All you need to know about Outset Start and Grow Grants

The Outset Start and Grow programme is supporting aspiring entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) based in the PO1-PO6 postcode areas of Portsmouth with a mix of intensive support and grant funding. 

On completing the support programme, participants are now benefiting from pre-qualified access to grants towards the costs of starting and growing their business.  Any eligible business seeking to invest in growth, can apply for a grant that may be used to fund up to 80%, 90% or 100% towards the costs of that investment, for example, purchasing goods or services to help start or grow your business. 

As we have been awarding grants to entrepreneurs and businesses, we have listened to the questions they have asked us.  In this blog, we provide answers to their questions to show you just how easy it is to get a grant! Read on to find more details about grants, and at the end of the blog are our top 20 FAQs from current clients.

The programme runs until 30 June 22, and the grants are being given on a first come – first served basis – so act now to secure money to fund your venture or grow your business!

What’s on offer for entrepreneurs via the Outset Start Programme?

The ‘Start’ programme is for individuals wanting to explore enterprise, possibly for the first time. This intensive pre- start business programme will combine information sessions, workshops, online learning, mentoring, networking and peer support. 

Individuals who complete the Start programme will receive help to develop a viable plan to develop their business idea, pre-qualify for investment through grant funding and launch their business. 

Grants are matched to fit your business need, based on your application, and your business plan. Grants will range from fully funded small grants of less than £1k to larger packages (up to £15k), with a 10% match funding requirement. For example, if your total costs are £10k, the grant offered will be £9k with you (the entrepreneur) contributing the final £1k towards the costs of your purchases. 

In order for you to qualify for the ‘Start’ programme, you must meet the following eligibility criteria: 

  • Be an individual with a business based in the in the postcode areas of PO1 – PO6 of Portsmouth
  • Commit to completing our Outset Start Programme. 
  • Commit to completing a business start-up (‘Start’) plan. 
  • Agree to be contacted by the Outset Start and Grow team on behalf of Portsmouth City Council in the future to review the impact of funding. 
  • Agree to complete a Grant Application and Claim Form and provide receipts and invoices etc. to evidence spend of this grant. 

What’s on offer for micro-businesses via the Outset Grow Programme?

Our ‘Grow’ programme is for existing early-stage businesses with the desire to grow but lacking skills and investment to do so. Your business must have been trading for up to 3 years and you must employ 3 or less FTE staff.

The Grow programme can support business to expand into new markets, create more jobs or increase profitability and productivity. 

Participating businesses who complete this support programme will be pre-qualified to compete for investment. Grants will range from around £2k to larger grants of up to £20k, with a 20% match funding requirement. For example, if your total growth plan costs are £15k, the grant offered will be £12.5k with your business contributing £2.5k towards the cost of your purchases. 

In order for yourself or your business to qualify for the ‘Grow’ strand of the Start and Grow programme, you must meet the following eligibility criteria: 

  • Be an SME (i.e. have a turnover of less than £44m) with less than 10 employees and trading for less than 3 years. 
  • Be an independent SME business based in the postcode areas of PO1 – PO6 of Portsmouth.
  • Commit to completing our Outset Grow Programme. 
  • Commit to completing a business growth plan. 
  • Agree to be contacted by the Outset Start and Grow team on behalf of Portsmouth City Council in the future to review the impact of funding. 
  • Agree to complete a grant application and returns form and provide receipts and invoices etc. to evidence spend of this grant. 
  • Not be in or going through the process of administration, insolvency or striking off proceedings.
  • Will not exceed maximum level of Business Grant Subsidy (previously EU State Aid) Click here for details

Internship Scheme 

  • For eligible businesses requiring additional resources to help grow their business, the Outset Start and Grow programme will also provide a £5k grant for the creation of 3-month internship opportunities. It will also provide up to £600 to support individuals to be ‘intern-ready’ (to cover clothing, tools, travel etc).

Will anyone be eligible for a grant?

Before any grant support is offered to businesses, eligibility checks will be carried out to ensure compliance with Subsidy Control legislation. Eligibility checks include: 

  • Confirmation of company existence
  • Confirmation of existing employees 
  • Confirmation of company ownership 
  • Confirmation of turnover 
  • Credit check on business and directors 
  • Confirmation of any other funding received in the last 3 years. Business owners will be required to:
    • Self-declare that they are aware of, understand, and will stay within the UK Subsidy Control Threshold; and 
    • Self-declare previous subsidy or state aid provided with supporting evidence 

Support is available to help you through this process if required. 

How much grant money can I get?

Grants will be issued according to business need, determined through a business plan or business growth plan.  Grant amounts will range from small (e.g. £1-2k) to larger amounts (up to £20k).  

You will need to pay the costs of what you intend to purchase up-front, following grant approval, ahead of claiming your grant.  You grant payment will be made to your business bank account and is paid in arrears on completion of the approved purchases.

For pre-starts that need to retain a positive cashflow during their investment project, our Business Advisor will provide appropriate guidance and support. 

Do I have to pay back the grant?

Entrepreneurs will be expected to contribute 10% of total funding they require and businesses will be expected to contribute 20% of total funding they require.  However, this is a contribution to your purchases and is the only contribution you will be asked to make. You will not be asked to pay back the remainder (i.e. 90% and 80%, respectively) of the grant amount.

There is a risk of clawback of your grant, but this only happens in very rare circumstances in cases for example, where applicants have been found to have wilfully or knowingly provided incorrect or untruthful information in support of their grant application.

Will you be tracking what impact the grant made to my business?

Yes – in your grant application, you will be asked to demonstrate that a grant will assist your business to grow in at least one of the following areas: 

  • Job creation (number of and type)
  • Increase in turnover, productivity, efficiency, or profitability 
  • Introducing new products or services to the firm 
  • Contribute to a lower-carbon economy. 

Your project will be monitored by our Start and Grow team on a regular basis, to ensure you are achieving the outcomes and outputs that you outlined in your Grant Application. 

Do I have to pay tax on my grant?

Grants provided by the Start and Grow programme are outside the scope of VAT. If your business is VAT registered, you are expected to claim the VAT on your purchases in your next quarterly return to HMRC and may claim grant only against expenditure, net of VAT. 

If you are not VAT registered and VAT paid on purchases is irrecoverable, you may claim the full cost including VAT. 

What can I spend my money on?

The grants are revenue grants and cannot be used to purchase any single capital item over £5,000. These grants cannot be used to fund the purchase of stock, the repayment of debts, or to fund any retrospective purchase before the date of the Grant Offer Letter. The grant can be spent on anything to support your business impact, including, but not limited to: 

  • Training 
  • Equipment 
  • Marketing 
  • Consultancy 
  • Digital Improvements (such as website or electronic payment methods) 
  • Sales 
  • Professional membership 

What do I need to do to apply for a grant?

You first need to sign-up to the Outset Start and Grow programme by clicking here.  

Then you will be contacted by a member of our Outset Start and Grow team and invited to a 1 hr Introduction workshop where you can learn about all the support, including grants, that is open to you.  If you already have a business plan or business growth plan, you will then be invited to a workshop that takes you through the grant application form and process. 

If you do not yet have a business plan or business growth plan, one of our advisors will work with you to develop one, and at that point you will be invited to participate in a grant workshop.

On completion of the grant workshop, your advisor will work with you to prepare your grant application form. On completion this is submitted by our advisor to the grant panel for consideration. 

Who decides if I get my grant?

Support is available through the Outset Start and Grow team to help you complete your grant application. Their aim is to help you make the best possible case for this grant support but they do not have any part to play in making the final decision.  

What happens after my grant application has been approved?

Once your grant application has been approved, you will enter into an agreement between the grant provider, where they agree to pay the grant to you, providing you have purchased/procured your items eligibly and provide receipts of the expenditure you have made, which will add up to the total grant amount.  Your grant will be processed with the aim of paying the money into your account within 10 working days.


As more entrepreneurs and businesses engage with the Start and Grow Programme, we will be adding to the grant FAQS and you will be able to see them on the website.  So keep checking our website for more information, or simply register your interest and a business advisor will contact you, and answer any further questions you may have. 

These are our answers to the top 20 questions that our current clients have been asking:

Can I use the grant money to purchase a vehicle?

Yes, but it must be a commercial vehicle.  The vehicle must be purchased from a registered vehicle dealer who has premises, and proof of a correct driving licence and proof of vehicle insurance will be required.

Can I buy some bicycles which I intend to rent out?

No. Items that are rented out are classed as stock, and you cannot use this grant to purchase stock.

I have a great business growth opportunity but will need to move quickly, how fast can I get through the process?

All clients will need to attend a Grant Workshop in order to understand the criteria, grant application process and supporting information required. If you already have a business / growth plan and are able to provide us with a comprehensive application (and supporting documentation), providing each section is fully complete, your growth pan is strong and there are no questions, we can give you a response to your application within 10 working days.

Can I buy a top of the range laptop?

Yes, but you must be able to demonstrate why you need this particular make and model over and above a standard model. Value for public money is critical so justification for why you need each item you want to purchase will be required.

No. This grant cannot be used towards the costs of legal disputes.

I’m an ex offender that got released from prison within the last 12 months. I have a great business idea that will help me turn my life around. With my criminal record, can I still enrol and apply for the grant?

Yes, a criminal record will not prevent you from accessing support. We are here to support all eligible clients regardless of their back ground. We will need to understand your specific circumstances and any restrictions that you may be under as a result of your release, but a criminal record in itself is not a barrier to accessing support.

I want to open a sandwich bar. Can I use the grant to pay for food handling and food hygiene courses and certification?

No. These accreditations or certifications are a mandatory element to the business operations and the grant funding cannot be used for this purpose.

I want to use some of the grant for marketing – can I use the grant to pay for this?

Yes, providing the contract is agreed and is for a defined period (say 3-6 months of activity). The payment would need to be paid in one transaction, up front (i.e. monthly / staged payments would not be eligible). 

Can I use the grant to pay for a commercial lease deposit or rent?

No as the landlord will be holding the returnable deposit and the lease could be terminated.

I have been self-employed for 6 years, but my latest business is very new, and I am running it as a sole trader, do I qualify?

We would treat the new business as a diversification if all accounting would fall under the same umbrella, i.e., the same UTR for the same Sole Trader, regardless of what is being delivered. If however they were separate Limited Companies we could treat them as separate entities, or if you could demonstrate that the two businesses had separate bookkeeping and Bank accounts we may be able to consider. 

I am a Director of a Ltd company that is based in the Fenlands and fit all the other eligibility for the grant, could I also apply for a start-up grant as a sole trader for a new business I am starting?

Yes – but we would need to see evidence of the start-up arrangement i.e. registration of business with HMRC and UTR, Business Bank Account in the name of the new business,  and any other documentation that supports the new business upon request.

Can I use the grant to pay for salaries?

No – the grant cannot be used for this purpose.

Can I fund equipment such as machinery?

Yes – but capital items cannot exceed £5,000 per item.

I am a consultancy service and want to deliver some service to my own business. Can I use the grant for this purpose?

No – Consultancy services can only be claimed when a third party consultant is used.

Can the grant support Leadership and Management Training or consultancy?

Yes the grant can be used for this purpose.

I am in the process of developing a new product, could I use the grant for intellectual property development such as establishing a trade mark?

Yes the grant can be used for the development of intellectual property.

My business has been struggling during Covid and I want to diversify into another product line. I need to revamp my website in order to improve my on-line shop capability, is this covered by the grant?

Yes the grant can be used for digital platform development.

I have developed a new product. Can the grant help me with prototyping and design costs?

Yes the grant can support new product development

I just need some help with my growth plans as I want to scale my business, can I use the grant for this?

Yes the grant can be used for General Growth Consultancy.

I have set up my nail technician business and I would like to purchase all the equipment. Would the grant cover me for this?

The grant would cover some of the kit, but for not stock items such as nail varnishes.

The Outset Start and Grow programme is funded by the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund (CRF) and Portsmouth City Council and will run until the end of June 2022.