Gaining grants from large organisations can be time consuming and complicated, with some very unwieldy application forms but a businessman and his wife in Chichester have the answer for would-be entrepreneurs across the Observer area and West Sussex, who need a small loan or grant to give them a much needed boost.
Chichester residents Tony Dignum and his wife Pam set up the Dignum Opportunities Trust five years ago in partnership with Chichester College to help not just students of the college but the wider public.
“We want to give something back to the city and county we love,” explains Tony. “We believe we are providing something unique and the beauty of it is that it is quick, a decision is made.”
The low interest loans are available to help buy tools, as a deposit for business rent or other business expenses and there are grants of up to £400 to help promote business.
Here are three success stories...
Unity Arts Trust:
These studios at St James Works in Chichester provide artists just starting out with affordable space. The trust supported UAT with funding to be able to offer a couple of students some money off their rent and also supported artists with the costs associated with entering their works into a specific exhibition.
Scheme leader Tim Sandys-Renton said: “It’s not large scale funding, it’s very particular to those people trying to set up business and start their careers so it fitted well with what we are trying to do.
“It’s very hard at the start, and it’s also hard because for an artist, generally speaking, the time it takes to start up their business is much longer time than for a normal business, it can take several years for artist to find their feet but still need to make money
“Artists have to have a space so they can start to develop their work at the beginning, knowing they won’t necessarily make any money. It can take many years for artists to find their style which will make them money.
“I would say this is an amazing opportunity, that people should take it seriously and go with some very particular ideas of how it’s going to help them set up small business or enterprise.”
Jo has been a fine artist for 20 years, after graduating from the Royal Academy in London. She found out about the trust via the funding website www.guidestar.org. She needed a state-of-the-art computer to help with her design work and since receiving a loan last year, she has been able to experiment and develop commercially. Her forthcoming exhibition at the Oxmarket Centre of Arts, Chichester, will showcase this latest phase.
“I became more and more interested in using Photoshop but couldn’t afford to do it and my computer wasn’t fast enough, I needed to get better software but there was no way could I afford it. Now I’ve got a top of the range computer with industry standard software.
“It has made a real difference. While waiting for paintings to dry, I can work on designs and make them much faster, the software has opened up a whole new world.
“It really has been life changing, I couldn’t have one it without the grant and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity.”
Having the computer has also enabled Jo, from Chichester, to take advantage of social networking to promote her work. Her long term aim is to open a shop selling products featuring her designs. She says this simple yet essential tool has transformed everything.
“It has been really amazing and the nicest thing about it is it is a local person in the community helping somebody, it is more meaningful because of them,” she says. “They have invested in me and it feels really positive.”
After completing a fashion design degree at Westminster College, London, Tamzin, from Walberton now makes leather handbags but needed a special sewing machine to speed up production.
The former Westergate Community School pupil started her own business six months ago and came across the trust on the internet. Three weeks after applying for a loan, she now has the machine and also has a laptop which has.
“All the work I do at the moment is by hand which I want to keep as part of my business because I feel it’s part of my brand, but currently there are things I don’t need to do by hand because you don’t see it and it’s hidden anyway,” she explains.
Tamzin will now pay her loan back over the next three years interest free. She has also received a grant to pay for a PR agent to promote her work. Tamzin is now looking to take on extra projects, but is very level-headed about expanding.
“I think some people go into it thinking they need big investment but all I needed to get me going was help with getting a leather machine and it’s going to make such a big difference and make my life easier,” she says. “I would have had to save for a long time otherwise.
“Eventually I will need more investment but to start financing it at the moment, it’s a risk setting up your own business, you need to keep it low key, doing small projects like me. I’m always busy and working, doing things in London. It sounds glamourous but it’s not really, I’m in my shed seven days a week but eventually I will get there, you need to start off small.
“This is something that will enable me to do more and take on more projects; it is a stepping stone to the next thing.”
Clearly set out your reasons for needing help and include: contact details including home address, telephone and email; details of education and qualifications, any relevant experience, employment history, personal information (gender, date of birth, marital status), two references and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send to Dignum Opportunities Trust, Highgate House, Wesy Broyle Drive, PO19 3PP with the envelope marked OPPORTUNITIES in the top left hand corner.