Monday, 9 February 2015

Need a Start Up Loan to bring your business idea alive?

Having an idea for a business is something many of us will have had but few actually progressed it to living reality?

Often the reason is simply that you don't have the up front finance to start the ball rolling.  Everyone has heard the term 'cash flow is king'. That is as true now as it has ever been.  You need cash up front in most businesses to purchase equipment, premises and employ staff to name but a few.

For a few years now the government have been providing start up loans to help businesses start.  The main criteria was that you had to be between 18 and 24.  Later that changed to 30 years old.  This removed access to a massive pool of talent during a time when redundancies from public and private sector providers has been high.  Many of these people have aspirations and ideas which they may have kept bottled up due to a secure job with a monthly salary and security built in.  That is no longer a guarantee and the future of a job for life is becoming fast a thing of the past.

The most important thing to do if you have an idea for a business which delivers a product or a service is to get the idea down on paper.  This might be a notebook, computer software or create a picture of it on a large sheet of paper. When you can picture it in your mind you are part way to starting.  Put down everything you are thinking about, particularly thinking about who is your target customer/client, who are others doing similar and may be called your competitor, what is it you need to get started, how you might promote your company to others.

At this stage you will have effectively made an excellent start on your 'business plan'.

When you have identified these areas you will realise that there is a cost to most of them.  Some might be physical financial costs and others your time and commitment.  You may already have assets to put into the business such as finance, property or materials.

At this stage you have started to develop your Cash Flow.  This is a critical part of your business plan.  By recording what you need to live on each month you will create a personal survival plan, then you need to record what it will cost each month to run the business and from that you will know what you need to make in order to draw sufficient to meet your personal survival plan and also make a profit.

Having reached this point you will know whether you already have the financial support to start the business or need to consider a business loan.

If you feel you need a loan then it is time to do some research.  There are many delivery agents/partners who will loan money to start-up companies.

For me one of the best is the relatively new Virgin Start Up Ltd.

They are well connected to the Government delivery arm under Lord Young and James Caan and have their own worldwide brand to support them. In addition they have no top end age restriction so will consider applicants from 18 yrs upward. There only exclusion is if you have been bankrupt or disqualified from directorship.

They can offer from £500 to £25000 and provide a business advisor to help you in submitting your plan and cash flow and if accepted a mentor specifically chosen to help you deliver your plan.

Has this wet your appetite to progress that idea you have?  If it has please go along to Virgins own site, Start Up Hub or my own website and make contact with us.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Apple IPAD won't start up! Was it OIS 8.1?

Have you got to the stage where your IPAD wont start? All you get is the Apple LOGO and no further. I imagine like many you have tried the normal remedies:

  • Turned the IPAD off at this point by holding the POWER OFF button down?  This will remove the LOGO screen
  • Pressing it again will bring it back to the LOGO screen
  • Now tried holding the HOME and POWER OFF buttons for at least 10 seconds.  Now it goes to black screen again
  • Pressing POWER ON again just brings up the LOGO screen
By now panic has set in, you want to throw the tablet out the window and concerned that you haven't synchronised or backed up the IPAD to your computer or iCloud.

This happened to me last night having just upgraded my iPhone and IPAD to IOS 8.1 and activated the 'Handsoff' and message sharing tools.  I read the support pages 1 and 2 and it seemed the only option was to enter a recovery mode and reset to factory and lose all my data.

So I started that process realising my last back up was 2 days ago!  Now there are some things you need to know extra to the guidance on Apple pages shown in links 1 and 2 above.

  1. Open your iTunes program without the IPAD connected
  2. Now hold the HOME key on the IPAD and insert the USB cable.
  3. Keep holding the HOME key until the message about 'Restoration mode' comes up on your IPAD screen then let go.
  4. You will get a message on your iTunes programme on your PC recognising an IPAD has been connected but no name, serial no etc. If you don't repeat 2 and 3 above
  5. The message gives you an option to UPDATE or RESTORE.
  6. Choose UPDATE.  Even if you have the latest OIS on your IPAD.
  7. You will now see a sign that the software update is downloading and the Apple LOGO will appear on the IPAD.
  8. The download will take a while, most likely an hour.
  9. During this time the IPAD will change from LOGO screen to black screen and back a few times.  DO NOT disconnect the cables or interfere with the download process.
  10. About half way through the download process my IPAD suddenly kicked into play and the iTunes programme showed the name, serial no and sync details.
  11. I left the download to finish and as soon as the download was ended the iTunes account  showed my IPAD was up to date!!!
  12. Now do an immediate SYNC!!

I hope this works for anyone who reads this and please share it widely.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Confused over obtaining funding for new businesses and how to find it?


I am sure I am not alone in the confusion that surrounds the availability of finance to new or established SME's.

It seems that if you are a business to business B2B company there are more grants, match funding and loans available than to Business to Consumer/Customer B2C Companies. Even more so if you are in the exporting business.

I absolutely understand the need to trade outside the UK and support other businesses develop and thrive, but equally my own experience as a Growth Voucher Advisor and Business consultant is that many new businesses are established by people providing a service or product to consumers and more often than not delivered within a short distance of their trading place.

You may have heard about StartUp Britain, Young Britain, Enterprise Nation, Centre for Entrepreneurs, Business Hubs, an example being Shropshire Enterprise HubGrowth Accelerator scheme? These are just a few of the current platforms supported by Government to assist new and SME size companies to set-up and develop.  Many of the advisor and financial contributors behind the schemes do this voluntarily whilst others are employed by the organisation to manage the function it delivers.

Local Authorities also have a wealth of grants and finance and support available, but people just do not know how to tap into them.  Each Authority seems to have a different department, team and strategy to access the funds and many are restructuring due to the political pressures to reduce costs.

As I reside within the Telford & Wrekin Borough Council area I thought I would share with you their website and information.  There are some excellent people within their team and their general focus is good, the problem is getting the message out to those who 'may' need to know they exist whilst planning their business set-up or business expansion.

So what would I recommend if you want to try and locate the funding available or access people who may be able to sign post you?

Networking is an excellent way to go.  In all areas there are literally hundreds of networks available. Some are the well known ones like the Chambers of Commerce, others are national, but delivering through local groups, like Federation of Small Business (FSB), 4networking and BNI, Others are local and can represent specific types of business, service provision and areas like female networks which are better suited to individuals.

Use Social Media to search for, research and make contact or follow key interest areas.  Twitter, Facebook and the many other platforms can be a great source of information. You don't have to post on them, just select interested areas and see what they are saying, providing or who they follow.

Contact your local authority or network group through the relevant websites. Ask to meet them, go to a network event as a visitor and see what is on offer.

One thing is for sure, you have to do your ground work and research, push open some of the doors, get yourself invites, be insistent but polite and supportive.  My experience is there are many people out there willing to help and support.  But, equally there are others out there who do not perhaps have the knowledge, skill or experience but nevertheless trade as if they have.

If you want some support, to ask a question or be assisted with signposting then contact me via my website in the first instance.

Many thanks for taking the time to read.  I hope you found it useful?

Andy Parkes
Director, Saxon Park Services Limited.

Monday, 25 April 2011


Do you use Open Source programs like Wordpress or Joomla?  If so do you know whether you are using the latest version on your hosting server [where your website or online presence is managed].
Recent website virus Lizamoon used a hole in an old version of Joomla to infect millions of webpages.  Check your hosting to see you have the latest installed.