ACVO Opportunities


Firstport – Start It

Funding available: up to £5,000

Applications close: 31/01/2025

About this 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 ready to 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.

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.

Looking for support with funding?

Identifying funding opportunities and writing grant applications can seem overwhelming, especially when the future sustainability of your group is dependent on gaining funding support. 

Our supportive Funding Officer, Claire Shaw, can help your organisation with every step of the funding application process, from carrying out funding searches to proofreading your application.

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Firstport – Start It


Funding available: up to £5,000

Applications close: 31/01/2025

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