I’m starting a new business – help! Ten places to get advice and funding for a small to medium business

Ten brilliant sources of practical support for your start-up, including investment, mentoring, networking with other SMEs and exporting advice. By Matthew Moore from The Hub

High50 readers will know that being in your fifties is no barrier to setting up a business. Setting up business at this age means you possess a huge amount of experience and understand your own strengths and weaknesses. There are plenty of success stories that demonstrate how important these things can be.

Nevertheless, quality advice and support are essential to help channel your experience into creating a successful new venture. There is advice available, including tailored support for entrepreneurs over 50, but many prospective small business owners are unaware how to access this.

I know from research done by my organisation that coaching is the top priority for small businesses looking for advice. When SMEs were asked what would be most useful for their business, we found that coaching was the top choice, beating even support from the bank.

With this in mind, here are nine essential resources that can enable budding entrepreneurs to realise their potential.

1. UK Crowdfunding

It’s become a cliché that banks need to do more to support small business, but there is less awareness of the alternatives to bank finance and how to access these. UK Crowdfunding is a good place to find out how to get started with crowdfunding and which platform is most suitable for your company.

2. Start-up Loans

Start-up Loans is a government-funded scheme to provide loans and mentors for entrepreneurs. The project is championed by Lord Young, who identified that if entrepreneurialism was as entrenched into the British mentality as it is in the United States we would have 900,000 more jobs in the UK.

The scheme has lent more than £115 million since its conception and backs an average of 41 businesses a day. Interested? Your business must be less than 12 months old, or 24 months under special circumstances.

3. Nesta

Nesta is an innovation charity, dedicated to supporting ideas from early-stage investment to in-depth research and practical programmes.

4. Great Business

As well as providing training, networking and local promotion possibilities, a new campaign providing £2 million to help micro-businesses and sole traders increase their online presence has been launched by the government’s Great Business support programme.

5. Virgin StartUp

Richard Branson knows a few things about starting up a successful business. Virgin StartUp is his not-for-profit organisation that helps entrepreneurs aged 18 and over in England with small business funding and other resources. Mentors and advice are provided, the website is full of useful information and events are held throughout the UK.

6. Tech City UK programmes

For digital businesses, there are a range of services at Tech City designed to drive growth. These include online courses and clusters, which are groups of start-ups and bright minds working closely together in order to accelerate growth and share best practice. Some of Britain’s most successful digital companies have already participated.

7. UK Trade & Investment 

Businesses that export to foreign markets are 11 per cent more likely to succeed than those that don’t. Even more impressively, companies that seek advice on exporting from UK Trade & Investment earn £100,000 in additional sales within 18 months. The advice given by trade experts is free.

8. UK Business Angels Association

UK Business Angels provides capital for businesses, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.

9. GrowthAccelerator

GrowthAccelerator is part of the Business Growth Service, a government-backed scheme giving support to businesses with the potential to improve and grow. It offers business planning, coaching and access to skills and funding for a small fee (£600 to £3,000 depending on the size of your business), which is deductable from your VAT bill. It claims to help businesses grow four times faster.

10. The Hub

Last (but definitely not least) is my company, The Hub, which provides free tips, resources and inspiration to help your business to flourish. Some examples include our guide to SEO, understanding your customers, and a gobbledegook-free guide to building an online shop.