Where are you on the business timeline?


Shop windowAccording to a survey by BT, 15% of women with children have started their own business, and one in 10 of us aspires to do the same.

And it's no wonder - running your own business offers flexibility, autonomy and creativity, and is a great way to combine your parenting responsibilities with making a living.

But while the idea might sound dreamy, there are always challenges to overcome or more you could be doing to make your business expand and grow. 

So, whether you've just got the germ of an idea or are looking to expand, check out your next steps.


Got an idea | Ready to start up | One to five years in

If you have an idea

The first step is to investigate the validity of your idea, and one of the best ways to do this is to test out your 'elevator pitch' (so-called because it should be no longer than the time it takes you to get from the ground floor to the top floor).

Try and get the essence of your idea into a one-minute speech, then when you're happy with the pitch take it out and present it to friends, family and your target audience.

As entrepreneur and business author Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation points out: "When people hear about your idea and then ask how or where they can buy it, then you know you have a good idea."

The next stage is to build and develop your idea. Ask yourself: has someone already filled the gap that you're aiming to fill and, if so, what makes your idea new and exciting? What are the barriers involved in making the idea work? Who will be the target market for your idea and how will you market the idea to this audience?

Don't expect this to be an overnight process. As Emma Jones explains: "Business ideas develop over time. Ask for feedback from potential customers and use this to refine your idea."

If you're ready to start up

So you have your killer business idea and you're either about to write a sparkling business plan or preparing to take your business to the next level. Either way, you need to plan financially to get things moving.

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is not thinking clearly about the cost of their overheads, explains Matthew Perkins, from Business Link, the government's online resource for businesses. "If you're launching a business, do you have enough money to pay your domestic and utility bills for the first few months while your business is establishing itself?" he asks.

When you're planning these initial stages, it's also important to factor in your own living expenses before you get your first pay cheque from your new business. Make sure you have enough saved to tide you over, so you can focus all your energy on the success of your business, rather than worrying about your personal day-to-day expenses.

At only five years old, the organic food brand Ella's Kitchen is one of the UK's fastest-growing companies.

Find out more

Its founder, Paul Lindley, knows what it's like to start a business from scratch after building the company at his kitchen table: "You need to consider more than one option for how you're going to make your business idea work," he says. "Discuss your ideas and financial plans with external advisers, such as your accountant or bank manager. They will check all your assumptions are realistic, as it's easy to get carried away with your own business."

If you're already one to five years in

Unfortunately, 80% of small businesses fold within the first five years (Times, 2009), so it's important to make sure yours isn't one of them.

From dotcom millionaires to entrepreneurs, kitchen table tycoons to eBay executives, around 300,000 people in the UK will take the plunge and become their own boss this year, according to The Federation of Small Businesses.

But don't take the whole going-it-alone thing too literally. Whether you've been in business for a few years and want to expand, or you have a genius money-making idea, it pays to ask for help and to take advantage of the wealth of free advice and support on offer.

Government backing

Small and medium businesses are the backbone of the economy, accounting for 99% of all UK companies and creating much-needed employment. So it's in the government's interest to do everything it can to nurture your business. Aside from free expert advice, Business Link gives you details of any grants you might be eligible for, along with helpful advice on how best to apply.

If you're having trouble securing funding because of insufficient security to meet a lender's normal criteria, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme may be the solution.

Banking on success

Your bank can also help. Barclays is committed to supporting small and medium enterprises and opened one new business account every other working minute last year*, so it has lots of experience and knowledge to share to help you get off on the right foot for business success.


* One Start Up or Switcher account opened every other working minute, based on a 35-hour working week from January-December 2010.
© FSB 2011. Sourced in May 2011. Source: www.fsb.org.uk/keeptradelocal/images/ktl%20manifesto.pdf
© Times 2011. Sourced in May 2011. Source: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6917880.ece


  • Head to Barclays on Mumsnet for lots more tips, videos and expert information on starting your own business, family budgeting and saving.


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Last updated: about 3 years ago