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How to start a business UK | Business types, funding & more

Are you thinking of starting a business in the UK but don’t know where to begin? You are not alone, as more than 200,000 people set up companies each year. Let’s take a look at how we can get you started and make the most of your business idea. 

At the start of 2019, the UK had 5.9 million different businesses registered on its shores, with 76% of them being sole traders. These include a vast range of different sectors, from jewellery, fashion, catering and food service companies to property, consulting and car rental firms.

Add to that the 1.1 million companies that employ less than 10 people and it becomes obvious that these small firms are the lifeblood of the British economy.

Each and every business is different, but some common factors affect everyone – regardless of whether you are starting something as small as a dog walker service or planning to open a multi-national corporation. It takes time, research and a whole lot of bravery.

Therefore, you need to be passionate about what you do, otherwise, there is little chance of success. Dr Nik Kotecha started his medical supply company with a desk and a fax machine in his garage back in 1991.

Today, Morningside Pharmaceuticals is worth more than £65 million. His advice is simple:

Find your passion and you will find your purpose. Once you have found your purpose, only then can you begin, develop and grow your business.

Is there market demand for your business?Illustration of a man walking a dachsund

Firstly, it may be wise to test the market first and see if there is any demand for what you have to offer. Perhaps start with friends and family before trying the local community. This will give you an idea of whether people are interested and willing to pay.

A further option is to go freelance or self-employed for a while before taking the plunge. This lets you build a client base without incurring many overheads. If possible, work from home as this will keep potential office space costs down and reduce your commuting time drastically.

Account for costs

This is absolutely crucial. Many small businesses get unwelcome surprises because they haven’t fully researched what goes into starting and running a business.

What insurances do you have to pay? How about permits, licences, certification, pension contributions and any taxes you might be liable for? Do you need transport? All these and more need to be taken into account.

Caroline, who owns a small company that provides cleaning services in Aberdeen, Scotland, set up a business on her own in 2014. Looking back, she says that costing is crucial.

I had no idea about the overheads involved and there were a few surprise costs. If I could give myself from six years ago some advice, it would be to make sure you look into every possible cost in advance. It doesn’t pay to be naïve.

Write a business plan

By doing this, you will give yourself a clear idea of your business structure, as well as what you are going to do and how to achieve it. Not only will this help you to decide who you are trying to reach and how to succeed, it will also allow you to discover any flaws or unexpected costs early-on before they become serious.

Illustration of a woman cleaning a home

Taking your first concrete steps

At the end of the day, the government wants your business to succeed, as it will bring revenue through taxation and give you more disposable income. Therefore, they offer a great deal of help and advice, as well as financial incentives to help you get on your feet.

Government websites

Your first port of call should be the finance support section of the Westminster government’s official website to see if your business fits into one of their funding schemes. Different schemes are available through the UK’s devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The UK government’s Business Support website has a huge array of case studies that will let you see businesses similar to your venture and what they did to get started.

Illustration of a male baker in a bakery

How do you get start-up funding?

One of the most common questions people ask when they want to start a business is: ‘how do I get funding?’ Starting a company is not cheap, but don’t let not having enough (or any!) money stop you from pursuing your dream.

Most people who start a business from scratch in the UK do so with little or no cash, so you will need to look for a way to raise capital. No matter the type of business you are looking to open, there are funding options available to you and the good news is that you can do it in a few ways.

  • Grants

Government grants are available in different forms. A direct grant is a lump sum of money given to a business to help it get started. However, other alternatives that save you money are possible, such as lower business rates, free equipment and lower costs.

  • Soft loans

Rather than going to a bank and convincing a bank manager to lend you money at his or her desired rate, you can get a soft loan from the Start Up Loans scheme, which is backed by the government. They offer lending of up to £25,000 with an interest rate of 6% – this also includes free business support and mentoring. 

  • Equity finance

This is more unusual for smaller businesses, as it involves essentially selling a share of your business in return for government finance. It can result in reductions in income tax but also has some strict stipulations as to the size and age of the firm.

Good luck!

As you can see, setting up by yourself is an achievable goal, as long as you are prepared and willing to work hard. The tools are in place for success, so now all that is left for you to do is take the plunge. Good luck and let us know if we can help you build your dream into reality.