This page provides some information to help people in the UK who would like to
become an entrepreneur (someone who comes up with an idea and turns this into
a successful business).
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FINDING YOUR IDEA & LEARNING ABOUT BUSINESS
If you don't already have an idea, try to think about a problem, need or desire
that you have noticed and come up with a product or service which would help.
Think about what kind of customers you might attract. Do some research about the
market and decide how you can provide something that is different from your competitors.
Consider how you would start and grow your business and start to develop your
business plan. You may find inspiration by reading books written by successful
If you are a university or college student in the UK, these are some ways in which
you might start to develop your business and entrepreneurial skills:
- Join the university's Entrepreneurship Society (if there isn't one, you
could consider setting one up yourself). You can usually find out details about
clubs from the students' union or its website.
- Some universities have an enterprise centre (it may also be called an
entrepreneurship centre). This may serve a group of universities. The staff provide
information and advice about setting up a business or social enterprise. Sometimes
these organise a competition to come up with a business idea.
- Your careers advisory service will be able to give you some information
and may organise talks or short courses about how to start your own business.
- Your academic course may include relevant modules such as product design, marketing,
accounting, business studies etc.
The following programmes on UK radio or TV may help to inspire your entrepreneurial
thoughts and appreciation of business:
Dragon's Den (on BBC2): people seek investment capital for their businesses
from top entrepreneurs: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dragonsden
The Apprentice (on BBC2): contestants compete at business tasks to get
a job working for Sir Alan Sugar: http://www.bbc.co.uk/apprentice
The Money Programme (on BBC2): news stories and investigations in the business
In Business (on Radio 4): discussions about new business ideas and developments:
In each part of the UK there is a government-funded organisation which provides
practical support, advice and information for people who want to start a new business.
England: Business Link: http://www.businesslink.gov.uk
Wales: Business Eye: http://www.businesseye.org.uk
Northern Ireland: Invest NI: http://www.investni.com
Scotland: Business Gateway: http://www.bgateway.com
and Highlands and Islands Enterprise: http://www.hiebusiness.co.uk
These organisations may give you the chance to talk with a local business person.
You may also find out information about issues such as:
- Trade bodies and other business contacts
- Local events or training courses to help you learn or network
- Preparing your business plan
- Finding business premises
- Regulations which affect your business
- Protecting your ideas
- Sources of funding
- How to grow your business, eg sales/marketing, new product development
- Taxation issues: income tax, corporation tax, VAT, national insurance etc
- How to choose an adviser or business service provider, eg: an accountant, solicitor
(lawyer) or IT supplier
Shell Livewire provides information and support to people in the UK aged
16-30 who are thinking about starting a small business. It also organises a national
competition for new businesses: Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. See: http://www.shell-livewire.org
The Bright Ideas Trust is a charity which helps young unemployed people
who have a good business idea which they want to take forward. You must be based
in London, aged 16-30, and not in full-time education, employment or training.
The Prince's Trust is a charity, founded by Prince Charles, which aims to encourage
young people, especially those who are unemployed and not in full-time education,
to gain confidence and to achieve their potential.
The Prince's Trust Business Programme provides money and support to help
people to start up in business. It is for people aged 18-30 who are living in
England, Wales or Northern Ireland . See: http://www.princes-trust.org.uk
The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust provides money and support to
help people to start up a business. It is for people aged 18-25 who are living
in Scotland. See: http://www.psybt.org.uk
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To find out more about the market and possible competitors, initial research can
be done using search engines on the internet.
You may also find it useful to visit your nearest business library, where
you can refer to published market research reports and business journals.
Two of the leading companies which publish market research reports are Mintel
and Key Note (http://www.keynote.co.uk).
You can look through back copies of relevant business magazines and start subscribing
to them so that you can keep up-to-date:
The British Library in London has an extensive collection of market information
and also organises a series of events and workshops for entrepreneurs at its Business
and IP Centre (IP is an abbreviation for "intellectual property"):
Most industries have professional organisations or trade associations. You should
be able to find a directory of British associations in a library. Sometimes these
have specialist libraries which you can arrange to visit (you may need to pay
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PROTECTING YOUR IDEA
Once you have an idea you may need to protect it so that competitors cannot copy
it. For information about protecting intellectual property, including copyright,
registered designs, patents and trade marks, contact the UK Patent Office:
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LAWS & REGULATIONS
Before you start your business you need to find out if you need any licences or
You may need to take out certain forms of insurance and to consider health and
safety or environmental issues.
If you will be employing staff you need to become aware of employment laws (for
example: minimum wages for employees).
Data protection laws
If you store personal data (for example: customer names, e-mails or addresses)
you will need to contact the Information Commissioner's Office and to pay
a small annual charge. You need to be aware of the data protection laws. For details,
If you are not an EU national and want to start a new business in the UK, you
need to make sure that you have the necessary working permission.
The main schemes which allow non-EU entrepreneurs to work in the UK (part of tier
1 of the points-based system) are:
- Entrepreneur: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/tier1/entrepreneur
- Graduate entrepreneur: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/tier1/graduate-entrepreneur
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STARTING YOUR BUSINESS
You should prepare a business plan. As well as considering in detail estimated
income and costs during the first 12 months, you should try to make projections
over the next 5 years. These future estimates may not be accurate, but the process
of creating them should help you to plan. If you need a loan or grant to start
your business you will need to present your plan to a bank or grant-making body.
You need to be realistic about your chance of success: many new businesses fail,
and for some types of business it may take a few years to make a profit.
As soon as you have started your business you will need to register it with the
tax authorities and you must start to keep detailed financial records.
You need to decide if you want to be self-employed, a partnership
or a limited company.
The UK banks provide information on starting a business in the "business
banking" sections of their websites:
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS): http://www.rbs.co.uk
Lloyds TSB: http://www.lloydstsb.com
HM Revenues & Customs is the government body responsible for tax collection
in the UK: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk
This link provides information about tax and National Insurance issues for someone
who is starting up a business: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/startingup
If you will be self-employed, see: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/selfemployed
If you operate your business as a company you will need to register with Companies
House and will need to provide regular financial reports. For details, see:
Note that if your total sales are more than a certain amount (in 2012: £77,000)
you may need to register for VAT ("value added tax").
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Various links (in addition to those above) which may be useful:
Entrepreneur Meetups: http://entrepreneur.meetup.com
Enterprise Week (a week in November when there are a series of events across the
Student entrepreneur blog: http://www.studententrepreneur.co.uk
Smarta (online business support network): http://www.smarta.com
Click on the image below to watch a video about the Smarta
online business support network (you will need Flash to be able to play it):
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