Super Britannia – An Interview With StartUp Britain Co-Founder, Emma Jones


We meet Co-Founder of StartUp Britain, Emma Jones

We met with Emma Jones, Co-Founder of national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain and founder of online business network Enterprise Nation, to hear how new British business is growing faster than ever before.

What is StartUp Britain, and how was it conceived?
StartUp Britain was set up in March 2011 by eight entrepreneurs who wanted to make a difference. Their mission was simple ? to celebrate, accelerate and inspire enterprise in the UK. By taking the start-up message to a wider audience, the campaign hopes to encourage more people to consider entrepreneurship as a career path. The campaign is funded by the private sector, big brands like PayPal, Intuit and BT Business, but has the support and the ear of central government. It uses this support to represent the needs start-ups require to get started and grow.

Since the campaign began, the UK has seen record start-up rates. According to our StartUp Britain tracker last year more than 484,000 businesses started up. This year we want to see 500,000 businesses getting under way. With start-up rates high, the campaign now plans to focus on how it can encourage big businesses to start to do business with small businesses in order for them to grow to the next level.

What practical support do you provide to entrepreneurs?
We don’t hold people’s hands. We don’t operate a giant start-up call centre telling people what to do! We are a campaign, so we raise awareness about the support that’s out there from other organisations and the government for new businesses, as well as putting on free events.

Every year we run a Finance Week which includes a series of panel discussions, talks and workshops with the kind of high profile guests that you?d often have to pay a fortune to see. We also run Marketing 4 StartUp Britain Week with the Marketing Agencies Association (MAA) in the summer, Tech Week in the Autumn, plus some really popular one-day events including StartUp Food and StartUp Fashion. We?re also planning a StartUp Creative event in September that is set to be held in Manchester.

The other thing we do is our annual bus tour. This year we covered the length and breadth of the country encouraging people to get busy and start-up. We collect local entrepreneurs and business advisers as we go. The atmosphere is always amazing and we generally have queues of people keen to discuss their idea and collect more information about how they are going to start-up.

Is now a good time to launch a start-up in the UK?
I?m biased of course, but I would say definitely yes. Starting a business has never been so achievable. With easy access to low-cost technology, there is no longer a need for an office and a filing cabinet. A laptop, a mobile phone and access to broadband are usually all you need ? that and some good advice.

There are also some new initiatives and government support to look out for – StartUp Loans are already available to 18-30 year olds. The government also plans to open this up to people of all ages who want to be their own boss. The great thing about the loan is that it comes with a mentor to make sure you get the best possible start.

Growth Vouchers and different initiatives to help businesses to get to the next level have also been announced. And great things are happening. Tech City in Shoreditch was designated ?a world-leading technology city to rival Silicon Valley?, and this is only one example of how entrepreneurship is expanding quickly.

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme SEIS, introduced in April 2016, offers tax relief of up to 50% for investment in start-up companies as well as tax exemption on any capital gains. That’s a really good incentive for people to get involved.

What trends are you seeing in start-ups?
What we are seeing are more and more people who are starting real businesses. Today 70% of all new businesses are started at home. Start-up and micro businesses account for 95% of all British businesses, provide employment for 7.8 million people and contribute 20% of private sector turnover. They are mums who are holding down a day job, putting the kids to bed and then starting work on their business. They are people who are working hard, and creating their own value from home by doing something they love.

We run PitchUp events with big firms in a bid to get them to get engaged with the increasing number of start-ups. We?re in the process of running one, our third with leading high street retailer John Lewis. So far two start-ups have been stocked on their shelves in this way. We?re also about to do our first pitching day with Sainsbury’s in September. This is for foodie start-ups ? people who are already manufacturing their own ice cream, Indian ready meals, or selling their collections online.

There are also increasing numbers of people running retail start-ups online. We set up our retail arm PopUp Britain in response to this. We now open up empty shops and introduce groups of retail start-ups to co-work and co-fund the space. We?re about to open our eighth – this time in Piccadilly. Since we started out from an empty estate agent’s shop in Richmond twelve months ago, we’ve helped more than 250 start-ups get onto the high street.

What advice would you have for aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of launching their first start-up?
Start small. Hang on to the day job and give it a go in a small way. It’s a great way to test out your ideas with a safety net in place. It’s hard work of course, but the rewards are there to be had. You?ll soon work out what works and what doesn’t. Starting and growing a business at home is the most popular way to do it. Keeping the overheads low is incredibly important.

???What advice would you give entrepreneurs who are struggling with finding financing for their start-up?
Access to finance has been identified as one of the biggest single barriers to growth, with only a quarter of UK start- ups considering themselves strong at accessing even basic external finance, and four out of five financial decision makers have no formal training in financial matters.

When starting out most businesses only need small amounts of capital, and crowd funding sites are playing an increasingly influential role in this. Other alternatives include angel investment, venture capital, SEIS backers and StartUp Loans for 18-30 year olds. Start-ups should look out for incubators and accelerators who can offer advice and high-speed growth expertise.

A report by small business accounting software firm Intuit called the Three Year Glitch suggests the earlier businesses take up good financial habits, the more likely they are to survive the crucial first three years. A poll of 500 business founders and owners revealed 40% had experienced cash flow problems, 31% said they had found problems getting paid and 23% said they had experienced difficulty managing finances at some point.

Do you think that investors should be more accessible with their time to start-ups?
It makes sense for people who are investing to offer their advice as well as their money. Having this kind of input can make all the difference for someone who has a great idea ? but doesn’t know how to put it into action. Having to report back often offers motivation to succeed and impress ? as well as a chance to learn and gather detailed advice.

Entrepreneurs love to get to grips with new projects and often can’t resist getting involved. I?d have thought there might be more of an issue asking them to be less involved!

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