Enterprise Nation has announced the first of 12 Enterprise Champions who will be representing our community across the UK and helping us to grow a truly entrepreneurial nation. 

We'll be profiling each of the Champions over the next 12 weeks. The first is Debbie Assinder, based in Birmingham. You can meet Debbie at our business support on the high street pop-up in Birmingham on 10-14 August. Book a free ticket here.

Debbie AssinderWho are you and what do you do?

I have worked in the field of pre-start-up and start-up support for 30 years (giving away my age away there!). I was an enterprise development officer for Birmingham City Council and have run my own business, Rodborough Consultancy Ltd, for 10 years as a freelance business adviser. I work as an associate with Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, PRIME and BES (a regional business support agency) delivering start-up on their behalf.

I have also worked and work on a wide range of start-up support packages including Barclay's 'Ready for Business', NEA, Jewellery Quarter Incubation Project, Enterprising Catalyst, PRIME 50+ and PRYOB.

I am a SFEDI accredited business adviser with an upgrade including social enterprise support. Further details are on my LinkedIn profile. I would love to join up with you on LinkedIn as well.

Tell us about the small business scene in your region. Why is it so good?

Birmingham has the second largest number of start-ups in the UK, according to StartUp Britain figures. We are also sixth in the number of high growth companies according to the recent ERC Growth Dashboard report. Growth areas are advanced manufacturing, business and professional, digital and creative, financial services (HSBC is relocating its HQ to the City and Deutche Bank is already here), low carbon, medical and transport technology. 

There is great collaboration between the universities and start-up support with several incubation support programmes such as E4F at Aston Science Park. There is also a very active chamber of commerce and numerous networking groups. There are a large number of business support programmes currently running such as NatWest's Entrepreneurial Spark and IsE Social Enterprise Support Programme.  There is a strong BME start-up sector and this has contributed to a thriving Social Enterprise Quarter in Digbeth.

What needs to be done to make small business support in your region even better?

Over the years the availability and quality of start-up support has varied. There has been very little continuity with projects disappearing once the funding has finished. As mentioned, there are also numerous start-up support projects running at any one time across the city. It is very difficult for a start-up to know where to go. Hopefully Enterprise Nation, as a national brand, can be clearly identified as a starting point for anyone who wishes to set up their own business in Birmingham. Also as Enterprise Nation is not dependent on government funding, the support can be flexible and respond in real time to the changing needs of the start-up community. This would greatly improve the start up support available in Birmingham.

Tell us about two great small businesses in your region and why they're so brilliant.

Very difficult to reduce to two but here goes! 

One is Gruhme, a male fragrance company. Set up by a lawyer who became tired of the law. It has great potential and is run by a true entrepreneur who prepared to risk it all for belief in his product. The founder Robert Hallmark is pitching to John Lewis next week. 

The second business is Borroclub.co.uk, an online platform that enables people to borrow household items from others living close by. It has just been accepted on the E4F programme at Aston University which reflects the growing interest in the sharing economy.

Why were you happy to become an Enterprise Nation Regional Champion?

I am thrilled to become an Enterprise Nation Regional Champion as enterprise is the rock that a successful local economy is based upon. Thriving businesses provide employment and income that reflects on people's health, lifestyle and wellbeing (sorry about sounding a bit preachy there but I am passionate about the positive effect business can have on individuals). There has also been too little "joined up thinking" about start-up and enterprise support across the UK. Enterprise Nation offers the opportunity to remedy this!

What are your three top tips for running a successful business?

My tips are I'm afraid not original, but my experience has proved to be valid time and time again. They are the 3 Cs:

  • Customers: Make sure someone wants to buy your product or service before you start. 75% of all businesses that fail do so because no one wants to buy what they are offering!
  • Cashflow: Is there enough money in the business to survive?
  • Competitive edge: Have you got one?

I look forward to working with you all and changing the landscape for start-up support across the UK for the better.

Follow Debbie Assinder on Twitter at @debbie_rcl.

Find out more about our Enterprise Champions here.

Previous Enterprise Champion profiles: Fay Easton, Telford and Shropshire Alison Edgar, South West

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