Milus and Rogers used some of the grant money to take investment and tax classes and other professional education courses.
Milus offers two pointers for entrepreneurs interested in entering business plan competitions, “Make sure the sections in your business plan about your management team and financials are airtight. No matter how great your concept, if you don’t have qualified people with you, you won’t get off the ground. And the financials count because an investor wants to see how you will have the ability to give them their money back.”
When you’re seeking money, it’s important to keep trying. MindLab is expecting to hit revenues close to $1 million this year, so Milus knows that dreams are worth pursuing: “Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but it’s very rewarding.”
Writing a grant proposal is an art. And it’s probably best left to a professional, especially if you’re short on time and writing talent. AllWrite Communications Inc. (www.allwritecommunica tions .com), with offices in Rahway, New Jersey, and Atlanta, is a company that specializes in grant writing. Simone Joye, president of AllWrite, offers these tips:
Do research to identify the appropriate funding organization. Read the guidelines. “If they are looking for an environmental related concern and you’re trying to start a day care, you’re wasting your time,” she says.
Cultivate relationships with potential donors. Get them on the phone and ask them to visit you if they are nearby. You can also send out a letter of inquiry, which is essentially an executive summary about your company. It shouldn’t be more than two pages. Joye says use it as an opportunity to introduce your company to prospective financiers.
Get a professional. He or she will often charge you a flat fee or an hourly rate. You can find grant writers through professional and industry organizations or your local chamber of commerce. “A professional will know the buzz words that get attention. One of them is evaluation. You should have a section that discusses how you will track your results, which will demonstrate how you know you are getting results,” says Joye. “It’s this sort of thing that separates winners from losers.”
Write in the first person. “Say we are going to do this or that, be positive and upbeat in your language,” says Joye.
Numbers matter, but don’t go overboard. “Do give numbers that will show, for example, how you will change a negative stat in the community or some similar scenario,” Joye says.
Forget about generic proposals. Boilerplates waste your time and the time of the prospective financier. Joye explains, “Know who funds what and what they believe in. The more you can write to appeal to that, the greater your chances of getting money.”
Be optimistic, but realistic, about your goals for grant money. “You have to be able to achieve what you say you can and ask for an appropriate amount of money,” says Joye.
Numbers matter, but don’t go overboard. “Do give numbers that will show, for example, how you will change a negative stat in the community or some