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Can you afford to start up your own business?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

If you have any misgivings about whether you can afford to start up and run a business, Jo Tall will happily meet you for a preliminary consultation.  Off To See My Lawyer are proud to have successfully helped launch many small businesses – but equally we take pride in our honest and realistic advice.  If we consider that you will be taking too many risks (– financial or otherwise) we will let you know.

Here is a non-exhaustive checklist to help you assess whether you can afford to start a new business:

  1. Off To See My Lawyer provide an extremely cost effective service, but please consider whether you are able to afford legal advice.
  2. You may wish to pay for other professional advice, such as from an accountant, or a web designer, and/or advice from PR experts.
  3. You may require professional assistance in order to draft your initial business plan, and/or business plan software.
  4. Most banks incur a small fee in order to open a business account.
  5. As you would expect, there are fees incurred for incorporating a business into a company; for registering a trade mark; for registering yourself as a data controller; etc.  And you may need to purchase certain licenses and permits in order to run your particular business.
  6. You may wish to insure your business or assets.  Premium rates are variable.
  7. If you wish to rent or buy the premises from which you will run your business, you will need to consider these costs – as well as utilities bills.
  8. The costs involved in promoting your business will add up.  For example – stationery and printing; professional branding/advertising advice; etc.
  9. Machinery and equipment, and IT systems are pricey but necessary assets.
  10. It very much depends on the type of business you are running – but you may need to pay for materials from which to manufacture your products, or stock for wholesale.
  11. Of course, once your business is up and running, you cannot pocket every incoming penny, as there are various taxes to be paid!

While the intended outcome of employing staff is to increase your profits, employees add to your list of burdens and liabilities.  You will need to draft contracts of employment, deal with relevant taxation issues, invest in time (and perhaps money) in training your staff, etc.

Event: Getting To Grips With Finance Workshop

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Where: O2 Workshop, 229 Tottenham Court Road , London W1T 7QG

When: 12 June 2012 from 10:00 to 14:00

How much: £65.00

Johnny Martin has extensive experience turning around businesses such as Baring Venture Partners, JO Hambro and Monument Trust.

Mr Martin will be leading the Getting To Grips Workshop, offering financial advice for setting up a business, working with accountants, raising capital, and cash flow management. Attendees are asked to bring their laptops!

To book your place, visit: www.women-unlimited.co.uk/getting-to-grips-with-finance-worksho/ (Note that for £65, you will not only get to attend the workshop, but you will receive a few added extras and bonuses!)

Sarah Cressall: The Creation Station

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

On 29 March of this year, Sarah Cressall was announced as “Woman Franchisor of the Year” at the 2011 Encouraging Women Into Franchising Awards.

Sarah Cresswell is a true inspiration for female entrepreneurs for so many different reasons.  In 2002 she came up with the idea of setting up The Creation Station, aimed at nurturing children’s creativity through fun arts and crafts activities with their parents/carers, and in such a way that minimises any stress or burden for the parents/carers.  Since 2002 Ms Cresswell has successfully overcome various obstacles (such as suppliers going bust) in order to develop her business into what it is today.  In an interview last year she stated, “You can either look at things as challenges or opportunities”.

While we commend Ms Cresswell for successfully setting up and running her own business, Off To See My Lawyer is especially impressed by the nature of her work.  She explains, “We run different types of workshops…   We also run art and craft birthday parties, events for organisations like the brownies, events and fetes for charities.”

While offering valuable services for parents bringing up their children, The Creation Station is now a franchise which offers parents the opportunity to become franchisees of the business and generate their own income.  Ms Cresswell says, “It’s designed specifically for mothers.  It’s flexible. There are some mothers with six-month-olds who do two mornings and others whose children have started school and may want to work four or five mornings.  The business allows time for family life. As they grow and get more confident, franchisees can employ people to run the business.”  Franchisees are given assistance and training to help them run their business, and are supplied with arts and crafts materials, session plans (based on government educational guidelines), a uniform, an admin pack, a web page and materials such as bags and stationery.

If you have an existing business which you wish to develop and expand into a franchise, please consult Jo Tall at jo@offtoseemylawyer.comOff To See My Lawyer does not only deal with start-ups!  Similarly if you are thinking of becoming a franchisee and need legal advice, Jo will be only too happy to assist.

Crowdfunding – a viable alternative for raising capital?

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Aiming to bring businesses and backers together, US crowdfunding site Kickstarter specialises in film, art and design.  It allows for people to pitch ideas for which they need financial backing, and for potential backers to come forward with offers.  A deadline is set by which a certain funding target must be met.  If it is not met, backers’ pledges are returned and no money transactions take place.  And if the funding target is met, the party who has pitched its project retains complete creative control, but Kickstarter retains 5% of the total funds raised.  The backers are given a role in the development of the product; the right to give feedback on its progress; and a copy of the finished product.

Justin Kazmark (Communications Director at Kickstarter) explains, “There’s always a value exchange between creators and the backers that pledge financial support to a project.  In exchange for pledging, backers receive creative rewards, one of a kind experiences and behind-the-scenes access to the creative process as the project comes to life.

Kickstarter was founded on the idea that there is value in the world beyond things that can make money. Ideas should be able to exist because people feel an affinity toward them, not because of the promise of profit.”

San Francisco-based developer Double Fine Productions has successfully raised a phenomenal amount of money by pitching the idea for their game “Double Fine Adventure” on Kickstarter.  It took a mere eight hours for the required £250,000 to be raised by thousands of on-line backers; but people continued to contribute funds for several weeks.  The final amount raised reached £2 million ($3.3 million), and the number of backers exceeded 87,000.  The game will now be developed for the next six to eight months and will be available on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and android.

Greg Rice (Producer of “Double Fine Adventure”) enthuses, “Kickstarter allowed us direct communication with our fans and ultimately means we’ll be able to make the game we want and also directly benefit from it financially.”  He states that crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter are “getting more and more important…  It’s truly amazing that people with a great idea now have a way to fund making those ideas come true and are able to do that by speaking directly to their customers.”

New legislation in the USA,  the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act” will allow backers to own equity in the companies they invest in and let those businesses raise up to $1million (£600,000) through crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter.

In Britain, one crowdfunding website is already offering equity to investors without the need for any change in the law.  Exeter-based Crowdcube launched last year and has already funded 15 projects, raising £2.8million.

Crowdcube vets in-coming business plans, and presents the approved ones on its website in a video clip, awaiting offers from potential backers.  Crowdcube functions in a similar way to Kickstarter, in that it takes a 5% fee on pitches that reach their target.

Luke Lang (Co-founder of Crowdcube) boasts, “We’ve completely democratised the whole investment industry…  We’re trying to make investing in business easy and inclusive rather than it being the exclusive preserve of the elite who have got lots of money or lots of experience…  We’ve broken down those barriers and enabled ordinary people with modest amounts of money to get behind small businesses.”

Crowdcube’s greatest success story is the £1 million which was raised for the Rushmore Group to build a new private members’ club in London.

There are other crowdfunding sites such as London-based PleaseFund.Us, which has raised around £100,000 for projects since it launched last September.

Social Media Strategy Workshop

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and You Tube have proved invaluable as conduits for successful on-line businesses.  Julie Hall (founder of Women Unlimited and Springmedia), will be running a workshop aimed to introduce you to this subject, and provide you with basic operational know-how – so perhaps you too could become a social media entrepreneur!

The workshop will take place on 15 May 2012 from 10:00 to 16:00, at O2 Workshop, 229 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7QG; and costs £125.

If you are interested in attending, you can book a place via this link: http://www.women-unlimited.co.uk/social-media-strategy-workshop

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Sarah Turner

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Off To See My Lawyer are cheered to hear about yet another woman who has turned an adverse situation into a business!

It was only two years ago that Sarah Turner was first diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to undergo chemotherapy which caused her hair to fall out.  Dissatisfied with the existing market for unflattering headwear and uncomfortable wigs, Ms Turner decided to come up with her own designs and pitch them to various British milliners.  She now runs her own on-line business, Elizabeth Rose (http://www.elizabethroselondon.com/) selling fashion-led headwear for women with hair loss.  Ms Turner writes on her website, “I am delighted to be able to give you an exciting seasonal collection twice a year.  My aim is to bring you style and a little bit of joy and confidence back.”

Off To See My Lawyer would be interested to hear from you if, like Ms Turner, you have a good idea for a product and the necessary motivation to market and sell it – but perhaps lack the skills and resources to actually manufacture the product in the first place.  We now have such an admirable client base of female entrepreneurs, we may be able to help you source an appropriate business associate to complement your own skills!  For any such assistance, please contact Jo Tall at jo@offtoseemylawyer.com.

Feeling positive? Ready to take a risk?!

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

We all know that Britain’s economy is in need of a boost, and the optimistic among us expect a renaissance at some point in the not-too-distant future!  Amid this tense anticipation, more and more alternative funding options, and attractive business savings account deals are emerging – so now could be a good time for businesses to “shop around” for advantageous deals.

Partly as a means of encouraging a resurgence in business activity in the UK; and partly in the hope of capitalising on the future success of UK businesses, Britain’s high street banks and building societies are vigorously promoting their business savings accounts.  Business savings accounts are in fact expected to grow by about 25% over the next five years.

In addition you may wish to consider the loan services of reputable organisations other than banks, such as Funding Circle.  Since its foundation in 2010, Funding Circle has loaned more than £28million to 670 British businesses.  Funding Circle has recently received a £10million boost, as it is now being backed by Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures.

Event: The Vintage Festival

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Location: Broughton House, Northamptonshire

Date: 13-15 July 2012

Businesses may be saved the expense of rent and overheads by trading on-line, but some business owners prefer the traditional idea of renting real estate and creating a physical presence on the high street.  Many such traders are enjoying the fact an increasing number of buildings are becoming vacant as a result of commercial chains closing their branches in the high street.  It is becoming increasingly possible for small businesses and entrepreneurs to rent spaces for a short duration in order to set up a temporary shop, for the purpose of helping establish their brand and attracting customers.  Thus a new culture of small “pop-up” shops is being generated.

Co-founder of the fashion business Red or Dead Wayne Hemingway enthuses, “we are seeing a renaissance of a variation of the serendipitous market.”  Since 2007, Mr Hemingway (alongside his wife and the HemingwayDesign team) have run an annual festival which celebrates the history and influence of British creativity.

This year’s Vintage Festival will take place in July, at Broughton House, Northampton.  At the festival Mr Hemingway wishes to recreate a “vintage high street” as “a place to promenade, shop, watch street artists, eat and drink and just sit and take in the magic of the high street, with the authenticity of a film set, in the middle of a wonderful landscape” and thereby ignite a new enthusiasm for the traditional British high street.

For more information, visit http://www.vintagefestival.co.uk/.

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Rita Sharma

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Rita Sharma set up travel agency Worldwide Journeys in 1986 selling transatlantic business flights from a windowless London office “the size of a broom cupboard”, which merely consisted of “two desks and some phones”.  In addition to its humble beginnings, the business did not necessarily have an easy journey to success, either [excuse the pun!]  When the stock market crashed in the late 1980s, “people were no longer spending ridiculous amounts of money travelling First or Club class”.  Clearly a natural entrepreneur, however Ms Sharma responded to the situation by adapting her business to one that sold bespoke holiday packages instead.  In 1992 her husband Rahul abandoned his accountancy career in order to take charge of the finances of Worldwide Journeys.

British “by definition” but “Asian too, by DNA”, Ms Sharma partly attributes her tenacity and ultimate success to her principled upbringing: “a very strong foundation of right and wrong and a real sense of personal responsibility”.

Today the business is worth an estimated £44m, and Rita Sharma is known as the UK’s richest Asian female entrepreneur.  She proudly states, “We are not in the business of selling a bit of this, a bit of that, flights and hotels.  We sell the entire dream, a bespoke tailor-made holiday, from the flights to the hotel to the transfers and the tour – the whole thing.  And we sell very high-end, luxury travel.”

EU Regulation on “cookies” to be more strictly enforced in May 2012

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Prior to May 2011, the owners of UK websites were legally permitted to set up a system whereby small data files called “cookies” could be automatically installed onto the hard drive of the computers of any visitors (to the website).  These cookies record the on-line browsing activities of the visitor – both for the essential purpose of facilitating certain transactions (such as the sale of a product), and for the less essential purpose of targeted advertising.

On 25 May 2011, however, the UK implemented new EU Regulations which essentially require the consent of the consumer/ website user before a cookie is installed on his/her computer. The Regulations recognise the fact that certain information needs to be retained in order for an on-line transaction to take place.  Therefore it qualifies the rule by applying it to any personal information which is not “strictly necessary”.

The UK authorities allowed for a 12-month “grace period” which is due to end on 26 May 2012, which means that a breach of the new law could mean a monetary penalty – and in some cases even a criminal prosecution, if deemed serious.

Of course, Off To See My Lawyer adapted its template Privacy Policy in time for 25 May 2011, and we have been advising our clients accordingly – so existing clients need not be concerned about the end of the 12-month “grace period”.  For any prospective clients, however, please contact Jo Tall at jo@offtoseemylawyer.com for advice on how to comply with this E-privacy law.