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Getting independent advice about your business idea

Even the greatest entrepreneurs have needed help and guidance from others at some stage in their careers. Here’s what you need to know about getting independent advice on your business idea.

Why is it important to get independent advice?

So, you’ve come up with a business idea. But what do you do next? How do you assess whether the idea is good one? If your concept does have real potential, how do you take it forward, to turn the idea into a reality?

The path that leads from an idea to a successful and sustainable business may have many twists, turns and hidden pitfalls. Fortunately there are organisations, networks, companies and individuals who can provide you with independent and impartial advice. They can help you make the most of your idea, identifying areas you might have missed, pointing you in the right direction, and in some cases, even accompany you on your journey.

Will I have to pay for advice?

You won’t always need to pay for advice and support. Some agencies provide a free initial consultation. Others require you to pay a joining fee (of around £30 for example) before being able to access their core services.

Some services are free, others are subsidised and some are charged at a commercial rate. Some organisations will provide free help and support conditional on your qualifying for a Start Up Loan.

The ICAEW Business Advice Service, for example, provides professional advice for start-ups and small business owners and offers an initial consultation at no charge. To find out more visit the ICAEW website here.   

 

 

What are the main sources of advice and support?

There’s a range of services in the UK that provide advice and support to business start-ups.

  • Where do I start?

    There’s an array of organisations out there who can help you. In England there’s The National Enterprise Network. In Scotland there are Business Gateway offices. For Wales, there’s Business Wales. For Northern Ireland there’s Invest NI.

  • What help do they offer?

    The way that advice and support is provided varies across different areas. For example, The National Enterprise Network has an online directory organised by region and searchable by local authority area. This means that you can quickly find organisations that can offer start-up advice and support, near to where you’re based, including chambers of commerce, trusts, and not-for-profit companies.

  • What other services are available?

    Different organisations provide advice and support in different ways. Many provide one-to-one consultations with an advisor and also telephone advice. There are workshops and events on how to set-up a business, finance, planning, operations, marketing and other key issues. In some areas you may be able to be matched with a mentor – an experienced business person who will take an in-depth approach to help you explore and develop your ideas.

What other sources of advice and support are there?

Here are some other providers of advice and support:

  • New Entrepreneurs Foundation provides mentoring, coaching, events, and programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs. In their own words, ‘If you’re entrepreneurial, bright, ambitious and driven, The New Entrepreneurs Foundation is for you.’
  • School for Startups provides a range of support including one-to-one advice and workshops for budding entrepreneurs. In their own words, ‘Our interactive, practical sessions teach instantly applicable skills and tools to help propel ideas and businesses to the next level.’
  • Women in Enterprise is a collection of places, organisations, networks, events, and sources of advice and resources to help women develop their businesses.
  • Shell LiveWIRE the UK’s biggest online community for young entrepreneurs aged 16-30. The programme offers free online business advice and the potential of funding.
  • Enterprise Nation aims to create an inspirational environment for business owners and would-be entrepreneurs. You can join to access advice, meet-ups, and eBooks, and to become a member of its community.
  • The British Chambers of Commerce exists to make a difference to businesses. It offers critical business advice, services and skills development. 
  • The Forum of Private Business is a small business support group offering business and legal advice. 
  • UnLtd provides support to social entrepreneurs on the UK.  It operates a unique model by investing directly in individuals and offering a complete package of resources; from awards of funding to ongoing advice, networking and practical support.
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