Posted: Thu 10th Oct 2013
When 20 start-ups and small businesses of varying sizes were given the chance this week to give an essence of their experience as an upstart to the government, the overriding message was loud and clear"¦we're on our own! And we need to fight for our rights!
Lizzie Slee (@Lizziepin) is Enterprise Nation's PR and media whiz - and running her own PR workshop in London on November 19th. Find out more By its very nature, entrepreneurship comes from individuals who operate alone in the initial stages armed only with an idea, passion and boundless energy. They must rely on their instincts to quickly pick up the skills, knowledge and contacts they need to make it work. Some start-ups argued there is nothing to prepare you for this other than genetic predisposition, nurture or happy accident.
"You are the system"
Andy Law, chairman of business consultancy Fearlessly Frank said: "When you go to school, go through further education, get a job, as a doctor or a dentist for example, you are taken care of by the system. If you choose to become an entrepreneur, you are the system." Ian Milner, co-founder of creative start-up iris worldwide said in his world, 'entrepreneurs will be', and what the government needed to think about was how it was going to help to create more of them. He said rather than teach children at school how to fill out tax forms, there should be more done to adjust the risk-reward relationship, which in turn would help to make it more socially-acceptable to say you're an entrepreneur.
Failure to launch
Guy Schragger, founder global e-commerce template platform SupaDupa agreed: "We need to change the culture in the UK around entrepreneurship. In the UK failure is discouraged. In the US it's encouraged." Alex Dunsdon, from London-based tech accelerator The Bakery, said: "We are seeing more people who have already had careers and are asking us 'how do I get out of my job'. We're seeing a trend of people wanting to do something that they love." But how do entrepreneurs gather the information and support they need to make doing what they love a success - as well as tackle the inevitable tax return?
Emily Coltman, from accounting start-up FreeAgent said there was no reason why start-ups couldn't use experts to help with their accounts, but did tell David Cameron's Special Adviser Daniel Korski that the tax system did make life difficult for start-ups. He replied that the government was looking at developing a solution that would iron out the complications, hinting that there might at some stage be an app that could allow input of financial information linking to central tax records. James Friedenthal, from the fast-growing co-working hub Club Workspace said co-working was a great way for start-ups to share ideas and passion, with the added benefit of finding new customers. He said: "Our own research says between 16 and 18 per cent of all business comes from other businesses within the same office."
Michael Finnigan agreed that start-ups benefit more from a nurturing environment and great advice than from years of studying business at school. He said: "A friend of mine set up a business called Enterprise PLC. When he started out he surrounded himself with brilliant people who were ten steps ahead. He was spending all his money on these brilliant people and hardly earning himself. He's now employing 15,000 people and I've never forgotten this lesson." Oliver Langston, chartered surveyor and founder of new start-up Locate Retail said his sandwich course at university, which was with British tech firm IBM, helped him realise what he didn't want to do - not work for someone else! Ian Millner summed up. He said: "Entrepreneurship is often the result of a happy accident, or an expensive game of snakes and ladders. Tax and talent are the biggest issues."
Enterprise Nation has been offering insight to the real life of today's start-ups to government as well as campaigning on the issues and recommendations that arise.
Entrepreneurs are forming a larger slice of Britain's business world. According to StartUp Britain, more than half a million businesses are started this year. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) research has found there are 2.17m small businesses in the UK, a record number.
What do you think?
Do you feel alone as an entrepreneur? What more could the government do to support your start-up or small business? Let us know in the comments below
Read about our previous meetings at Number 10 on the links below: