2014 has begun with some positive signs for the British economy that have not been seen since pre-Lehman Brothers. None more so than the fact that the British Chambers of Commerce growth forecasts have been raised to 2.2% in 2014 and 2.5% in 2015 (up from earlier forecasts of 1.9% and 2.4% respectively).

Below is a list of reasons why 2014 can be a pivotal year for your start-up:

1. Growth Vouchers
The Government has launched a number of initiatives to assist small business owners and encourage growth in the SME sector. At the end of January, the Government launched a £30 million research programme to test the value to small businesses of accessing professional advice. The subsidised business support will be delivered in the form of Growth Vouchers, enabling businesses to receive a 50% subsidy towards the cost of obtaining advice on five key topics which help businesses grow. This programme shall be run in conjunction with Enterprise Nation (please click here for further details).

2. Innovation Vouchers
The Technology Strategy Board has set up a £6 million fund to help stimulate innovation where few businesses invest. Innovation Vouchers are designed to encourage businesses to look outside their current network for new knowledge which can help them to grow and develop and are available to start-ups across the UK.

A grant of up to £5,000 is available to businesses to work with a supplier for the first time and is used to pay for knowledge or a technology transfer from that supplier. The scheme can support all kinds of innovative research and development ideas; help start-ups learn more about using design in your business or look at how you manage intellectual property. Further information can be found at http://bit.ly/K6en1s.

3. EIS Funding
According to HM Revenue and Customs, businesses raised £1.02bn through the Government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (“EIS”), which is £545 million more than the previous 12 months and is an all-time high. This upturn in demand saw almost 1,500 businesses using EIS for the first time in the period up to March 2012. This is a clear indication that wealth is finally beginning to be invested back into the economy and providing funding for start-ups.

EIS was launched in 1994 to help stimulate investment into small to medium sized enterprises. Under the original terms of the scheme, individuals could invest up to £1 million in any tax year and receive tax relief of 30%. The scheme was expanded in 2012 and the investment cap raised to £5 million. Businesses employing up to 250 staff are eligible for relief.

For smaller/earlier stage investments, businesses could also consider the use of Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme funding.

4. Exporting Opportunities
The opportunity for small and medium sized companies to grow revenue through exporting should not be overlooked. Passport to Export is a great starting point for new exporters as it costs just £500 to enter, making it accessible to very small companies. In return, businesses gain access to a sector specific export adviser with extensive knowledge of the market and indeed contacts. Equally useful is the £3,000 of matched funding that can be utilised in year one to help cover the cost of business travel abroad.

UK businesses are also currently benefiting greatly from the “Britain is Great Initiative”, launched by UK Trade & Investment, which has received considerable investment to showcase Britain to the rest of the world. Beyond this there is also a great deal of support from UK banks. High street lenders are now becoming increasingly supportive of clients looking to start exporting out of the UK. Help and assistance includes very competitive FX rates and execution, invoice financing and debtor protection.

5. Interest Rates
The current forecast is that interest rates are going to remain low for the next twelve months, at least, which means that taking on short-term finance to leverage the growth of your businesses is likely to be cheaper this year, than in the future.

6. IT enhancements
During 2014 there will be further investment in better broadband across the UK, which will help the UK move on to the next phase of growth and is excellent news for small regional businesses as it will be more affordable too. Further, cloud based services are becoming more affordable and therefore removing the requirement for businesses to have and pay for servers.

7. Getting the best support and advice
There is an abundance of different networking groups available to join for businesses in all sectors and locations to help grow your business. For development opportunities, you can find trade associations at the Trade Association Forum website. For business support and best practice on employment issues can be found at organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business and the British Chambers of Commerce.

It is of course also vital to obtain effective professional advice whilst keeping within your limited budget. Having been founded by entrepreneurial lawyers, Fox Williams LLP is uniquely positioned to help you set up and grow your UK business. We are experts at advising entrepreneurs and businesses setting up new companies, and have a specialist Start Up team on hand who can assist you with all legal aspects of your venture.

As we understand that budgets are often limited, we are also happy to discuss the services which we can provide on a fixed price basis.


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