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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
football
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?