Don’t just send in the same answers that did not work for you the first time! Ask for your team of advisors to look over your application to see where you can improve upon, and try again.
We have to work smarter, not harder!
5) Sell the problem you’re solving
Strong businesses like yours solve a clear need in the market. The problem is usually what led or inspired you to start your business. What do most companies get wrong about what your customer actually wants? How big is this problem and how do you know?
“Jeany’s Caribbean Elixirs is a premium beverage brand focusing on Caribbean-inspired flavors. Our recipes were passed down our maternal line from our grandmother, Lyris Charles to Naijean Bernard, PhD, the founder of our company. Mama Lyris, born in 1909, was the OG master herbalist in Grenville, Grenada; entirely self taught. She created her own herbal potions and fresh juices daily. When our founder moved to Texas, she began to look for beverages that reminded her of home and the health messages that she was taught in her Caribbean immigrant household. Instead, she found beverages that were often heat-pasteurized and lacked bold flavor. We are more than just another “better-for-you” juice company, however. Our social justice mission provides living wages to members of marginalized communities who have historically been excluded from employment, such as returning citizens (i.e., post incarceration), foster youth and single mothers. Our elixirs, which started in a home kitchen, are now making impact throughout Austin and beyond through local farmers markets and wholesale accounts with some of Austin’s hippest coffeehouses, restaurants and hotels.”