Growth of small businesses

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2 years ago (5:24 PM)
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simhan_chari

There are lot of schemes offered by the Government and other organisations which aim to improve the competitiveness of small businesses. But the issue is they are not marketed properly. Hence more effort is needed in improving the visibility of the support that is currently provided.

Talk London

Hi simhan_chari,

Thanks for your post. You raise an interesting point - do you have any ideas for methods of marketing these and making them more visible?

Wendy
Talk London Community Manager

simhan_chari

Hi Wendy

Apologies for the late reply...

Yes, rather than the Government pushing these messages, we have to encourage the beneficiaries to spread the message about the support they have received from the Government. I am working for Middlesex University Business School and I think this will be a good student project. Let me know if you would like to take this further...

incrediblebaker

Hi, me and my husband started an artisan bakery business specialised in gluten free, dairy free, egg free and soya free baking. Because our line of business is very unique, we can not share facilities with other businesses. This is making our expansion very hard. At the moment we haven't found much support from our local council. If there are grants or funds available at the moment, they are not visible for us. The only funding we could actually find is been given by Northamptonshire County Council offering a grant for relocation. For that reason we re seriously considering moving out of London, although our main clientele is London based. We would be greatful if anyone could sign post anything to us. Thanks.

Talk London

Hi incrediblebaker,

Welcome to Talk London. Thanks for your post. This is certainly something we're hearing a lot at present. There is work planned by the Mayor with the aim of helping small businesses to grow. I'll come back to you shortly with more detail.

In the meantime do feel free to carry on talking here - are operating costs, in particular facilities, the only barrier to your expansion in London? Are there any other factors concerning you too?

Wendy
Talk London Community Manager

incrediblebaker

Operating costs and lack of suitable facilities are the main factors that certainly are driving us away from London. We also found that our local was absolutely useless when we contacted them. We understand Councils are been squeeze in this moment of "Spending Cuts". However, Private Businesses can be generating employment helping people to feel better about themselves and about their local area. We called a few different departments, got given a few different names and some e-mail addresses. Even with all these, took actually two months for someone to get back to us. When we finally heard from the our Council it was just an e-mail linking us with a "Incubation Centre". Because of the nature of what we do, is very hard to share facilities, it could mean loosing our USP. For that reason we didn't really use the "Incubation Centre". In contrast we found Northamptonshire council to be much more helpful. This week we will travel to Kettering to see a few business units and properties that prospectively could accommodate our business and help us grow to the next level. Recently we have been talking to the National Trust in the South East and after nearly 3 months of to and from conversation they decided they could not take us on board because we do not have a dedicated production facility. It was disheartening. We do understand all that comes down to our limit finances. But we also think that most business have a very tight budget to start with and good business planning is a very important key to take a business of the ground. But I am afraid due to fund restricts and this so called "Spending Cuts" that led to our Council complete lack of interest on us, we feel trying to expand in London at the moment feels like a stalemate decision.

incrediblebaker

by the way the email for the trafalgar square does not work.

Talk London

Hi incrediblebaker,

Just a quick post to let you know that I've been in touch with the Economic and Business Policy Unit here at the GLA, to find out any detail that might be helpful to you here. We'll come back to you with a response as soon as possible.

I've had a look for the email address that you mention in relation to the Fourth Plinth discussion thread. I can't seem to find this - could you post it here for me? I'll be able to correct it then.

Thanks!

Wendy
Talk London Community Manager

Catherine Wright

Hi again incrediblebaker

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I have spoken to the Economic and Business Policy Unit who said that there are organisations that can help businesses find space across London such as www.workspace.co.uk although these spaces may well be office based. You may have already tried this but it could be worth contacting the Business Link helpline (0845 600 9006) to get advice at a borough level.

As you say there are very few grants available at the moment, the emphasis is very much on private financing. Lots of London business use a mixture of equity financing (shares) and bank loans to help them to move to larger premises or to invest in new machinery to handle bigger orders etc. It sounds as though you are a successful business with a solid business plan and so I am guessing that these could be options open to you. Have you already approached a bank to discuss your situation? Are there any barriers that you or other London Businesses are facing in obtaining private finance?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Catherine
Talk London Team

veganline.com

Thinking of cobblers and clothes makers:

(1) Access to data for trade directories from HMRC. With comprehensive trade directories, specialised businesses find each other with less the need to sell or advertise. To take an example, I saw a talk by the persion who set-up Yull Shoes. She started by advertising for suppliers on Allibaba. The bids were more expensive than ones I think she could have got in the UK for shoemaking, but she didn't have a trade directory to turn to.

(2) Workshop space rather than empty workshops and landlords unwilling to let for less than £1,000 a month. There is an unwritten rule that landlords won't get out of bed to pay-in a cheque under £1,000. I'd like laws and help to landlords of workshop space to make sure it's let at the market rent, even if that is zero, and to make sure it's let in small units if that's what demand is for.

(3) Access to machines by the hour or day - particularly machines that are hard to keep at home. For example, if you try to get access to machines by going on an adult education class, you'll find dozens of classes offering use of sewing machines for soft furnishing, but none offering access to lasting machines for shoe-making or steel presses for making car chassis or or smaller presses for cutting-out shapes from sheet material. The same - in a more messy way with more ifs and buts - is true of knowledge partership schemes from colleges.

(4) Access to training in using, making, and mending machines. There is a positive trend towards making open source 3D printers out of kits, using open source software and such. It isn't reflected in any knowledge transfer partnerships that I know of. For example Metropolitan University runs quite an inspired service - Metropolitain Works - that allows free membership and offers hire of machine tools to members. Unfortunately the tools tend all to be £100,000 3D printers or £1,000 software packages rather than £1,0000 3D printers and £10 software packages mainly open source. Hire prices and management costs have to reflect that. More useful would be a cheapskate service at which members could sometimes see how it's possible to run similar software and machines at home. Maybe some of them would set-up similar services in my part of London, or if not, maybe I'd set-up machines at home.

(5) Small grants to help delelopers of open source projects in areas like CAD CAM or pattern cutting.

(6) Simpler version of point 4: use open source office software, such as Open Office, where possible in the GLA office, grant-claiming organisations and those that can be exhorted to do it. And other alternatives available on http://osalt.com . This would help the job market: anyone who fancies a job in an office would find it easier to practice and get used to using a free program at home than having to get used to a £100 or £500 program. The GLA could also exort adult education and job-training providers to teach Word and Open Office, or Indesign and Gimp, so that students are used to using something that can be had for free. There are also some 10 year-old Adobe programs now free for those who google enough. Talking of web searches, you can see how much Dudley Council wasted on software licences to Microsoft and Adobe here:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/cost_of_not_using_open_source_so

There's more that I'd like to say but six paragraphs is enough at once!

veganline.com

PS I've just realised there is a simlar thread from a bakery just above mine about cobbling.

I too have tried Northampton Council and found that their help for inward investment hinders existing local businesses. I was in touch with a shoe factory that had to close for lack of £3,000 a month for landlord costs after they lost a ministry of defence contract. Contacting Northamptonshire Enterprise, I found that they made the problem worse by subsidising landlords of run-down workshops to do them up fit for overseas investors, this raising the price to people from Northampton who wanted a cheap deal. I'd like to see a system where each phase of expansion - from someone in a bedroom with not much idea to a group of skilled people in a workshop - is as easy as possible.

The need I have is not so much for a specific expansion scheme in my business, but for a network of other businesses from which I can buy things; if they succeed, I succeed.

veganline.com

PPS Talking of specific needs for me, rather than generally:

An adult education course in Drupal-based shopping cart software, for those without quite enough concentration to teach themselves, would be great. It would help other online retailers too. Failing that, on in Magento.

Talk London

Hi Veganline

Thanks so much for raising all those points, we have passed your suggestions on to the Economic and Business Policy Team in City Hall who are working on a range of initiatives to help support small businesses in London.

On trade directories it may be worth mentioning that business organisations such as Chambers of Commerce or trade associations often have contact lists of their businesses in particular areas which they may be willing to share with you (although they are likely to charge).

On workspace, you and other businesses may be interested to look at our workspace map of London, highlighting the provision of incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces across London. There does seem to be an increasing trend of these spaces offering shared facilities, machinery or equipment where entrepreneurs only pay for the amount of time that they need to use these pieces of kit, rather than having to buy the expensive item themselves. We have recently published some research into this which you may also find interesting.

Let us know what you think of this. It would be great to hear if other businesses like you feel the things you have mentioned would help them to grow and be successful in London.

Wendy
Talk London Community Manager