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Start-up funding advice

June 23, 2010 by Sadie Hopkins

Starting your first business can be a daunting task and raising finance can often seem impossible. So what are your main options?

1 Savings and self-finance

Start putting money aside soon as you can. If your long-term aim is to start a business, cut down on your spending and save as much as you can from your current wages. I moved in with my parents, paid a much lower rent and saved hard to ensure I had as much money as possible before starting my first business.

Cash in any ISA’s or savings accounts. If your business is successful, you may get a much greater return on your money than you currently get, with interest rates as low as they are.

2 Loans

If you have no capital, it is difficult to get finance, especially post credit crunch and with no trading history. Banks require a detailed business plan, preferably with three years projected forecasting and profit/loss models.

However, as interest rates are currently low, a business loan can be a reasonably cheap to borrow. The new Enterprise Finance Guarantee (which has replaced the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme) is useful for start-ups with no capital. Under the scheme, the Government guarantees 75 per cent of the loan should the business be unsuccessful. The EFG is available for businesses with a turnover of less than £25m and offers loans up to £1m. If you borrow under this scheme, you will have to pay a set-up fee, plus a quarterly fee for the borrowing.

Shop around for the best deal on any bank loans – interest rates can vary dramatically. With my original business loan, I naively accepted the first one I was offered (at an extortionate rate) as I was convinced I would not be offered another. Six months later I approached a second bank and moved it, saving me 5 per cent interest.

3 Investors – family and friends

It can be worth approaching family and friends to see if they will invest in your new venture.  Discuss various levels of involvement; some may expect a share of your profits, while not wanting involvement in the running of the business (a silent partner). Others may be happy to lend long term, receiving only interest payments, as does one of my investors.

Whatever the situation, always make sure both parties take independent legal advice and draw up an agreement outlining the terms. This prevents any potential problems if the future relationship breaks down.

4 Investors – business angels or venture capitalists?

Look for financial involvement from established business people, either in the form of a business angel (ie a local businessperson who lends money to businesses) or a private equity provider (ie usually more suitable for larger businesses with higher turnovers). Both can provide a wealth of information and assistance, especially if they have relevant contacts. In return, they will expect a share of profits and possibly a share of the equity.

Be cautious about giving away too much control over your business. You must also find an investor that is right for you and the business – having a good working relationship is a must. If you feel this is unachievable, don’t take the risk.

5 Grants

Whilst notoriously difficult to gain Government or EU funded grants, it’s worth making enquiries in your local area to see if you are eligible for help. The EU has a wealth of grants available, especially in rural areas, but they are badly advertised and difficult to access.

The Princes Trust is useful to young people starting up a small business, but the loans offered are fairly small and the criteria strict – although they are helpful for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

If you are restoring an older property as part of your business, see if you are eligible for support from the local council, English Heritage or local conservation trusts.

6 Reducing Costs

It pays to keep your start-up costs as low as possible, of course. You could get equipment on hire purchase or loan or use a ‘rent a desk’ scheme, for example.

Utilise your friends and acquaintances – perhaps you know designers, IT professionals or PR experts? Set up a social networking account (eg Twitter) and find others in your area who are setting up businesses – perhaps you can exchange skills. I’ve done this many times – exchanging free coffee for help with my website.

7 Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Share the risk when starting up. Spread the borrowing and the repayment terms. This will make everyone – including you – feel less vulnerable.

Sadie Hopkins is founder of York Coffee Emporium

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Slightly delayed diary of a small business owner

June 22, 2010 by Ross Campbell

I’ve just had the website redone. It is amazing. Potential customers, it appears, can access it more efficiently than the old one.

This is exactly what I asked for, and furthermore exactly what the designers said they would do.

Has anybody come across this concept before? I think it’s revolutionary. Consider, for example, you call up to order some paper for your photocopier. The livewire at the other end of the phone asks you what you want. You explain. They send it to you and when it arrives it is, in fact, the paper you wanted. Better still; the accompanying invoice is actually for the amount you expected. I see a vision for the future.

Anyway, in case you can’t tell, for the past six weeks I’ve been feeling (and being) let down by a series of small errors and inadequacies. Occasionally a problem presents itself to you in the form of a spade across your forehead. You can duck or you can fight back. It’s the little niggly things that wind me up.

The solution, of course, involves never letting anything get to this stage. Ensure people do what they said, and ensure they were aware that what they said entails a little responsibility for completion of a task. I think because I tend to give people some leeway in their behaviour, I find myself in this situation too often.

Regular readers will know that Ross Campbell is the general manager of Bristol-based gym The Exercise Club

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How can I raise more finance?

June 21, 2010 by www.inafishbowl.com

In her latest video blog, Marcela of Rico Mexican Kitchen asks questions about business finance.

Marcela in Fishbowl Two has never started her own business before. Nor has she seen anyone else start a business. And, being one of the first businesses to feature on inafishbowl.com, she has never had the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others.

In this video, Marcela asks how the finances of early stage businesses usually work during the first two years, and how she should be going about raising more finance.

You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com

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The importance of family and friends when starting a business

June 18, 2010 by Chris Barling

I would like to look at an aspect of starting a business that isn’t often considered. Mostly discussions are about finance, marketing, recruiting a great team, VAT, legals and all of the other stuff of start ups. But most people need the support of family, friends, and partners. Start ups are hard, and you must be sure that everyone is with you, everyone is supporting you, and everyone understands what you are doing.

My decision to start a new business was made jointly with my wife. Although she’s had limited involvement in the management, she was a full participant in the original decision. And as a result, she has supported me in every up and down since then, which has been a real help. Similarly, my sister and a friend both lent me money when we had an early cash flow crisis. They wouldn’t have done this if they hadn’t been taken on the journey beforehand.

And that’s the rub. If people close to you aren’t with you, they may be a source of discouragement. In the extreme, broken relationships can greatly increase the chance of business failure. I’ve actually seen this with a friend, where they ultimately ended up with nothing. On the other hand, constant encouragement and reassurance can be a real help – as can financial support.

If you start a business, it won’t only affect you, it will impact those close to you as well. They deserve to be told what that will involve and to be consulted for their opinions. Do this, and you will increase your chances of success significantly.

Chris Barling is Chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck

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Capital gains tax planning for the emergency budget

Although capital gains tax (CGT) is set to rise, we do not know when. The start date may be deferred to 6 April 2011, but the changes could also take effect from 22 June this year.

Property owners and investors can expect to bear the brunt of the increases. Trading businesses and shares in trading companies may continue to benefit from Entrepreneur’s relief, although that relief is fairly restricted compared to the old “taper” relief it replaced.

While it may be possible to sell assets by the end of the tax year, it might not be feasible to sell to a third party by 22 June. For this reason, it could be worth locking in the gain at the current 18 per cent using a family trust.

CGT on trust transfer

A transfer into most types of trust is treated as made at market value for CGT purposes. It should therefore crystallize CGT at the current rate on the accrued gain to date. Similarly, the trustees will be deemed to have acquired the asset at current market value, which is then their base cost used for a future sale taxed at the new higher rates.

There is, of course, a risk that if values fall, the trustees actually make a loss that cannot be offset against their gain going into the trust. However, this may be outweighed by the tax rate saving achieved.

The tax on the trust transfer will fall due on 31/1/2012, by which time the asset may have been sold to a third party. Alternatively, there may be scope to pay the tax in installments.

Stamp taxes

A gift of property into trust should not attract Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), although SDLT would arise on any transfer of mortgage to the trustees (this representing consideration). Similarly, there should be no stamp duty on a gift of shares into trust. Stamp taxes will be incurred where there is actual consideration.

Inheritance tax

It is important to note that for inheritance tax purposes, gifts to trust are generally taxable at a 20 per cent lifetime rate once the nil rate band (£325,000) has been exceeded. The tax does not need to be incurred on larger transfers, but the process needs to be carefully managed.

Avoiding unnecessary CGT

Obviously there is a concern that if the asset is not eventually sold to a third party, a CGT liability has been triggered unnecessarily. There are strategies to mitigate the CGT charge on a transfer, if the asset is to be retained.

Those with property or shares likely to be sold in the not too distant future should think carefully about a transfer before 22 June. The position is uncertain, but if the CGT rate goes up to 40 per cent or even 50 per cent, individuals are going to lose a substantial part of their capital appreciation. This, in my view, is akin to retrospective tax.

The points raised above are only intended to provide general information. Professional advice should always be sought in specific situations before taking any action.

Justin is a partner at London-based chartered accountants and tax advisers Jeffreys Henry LLP.

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