Yesterday morning we took 20 Enterprise Nation Club members to No.10 to share their views about small business support with Government. Here’s what we had to say…

Lizzie Slee of Enterprise Nation What happens when you put a bunch of 20 unruly start-up entrepreneurs in front of a business minister and an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron in the State Room at Number 10? asks Enterprise Nation’s head of media, Lizzie Slee (left). Well, some very constructive conversations, as a matter of fact.
Enterprise Nation Club members were invited to be an exclusive independent small business voice by top Government adviser Daniel Korski, who wanted to understand the issues and genuine problems start-ups face. Basically he was on a fact-finding mission. And he called in Under Secretary of State for Further Education and Lifelong Learning, MP Matthew Hancock, whose post is split between the Department for Education and the Department for Business and Skills, to join in the open round table debate. Matthew Hancock told the gathering: “We want to hear the things that we should do more of, as well as the things we should do less of.” He was not disappointed.

Eight messages to Government

During this first in a new series of unique hour-long sessions on the nitty gritty of start-up life, convened by Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones, some compelling issues emerged. We’ve outlined a few of them here:

1. You don’t need ‘employees’ to grow

Start-ups and small businesses that grow by making use of an already-skilled workforce of freelancers, rather than taking on permanent  staff, should still be classed as growing.  The PR Network, represented on the day by co-founder Georgina Blizzard, has a staff of more than 600 specialists worldwide, with just five people defined as ‘employed’.

2. We’re not big businesses – don’t expect us to behave like them

Big businesses should not be allowed to fund their own ‘growth’ and profit margins by making start-ups act like big businesses and take all the risk. Some big companies make small businesses agree to payment terms of 90 days, it was said. New mum Becky Westaway, who is just setting up baby blanket business Little Bear, said this was part of the reason start-ups have to cut costs by manufacturing overseas. She said: “Big retailers demand such a low price, you couldn’t afford to use a more expensive British manufacturer. They just focus on the cost and don’t seem to care if it’s made here or not.”

3. Help us out when we’re bootstrapping

There should be more support for businesses that decide to bootstrap their way to growth. Lois Ireson, from management consultancy MSB Executive, said if she had not been bringing in a corporate wage while her husband set up the business, it would have folded in a year. She said: “I was bankrolling his company.” It now employs both of them full-time and they have flexible working relationships with freelance specialists. Their business is growing quickly.

4. Make it easier to take on part-time staff

It should be less complicated to take on a part-time member of staff.  Busi Buchan from African street food company Shebeen Queen Supperclub said she had been overwhelmed when she wanted to take on a friend to help with her market stall and paperwork.  “I just wanted to hire her for four hours a week for £6 an hour. It looked like it was going to take me over four hours to complete the forms,” she told the Minister.

5. Help us find the right manufacturers

Manufacturing in the UK was an area where the consensus was that there could be some good Government intervention. Janan Leo, founder of Cocorose London, said it had taken her a year to find a British-based manufacturer for her shoes. Janan, whose business has shops in London, Milan and a soon-to-be opened outlet in Manila, admitted the bulk of her shoes were still made overseas – and that the smaller proportion of her UK-made shoes were more popular with overseas markets.  “There wasn’t a lot of help out there to help find the right manufacturer,” Janan explained.

6. Let’s cultivate a better start-up culture

Stephano Tresca from iSeed said that there was not a legal obstacle to start-up growth in the UK – but there was a cultural problem. The tech start-up investor said that there is an international consensus that if businesses want to scale they need to move to New York – and if they are tech-based they should move to San Fransisco. London is the preference in Europe, he said, although he had placed some start-ups in Berlin.

7. It’s too hard to get seed funding in the UK

Raising finance is more difficult.  In the US, Nick Russell, co-founder of We Are Pop Up, said that he could have raised more money to fund his pop-up shop platform much more easily had his business been based in the US

8. But we do have good healthcare…

On the plus side, it was suggested that the National Health Service was an advantage for bootstrapping start-ups. In the US, affording healthcare can be a problem.

Get your voice heard by Government with the Enterprise Nation Club

Enterprise Nation Club members at 10 Downing Street We’d like to hear from more start-ups and new businesses that think they have any bright ideas that the Government should hear about. Or something that makes them rail against the machine. We’ll be whisking new Enterprise Nation Club members in and out of Number 10 over the next few months to keep the dialogue open, and a foot in the door for small British businesses. Join us.

Have your say

Janan
Janan

Loved being a part of the 'unruly 20' yesterday! Great fun and amazing opportunity; well done Team Enterprise Nation and a huge thank you to Number 10!

Great blog post; love it! Just wanted to quickly reiterrate that I certainly don't think it's a negative point to manufacture overseas. We work with fantastic partners and we are very proud of our manufacturing roots.

There is a growing interest in brand Made in Britain and we continue to be passionate about growing our 'Luxury Heritage Made in England' range of shoes. Hopefully, by championing UK manufacturing at yesterday's meeting, we will be able to help make it a little easier for lots of others out there, whether they're already doing a similar thing or want to start doing it too! :)

Janan Creative Director & Founder Cocorose London www.cocoroselondon.com

J
J

I would of have like to have gone to number 10. Really would like some hints or tips as I'm a start up that has moved my business to online and the business has been slow really feel like I have missed the boat. Any advise from any please email or follow me on twitter @jewelsandall

J
J

I would of have like to have gone to number 10. Really would like some hints or tips as I'm a start up that has moved my business to online and the business has been slow really feel like I have missed the boat. Any advise from any please email or follow me on twitter @jewelsandall

James Mattam
James Mattam

Looks like it was a very useful meeting. Michelle C said she had a great time!

James Mattam
James Mattam

Looks like it was an excellent meeting. Are you running more of these?

Rachael
Rachael

Hi,

I'm a small business owner and I'm interested in paying the £20 subscription fee to enterprise nation.

I also have a huge interest in politics, due to me studying it, I was wondering what makes you eligible to attend the 10 Downing Street meetings? Is it simply a perk of the membership or do you have to work for enterprise nation?

I would love to represent the views of small businesses, especially those of young entrepreneurs such as myself.

San Sharma
San Sharma

Hi Rachael,

Thanks for your comment! And, if you haven't already, you can join our business club for £20 per year here: http://www.enterprisenation.com/club/

Attending Downing Street meetings isn't a perk of joining our club, as such - club members are first to hear of upcoming meetings, events and meet-ups. We're actually running a few this year - one for craft startups, one for creative types, professionals, startups who've received funding, and one at the end of the year for all kinds of businesses.

If you want to find out more, please drop Emma an email at emma@enterprisenation.com

Thanks again, San

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