Start it

You can apply for Start It funding if you have an idea for a social enterprise but need help to get it off the ground.

Our turnaround time is normally between 12-15 weeks from when a complete application is submitted.

Funding criteria

To be eligible for Start It funding, you must meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • You must be aged 16 or over
  • You must be permanently resident in Scotland
  • Most people who will benefit from the activities conducted by your enterprise must be resident in Scotland
  • The activities of your enterprise must not involve political campaigning or the advancement of religion
  • Your enterprise must be in the early stages of development – i.e. at the ‘idea’ or ‘start-up’ phase and must not already be up and running or trading on a regular basis (although we will still consider applications where you have conducted small-scale pilot activities to test your market)
  • Profits from the enterprise must be reinvested in the business and its social aims; no assets or uncapped dividends may be transferred out of the organisation to private individuals or bodies.  Note:  you (and any other individuals working for the enterprise) will still be able to take a fixed salary , but profits generated on top of this must be reinvested
  • Your enterprise must be an independent organisation and not a project or  subsidiary of an existing body 
  • Your enterprise must aim to provide direct social benefit to individuals, communities and/or the environment (i.e. Firstport does not fund enterprises whose main activities are directed at providing benefit to other organisations)
  • Your idea must not form part of your current employment

In addition to the above criteria:

  • If your enterprise requires premises before it can start trading, you must be able to show that you have identified a suitable property and have confirmation from the owner of the property that they would be happy to lease it to you. We do not need you to have signed a lease or other formal agreement – especially if you are applying for Start It funding to cover rent. However, we do need to know that the owner of the property has agreed in principle to enter into a formal rental agreement with you, subject to funding being secured.
  • If you have received any previous awards received from Firstport, please confirm that you have completed the required sign-off process (ask your award manager if you are unsure)

What can you use the money for?

You can use a Start It award to help pay for some of the start up costs. The kinds of costs we can cover are quite wide-ranging; typical examples include:

  • Legal fees for setting up a legal entity for the enterprise, and/or registration as a charity or community interest company
  • Rent
  • Website, branding, logo design
  • Marketing material
  • Stationery
  • Insurances

What can’t you use the money for?

  • You can’t use a Start It award to pay for your own time or to contribute to your salary, or that of anyone else involved in the delivery of your enterprise’s services.  You can apply for a Build It award to cover these costs, but you must be able to meet the criteria for this level of funding, as it is aimed at organisations that have proven that their concept works and can show evidence of generating income and creating social impact
  • We are unable to fund laptops or IT equipment
  • Start It funding cannot be used to pay for consultancy work on your business plan, market research, or feasibility study (although our business support team can give you further advice and assistance with these areas)
  • You can’t use a Start It award to fund overseas travel
    We do not fund professional training, work experience or the academic qualifications required to deliver the core services of your social enterprise. You should already be trained to the level required to deliver your proposed enterprise before applying. However, if you are ready to begin delivering services but would like to undergo further brief training courses to help you improve your services or comply with best practice guidelines in your particular field, we can consider this.

How we assess your application

If your application meets the eligibility criteria above, we will contact you to go through an assessment.  This will take the form of a general discussion about your idea where we will gather further information to see how it competes against the other applications we receive.  We do this by looking at the following key areas:

Individual - As the lead individual of your proposed enterprise, do you have the drive, passion and motivation to succeed?  What relevant skills and experience do you have?

Business - Do you have a business model that shows how you can make money from your idea? Does your enterprise have the potential to sustain itself without relying on long-term grant funding? - Do you know who your customers and competitors are?

Social - What social need or issue are you attempting to tackle, and what difference will your idea make?  Who will benefit from your activities, and how will you measure this?

Download our full assessment criteria and application process here.

Our funding priorities

Anyone can benefit from our funding and we assess each application on its individual merits, however, due to the high volume of applications we receive, we prioritise certain areas of work.

New applicants - If you have received funding from us in the past, you are able to apply again for a new idea, however, we will prioritise applications from individuals who have never had an award before

Arts projects - If your idea involves using art, you must clearly demonstrate it is in response to an identified social, environmental and/or community need, it is a new idea and there are direct benefits to the wider community (not just artists).

Check out our case studies for examples of enterprises that we have supported.

How to apply

To apply, please first read the criteria and guidance in this page in full. If you are satisfied that your idea is eligible, complete the online application form by clicking here. 

We will acknowledge receipt of all applications, so if you do not hear back from us within 2 working days of submitting your form, please call us on 0131 564 0331

Competition for the programme is very high and only application that meet all of the criteria below will be considered.  Of those eligible applications, we will support those that provide the strongest evidence of both their business potential and their ability to create social impact.

Data protection

Firstport is committed to respecting your privacy and protecting your personal data.

We will keep the information provided within your application on file for a period of seven years. It will be permanently deleted after the publication of Firstport annual accounts. This is for accounting purposes and in line with HMRC requirements.

Submitting a Start It application is acknowledgement that you understand and accept our obligations under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set out in our Privacy Policy.

Complaints process

At Firstport we strive to provide you with the best possible service; however, we recognise that sometimes things can go wrong. If you would like to make a complaint, please read our Complaints Protocol.