It's a good time to get to grips with a business idea

Despite the slowdown new enterprises are starting up in record numbers. By Rob Griffin

Andrew Chambers certainly doesn’t lack fighting spirit. The 32-year-old entrepreneur has defied dire economic conditions and local bureaucrats to achieve his long-held ambition of setting up a dedicated martial arts centre.

The experienced kickboxing and Thai boxing instructor has ploughed more than £50,000 into establishing a state-of-the-art Fighting Tigers Gym which opened in February in his hometown of Hastings, East Sussex.

And even though he is fully aware of the potential problems associated with starting a new venture at a time when the country is mired in recession, he is confident that it’s worth the risk.

“It was a massive decision but I weighed it up,” he says. “The fight game is very fashionable at the moment with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) on television so I’m hopeful of making a decent return over the next few years.”

Stressful wrangling with both the local council and the highways authority tested his resolve, but with the help of a close-knit circle of friends and wife Rachel, he turned an empty industrial unit into a fully functional training centre in three months.

As well as offering daily lessons in a string of disciplines, including kickboxing and jiu jitsu, the gym runs bully proof classes for children and circuit training, and offers experts in nutrition, fitness and physiotherapy.

Mr Chambers, who has funded the start-up costs out of capital from his two existing electronics firms, is also launching a dedicated website and online shop ( and harbours longer-term ambitions to expand into sports management.

“We already have a couple of fighters on our books that we are training up as professional fighters and acting as their management,” he says. “If we can influence people to get involved in the fight game in the right way, with respect and discipline, then that will be a significant achievement.”

For the time being, however, Mr Chambers is focused on getting the gym on a stable footing along with Paul Bridges, the gym’s manager.

“It’s a massive risk and if this goes wrong my other businesses may fail as I’ve taken so much out of it, but I’ve given myself four years to pay it back,” he says. “I can see the bigger picture and am confident that hard work will bring results over the coming years.”

It’s never been a more popular time for starting businesses. A record 480,000 companies were formed in 2011, and the number of self-employed is at an all-time high of 4.5 million. So how can you get on the road to being your own boss?

Doing your homework

The first step is to come up with a business idea. What product or service are you planning to offer, and how does it differ from what’s currently available? Will there be enough demand? Will it have a unique selling point to make it more attractive than a rival offering?

Great ideas can come from anywhere. Johnathan Agnès, 39, the co-founder of, says his wife, Hannah, was behind the concept which has led to the creation of online tools, technology and websites that enable people to eat healthily and within their budgets.

“My wife felt there was a desire among people to eat well but make their grocery pound go as far as possible,” he explains. “There was nothing available that let people combine computer software, published nutritional data and online grocery information.”

The company has established recipe sites such as The Resourceful Cook (, where, for example, the ingredients match pack size quantities to cut food wastage.

“A clear idea is important because it gives you focus and something you can convey to people,” he adds. “If you have a defined idea you have better prospects of developing it successfully.”

You also need to work out the finances. Savings or money from friends and family can help. Alternative sources include grants from business organisations, funding from “business angel” investors and, of course, the banks.

Know when to make the leap

If you are working then it’s an idea to keep the day job and build a new business in your spare time. That’s what Catrin Siôn, 28, and Paul Formosa, 36, did when they were establishing Daffodili (, an online store selling kids clothes and gifts.

They kept on their jobs – in publishing and credit control, respectively – for six months efore making the switch.

“Working full-time when setting up our business was the most difficult part,” says Ms Siôn. “We’d be up until 2am packing sales and Paul would have to go to the Post Office before work. We would also have to take days off in order to be here to receive our products.”

As sales grew, it got harder to balance two working lives. “We were ecstatic when we realised we could make a living working for ourselves and felt we had the potential to grow it into a profitable business,” she adds. “We do miss our monthly wages as money can be tight, but we see it as a short-term sacrifice for a better future.”

Make the most of technology

It’s never been easier – or cheaper – to put your business in front of potential customers, thanks to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even YouTube, not to mention free blogging tools via the likes of Wordpress and Blogger. Even establishing a dedicated website doesn’t have to cost the earth. Specialist companies such as ( provide all the tools you require – including domain names, templates, and online shopping facilities – from as little as £2.99 a month.

Problems to acknowledge

Pierre Williams, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, warns anyone thinking about starting out on their own to prepare thoroughly and accept they will have to overcome myriad problems in their first few years, such as tough trading conditions, late payers and raising finance.

But he says: “More than four in 10 small firms are planning to grow this year, whilst just 7 per cent plan to downsize. That’s an encouraging statistic for anyone thinking of starting up – provided it’s combined with solid research and a realistic approach.”

Opportunities knock

Emma Jones, founder with her partner of Enterprise Nation, a website for small businesses, says the recession has led to a growth in start-ups.

“People are using the fact they have been laid off to kick-start the business idea they’ve had for years,” she says, while others are just deciding that they want the freedom and flexibility that comes with being their own boss.

“The biggest factor that holds people back is fear of failure but it’s actually a great time to be confident about starting a business,” she says.

“Despite the recession, technology is giving us access to two billion customers around the world.” Businesses that can make the most use of websites and social media, therefore, have a fantastic opportunity to turn their ideas into viable operations almost overnight.

"You can start on a budget, keep hold of the day job until you’re ready to make the switch, work from home, and begin trading immediately,” she adds.

"Rather than being cautious, it’s time to embrace all these opportunities. As long as you’ve got the right idea that caters for a niche audience, then there really is no time like the present to get started.”

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Money is slipping through our fingers: the UK is falling behind other countries in the amount we put away

How to save money: UK is crashing down the European league table for putting money away

The UK has slipped to 11th in the latest European league table of savers. Rob Griffin checks out the best options

Energy firms found guilty of bad practice could have licences revoked under Labour government

Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, says a Labour government would create a new energy regulator

A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university

Fresh from A-level delight, the moment does not have to be soured by students resigning themselves to thousands of pounds worth of debt in three years' time. Rob Griffin sees how to pass the university challenge

'Dismal' eurozone data sparks concerns

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi is under pressure to launch promised stimulus before the EU slides further
Love but not marriage: property is one area where cohabiting couples are in danger of losing out

How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting

People who simply live together cannot assume they have the same rights to each other's assets as spouses or civil partners. Michelle McGagh sees how they can protect their financial interests

India could be jewel in the crown for investors

With a new government and an ambitious prime minister, the country offers the prospect of strong returns. But there may be hiccups ahead, warns Simon Read

Child Maintenance Service to replace Child Support Agency - but is it better?

Reforms to the vexed question of child support payments by absent parents mean extra charges for both sides. Neasa Macerlean reports

Barclays's new life insurance heralds a revolution on the high street

The new product marks a shift towards 'clear, straightforward and standardised' banking products, says Simon Read

How to protect your assets if the stock markets begin to head south again

Are you worried about your portfolio? Nick Paler asks fund managers and investment insiders for advice
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    C# .NET Developer (PHP, Ruby, Open Source, Blogs)

    £40000 - £70000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: C# .NET ...

    Data Analyst/Developer (Good education, Data mining, modelling,

    £40000 - £70000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Ana...

    Law Costs

    Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

    Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor