NZ Start Up and Small Business Grants Guide

We hope to make your journey starting a business a little easier by letting you know the grants that are available and how to apply for them.

This is a comprehensive list of the grants that are available to New Zealand startups and businesses. The majority of these are government grants and funding unless otherwise stated. It does not include grants that are only available to not-for-profits. 

Small business owner who could apply for NZ Startup and Small Business Grants

Start Up Business Grants + Small Business Grants

Work and Income New Zealand

The grants available through Work and Income are applicable for people who are in the early stages of starting a business. To be eligible for these grants you have to either be on the work and income benefit or you need to have qualified for and applied for the benefit.

Grants and benefits available through NZ Work and Income:

  • Self-Employment Startup Payment - a maximum of $10,000 to use within a year for costs associated with starting the business, including purchasing stock, legal expenses, building a website etc.
  • Flexi-Wage for Self-Employment - to apply for this grant you must be on the main benefit. The maximum amount you can get through this subsidy is the minimum wage for 30hrs a week, for up to 52 weeks.
  • The Business Training and Advice Grant - up to $1,000 to put towards paying an expert to help with business strategy and development.

To apply for these grants you'll need to book a meeting with Work and Income and preparing a business plan that supports the viability of the business. Work and Income can help you with your business plan.

Regional Business Partner Capability Vouchers

The majority of the funding and grants to start a business in NZ are administered through the Regional Business Partner Network.

The role of the Regional Business Partner ("RBP") is delegated to council organisations in regions across New Zealand. In Auckland it's ATEED, in Northland it's Northland Inc and in Wellington it's WREDA. You can see the full list on the RBP website.

Grants available through the Regional Business Partner network:

  • Capability Vouchers - RBP's can issue a company capability vouchers of up to $5,000 per year. Businesses can use these capability vouchers to subsidise the services of Registered Capability Voucher Providers. Mum's Garage is a Registered Capability Voucher Provider.
  • R&D Grant - the Callaghan Innovation Getting Started Grant (details below) is administered through the RBP network.

To get grants and subsidiaries through this network, you must first meet with a local Growth Advisor. They will assess your business, help you work out the support you need, and issue capability vouchers if your business qualifies (and they have budget left).

RBP's have a limited amount of money that they can give out each year. They tend to focus on funding businesses that are already validated and can confidently propose a viable business plan. Even if you are not at this stage yet, it is still worthwhile getting in contact with your local Regional Business Partner. In our experience, they are helpful people who do their best to try to get you the support you need. Then when the time comes for you to qualify for a capability voucher, you will already have a relationship and proof of your ability to execute.

Callaghan Innovation R&D Grants

Callaghan Innovation exists to support high-tech business development. They are interested in funding companies that can create multi-million dollars of value, rather than small businesses. So if you're working on software, hardware, food tech, med tech or any other kind of 'deep technology', it's  Callaghan Innovation is an organisation worth connecting with.

Grants available through Callaghan Innovation:

  • Getting Started Grant - exists to help startups and existing companies take a product or service from development through to commercialisation. A business can receive 40% off eligible R&D costs, up to $5,000. You only receive the funds once the work is complete.
  • Project Grants - intended for businesses taking on larger or more challenging R&D. A business can receive up to 40% of your eligible R&D project costs (no cap). The payment is made in arrears, monthly or quarterly.
  • Student Grants - there are three different types of 'Student Grants', which cover the salary of a student to work on R&D projects.
Te Puni Kōkiri

Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) supports Māori business growth by facilitating connections, growth assessment and planning, and support services. Grants are issued under Te Pūnaha Hiringa: Māori Innovation Fund. There is one primary grant available:

  • The He Tupu Ōhanga: Commercial Advisors Scheme (CAS) - Successful Māori collectives are funded up to $60,000 to work with a commercial advisor for up to 18 months. A minimum of $1m is available to be awarded. Funding rounds happen once per year. There is a requirement for Māori collectives/coalitions to contribute a minimum of 25% co-funding toward the total cost of the commercial advice.

For specific details and application queries relating to the He Tupu Ōhanga: Commercial Advisors Scheme, see the 2018 Call for Proposals document.

For all business support available through TPK, see the Māori Business Growth Support section of their website.

'Do Good' Grants for Small Businesses and Startups

If your business has a strong social purpose, beyond just making a financial return, here's a list of organisations or individuals who provide grants you could consider:

  • Akina Investment Readiness Grant - A grant of $5-20k to purchase any professional services that will help you become investment ready. This grant is issued once a year, at a certain time, so you need to plan ahead if you are going to apply to give yourself enough time ahead of when you need to raise investment.
  • Hoku Foundation - Hoku is the family office of Emily & Rowan Simpson. The Hoku Foundation provides grants to individuals or organisations with the potential to make an impact in their community. You can get in touch with Hoku via their website.
  • District and City Council Grants - some local councils administer grants for projects or activities that align with outcomes they are trying to create for the region. The best way to find out about what's available in your region is by looking up '[your region] grants' on google. Here is a link to the grants available through Auckland Council.
  • AMP National Scholarships - a scholarship available for any Kiwis who have a dream. There are no limits around what this scholarship can be awarded for. Each scholarship is worth up to $10,000 and there are 10 to give away. Scholarships are awarded once a year, follow their facebook page to find out when applications open.

Deciding which grants to go for, if any

There are pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to apply for start-up grants. The primary consideration being the benefits you can get through the grant, vs. how much time it will take you to get it.

Pros:

  • You get money, with almost no obligations attached.
  • You will likely also get exposure for your company, as most organisations publish the recipients of the grants they issue.
  • You will build relationships with the organisations issuing the grants, which is valuable if they are good people to be connected with.
  • Going through the process of having to create a business plan and communicate your business intentions in a compelling way is a beneficial process, as long as it doesn't take too much time and any feedback you get as a result doesn't set you back.

Cons:

  • Grant applications take time, often significant amounts of it, and there is no guarantee that you will be successful.
  • You may have to jump through some hoops to get the grant, which could be a distraction to the core activities of building a business.
  • The amount of money available through grants is generally small. However, this is relative. If you currently have $0 to invest in your business, $1 or $2 thousand dollars could give you what you need to get your first product to market.

In considering the pros and cons of grant money, our recommendation is to find the grants that assist you in the direction you are already heading. This way, the work you have to do to get the grant is not divergent from the path you intend to travel. Don't morph your strategy to fit the requirements of the grant.

Be smart about your application, putting in only enough work to meet the requirements. Remember, your main focus is on your customer and creating something they love, not your funders.

You may also like to consider alternative ways of getting funding, such as startup incubators and accelerators.

All the best!

We will keep adding to this list as we find out more about what's available. If you're aware of a grant available for startups and small businesses that's not on this list, we'd love to hear it! Please let us know by emailing [email protected]