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Did you know that there are more businesses operating in East Sussex than ever before? Between 2010 and 2020, the number of companies in the county rose from 20,000 to over 23,000 – a 15% increase in a decade!

If you’re inspired by the entrepreneurial energy in the county and would like to start your own company, it’s important to take a long hard look at your plans and circumstances. If you are ready to start a business, the following short guide will help you get the ball rolling.

5 tips for starting a business in East Sussex

You know you want to start a business, but where do you begin? The following five tips will help you order your thinking and start turning that idea into a reality.

1.      Work on your business idea

You’ve probably already got a few ideas of what your business will involve. But now’s the time to go from ‘blue sky’ thinking to hard facts. Grab a pen and paper, clear your kitchen table and start doing research into the market. Questions to ask include:

·       Is there actually demand for your product or service?

·       Who’s the competition?

·       How would the business work?

·       Could it realistically turn over enough money?

·       What’s it going to cost – in terms of staff, premises and equipment?

By answering these questions as realistically as possible, you can start to get a feel for whether the business idea will really work.

2.      Create a business plan

A business plan is a formal document which outlines your company’s goals, ways you’ll achieve those objectives and a time-frame for doing so. The business plan normally includes a description of costs, marketing plans and information about the company’s founder(s).

You might be tempted to forego the business plan and just ‘get on with it’, but the vast majority of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have business plans and really benefit from them. They help you measure your progress, sharpen your thinking and are also crucial if you ever want to apply for business support.

3.      Know your numbers

Whether you’re planning to make millions or are looking to a launch a lifestyle business, you need to be bringing in more money than goes out. This is rule one of company finance!

The good news is you don’t need to be a chartered accountant to understand business numbers. By keeping track of a few key figures, you can see if your SME is staying afloat. These include:

·       Cashflow: How much is coming in, how much is going out?

·       Sales forecast: Based on past performance, what does your future income look like?

·       Costs: Where’s your money going – on bills, staff, equipment, materials and stock?

Keeping an eye on these figures will mean you’ll always know how ‘healthy’ the business is, and make changes if things aren’t looking right.

4.      Choose the right business structure

When you start a business, you need to register it with HMRC and decide on a business structure:

·       Sole Trader: You and the business are the same legal entity. It’s the most straightforward option, but might cost more in taxes and you will be personally financially liable if anything goes wrong.

·       Limited Company: The business is a separate legal entity to you, and you draw a regular salary from the company. Limited Companies are more complex to set up – but come with appealing tax advantages. Plus you won’t be on the hook personally should the business get sued.

·       Partnership: A good option if you’re looking to start your business with someone else. All responsibilities are shared between you and your partner(s).

5.      Stay on top of taxes

Business owners are obliged to set money aside to pay their taxes, including VAT, income tax, National Insurance contributions and corporation taxes. Many small businesses start out doing their own taxes online using HMRC’s self-assessment service. But as your company grows, you’ll benefit from outsourcing or hiring an accountant.

If you’re interested in taking your business idea to the next level, the Uckfield Chamber of Commerce can provide you with additional help and support. Find out about membership here