From birth to business: How do I start my own enterprise?

Nothing is more exciting that embarking onto the journey of setting up your own business. Seeing your dreams and ambitions finally manifest is what it is all about. However, with such enterprises taking up both a lot of time and money, you need to take the right steps in the right order, and that does not mean appearing in a certain TV show involving Lord Alan Sugar.

The first few seeds

To get started, you need to define your business. What will you offer? What will be your unique selling point (USP)? You need to identify a gap in the market and talk to potential customers about what they are looking for. Test your ideas with them and collect honest feedback, giving them set prices and adjusting these figures depending on their reactions. Ultimately, if you have a competitor, think about how you will be different.

Based on this market research, develop your ideas and come with ways in which you can deal with any obstacles. Once you have adjusted your offering, you can then go back to your customers and keep testing until you are confident that they would embrace your business.

The game plan

A good business plan will focus on your target customer base and how your business will meet their demands in order to make a profit. A plan will also be needed to convince partners and funding sources of how your business can be valuable to them. Be sure to include all overheads and any potential expansion plans. This will show that you are thinking long-term.

Remember that when starting a business, you have to expect that you will be making losses for a while until healthy profits rake in. It is therefore vital that you have strong financial backing. Commercial mortgages will naturally be a great source of money, but you need to give realistic cash flow estimations to the bank and prove that you will be able to pay them back. Do note that the bank may hold your house or car as security, in case you do not meet monthly payments.

You may also be eligible for the Funding for Lending Scheme, which was launched by the coalition last August (2012), which will offer a wide availability of mortgages, whilst selling shares is also a great way of equity funding.

The set-up

The next step once you have the funds is to secure the working space. Whether it is office spaces to let in the south eastor retail units up north, you need to consider how much space you will need, depending on the number of employees and equipment needed.

If you are taking on staff, you will then need to consider wages and tax insurance. Register yourself with the HMRC as an employer and try to get as much information from advisers. Accountants will help with financial matters and can deal with your tax affairs, such as submitting VAT returns to the HMRC. Lawyers meanwhile will offer legal advice. Both will probably charge an hourly fee or a fixed price, so be sure to hunt for good quotes beforehand.

The next step? Open for business, of course!