Start your business
Get the information you need to turn your business idea into a reality. Our experienced team can provide you with free and impartial advice, support and direction for any business related enquiry. Contact us in person, by telephone or email if you want personal, one to one service. We're here to help.
We've brought together information and links to websites that will help turn your business idea into a reality. Find out more from the topics shown below.
Know your customer
Market research is essential and will help you focus your idea and plans and test their viability in terms of time, money and resources. Understanding your market will potentially help you save time and money in the long run so it's an important stage in planning any business.
The links below can be useful for learning more about market research and testing the viability of your business idea.
- Keynote: Gain in-depth, professional insights into your market and see how your competitors operate. Some reports are free but for the majority you will need to pay a fee.
- Marketing Donut: This is your one stop shop for all things marketing, including market research You can also familiarise yourself with key terms such as SWOT analysis and target market plus find out all you need to know about pricing your product or service
- Menta, business opportunities: Menta, the Suffolk Enterprise Agency has over 30 years experience in helping local businesses test their viability and perform market research. They also provide an extensive workshop programme.
- Nwes: provides business advice and training to help start and grow your business. Trained business advisors will support you through the business planning process providing advice on finance, marketing and premises, as well as access to grant and loan funding.
- Mintel: Offers a similar service to Keynote, covering a wide range of markets and products. Like Keynote, some reports are free, but for the majority you will need to pay a fee.
- Start ups: Provides extensive and comprehensive start up advice, from the conception stage onwards.
- Entrepreneur Handbook: This is a free information website. It provides expert advice and guides on every aspect of starting and growing a business, including sales, finance and marketing.
- Start up Donut: Features essential information on progressing your business idea, including testing its viability
- Suffolk Observatory: This is a free service and can provide you with some essential insights at this early stage. It is particularly useful for understanding customer demographics and habits.
Know your business
Once you are confident about the viability of your business idea, you should incorporate your findings into a business plan. A business plan should cover every minute detail of your business, including objectives, strategies, sales and marketing and financial forecasts Your business plan will also help you to:
- clarify your business idea
- spot potential problems
- set out your goals
- measure your progress
It can also be integral to securing investment or loans and convincing potential customers, suppliers and employees to support you. The links below provide useful advice for writing your business plan.
- Bplans, how to write a business plan: Hints and tips on writing a business plan, also provides over 500 examples of business plans for a range of products and sectors.
- Business is Great Britain: Advice about every aspect of setting up a business.
- Menta: Talk to one of Menta's specialist advisors who can provide you with impartial and tailored support in writing and developing your business plan.
- Prince's Trust, business planning: Provides a comprehensive guide to writing a business plan and also offers business plan templates
- Start up donut, writing a business plan: Provides a detailed guide on how to set out your business plan.
Fund your business
Without investment capital it might be difficult for your business idea to progress. But there are a variety of funding opportunities out there that don't always mean going to your bank. Visit our Find funding page for more information, or contact us for tailored advice.
You can get to grips with business finance basics at Gov.UK, business finances explained or if you're struggling, consider recruiting a commercial accountant.
Register your business
There are a variety of legal structures that your business can take on. This will have a big impact on how you operate, trade and employ people. Follow the links below for more advice.
- Gov.UK, starting a company: This gives an overview of what you need to do in order to start up a business. The page on legal business structures shows you what's available, what they offer and whether they fit your business idea. The most popular option for start ups is to register as a sole trader
- HM Revenue and Customs: HMRC provides comprehensive and essential information on registering your business, employing people and paying business tax. Make sure you take advantage of their free elearning tool and webinars
- Companies House: Learn about registering your business as a limited company, a limited partnership or a limited liability partnership You can also find information about registering overseas companies.
Protect your business
Don't let your hard work go to waste. If you have a new or fresh business idea that gives you a competitive advantage, it might be worth protecting it as your intellectual property with a patent, a trade mark or copyright. Also brush up on any other legal requirements such as licensing and consider getting insurance to ensure that your business isn't caught out in the future. Follow the links below for more information.
- Gov.uk, intellectual property: Can provide you with an overview of intellectual property and how it can benefit your business. You can also use their License finder to see what regulations apply to your business.
- Intellectual Property Office: Find out more about what protection is available and where and how you can apply. Similarly, check that your own business idea isn't contravening intellectual property laws.
- West Suffolk licensing and regulation: Visit our pages on the website to make sure your business keeps on top of any relevant licensing requirements and regulations. Licensing and regulation isn't just for food service activities but applies to a wide range of businesses.
- Association of British Insurers: Find out more about what business insurance is on offer and where you can buy it from.
Local sources of information and help
- Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce: Supporting businesses in and around Bury St Edmunds.
- Greater Cambridge, Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership: Focused on encouraging sustainable economic growth in the area.
- Haverhill Chamber of Commerce: Supporting businesses in and around Haverhill.
- New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership: Offers advice whether you want to start up, grow or invest.
- Newmarket and District Chamber of Commerce: Supporting businesses in and around Newmarket, Brandon and Mildenhall.
- Suffolk Chamber of Commerce: Providing support for businesses from start up, development, growth and beyond.