Young entrepreneurs get a helping hand to go it alone

Roger Trapp on two initiatives fostering a new business generation
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The Independent Online
It is a well-known fact that increasing numbers of young people want to run their own businesses rather than follow the traditional route into employment via large companies. But it is equally widely recognised that the failure rate is high, with only about 40 per cent of start-ups by 16 to 24-year-olds lasting for five years.

In an effort to improve these odds,Shell's community programme has set up its LiveWIRE initiative. For the past 15 years, the scheme has provided free advice and practical support to thousands of would-be entrepreneurs and so helped turn ideas ranging from hat-making to running a cafe into business successes.

Indeed, the programme recently clocked up 100,000 inquiries. Debi and Jono Retallick contacted it when they saw a way of turning their passion for art into a business venture. Within eight months of setting up Kin, as their company is called, the couple have won contracts with the Monsoon retail company to supply artwork to 80 stores throughout Europe. And they have also been invited to produce designs for brightening up children's hospital wards. A Shell LiveWIRE adviser helped the pair put together a formal business plan and provided support on a range of issues, including coping with accounting and developing a marketing strategy.

Shell estimates that by helping in this way, it is supporting businesses that achieve average turnover of nearly pounds 60,000 a year, while some ventures have contributed as much as pounds 750,000 to the economy in their first year's trading.

Nor is this initiative the only way that young would-be entrepreneurs can obtain affordable assistance. Like LiveWIRE, the Prince's Youth Business Trust has been around for a while, and last week it teamed up with the Royal Bank of Scotland to launch a guide that aims to provide helpful financial advice.

The move is based on research by the trust - set up by Prince Charles - which showed that business finance is one of the most difficult areas for start-ups.

The Business Finance Pack issued by the Prince's Youth Business Trust outlines the basic requirements of running business finances, equips new businesses with a knowledge of book-keeping and provides a system for storing records of transactions. There is also help in drawing up year- end accounts and in the controversial area of self-assessment of tax.

Anybody aged between 16 and 30who wants advice on starting their own business can contact the Shell LiveWIRE Hotline on 0345 573 252 for the cost of a local call. Royal Bank of Scotland can be contacted on 0131 556 8555.