You’re Not Alone: Support For Your Startup

Starting a business can be a scary process as it feels as though you’re doing it alone.  Other than funding and cash flow problems that are associated with running your own business the lack of support can be off-putting.

Even if you have had the courage to startup, the idea of growing and taking on staff can be daunting.

“ People are not drawn to starting a business because they think that starting a business is expensive or they need ‘superhuman’ skills – neither of which is true.” – Director, Fay Easton, Young Britain

The good news is, being an entrepreneur is no longer a dirty world, and the government are finally realising that startups are the spine of the UK. A report last year by Lord Young (the governments’ enterprise advisor) investigated just how much small businesses means to our economy. He talked about how out of 4.8 million firms there are in the UK, 3.6 are self-employed and most of them want to take on staff.

The most important thing when starting or growing a business, is to have access to a good support network. Lets look at the ways in which your small and startup business can access help.

Business mentoring and advice

A business mentor is someone who’s been there, done it and made a pound or two along the way. They’re able to offer you their expert eye, give you honest advice and most importantly encourage and motivate you. Although it’s not up to them to get involved in the day to day running but rather ask the right questions.

“You can read as many books as you like but there’s no substitute for running your ideas past an experienced person who has seen and done it all before. To that end, support and masterminding groups are also a good way of getting mentoring as they will be usually run by an experienced mentor and you get to share ideas and successes with others in the same boat as yourself”. – Fiana Barnes, owner of Moghill web services

How you pick a business mentor is up to. It’s wise to choose someone that you can identify with and has relevant knowledge in your business sector. You and your mentor will invest time in each other so it makes sense that you get on together and you’re prepared to listen and learn.

Fay Easton says a mentor can:

“Test the business idea, be a critical friend and provide a sounding board, a wise counsel and routes to contacts.

Here are a few avenues to access a mentor from:

Young Britain provides various ways for your businesses to access mentoring. From workshops and even virtual mentoring for those who can’t commit to face to face sessions. They even provide an option where you have a mentor matched to your specific business sector and needs.

The Prince’s Trust was set up in 1976 to help those with no qualifications, unemployed or those working less than 16 hours. As well those with criminal records to set up in business. They’ve a range of mentoring and enterprise programs and finance.

Startup Britain founded by entrepreneurs and backed by the likes of BT and Paypal and act as a ‘small voice for business’ .They provide an avenue where you can find all of the things that you need support on including office space.

Young and Connected aim to bring a diverse amount of people including entrepreneurs, small business owners and students together. Where they can attend speaking events which aim to teach them all aspect of business. Their speakers have a whole range of expertise from blogging, fashion buying, and even engineering!

Business gateway helps businesses at all stages and provide advisors, information, workshops and a general business resource.

Cobweb is an independent fact sheets provider which gives information on every business sector that you can think of. Their fact sheets looks at trends, developments, finance, markets, statistics, and support to name but a few.

Fiona said:

“This is the first business I have launched and I had literally no idea what to do or what I was letting myself in for! Without the help of mentors I wouldn’t have known where to start in the business running side of things. But that was at the start. I still find it useful to spend an hour with a mentor when I feel I need a bit of a push in moving the business forward.”

If you’re looking for a more detailed approach where a mentor is concerned then it’s worth tapping into your network. The best mentors often come through referrals so make an effort to describe what you’re looking for in a mentor and ask people you know to keep a look out for you.

Finance

Funding and cash flow for most start-ups during the discovery period is a struggle and with the banks saying no to lending – it’s made it even more difficult. Whilst a few founders take small loans off family, friends and fools; most of the time it’s not enough.

Angel investment and VC funding is typically reserved for the best ideas and the teams that can deliver them. Yet obtaining initial funding to provide your concept is critical.

“The British government has thrown its weight behind non-bank lending in an attempt to improve a stagnant market” – Financial times

When someone says no, there will always be someone along the way that says yes. As a prime example of this, there are now a number of funding options for you to access.

Enterprise Nation classes itself as a business club. Founded in 2005 by Emma Jones who is one of the co-founders of start -up Britain. By paying a £20 annual yearly fee, you are eligible to enter their fund 101. Here you can pitch your idea and then people vote for you, the winner will receive a £500 grant which doesn’t have to be paid back. Also, send them your pitch and they will see if you’re eligible for crowd funding.

Start Up loans is a government backed scheme which not only helps with finance but also mentoring. Fronted by Dragon Den star and successful businessman James Caan, they’ve over £100 million which they proportionally award to successful applicants. They have backed over 7,000 businesses to date.

Funding circle began in 2010 and has since become a very popular way to access funding. It’s the only marketplace where small businesses can apply for crowd funding with low interest rates and some very credible investors.

Credit union is a not for profit financial cooperative that’s owned by its members. They provide loans to their members with very low interest rates (lower than the above listed) but you’ve to save with them first, and take out a number of small loans before you’re able to borrow a substantial amount. Each area has their own credit union with their own amounts and not all will allow loans for business.

As you can see, there are a number of ways your business can access support even age is not an issues any longer. In particular, startup loans were only applicable to 18-30 but now the age limit has been lifted.

Lord Young said:

‘Growing our smallest businesses would transform our economy – they are the vital 95%.

There’s even away if you’re unemployed. The department for work and pensions announced a New Enterprise Allowance which also applies to loan parents too. Those who are on the (NEA) will be paid a weekly allowance whilst they get access to courses, mentoring and a chance of a loan for startup costs.

To conclude

Many assume that is little or no help to go self-employed or to grow their business because of the lack of media attention on the available help. So it’s best to always be on the lookout and most importantly ask. As the economy changes, and more emphasis is placed on small businesses – there will be more avenues of help and support to explore.