Start your business

Get the information you need to turn your business idea into a reality. Our experienced team can provide you with free and impartial advice, support and direction for any business related enquiry. Contact us in person, by telephone or email if you want personal, one to one service. We're here to help.

We've brought together information and links to websites that will help turn your business idea into a reality. Find out more from the topics shown below.

Know your customer

Market research is essential and will help you focus your idea and plans and test their viability in terms of time, money and resources. Understanding your market will potentially help you save time and money in the long run so it's an important stage in planning any business.

The links below can be useful for learning more about market research and testing the viability of your business idea.

  • Gov.UK, research your market: An introduction to market research and what it means for your business. Be sure to watch their useful introductory video
  • Keynote: Gain in-depth, professional insights into your market and see how your competitors operate. Some reports are free but for the majority you will need to pay a fee.
  • Marketing Donut: This is your one stop shop for all things marketing, including market research You can also familiarise yourself with key terms such as SWOT analysis and target market plus find out all you need to know about pricing your product or service
  • Menta, business opportunities: Menta, the Suffolk Enterprise Agency has over 30 years experience in helping local businesses test their viability and perform market research. They also provide an extensive workshop programme.
  • Nwes: provides business advice and training to help start and grow your business. Trained business advisors will support you through the business planning process providing advice on finance, marketing and premises, as well as access to grant and loan funding.
  • Mintel: Offers a similar service to Keynote, covering a wide range of markets and products. Like Keynote, some reports are free, but for the majority you will need to pay a fee.
  • Start ups: Provides extensive and comprehensive start up advice, from the conception stage onwards.
  • Start up Donut: Features essential information on progressing your business idea, including testing its viability
  • Suffolk Observatory: This is a free service and can provide you with some essential insights at this early stage. It is particularly useful for understanding customer demographics and habits.

Know your business

Once you are confident about the viability of your business idea, you should incorporate your findings into a business plan. A business plan should cover every minute detail of your business, including objectives, strategies, sales and marketing and financial forecasts Your business plan will also help you to:

  • clarify your business idea
  • spot potential problems
  • set out your goals
  • measure your progress

It can also be integral to securing investment or loans and convincing potential customers, suppliers and employees to support you. The links below provide useful advice for writing your business plan.

Fund your business

Without investment capital it might be difficult for your business idea to progress. But there are a variety of funding opportunities out there that don't always mean going to your bank. Visit our Find funding page for more information, or contact us for tailored advice.

You can get to grips with business finance basics at Gov.UK, business finances explained or if you're struggling, consider recruiting a commercial accountant.

Register your business

There are a variety of legal structures that your business can take on. This will have a big impact on how you operate, trade and employ people. Follow the links below for more advice.

Protect your business

Don't let your hard work go to waste. If you have a new or fresh business idea that gives you a competitive advantage, it might be worth protecting it as your intellectual property with a patent, a trade mark or copyright. Also brush up on any other legal requirements such as licensing and consider getting insurance to ensure that your business isn't caught out in the future. Follow the links below for more information.

  • Gov.uk, intellectual property: Can provide you with an overview of intellectual property and how it can benefit your business. You can also use their License finder to see what regulations apply to your business.
  • Intellectual Property Office: Find out more about what protection is available and where and how you can apply. Similarly, check that your own business idea isn't contravening intellectual property laws.
  • West Suffolk licensing and regulation: Visit our pages on the website to make sure your business keeps on top of any relevant licensing requirements and regulations. Licensing and regulation isn't just for food service activities but applies to a wide range of businesses.
  • Association of British Insurers: Find out more about what business insurance is on offer and where you can buy it from.

Local sources of information and help