How to build a successful start-up from scratch

How to build a successful start-up from scratch

Posted: Mon 7th Feb 2022

Ideas are great, but building a start-up can seem overwhelming. Don’t panic! We’ve created a foolproof list on how to build a start-up from scratch.

The idea is to help you understand everything you need to know to get started. We’ve included links to relevant resources in each section.

Come up with a business idea

Want to be your own boss and make an impact on the world? Feel like you need something more challenging? That itch to start a business is intoxicating. So, where should you start?

You might know the topic you want to tackle or skill sets you want to use, but not how it will work in practice. You might be starting with a blank canvas. Either way, it helps to start by thinking about your own personal drivers and motivations. 

Lots of people start a business around a passion: perhaps there’s a change you want to see in the world or have a particular hobby or skill.

There are also some questions you can ask yourself to identify good business ideas:

  • Is there a gap in the market?

  • Is there something someone else is doing that you can do better?

  • What products have you seen work elsewhere?

  • Does someone else have an idea you can franchise?

Learn how to come up with a business idea

Write a start-up business plan

So, you have an idea and are ready to get started? Your mind’s probably buzzing with potential opportunities. You need to start creating a plan. 

Business plans provide a roadmap and give you a chance to flesh out key areas of your new business. Just putting it all on paper really helps.

The main sections of a start-up business plan are as follows:

  1. Executive summary

  2. Your vision and objectives

  3. Opportunity analysis

  4. Sales and marketing

  5. Logistics and operations

  6. Finances

Read our step-by-step guide to writing a business plan

Register your small business

Once you’ve found a business idea you love, it’s time to get everything set up. That starts with registering your business with HMRC and Companies House (if necessary).

The first step is to think about the legal type of company that suits you best:

If your business turns over more than £85,000 – or if you think your turnover will exceed that amount soon – you should also register for VAT.

Learn more about registering your small business

Find out how to register as a sole trader

Legal checklist for small businesses

The paperwork doesn’t stop with registering your business. There are a number of other things you need to get sorted when you’re building a start-up from scratch.

The other key areas to think about are intellectual property and whether there are any requirements for the space you're trading in, such as health and safety or food preparation guidelines.

After registering, here are the main areas you need to look at:

  1. Checking you’re meeting regulatory requirements (food and drink, and exporting)

  2. Following health and safety guidance

  3. Getting insurance

  4. Making sure you’re keeping to GDPR, the data protection law

Read our legal checklist for starting a new business

Raise money for your start-up

Many ideas require more than just grit to get started. If you need cash to start your business, don’t worry: there are a number of routes you can take.

The key is to know what type of funding is relevant to your business – and what’s available. Every funding source has positives and negatives.

If you raise investment, you’re selling shares in your business and giving up some control. Investors will need to be convinced that the idea is worth backing too, which normally means you’ve made progress in proving demand for your product or service.

Loans need to be paid back and some will require a personal guarantee, meaning that if your business fails you’ll be personally liable.

Grants are great because you don’t have to pay them back, but normally have strict criteria on how you can use them (here’s more on how to apply for a grant).

Visit our funding hub for more information on small business finance




Create a winning brand for your start-up

Branding is a vehicle for communicating with customers, conveying a clear message and influencing the way people perceive your business.

These days, there's far more to building a winning brand than simply whipping up a logo and whacking it on your product.

Your brand has the potential to boost your business in lots of ways. Invest time in getting it right and it'll really pay off in the long run.

  • One of the first aims of a new business is for people to know who you are – branding is the perfect way to introduce yourself.

  • Your brand is your chance to convince a potential customer that your business is relevant and desirable.

  • If your brand is consistent with your purpose, it lets its audience know what to expect and starts to build trust.

Learn how to create a brand for your start-up

Marketing checklist

So, you have a plan and a brand. It’s time to start doing some selling (we’ll get to that in a minute) and marketing.

Here are seven ideas to help you with start-up marketing:

  1. Reach prospective customers on social media

  2. Spend time on your website

  3. Engage in email marketing

  4. Go old-school and send out flyers

  5. Put a referral strategy in place

  6. Take the paid advertising route

  7. Get a customer relationship management system

You need to think about what’s going to work for your audience. Your business plan should include a decent outline of who you’re trying to reach. Customer personas can help too. 

Read our ultimate marketing checklist

Make your first sales

This is one of the best feelings in business. People are paying for your brainchild! You’re off to the races.

Getting that first sale can be tricky, so it’s helpful to have a process to work through.

Start with a target list. Use LinkedIn, recommendations and internet research to put together a sales hit list of people you’re going to approach. 

Next you need to develop a sales process. How can you start talking to them? Ideally, you want a number of touchpoints, such as connecting on social media and sharing useful resources before talking on the phone. 

For every "yes" you get there will likely be a lot of people who say "no". This can be tough, so it's important to remember everyone goes through it.

The key is to learn as much as you can through your initial sales process:

  1. What marketing channels are working?

  2. What challenges do potential customers want to overcome?

  3. How do customers react to your prices?

  4. What’s the best way to present your unique selling point?

Find tips on how to get your first sales

Technology checklist for small businesses

We’ve already covered a lot. How are you possibly going to get it all done?! The good news is there are lots of free and cheap tools to help you manage your new business. 

From marketing to finance, start-up founders can get pay-as-you-go software that supercharges their businesses for little up-front investment. 

Here are a few low-cost start-up tools to think about:

Read our essential small business technology checklist


StartUp UK: Turn your good idea into a great business

Access support to start your business

Visit the StartUp UK hub for resources that give you the education and inspiration to get started on your entrepreneurial journey.

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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