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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Starting your own business
A man having a bright idea
By BBC News Online's Emma Clark

It takes determination, overtime and hard graft, but there is nothing like starting your own business.

Starting a small business?
Do your research
Make sure there is enough demand for your product
Work out a business plan
Consider the demands it will make on you and your family
Work out your funding
Make sure you are plugged into all the government support agencies
At least that is a sentiment shared by many entrepreneurs, who have sweated over business plans, begged for funding and put their home life on hold to fulfil their dream.

New research from Barclays Bank shows that even the semi-retired are becoming a force to be reckoned with and are responsible for 50% more start-ups than 10 years ago.

This is good news for the government which is keen to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the UK to generate wealth and fire up the economy.

But how easy is it to set up your own business? How many hoops do aspiring business owners have to jump through and why are "grey entrepreneurs" on the rise?

Taking the plunge

According to Barclays, there were about 450,000 entrepreneurs last year.

Government support
Small Business Service (UK government agency)
Business Link (provides a network of local providers around England)
Scottish Enterprise Network
Highlands and Islands Enterprise Network
Business Connect Wales
Local Enterprise Development Unit (operates in Northern Ireland)
However, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), a lobbying group, estimates that 67% of small business owners are over 45, while a mere 8.7% are under 34.

Such data suggests that running a business actually plays to the strengths of older people.

"They tend to be successful at starting new businesses because they do the right things," says Mike Rogers, managing director of small business and start-ups at Barclays.

"They do the planning, they are well-financed and they have accumulated wisdom.

"They also define success in their own terms. They don't want to take on the world, they just want to supplement their income or keep themselves busy," he told BBC News Online.

Winners

However, Kieran Middleton, a 29-year old social worker turned businessman, shows that younger entrepreneurs can buck the trend.

He set up a Mexican take-away business in Edinburgh with partner Neil Jordan one and half years ago.

Kieran Middleton and Neil Jordan, founders of Mex2go
The founders of Mex2go spent four months researching the market
In June they won the Shell Livewire Young Entrepreneurs of the Year 2001 award.

Using Mr Jordan's business background as a director of a software firm, the two partners put together a meticulous business plan, invested 10,000 each and approached the bank for another 10,000.

Mr Middleton says that he took advice from Scottish Enterprise, a government agency, but found that his business plan was of a higher calibre than anything the agency could have helped him with.

Extensive research

Mr Middleton puts his success down to extensive research, saying that it took about four months before they actually launched the business.


The other thing is perseverance and having a belief in what you are doing.

Kieran Middleton
Mex2go

"The other thing is perseverance and having a belief in what you are doing," he adds.

Within a matter of days, the two partners were "blown away" by the demand for Mexican take-away and were soon beating their projections.

They are now looking at government-sponsored funding and meeting with the private sector to raise further funds to expand the business.

Effort

But such a success story belies the effort involved.

As well as preparing business plans and sorting out funding, new business owners need to make sure they are totally committed, says Mr Rogers from Barclays.

"They have to take into account the demands on themselves and their time, and on their families."


They have to take into account the demands on themselves and their time, and on their families

Mike Rogers
Barclays Bank
There is also the sense of isolation to cope with. Adam Woolf set up his copy-writing business, Proseworks, just three weeks ago.

"You have this idea of a launch, but when you get to that date, nothing changes.

"It is immediately disheartening and the rest of the world is oblivious to that," he says.

The FSB's David Bishop argues that the government needs to invest more in supporting younger entrepreneurs and turning ideas into workable plans.

Less stress

Research from Barclays suggests that older people find running their own business less stressful than their younger peers.

This is probably because only 27% of owners over 50 run their business as the only source of income in the household.

Nevertheless, the statistics indicate that many older people are turning to their own businesses after being made redundant or following early retirement.

The Confederation of British Industry is less than upbeat about this.

"We have no particular evidence on this but growing numbers of older people starting businesses may be a result of more of them having to, because there are fewer job options available, rather than any upsurge in entrepreneurial spirit," it says.

Decreasing

Barclays' Mr Rogers also admits the number of new start-ups is decreasing with the onset of a global slowdown, the aftermath of foot-and-mouth disease and the demise of the dot.com.


A good idea that is well-thought out, a sound business and well-financed always has a good chance of success

Mike Rogers
Barclays Bank
"It's not dramatic but there has certainly been a noticeable downturn," he says.

However, Mr Rogers argues that his bank has not been put off.

"A good idea that is well thought-out, a sound business and well-financed always has a good chance of success," he says.

He also points out that weak conditions can bring advantages, such as buying equipment more cheaply.

Certainly, Mex2go's expansion plans are proof enough that some entrepreneurs - and investors - remain undaunted by the slowdown.

But the critics remain divided on whether government policy to encourage entrepreneurship is having a genuine impact.

See also:

14 Aug 01 | Business
'Grey' start-ups spur business boom
13 Aug 01 | Business
Woes grow for small factories
10 May 01 | Business
Making money on the net
08 Mar 01 | Business
Women on course for success
27 Mar 01 | Business
Byers: We'll do more for business
10 Jul 01 | Business
Revenue targets small firms
03 May 01 | Business
Small firms get net connected
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