East Anglia: Record demand for NWES as more people seek to become their own boss

Kevin Horne, NWES chief executive

Kevin Horne, NWES chief executive - Credit: Archant

Why are more people in Suffolk choosing to change their life by becoming their own boss? Sarah Chambers speaks to regional enterprise agency NWES about the cultural shift and finds out about two entrepreneurs who decided to jump in and launch their own businesses.

Regional enterprise agency NWES has revealed that it is currently experiencing its highest demand ever, with an increasing number of people currently seeking advice and funding to start up their own business in Suffolk.

Kevin Horne, chief executive of NWES, which has enterprise centres in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Leiston, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury, believes changing perceptions, the end of a “job for life” culture and the breakdown of barriers to innovation are the key factors behind a growing number of people choosing to pursue their own business dreams.

“Over the last 10 years we’ve provided free advice, support and funding to help create more than 4,500 new businesses and we’re currently experiencing the biggest demand we’ve ever seen,” he said.

“More and more people are choosing to take control of their own destiny by becoming entrepreneurs. While there can be many different motivations behind this, it usually comes down to people wanting to be their own boss and to benefit directly from their own hard work and effort.

“For example, we’ve seen a rise in the number of people in their 50s starting a business. The notion of a ‘job for life’ has become outdated and most people are doing more than one thing in their careers. Having spent decades working for other people, this age group now want to make their own decisions and to reap their own rewards. A few years ago many people became entrepreneurs out of necessity, often having been made redundant or having struggled to find work. Today it is becoming more of a life choice, with many having been motivated by inspiring examples of enterprising spirit. Everyone knows someone who has started up in business.

“Back in the 1980s the perception of entrepreneurs was probably best summed up by Harry Enfield’s comic character ‘Loadsamoney’. They were often seen as wide boys and risk takers, not someone to look up to. Now people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates and James Dyson are all held in esteem and enterprise is being taught in schools.

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“So many barriers to innovation have also been removed, making it easier than ever before to start up a business. The internet and constant developments in communication technologies are making it possible to work from pretty much anywhere, to reach new audiences and to remove overheads.

“The biggest thing still holding people back is a fear of failure. But it’s actually this very fear which also drives people to succeed. The best entrepreneurs only got where they did today because they didn’t want to fail. And success means different things to different people. Some people want to establish a business which allows them to indulge their passion and to pay the bills, while others want to create a business with the potential to constantly grow and evolve.

“Whatever your dream don’t let fear prevent you from trying when there is so much free support available to help you succeed. We’re not like Dragon’s Den. You don’t have to come to us with a fully worked up business plan as that’s what we are here to help you with.

“You just need an idea and the gumption to go for it. And we won’t ask for a massive share in your business in return, our advice and access to finance is normally free. ”

All the business advisers at NWES have been entrepreneurs themselves, including Kevin Horne who joined as chief executive in 1997 and is also chairman of the Cavendish Consortium, made up of six of the largest enterprise agencies across England and the National Enterprise Network.

“We all have our own experiences of investing our own money, inspiration and perspiration into starting up businesses. Here are some of our tips for getting started,” he said

1. Look to start a business that you understand, have experience in or are passionate about

2. Research your competitors thoroughly. How would your services and prices compare to your competitors? Establish your unique selling point (USP) by deciding what would make your business different.

3. Research your market and potential customers. Would you have enough people or businesses willing to pay for your goods or services?

4. Plan what you want to achieve from the business from the start. Do you want to set up a small business which you’ll enjoy and which will pay the bills or are you looking to establish something with the power to grow and evolve?

5. Contact your local enterprise agency to get free advice and guidance on planning and potential grants to support your venture

6. Develop a robust business plan which includes your market and competitor research alongside a marketing plan, detailed financial information and a contingency plan

7. Commit your time, energy and passion. But accept nothing is ever perfect or you’ll never get started!

8. Get a website, even if it is only one page with company information and contact details. If customers can’t find you online, they’ll find someone else pretty quickly.

9. Network and build relationships, not just with potential customers but with similar businesses and people within the industry, so you have your finger on the pulse to react to any potential opportunities.

10. Make it easy for people to pay you with as many different options as possible and keep a close eye on when money is owed to you, so you can identify any potential problems early. And try and obtain a bank overdraft when you don’t need it, as it’s often easier to negotiate at that time and then it’s there if you do need it.

: : NWES provides free one-to-one business advice, access to finance and serviced business premises and free business and personal skills training courses. For more information on starting up in business visit: www.nwes.org.uk/news/be-your-own-boss or call 08456 099 991 or email info@nwes.org.uk

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