Olena Isaieva, the owner of Ukrfavorit, told Delo.ua about how she received a grant and what results it brought to her business.
The grant: who found whom?
A club meeting of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Zaporizhia Oblast was held in April 2018. During this meeting, EBRD representatives spoke about consulting service grants for small and medium-sized businesses offered under EU4Business initiative. The bank’s representatives also said that this program is intended for entrepreneurs who have been in business for more than two years, have more than 10 employees and boast good business reputation.
According to the program’s terms, the grant covers 50% of the consulting project’s costs, while the other 50% must be picked up by the entrepreneur. In other words, if a service costs €20 thousand, EBRD would pay half that amount and the other half would have to be paid by the entrepreneur with their personal or borrowed funds.
I was interested in this grant program, because it covered the costs of writing a website and CRM systems. What it meant for my business is the opportunity to become more recognizable, expand regional coverage of the market, develop and increase sales in the industrial sector, gain new customers and optimize the work with various categories of strategic counterparties – all thanks to the new website and SEO optimization; and also, to increase labor effectiveness of my personnel by automating processes of preparing contracts and other primary documents in CRM system.
Chasing the grant: did we do it at the first attempt?
I decided to apply for a grant right after I learned about this opportunity. For that purpose, I assigned a separate project manager – the company’s assistant director who knew everything about what’s going on at the company.
The project manager put together the entire document package, which included:
- abstracts from the State Register;
- applications signed by the company’s director;
- copies of financial statements (forms 1 and 2) for the last two years (in our case, these were 2016 and 2017, because a full year has not passed at the time we submitted our application), bearing a public authority’s receipt acknowledgment stamp or an electronic receipt confirming delivery of financial statements to the public authority concerned.
Besides these documents, the project manager prepared an application stating:
- areas of activity: sales and setup of molding equipment and materials, and so on;
- purpose of grant: we planned to increase the company’s recognizability thanks to a new website and SEO optimization, boost sales by 18% and increase several times the speed of employee’s work: since we were spending about 1 hour on average on every customer, we wanted to cut down that time severalfold.
We prepared all these documents and sent them online to EBRD. A response came several weeks later.
A positive response: what did it bring to the company?
Time flew by fast, and a couple of weeks later, EBRD representatives contacted me and suggested to talk over Skype. After our conversation, they asked me to complete another online form with information about our company, describing our business strategy, risk management and many other aspects. We did just that.
And in May 2018, Ukrfavorit received a positive response from EBRD, which approved a consulting service grant worth up to €10 thousand.
Subsequent events could unfold in the following ways: the Ukrfavorit team finds contractors and submits candidates for doing the project work to EBRD for verification, or the bank itself provides contact information of contractors from its database. We chose the former option, because we wanted to start working on our new website and a CRM system as soon as possible.
The contractors we proposed passed the background check and were approved by EBRD. After that, we prepared the project’s budget of UAH 576 thousand, which included UAH 418 thousand in allocation for a CRM system and UAH 158 thousand for a website. Writing a website and creating a CRM system took two months, from June to August 2018.
When this work was finished, we paid for the service with our company’s funds. And then, we submitted all pertinent documents to the bank and received a 50% reimbursement, i.e. UAH 288 thousand, in late August 2018.
Results for the business
- sales increase by 55% instead of 18% in less than a year;
- the company gained a 30% share of imports of binder materials to Ukraine;
- the time spent on one customer was reduced to 15 minutes due to automation of processes in CRM system;
- the company became more recognizable thanks to a new website and SEO optimization.
In sum, the grant brought even more positive results than expected. In the future, I plan to apply for more grants from the EU and EBRD!
Ukrfavorit was founded in 2008 in Donetsk, where the company operated until 2014. Due to the outbreak of an armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the company moved to Melitopol. Areas of the company’s activity: supply of equipment and materials for foundries, technical service of improving technologies aimed to reduce production rejects. The company’s annual turnover is over 80 million hryvnias.
By Olena Isaieva, the founder of Ukrfavorit