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UK Government Support for Start-ups and Small Businesses

Here in the UK we’re a nation of small businesses with an economy that very much relies on SMEs for success.  At the beginning of 2016 there were a record number of private sector businesses, a whopping 5.5 million, and 2 million more than there were at the beginning of 2000 so this really does represent a growing trend.   You may be surprised to learn that small businesses account for 99% of these private sector businesses and 99.9% of those were small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs).  These SMEs have a combined annual turnover of £1.8 trillion which is 47% of all private sector turnover here in Britain.  These figures clearly show just how much our economy depends on SMEs, despite the fact that 76% of these businesses have no employees and are owner-operated.  One of the most common challenges when it comes to setting up your own business is where to find the start-up capital so today we’re going to take a look at government funding for SMEs.

Government funding has been changing to reflect the fact that many businesses are confused by the sheer number of initiatives to the point that most will give up looking for help.  The website is the single point of access to all government services and information here in the UK and it’s the first stop in finding information and guidance on starting and running a business, including statutory rights and obligations.  The Business Finance and Support Finder is an interactive tool that can be used to search by sector, business size, location, activity and business stage, enabling would be business owners to search for government support and finance for business that includes:

·        Grants, loans and finance

·        Business support such as consultancy and mentoring

·        Funding for small and medium sized businesses and start-ups.

In a bid to encourage more businesses to start up and to ensure that those that are already running have more chance of success, the government has created a network of local Growth Hubs to make it easier for business owners to find the help they need.  There are 39 of these Growth Hubs across the UK which partner with Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, universities and business schools, Enterprise Zones, banks and other private sector organisations. 

The British Business Bank offers funds and guarantees to private sector partners which allow them to finance small business through debt or equity.  The Bank also boasts a “Help to Grow” programme which helps small business raise senior debt to fund growth.  The Start Up Loans company scheme provides advice, mentoring and loans to start-up businesses.  Most national and local grans tend to focus on particular business activities or purposes.  The location of your business could increase your chances of success when applying for a grant and businesses in economically disadvantaged areas may be eligible for support. 

There is also a National Business Support Helpline which provides business improvement guidance to pre-start-ups, start-ups and existing businesses in order to help them start up or increase business.  More in-depth support is available via a small team of Business Support Advisors (BSAs) who offer up to 60 minutes of free telephone business support tailored to individual business needs.