Starting a small business? Get all the help you can

'It's liberating to be doing something that you love'

All sorts of public and private sector organisations offer support to budding entrepreneurs, including financial help. Business development grants are available from sources including the Government, the European Union, regional development agencies, local Business Link offices, and several charities.

For example, Enterprise for All is a new project part- funded by the City of London Corporation, which offers help to unemployed people keen to start their own businesses. As well as financial help, the idea is to offer training on the skills needed to set up and run a small business. The scheme, run by the East London Small Business Centre, has so far provided £150,000 of new funding to start-ups.

Pearl Agbloe, from Manor Park in East London, trained as a hairdresser in the early Nineties. After her daughter was born, she decided to start her own small business - but no-one was prepared to back her dream. "None of the banks wanted to lend me money," she said, "and I didn't have the money to learn the skills I needed to set up a business."

Last year, Pearl discovered that the East London Small Business Centre provided free training to would-be small business owners. "I was a qualified hairdresser but I needed to do courses on things like putting a business plan together, and how to do all the paperwork to cope with issues like VAT."

Finally, in January, Pearl's application for a grant from Enterprise for All came through, and she was able to launch her own salon. "I've found running my business easier than I would have done without all the training I got," she said.

The best single source of information about grants for small enterprises is the Government-backed Business Link, an advisory service that operates through a network of local offices around the country.

A spokesman for Business Link explains the advantages of financing at least part of your venture in this way: "Generally you do not have to repay grants unless you break the conditions, and then you do not have to pay interest on them".

Grants are often linked to specific business areas - exporting, product development or training, for example - or to specific geographical areas, like the Enterprise for All scheme.

Start by working out what you need a grant to finance. For example, the Learning and Skills Council and some Business Links provide grants for training and skills development, while anyone unemployed or employed in a part-time or low-paid job, aged 18 to 30, and with a business idea, can apply for funds from the Prince's Trust. Use the Business Links network to identify which agency to approach. See www.businesslinks.gov.uk or call 0845 600 9006.

In most cases, small business owners have to put up some funds themselves - you might get 40 per cent of the amount you need to launch the company, say - which will require you to find finance elsewhere too.

However, even if you are struggling to make up the difference, don't despair. The Small Firms Loan Guarantee, a joint initiative from the DTI and a number of banks, offers help to small business owners struggling to get loans. In certain circumstances, entrepreneurs who don't have assets to put up as security may still be able to get a loan, because the Government will put up a guarantee against default.

Above all, a good business plan is crucial to attracting any of this help. Prospective entrepreneurs need to explain what their business will do in detail, and provide realistic financial forecasts. You will also need to demonstrate that you have done market research to establish there is a demand for your product.

Most organisations offering grants will be able to offer you advice on putting a business plan together.

Claire Knapp, from Brighton, has always known she wanted to run her own business. "Even as a child I used to make things to sell," she says. "I did some modelling when I was 18 or 19 which gave me a taste of what it was like working for myself, but in my twenties I then did all sorts of jobs and projects."

Having put spare cash into property for several years, Claire was eventually in a position to launch her own business, a complementary therapy centre in Brighton, which reflected her own passions. "It was half organic beauty salon and half alternative therapies," she said. "That's something I was brought up with so it seemed perfect."

However, after several years spent trying to establish the business, Claire began to realise it wasn't working and last year decided to close the centre. "It was heartbreaking but if something isn't right you have to pull the plug," she says.

In its place, Claire has launched a web-based business selling organic beauty products - www.theorganicsalon.com.

"It's a combination of my beliefs and the modern world," she said. "I love the flexibility of the internet, even though I'm here by myself working away."

Her tip for would-be entrepreneurs is to stick with it. "I did lose money on my first job, but I've tried to stay positive," she says. "Being in charge can be scary, when you know you have to pay your mortgage, for example, but it's also liberating to be doing something you're really passionate about."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

.NET Developer

£650 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM,...

Java/C++ Developer

£350 - £375 per day: Harrington Starr: Looking for a Java/C++ Developer to wor...

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