Can Anyone Start Their Own Business?

Being your own boss is an attractive idea, especially if you think about working towards making your business idea turn into reality and you would like some additional income. However, there are many questions to ask when you might not be over 18, might not have the capital or the financial means and you might also have a mediocre credit score. Let’s answer all of these questions next.

Can you start a business if you are under 18 years old? 

If you are wondering if you can start a business as a teenager, the very straightforward answer is yes, but with a few extra challenges or steps. While you cannot open it in your name, have a bank account independent of someone older or have a credit score if you are 16 let’s say, you can get around these problems by having a parent or a guardian help you set up all of the above. Ask around and people you know might be able to help.

Can you start a business with bad credit or no collateral? 

Next you might be wondering if there are loans for people wanting to start a business but have a bad credit score for different reasons. Again, it is not impossible but it might be more challenging. It definitely depends on how bad your credit score is. There are a few banks and lenders that could offer you the financial support for your idea. Additionally, you might have the possibility of asking family, friends or professional connections to help and even form a collaboration or partnership with them.

Alternatives to bank loans for starting a business 

The key thing you need to secure after having your idea figured out, calculating your potential costs and your business registered is investment. You might not have the financial resources because of the reasons mentioned above but there are ways to go around that and see your idea come to life. There are many ways to cut your costs when starting a business and you can secure funding from other sources apart from banks & loans. However, keep in mind you will need a business plan to be trustworthy and people to back up your idea. If you are unable to secure a bank loan due to your age, credit score, or current income, there might be other options available:
Government grants & loans. The government offers support for different industries and regions and you might be eligible to receive support. However, keep in mind that you might need to have a business plan ready, along with projections of profit and loss. Check out the government’s website for more information and the latest updates on the requirement of different types of financial help for new businesses available.
Family help. If you are lucky enough to have a supportive family or friends who would be interested in your business idea, you can present the business plan and your idea in a convincing way. You could offer them shares or part in the decision making process, which would be beneficial for you too as their experience might prove valuable.
Crowdfunding. The various websites online such as Kickstaerte and GoFundMe allow you to present your business idea and plan to strangers who might be interested in supporting it. They can donate or buy your product in advance or you can offer them shares of the company.
To conclude, there are ways to go around different difficulties you might encounter when starting your business in less than ideal circumstances but is nonetheless possible. Don’t be discouraged by your current situation, present your ideas in a cohesive and trustworthy manner and you might convince people to join you on this exciting journey.

How to Start a Business on Amazon in the UK

Amazon is the world’s largest online marketplace where almost anyone can list their products and make profit. It is especially important to note it is a profitable venture for entrepreneurs with minimal start-up capital. However, at first it sounds simple but there is a lot of work involved in order to have a successful business on Amazon. Here you will find some key areas to consider when starting a business on Amazon.

What is an Amazon FBA Business? 

Most products listed on Amazon are from independent sellers using Amazon fulfilment. FBA stands for ‘fulfilment by Amazon’. This essentially means that Amazon holds the seller’s stock and distributes and ships it when orders are made. Additionally, the customer service is also handled by Amazon, including returns.
For the customer, this makes no difference as the delivery options, returns policy and customer service are the same.
An FBA is the middle ground between a very small, bedroom business and a company with a lot of staff. Amazon FBAs take a lot of the weight from the seller’s shoulders by handling part of the operations. The main focus for the seller is getting sales.
Additionally, you can have multiple FBA businesses around the world – you just need to deliver the stock to the Amazon FBA warehouses.
Using Amazon’s FBA is not mandatory – you can choose to be responsible for storing the stock, shipping & customer service but bear in mind that might mean you will need more resources such as money, time and staff.

Establishing your Selling Strategy 

Before registering for an online seller account on Amazon, you will be asked to choose a selling plan. Your choice here should be influenced by your strategy, what and how much you are selling. For example, on the Individual Plan you will be charged £0.75 for each item you sell. On the other hand, the Professional Plan costs £25, regardless of the number of items sold. Additionally, Amazon takes a referral fee from each sale as a percentage of the sale value, depending on the product category.

How To Set Up Your Amazon Seller Account 

Ideally, you would already have a company set up as you will need to provide:
Business email address or Amazon customer account;
Chargeable credit card;
Valid passport (identity verification protects sellers and customers);
Tax information;
Phone number;
A bank account where Amazon can send you proceeds from your sales.
After setting up your Amazon seller account, you will have access to Seller Central. This is the website where you can monitor sales activity, manage inventory and add new products, update your prices, communicate with buyers and solve customer service issues.

How To Source Your Products 

Depending on your strategy, you might be a reseller of popular products or a brand owner who manufactures their own. If you are in the latter category, sourcing your products should already be in place and you might be able to secure your stock in time. For reselling products you could use either dropshipping or be a wholesaler.

How To Add Products 

While you can sell almost anything on Amazon, provided it is not illegal, there are some categories that are open to all sellers, some require a Professional account and some require approval, while some are completely prohibited to be sold by third parties. Check out where your products you intend to sell fit before you choose your selling plan ideally.
To add your products you can do so using Seller Central or via an API, either Amazon Marketplace Web Services (MWS) API or you can build your own.
A Product Listing should contain:
A product identifier, such as GTIN, UPC, ISBN, or EAN to specify the exact item you’re selling.
A SKU, which is a product ID you create to track your inventory;
Offer details, including price, product condition, available quantity, and shipping options;
Product details like name, brand, category, description, and images;
Keywords and search terms to help buyers find your product.
If there is already another seller listing the same products, you’ll match an existing listing. The product identifier might be already in place in this case. Amazon combines data from the different sellers and offers on a single detail page. Sellers can contribute to the listings detail page information and request reviews of that information, to ensure the information displayed is correct.
In the case of a completely new product, a new listing will be created. You can also register the product you own under a registered trademark using Amazon Brand Registry. This is a free service that allows you to have more control over product detail pages using your brand name.
In order to fill out the Product Detail Page you will need to input:
● Title: 200 characters max, capitalize the first letter of every word;
● Images: 500 x 500 or 1,000 x 1,000 pixels to increase listing quality;
● Variations: different colors, scents, or sizes;
● Succinct, descriptive sentences highlighting key features;
● Description: Keywords improve the chances that people will find your listing.

Marketing Your Products 

On Amazon, the most popular products usually feature Prime shipping, which is free to Prime members and provides fast shipping. You can get the badge on your products by using Amazon FBA described above.
You can also advertise your products on Amazon so they show up top of the page. This gives you more visibility and better reach. Another way of promoting your products is using a limited time deal or a discount coupon for customers.
Setting a competitive and fair price is the straightforward way to ensure your success while selling on Amazon. There are hundreds if not thousands of products in the same category and customers are always looking for the best deal.
After your first sale, encourage your customers to leave reviews on the page of the product they purchased. Listings with multiple positive reviews have a higher chance of selling to future customers, as it shows you are a trustworthy and reputable seller.

Sole Trader vs Limited Company

What are the pros and cons of setting up as a Sole Trader vs a Limited Company? 

We’ve gone through the basic considerations for both and directly compared them so you can get a clearer picture on which is best for you. Areas to consider when setting up your business include:
Financial Liability
Status & Professionalism
Finance Options
Publishing Personal Details
Business Name Protection
Tax Requirements
Administration Requirements
Employment
Insurance
Sole Trader 
Limited Company 
Financial Liability 
If your business runs up any debt you are legally required to cover it, this may mean even selling personal assets.
Financial Liability 
By setting up a limited company your business becomes a separate legal entity. Therefore if the business does run up debts the business, rather than you personally, are responsible.
Status 
You can build a great reputation as a sole trader and many customers won’t know the legal ‘status’ of your business or, to be honest, care! They are there for your amazing products and service after all.
Status 
Having said that, some suppliers & clients may feel more secure dealing with a company that has gone through the formation process. Once you get larger and becoming more prominent it may be time to form a limited company.
Finance Options 
Along with being financially liable for the business, raising funds may be more difficult. Options as a sole trader include; savings, friends & family lending, go fund me pages, and some banks will loan you money however you may be considered too ‘high risk’ and refused. But if your over-heads are low and your cash flow good this may not be a concern for you.
Finance Options 
You will have more financial options open to you and be more likely to be approved for a loan from a bank or lending organisation. All the options of a sole trader will be available to you along with more official routes. If you need a premises to operate from, need to buy equipment or require some start-up cash to get you going forming a limited company will make it easier when applying for finance.
Personal Details 
Increased privacy. Your personal details won’t be published on Companies House.
Personal Details 
You will have to publish your name (as a director), the names of fellow directors and your business address on Companies House. You can limit the amount of information out there by registering with a secretarial business service eg business address but some details have to be made public.
The Name of Your Business 
Business name protection. As a sole trader you may be worried about others operating with a similar name to take advantage of your good reputation, advertising efforts and word of mouth promotion from customers. You can take out Business Name Protection here with NBR to stop this from happening.
The Name of Your Business 
No one can use the exact same business name as you, they legally won’t be able to form the company. However this doesn’t cover you in every situation, they could add an ‘s’ to the name or ‘solutions’ etc so their name ends up being very similar to yours. You can take out business name protection to stop this, find out more here.
Tax 
Tax can be substantially higher for sole traders, especially when you’ve established the business and are pulling in a good amount of money. Sole traders can be charged between 20%-45% tax on their profits (minus allowable business expenses).
Tax 
Tax for limited companies is lower and they are generally considered more ‘tax efficient’. They are required to pay only 19% on their total profits (minus allowable business expenses).
Administration Requirements 
There is less paperwork to do as a sole trader. You will still want to have an accountant but in terms of legally required documentation there’s less than a limited business.
Administration Requirements 
More paperwork to do with legal annual documentation having to be submitted. As with being a sole trader getting an accountant is a great idea, they will be able to help you with all the paperwork and requirements.
Employment 
You can employee people as a sole trader. Make sure you have insurance and are set up correctly with a PAYE scheme and pensions with HRMC. This is were an accountant will come in handy.
Employment 
As with a sole trader you need to set up a PAYE scheme with HRMC for any employees you have and take out the right insurance to cover them.
Insurance 
As a sole trader you are less likely to have to need different kinds of insurance but check out our ‘Sole Trader’ article where we outline the basic forms of insurance to consider.
Insurance 
As a limited company you may want to take out insurance. We have covered the basic forms of insurance in our ‘Limited Company’ article. One to particularly consider, as a limited company, is individual director insurance.
We hope our battle of the businesses has helped you make the decision which is best for you. Remember the hardest part is taking the first step, get out there, even if everything isn’t perfect and try!
Start.Biz have packages to suit any size and type of business. Get in touch here with our friendly, expert team today to discuss your personal circumstances and set up a solid infrastructure for your business.

5 Things to Consider When Making a Website for your Business

Setting up a website for your business is a great way for customers to find you, showcase your products/services and build your reputation.

1. What kind of website should you choose? 

Depending on what your business does, you’ll need to decide which kind of website is best for you. We’ve listed out the below the basic functions of different businesses, depending which one you fall under will directly effect what your customers will want to see on your website.
Services – information about what you can provide your customers with, where they can find you, how they can contact you and some background information/testimonials or reviews. An enquiry form or simple booking service may come in useful as well.
Products – customers will want to see all of the above but you may consider adding a shopping feature to your website.
Community organisation – information about your current projects and past projects, how people can get involved, contact details and background information about the organisations mission or vision. A blog my be a great way of keeping people up to date and informing them about current events.
Freelancer – this is a great way to showcase your work if you are an artist, creative or any other kind of freelancer. You can add portfolios, examples of your work, projects you’ve worked on, contact details and even a blog to share updates with potential clients or collaborators.

2. Should I use a template to build my website? 

If you are looking for an informative or ecommerce website there are some amazing platforms out there which have easy to use templates. If your business offers something more complex you may consider engaging a web developer to help you build your site from scratch. If you want your site to be constantly updated, you will need a CSM (content management service) these template websites will have this built in and developers will be able to code this into your website too. Some template platforms out there include:
NBR – National Business Register offer a website and email service. This can be paid for yearly or is free when you take out Business Name Registration protection.
Squarespace – this enables you to build a professional looking website quickly. It is intuitive and even has marketing tools to help you maximise your online presence.
Wix – similar to Squarespace it has customisable templates and tools to help you build your site.
Shopify – if you are a product based business this is an amazing way to get your online shop up and running. It has integrated analytics tools, a dashboard and lots of add-on apps available to help you market and grow your business.
Etsy/depop/eBay – you can set up a shop within these sites. Benefits of this include having a well-known name attached to your business however it may look a little less professional to some as you won’t have your business name as the URL. Also there are thousands of users already on these market places so coming high in the search results will require real effort and may take some time. However, if you’re starting small these are a great place to start.

3. Should I have social media accounts for my business? 

Yes! Social media is a great place for people to discover your business, build social proof and showcase your talents. If you’re not keen on social media you can keep it very low key but regular posting and interacting with people will help build your account and reach. Do some research to see which platforms your competition uses, what channels your customers use most and what type of content works best for your offering. Also consider which platform you are personally most familiar with.
You can set up a business account for free and will have basic analytical tools to help you track your progress. We’ve listed out a few below with some advantages to help you decide.
Facebook – having a Facebook page will help people find you and allow you to post photo’s and information about your business. Facebook tends to have a slightly older audience and works well local community and product based businesses.
Instagram – has lots of different ways to present your content. This platform is best if you have a product which is particularly visual.
Twitter – this is prodomitely a text based channel however there are options to add visuals, but not to the same extent as with Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is a great place to re-post articles, share ideas/thoughts and get industry news. FYI Twitter is the only social platform used more by men than women (70% vs 30%).
LinkedIn – this is a great way to build professional connections within your industry. Some people do share personal news through this channel but it is usually connected to business or industry in some way. It’s great for posting news about your business, sharing industry articles, networking and posting job vacancies.
YouTube – ideal if you like producing video content. It’s particularly useful for explaining products/services. Create ‘how to’ video’s for your products or services to maximise this channel.
TikTok – speaks to a younger audience and has yet to be monetised in the same way as the above channels.
This is not an exhaustive list so doing research into which channels your customers use most is essential.

4. What should I put on my website? 

Content is king! Setting up the foundational content for your website is the place to begin. Keep it really simple and clear, outline the basic information you think a potential customer would like to know and make yourself contactable.
Your business name & logo.
Details of your offering.
Full contact details.
Visuals of your offering – this can be photos of products or you can use graphics/stock photos if you provide services.
After this you can start to have some fun! Think about the content your customers enjoy consuming, content that answers questions your customers may Google and types of content that would work for your business. Keeping your website up to date, relevant and engaging is paramount so depending on how much time you have to devote to this, you may want to ask a professional for help. You can draft in agencies, have part-time or fill-time marketing assistants/managers or you can put time aside in your schedule to keep on top of things. Remember you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for your social media, take content & copy from your website and reuse it on the different platforms.

5. Should I use digital marketing? 

As you build your business you want to maximise your digital presence as being online can multiple your reach experientially. We will go into more detail about digital marketing in a separate article as it is an entire industry within itself however these are the 7 main areas you may want to look at.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
PPC (Pay-Per-Click)
Social Media Marketing
Content Marketing
Email marketing
Mobile Marketing
Marketing Analytics
You will find experts in each of these areas along with some people that have strengths that cross-over. If you are an established business it is worth either engaging an agency or employing a individual specialist through a digital recruiter to ensure you are getting exactly the help you are looking for.

Business Name Protection

Why Register Your Business Name? 

Registering a business name is an important step when setting up your business. Choosing the perfect name can be daunting, so we are here to help you through the process. Our service is ideal for sole traders, partnerships and limited companies looking to check and protect their trading name.
Benefits of registering your business name –
Ensure your business name is unique, does not copy an existing business or entity, and meets all statutory legal requirements.
Protect one of your most important assets, your business name, from the malpractice of passing-off, in which competitors copy or use your business name.
Make the most of social media by protecting your online reputation and handles.
A guarantee that we will initiate and cover your legal fees, up to £10,000, if action needs to be taken.
Receive information on any relevant updates in legislation.
Become part of our business community and connect with likeminded business owners.
Access to resources and advice that will enable you to save time and money.
Here at Start.Biz (formly known as the National Business Register) we are passionate about supporting businesses and helping you realise your dream of being your own boss.

What are the Costs of Business Names Protection? 

Business Name Registration costs an annual membership fee of £99 (plus VAT) and includes initial name searches, a display certificate, protection against ‘Passing Off’, obtaining formal statutory permission if needed and expert advice from Start.Biz.
We understand that setting up your own business can seem over whelming at times, our expert team has nearly 40 years’ experience and are here to help you every step of the way. If you have any questions about our services, or just need a little advice at whatever stage of your business journey you are, please get in touch.

How we Protect Your Business Name 

We will protect your trading name against copying by another business, company or brand. This copying is called “passing off”; legal costs, court fees, solicitors and counsel fees are paid by us, for further information please refer to the T&C’s.

What is ‘Passing Off’? 

The law of passing off stands to protect a trader’s goodwill and business against copying, (Passing Off). In order for a passing off action to succeed, you will need to substantiate the following matters:
A misrepresentation made by another, with respect to the business name, in the course of that particular trade.
The misrepresentation is made to the principal customers or prospective customers.
The misrepresentation does cause damage to the principal business or goodwill of which the business name has developed.
Although these elements may be present in an incident that constitutes ‘Passing Off’ it is important that you make us aware as soon as possible so we can act quickly. This gives us the best chance of the claim being successful.

How to Make a ‘Passing Off’ Claim with Start.Biz (National Business Register) 

We appreciate each situation is unique and may require slightly different information depending on the nature of the claim. Our team will be here every step of the way to ensure you are fully informed and take the hassle out of the process so you can get on with the running of your business.
We will ask you to fill out a ‘Passing Off’ complaint form with as much information as possible, sent via email.
Now we get to work! If there is any missing information we require to proceed with your particular claim, a member of our team will be in touch to advise.
We will then issue a letter of notice to the alleged offending party stating that they are ‘Passing Off’ an established business name. This letter will also include useful information for them and next steps on how they should proceed going forward.
If, after this letter has been received, the other party are looking to contend the ‘Passing Off’ action, we will enter a dialogue with them and/or their solicitors. We will start to build a case demonstrating their infringement and work closely with them to resolve the issue at this stage.
Once the above options have been exhausted and it is evident that the ‘Passing Off’ action cannot be progressed without resorting to litigation, we will take your case to the external Legal Counsel.
Since 1984 we have successfully prevented thousands of organisations from copying a registered member’s business name. We can boast a highly professional qualified team who are specialists in their field. Our business exists to protect members’ trading names and for a small annual fee you have access to, and support from internal and external specialists who will endeavour to resolve your problem quickly and effectively.
For a free, no obligation Intellectual Property audit or to discuss your personal circumstances please call 0121 678 9000 or email info@start.biz

Which Type of Limited Company is Right for you?

Limited Companies 

Limited liability can protect the owner of a company from personal loss or even bankruptcy, which a sole trader could not avoid. Take the stress out of making it official and form your company with the National Business Register here.

PLC (Public Limited Companies) 

Owning a PLC offers prestige and perceived status. PLC companies do not have to be listed on the Stock Exchange or Alternative Investment Market and many PLC shareholders/directors choose to retain control over their company at all times. Form your PLC with the National Business Regitser here.

Guarantee Companies 

Guarantee companies are usually run for the benefit of members of a club or association to raise funds for the benefit of others. The “guarantors” give a personal amount they will pay in the event the company fails and owes debts. If they wish, members can give an unlimited guarantee and be responsible for all debts. Can also be used for flat management. Form your guarantee company with the National Business Register here.

LLP (Limited Liability Partnerships) Companies 

An option for companies with two or more owners, the partners can limit their personal liability and avoid putting their personal assets at risk. Mostly used by accounting and law firms. Form your LLP with National Business Regitser here.

CIC (Community Interest Company) 

This is a limited company with extra features to mark it out as a Social Enterprise. CIC’s are easy to set up, with all the flexibility and certainty of the company form, but with some special features to ensure they are working for the benefit of the community rather than private individuals. Form your CIC with National Business Register here.

The Basics of Seed Funding

What is seed funding? 

Despite the varying terminology, seed funding, seed capital or seed money are all the same form of investment. It is essentially the first official equity funding stage and typically represents official money that a business raises from an outside investor in return for a stake in the company.
Seed funding tends to be done at the very start of a businesses life and is the early financial support which initially helps to grow the business in the early stages to inject much needed funds into the project. Almost every company will get an initial investment through seed funding, however it is becoming more common in recent times with new start-up businesses cropping up.

What is seed funding used for? 

Seed funding can be used for a wide variety of things and is ultimately designed for a company to do with as it sees fit. Some investors will stipulate what they wish for the money to go towards, whereas others will not.
Seed funding is generally used to help project the company into the next round of funding or to finance it’s first steps including the likes of product development, market research and much more so that it is in a position where it can generate its own income. With the right dedication, business strategy and perseverance the company should hopefully start to grow from this initial investment.

Who can invest via seed funding? 

Almost anyone who has a bit of money can invest via seed funding from family and friends to founders and more. Many companies tend to prefer to have investors who are known and are close to them, however, outside investors, such as venture capital and angel investment can also be seed funders.
Angel investors are those who tend to invest in start-ups and are classed as a riskier venture as there is no previous track record of the business so far. In exchange for their investment, they tend to expect an equity stake in the company. Venture capital financing is a private equity capital that can be provided at various stages or funding rounds.
Many start-up businesses tend to get their seed funding through other projects too such as via crowd funding systems and Kickstarter among others.

What do seed funders get? 

Seed funding is ultimately just a stage of funding rather than a method or way of funding. They will usually invest in a part of the company so they will usually benefit if they decide to sell their shares to another investor or from any of the stock equity should the business decide to go public. If a company has crowdfunded, the business could have various offerings for their investors including bonuses for their investments or even early access to certain services of products depending on what the business offers.