Start It

Up to £5,000 for individuals looking to start a social enterprise.

Who's it for?

Individuals with a business idea that addresses a social, environmental and/or community issue.

What do I get?

Up to £5,000 towards start-up costs.

Where do I apply?

You can apply to this fund here:

Apply now

Start It is a funding programme that helps budding social entrepreneurs in Scotland to get their businesses up and running. Funding comes from the Scottish Government’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund.

Is Start It for me?

A Start It award is you if you have an idea for a social enterprise and need funding to get started. You are readyto apply for Start It if you can demonstrate:

  • A strong business model- This means you have thought about how your idea will generate income so it does not rely on grants in the long term. You may have already run a pilot or gathered some interest for your product or service (but you have yet to trade regularly).
  • A clear social impact– You have identified the social or environmental issue you want to tackle. You can tell us how you will make a direct, positive impact and measure the difference you are making.
  • Self-awareness and determination– Start It funds you rather than the business, so we need to know about your skills, knowledge, and passion for the issue you are tackling and how these will help you to make your idea a success. These skills and experience don’t have to be in business – many Start It awardees have not run a business before.

If you need to work on any of these areas before applying, we encourage you access our free start-up support before you start working on an application. Last year (2023), 75% of successful Start It applicants worked with business advisors before applying.

You can also attend one of our upcoming What Funders Look For sessions, which we run regularly online. Delivered by one of our Relationship Managers, the sessions outline what we look for in an application and how to give yourself the best chance of success.


To apply for Start It, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You are aged 18 or over.
  • You are a permanent resident of Scotland.
  • Your proposed social enterprise operates primarily for the benefit of people or communities within Scotland.
  • Your proposed activities do not involve political campaigning or the advancement of religion.
  • Your proposed social enterprise is in the early stages of development – i.e. the ‘start-up’ phase – and is not trading on a regular basis.
  • Your proposed social enterprise is an independent organisation and not the project or subsidiary of an existing body.
  • Your proposed social enterprise does not form part of your current employment.
  • Your proposed social enterprise aims to be financially sustainable through trading as opposed to grant income.
  • Your proposed social enterprise will reinvest its profits into the business and its social aims. No private individuals or bodies benefit from the assets or uncapped dividends of the business.
  • Your proposed social enterprise aims to provide direct, measurable social impact to individuals, communities, and/or the environment.
  • If your proposed social enterprise requires premises before it can start trading, you have already identified these premises and obtained an agreement in principle.
  • You have not previously received Start It funding for another idea within the last 10 years.
  • Your application request is for eligible costs associated with starting up a social enterprise.

What is the funding for? 

A Start It award is designed to help new social entrepreneurs pay for start-up costs up to £5,000. These costs vary, but typical examples include:

  • Legal fees for incorporation and/or registration as a charity or Community Interest Company.
  • Rent (if you have identified premises).
  • Website, branding, logo design and marketing materials.
  • Insurance and accountancy services.
  • Equipment.

For more information on eligible and ineligible costs, please see the guidance notes.

Funding priorities

Anyone who is eligible can apply and we assess each application on its own merits. Because the demand for funding is high, we prioritise people who have not received a Start It award before.

Start-up support

Applying for funding can be time-consuming, and you want to give yourself the best chance of success. This is why we encourage you to access our free start-up support through Just Enterprise.

Advisors don’t tell you what to write in an application form, but what they do is challenge your assumptions, help you work through hurdles and access the knowledge and expertise you need to get your social enterprise off the ground. By working with an advisor, your will strengthen your idea, which in turns improves any application for funding you decide to go for.

You can get advice at any stage, but we find that applicants who work with business advisors before applying submit stronger applications, giving them a better chance of securing an award.

In the words of Ivy McNeil, social entrepreneur, and founder of Hair Dreams CIC:

The support we received from Emma [Business Advisor], played a pivotal role in our journey to becoming a social enterprise. Her guidance and expertise helped us secure funding, establish proper governance, refine our business model, and effectively communicate our mission. As a result, we have been able to make significant strides towards achieving our goals and creating a positive impact in our community. This support also prepared us to successfully apply for Start It and Build It funding to grow our business.

Register for one-to-one support.

You can read about Ivy and other entrepreneurs we have supported through Start It and start-up support in our Case Studies section.

How we assess your application 

When we receive your application, a member of the Awards Team will contact you within 2-4 weeks to arrange an assessment. This is an informal meeting via phone or Teams, which gives you the opportunity to tell us more about your idea, your motivation, and your plans.

After the assessment, your idea goes to an independent decision-making panel. You should receive a decision within 12-14 weeks after application.

If your application is unsuccessful, we’ll tell you why and give you feedback. If you can address the feedback, you can apply again. In many instances, applicants who take the time to strengthen their application based on the feedback we give them, are successful second time round.

Ready to apply? 

Start It is an open, rolling programme so you can apply at any point. If you are ready to apply, make sure you first read the guidance notes in full and follow the link at the top of the page to start your application.

If you have a question that is not covered in this page, by the guidance or our FAQs, please get in touch via the Contact Us page.


  • Start It Guidance PDF

    This document walks you through each section of the application form. It also explains the eligibility criteria and process in detail. PDF version.


  • Start It Application (Draft Only)

    You can use this Word document to prepare and draft your answers before completing the online application form. If you have any accessibility requirements, you may also submit this form as your main application.


  • Start It Guidance 2024- Word

    This document walks you through each section of the application form. It also explains the eligibility criteria and process in detail. Word version.



Previous winners of Start It funding