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Starting a Business

Growing even a small business needs enthusiasm, commitment and skill in the chosen product area. It is hard work, but can be enormously self- fulfilling for the entrepreneur when it succeeds. In due course, it may even make meaningful money!

Most businesses are run ‘for profit’ and growing the ‘bottom line’ is a main priority. Others will be ‘not for profit’, with social or cultural outcomes as the main objective.  (see the topic page on Social Enterprise).   But even these must be able in due course to have a surplus of revenue over costs if they are to be sustainable.

Most entrepreneurs are relative experts in their chosen product area, whether it is writing software or repairing antiques. To ‘incubate’ a successful business out of that personal expertise normally requires entrepreneurs to broaden their skills into areas with which they may be less familiar, such as marketing or finance or distribution or making their businesses ‘investment ready’. Hence, having a business partner with overlapping skills is of great help, and greatly increases the chances of success. Making use of mentoring services and tapping into the appropriate networks ('networking') is the best learning process for entrepreneurs building their breadth of skills.

The start-ups and small companies of today are the seed corn for the big companies of tomorrow, and there is help available to encourage the start-up and growth of early stage companies. Many will only ever be ‘life style’ companies (viz with no desire to grow beyond a size where it meets the personal needs of the founder) but in aggregate they are meaningful sources of employment and wealth and are important to the economy for that reason. 

  Will you be  in good company?   Nesta research shows that people over 50 have a significant role to play in growing a new business, particularly as part of a mixed age team.    Whilst the probability of third agers participating in a start up begins to decline past 50, it does not decline substantially until age 60. Third age high growth entrepreneurs are just as likely to be innovative as younger high growth founders. Motivations to start a new company include the opportunity to keep working, giving something back to society, or exploiting a specific business opportunity.


See:  The UK Government's website on how to grow your business is a private sector inititiative by James Dyson et al to kick start a new generation of successful entrepreneurs.  It aims to connect them with all the resources they need to succeed.

For a comprehensive guide to writing a business plan and starting a business see

  for a one stop destination for all the help that start-ups need  see

  has information on becoming self employed if you are over 50.   For information on tax and national insurance issues see 

 Perhaps the single most important factor in building a business is to choose the right people with whom to work.  Making the wrong choices can have a long term negative effect on the future of the business. .  For a helpful guide on hiring,. see 'Recruit Faster and Hire Smarter'.

For independent advice and support on starting and developing your business talk to your local Enterprise Agency

For advice on writing a business plan see

New   7 Modifications to make to your business in 2017


See also:  the Business and Intellectual Property Centre at the British Library. To get the most out of it you should visit the Centre (in London) but they have a growing online presence.  The Centre offers free acess to a very wide range of online services and databases for entrepreneurs researching their product and its market, as well as business advice and workshops - there is even an entrepreneur in residence to give you some practical tips.

See 'Starting a technology company' (a guide for University of Cambridge staff and students) edited by Miranda Weston-Smith and Peter Luebcke. Call Cambridge Enterprise on 01223 760339 to request a copy.


See for advice and a networking resource for anyone starting or running a business

 Remember  -  hiring the right people to work with you is just about the most crucial decision you will make.  See a guide to good hiring -




 for help and hand-holding with experts see our topic page on Mentoring. 

Are you thinking of starting a new tourism project and would like a mentor?   See more


Looking for finance?

For  a comprehensive view of the market see      and


If you are passed the stage of relying on the traditional initial funding from ‘friends, family and fools’ then try the business angel network. There is a list of members of the British Business Angels Association on   , but there are many more small angel syndicates operating informally. See our topic page on angel investing. If your business has the prospect of becoming a gorilla (viz a really sizeable company) then the Venure Capital community may take an interest. See

NEW   If you are bidding for funding, see 'Top 10 tips fo preparing funding bids'


There is an excellent site called  which gives entrepreneurs ratings of early stage finance providers, but these are mainly US companies. Unfortunately there is no UK equivalent at the moment.


There is a growing sector of 'peer tp peer lending', where lender and borrower are put together without involving a bank.   The UK Government is enthusiastic about trying to develop this sector, particularly as a way of enabling small businesses to get the loan finance whcih banks are often unwilling or unable to supply.     See our topic page on 'Peer to Peer lending'.


for a comprehensive list of funding sources for technology UK small businesses see the Technology Strategy Board's associate Fundmap             


Business Link website  

advice from a Bank:

UK’s leading catalyst for innovation:

Magazine for entrepreneurs:



STARTING A  BUSINESS FROM HOME will give you 'all the information you need' to start and grow a business from home, and build a network with other home business owners.

If starting your own business makes you feel a bit lonely and you miss the networking of office life take a look at which aims to offer an online business network and claims that half its membership are self employed professionals.


If you  want to build a network of contacts with a common interest, take a look at the business networking sites, which are a kind of professional social network.
‘Linked In’  is a US  site but is interested to expand in Europe and is particularly relevant if you are seeking to expand your business opportunities globally Xing is a German site, with a greater emphasis on networking, including meeting offline. is a site which offers “ a business and personal support network – all the support and services you need to help your business grow”.

For women starting or growing a business who would like help in building their business contacts see  .   See  also which is the UK association  of organisations and individuals who support women to start and grow businesses.




Looking for ideas and opportunities?  See


For another source of business ideas,  see .  Based in Amsterdam, Springwise has 8000 'spotters' in over 70 countries reporting on the most promising new business ideas and new ventures.


 STARTING A WEBSITE   'Getting British Business online' for free is a joint promotion by the UK Government (BIS) together with Google and BT.   It looks good for a small business looking to start a presence on the web.



If we are moving into the era of the ‘Big Society’ then maybe the time of the Co-operative has come again – it seems that more of them are now being formed than at any time since the first co-ops appeared in Victorian times. There are now 5000 in operation in UK (combined turnover almost £34 billion), many of them small local enterprises which benefit from the cooperative backing of the local community.
 The claim is that Co-operatives are a better way of doing business; better because they are owned and democratically controlled by their members. The members may be consumers or customers, employees, residents, businesses, people who are part of the local community or a combination of these, depending on the legal model chosen. Almost any kind of enterprise can run as a co-operative and it is the members who are the beneficiaries of the activities of the business.
The Cooperative Group, which is the grand daddy of them all, has launched and financed the Cooperative Enterprise Hub, which gives free advice and training on how to set up,run and grow sustainable co-operative enterprises.   See
 Seedcamps are providing a lot more than seed funding

Seedcamps is a programme created to jump-start the entrepreneurial community in Europe by connecting next generation developers and entrepreneurs with mentors from a top-tier network of company builders; including seed investors, serial entrepreneurs, product experts, HR and PR specialists, marketers, lawyers, recruiters, journalists and venture capitalists.
Seedcamps acts as a micro seed fund to invest in start-up companies, mainly through Seedcamp Week  which started in 2007 and now takes place in September every year. Mini Seedcamp programmes are now also run in start-up hubs around Europe from January-June and more recently elsewhere in the world.
They are designed to help entrepreneurs to develop the right connections, gain validation, build teams and raise seed capital to ‘supercharge’ their businesses.
Seedcamps not only provide access to seed funding (as do Dragons’ Dens) but also, more significantly, expose start-ups to the collective experience of people who can help inspire the next generation of technology entrepreneurs. Selected start-ups compete for €50,000 for 8 to 10 per cent of the company in question from the Seedcamp venture capital fund; and following Seedcamp Week, the companies who receive investment stay in London (which has become something of a mecca for seed funding) for three months to grow and develop their company, building key and lasting business relationships along the way to help them sustain a viable business.
This approach has not yet been taken up by other entrepreneurial or venture capital organisations but the Seedcamp organisation has supported IBM in the development of their SmartCamps.