Have you thought about starting your own business? It could be anything you want it to be.
Maybe you have a flair for something which you could turn into a freelance career, rather than being an employee. Or a passion you’d love to do as a full-time job. You could be a born entrepreneur, able to not only spot opportunities but figure out how to make them grow. Your idea might be about making life better for people in your community. Whatever it is, you can make it happen.
Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. In Scotland, 99% of all private sector businesses are small to medium size enterprises – and they provide an estimated 1.1 million jobs*. What could you add to that mix?
Is it for me?
Starting your own business is an exciting idea. But there’s a lot to weigh up, as well. Here are some of the things you’ll have to think about when you’re deciding if it will work for you.
The good side
- In charge. You come up with the ideas, and you take the lead
- Free to try out something new
- Able to decide when and how you do your work
- Creating something new, making an opportunity for yourself, rather than waiting for one to turn up
The practical side
You’ll have to deal with:
- Finance – from setting up grants and loans, to dealing with your income and expenses
- Taxes – both your own, and any staff you take on
- Finding premises if you need them
- Marketing your business, finding clients and making it a success
Some of those things will take time away from what you really want to do with your business. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, just that you need to be prepared for both the fun side and the practical side.
There’s a lot of hard work involved – but that might suit your strengths perfectly. You’ll need to be resilient and quick-thinking to keep going when things don’t go to plan
Five tips to get you started
Want to be an entrepreneur? Here are five things you can do to get going.
Learn from your mistakes
Don’t be afraid to fail. Even if things don’t go to plan, you can learn from the experience, adapt and keep going.
Talk about your idea
Ask people you trust what they think. It’s a chance to get opinions and test whether your idea has legs. There are also lots of organisations who can talk you through the practical steps of setting up a business.
Test your idea
While it's important to talk, it's also good to actually do something. There are always ways to test your idea at low cost and low risk. You can learn a lot from this.
Decide what kind of business you want
Research different types of business so that you can decide what works best for you. Is it a microbusiness? A global venture? A social enterprise? A cooperative?
Find the right funding
There are lots of different funding options out there. Explore every opportunity, from competitions to crowdfunding.
Meet the entrepreneurs
Craig Munro went from engineer to bagpipe manufacturer.
Laura Nicolson co-founded Velocity Cafe and bike workshop in Inverness.
Blair Bowman founded World Whisky Day while he was still a student.
Josh Littlejohn co-founded the social enterprise Social Bite.
Amy Dolan founded a furniture design and refurbishment company, Ziggy Sawdust.
Watch the videos to find out how they got started.
Even though you’re going it alone, you don’t need to do everything alone when setting up a business. There are many different organisations there to help you – from understanding finances, to learning how to pitch, to that all-important funding.
We’ve found just a sample of the resources available in Scotland to get you started. Explore the links below and find the advice and support you need.
Young people and students
Your age shouldn’t be a barrier to your entrepreneurial spirit, so there are a range of organisations set up to help young people into business.
- Bad Idea helps young people become more enterprising through creative events
- Bridge 2 Business. Run by Young Enterprise Scotland. Register to get advice from business mentors on your ideas, and inspiration from fellow entrepreneurs.
- Young Enterprise Scotland encourages young people to engage with enterprise through training, competitions and development programmes.
- The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme helps people aged 18-30 who want to start their own business
- Scottish Institute for Enterprise helps students find their entrepreneurial talents and start up new venture
If you're a teacher, Scotland's Enterprising Schools is full of resources to help you promote enterprise to your pupils. Join a community of teachers sharing creative ideas for enterprise.
Looking for advice about taking your idea forward? There are lots of people you can ask.
Business Gateway helps hundreds of businesses start and grow every year. Resources include:
- Bgateway.com, full of information and advice on issues like legislation, marketing, starting up and employment. It also has details of free practical workshops and events throughout Scotland
- Your local Business Gateway office, who can put you in touch with a Business Adviser to help you grow and develop your idea, plus other local companies and professional organisations
- The Business Information Team, available on 0845 609 6611 and firstname.lastname@example.org. They can provide help on market research, statistics, market reports, commercial property searches and more
You might not want to think about your taxes. It may even be months before you have to – but eventually, you will have to. HMRC has plenty of digital resources to help you out.
- The Ready Reckoner - a handy tool for figuring out your tax bill, regular webinars and e-learning courses
You can also get information and advice from:
- Bright Idea Scotland. One to one advice, workshops and information to help turn your idea into a business plan
- Entrepreneurial Spark. Support and mentorship for start-ups, as well as incubator spaces
- Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Targeted advice for people in these areas
- The Cultural Enterprise Office. Specialist support and development advice for creative businesses
- Firstport offers funding and advice to social entrepreneurs
- Social Enterprise Scotland promotes and builds on Scotland’s social enterprise network, and has useful resources on its website
Tips for entrepreneurs
We asked entrepreneurs for their top tips on networking. We also asked what strengths you need to become an entrepreneur.
Find out what they said in the videos.
Self employed vs entrepreneur
Is there a difference? Strictly speaking, ‘self employed’ is a way to define your employment status. It means you don’t have a contract with an employer. Instead, you might provide services over time, or be in business in your own right. You’ll pay your own tax and National Insurance. Gov.uk has more information about self employment.
An entrepreneur is someone who not only sees an opportunity, but understands how to capitalise on it. Lots of people might think of a particular business idea. But not everyone can understand how to sell it to other people, or the drive to make it happen.