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Posts Tagged ‘female entrepreneurs’

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.

Are you being paid on time?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The lawyers at Off To See My Lawyer draft contracts for the sale of goods and provision of services, which protect the liability of our clients and their businesses; and in-so-doing we make sure we abide by any laws that safeguard consumers’ rights.  A well-drafted contract, however, is not necessarily the end of the story.

The Forum for Private Business lobby group recently surveyed 500 small businesses, and found that 16% have nearly had to close, due to late payments by customers.  51% stated that late payment was a problem for them.  Many small businesses rely upon their customers to pay on time, in order for them to be able to pay their own suppliers.  In cases where payment to the suppliers has been delayed in this way, 45% of the businesses surveyed said their profits had eroded as a result; and 23% said it had limited their ability to invest.

Gordon Skaljak (Spokesman for credit insurer Graydon), suggested that legislation needs to be changed in order to protect small businesses: “The business community and the government must join forces to protect companies by stamping out the UK’s late payment culture.”

One small business owner, Gordon Bennie (of Blue Orchid) contacted his local MP, (Michael Comarty) after experiencing cashflow problems when his customers had failed to pay on time.  The pair have been working with the Forum for Private Business, and together they successfully initiated a meeting at the House of Commons (on 25 April 2012) between officials from the Department for Business, and representatives of the Labour party, Lloyds Banking Group and various other professional bodies.  Of course, legislation takes time to draft and implement, so we cannot expect a positive change any time soon.

If your business has been suffering due to late payment by a customer (or indeed by another business), please contact Off To See My Lawyer and we can advise you on ways to enforce the contract by demanding payment, without the need for litigation.

Event: Business Expo

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

17 & 18 May 2012 – ExCel London

This event has been designed to provide advice and support on all aspects of starting, developing and running one’s business – such as branding; “cloud ICT”; financial matters; marketing; business planning; E-commerce; Google; and mentoring.  Features include one-to-one advice; “speed networking”; talks; seminars; and workshops.

For more information, please visit:

Mayoral Election Campaign Lowdown for Small Businesses…

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Who should London entrepreneurs vote for?

Is it possible that the Mayor of London could help the cause of small businesses and entrepreneurs?  Some of the mayoral candidates hoping to be elected on 3rd May seem to think so, based upon the pledges they make in their manifestos.  So, how do their various manifesto promises compare?

Boris Johnson (of the Conservative Party) lists “Growing the London Economy” as one of his pledges.  He insists that London has already succeeded in its relative resilience against the economic downturn.  He suggests that his priority is to boost the economic well-being of the city – by stating his intent to continue his current endeavours to direct funds and tax money according to Londoners’ wishes; to secure record funding from No. 10; and not to waste money on bureaucracy at City Hall.  Johnson appears to suggest that his aim is to boost the general economic well-being of the city rather than directly helping businesses within it.

Ken Livingstone (of the Labour Party) makes no direct promises in relation to the economy, nor to assisting small businesses.  Rather, his emphasis is on increasing funds for education, in order to increase young people’s prospects of employment.  He pledges a commitment to “restoring a London-wide Educational Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 per week in term by bringing together existing funds in colleges, universities, and local authorities.”

Brian Paddick (of the London Liberal Democrats) states, “We will establish a London Small Business Fund. We will work with socially responsible banks, so all viable small enterprises get the finance they need with mentoring support and advice too.”  This promise comes under the heading of his ambitiously entitled “Jobs and Opportunities for All” pledge, which is mainly focused on improving employment prospects for youths.  He promises a “London Youth Contract” to assist Londoners up to the age of 25 to attain work experience leading to a job; a new “Adult Skills” initiative; a fund to facilitate youth opportunities in needy areas gained via a voluntary £1 a night luxury hotel bedroom levy; the creation of “Youth Hubs” to provide advice, support and socialising opportunities for young people; and an enhanced careers advice service in schools.

Jenny Jones (of the Green Party) is the only candidate who explicitly pledges to help the plight of small businesses as “an absolute priority for City Hall”, as set out in her 10-point “Small Business Manifesto”.  She pledges to:

  1. Support a renaissance of micro, small and medium-sized businesses
  2. Use the Greater London Authority budget to support small businesses
  3. Protect and re-develop the traditional “high street”
  4. Prevent chain stores taking over independent shops
  5. Encourage Londoners to “buy local”
  6. Ensure public sector contracts go to small businesses
  7. Maintain the CompeteFor system
  8. Ensure small and local businesses aren’t disadvantaged by congestion and parking
  9. Only work with banks that lend to small business
  10. Increase small business representation in the community

Carlos Cortiglia (of the British National Party) does not appear to have a website stating his manifesto for London Mayor.  A Uraguayan national who has been living in the UK since 1989, he says he is “astonished” by the “hostility shown by many of the migrants towards the British and their way of life”, and emphasises, “I want to help preserve the freedoms, values and traditions that help make this a great country to live in.”  He appears to make no promises in relation to boosting London’s economy or helping small businesses.

Lawrence James Webb (of Fresh Choice of London) is affiliated with the UK Independence Party.  Of his various manifesto pledges, those of relevance to small businesses include:  cutting rates for “local businesses employing local people”; “saying ‘No’ to open-door immigration” in order to “create more jobs for Londoners”; and fighting any “EU red tape strangling London businesses”.

Siobhan Benita talks at length of her intentions to “create jobs and boost economic growth” in her Manifesto.  With regards London’s budget she promises to establish an “Independent Office for Budget Responsibility”.  For jobseekers she proposes free travel, and reduced fares for low earners.  For youths she pledges her commitment to working “with councils and businesses to ensure apprenticeships effectively deliver real employment and career prospects”, and working “with businesses, schools and colleges to improve pre-apprenticeship training”.  Of greater interest to Off To See My Lawyer clients, she states that she “will work with landlords to make better use of empty commercial property, including temporary use for community projects and for entrepreneurs to trial their ideas, negotiating Business Rate discounts and exemptions for innovative new businesses… My initial priorities will be the support of the creative industries and the life sciences sector.”

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:

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

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.”

How to Attract an Investor…

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Are you in search of an investor in order to start or develop your business?  American investors offer the following advice to budding entrepreneurs:

  1. When networking, make sure you develop a relationship with prospective investors before presenting them with your business plan.
  2. You need to be persistent without being a pest! Michael Rhodes (of Syncubator) says, “Entrepreneurs need to learn the art of professional follow up without being pushy. There are techniques that entrepreneurs can deploy that will make them stand out from the rest. Hand written thank you notes go a long way. Follow up with the product sample, etc.”
  3. When presenting your business plan to an investor you need to be clear what your product is, and how you intend to generate profit from it. Robert Herzog (President of Robert M. Herzog & Co) advises, “Be very focused.  You may have a million spin-off and secondary ideas in your head, but you have to convey very clearly how you will walk before you will run. Be clear about what you know, and admit what you don’t know, if you try bluffing through what isn’t known or in place, it will come back to haunt you.”  Carol  Roth (of Intercap Merchant Partners) recommends you make sure you are “crystal clear” when describing what your business does, and “in plain, simple language that a non-native English speaker [would be able to] understand”.  For example, she says “a microwave, which heats up food quickly” is a much better description than “a device which uses various combinations of electrical circuits and mechanical devices to produce and control an output of energy waves to increase the temperature of edible items over varying periods of time”.
  4. Before approaching an investor, make sure you have researched and understood the process of raising capital, and also that you know a little bit about how that particular investor operates.
  5. Ensure your business plan is sufficiently realistic.  American entrepreneur Davis Jones (who has started various businesses in real estate, IT and healthcare) stresses, “Be honest with yourself and investors.  Have realistic, conservative projections and don’t let your enthusiasm overshadow your objectivity.”
  6. When making your business plan, think of a strategy for how to pay your investors back in the event your business fails.  Similar to making a will, it is not being negative – it is being responsible!
  7. Think carefully about whether your business is in face compatible with the interests of your potential investor.

Is Current VAT System Disrupting your cashflow?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Are you considering importing and exporting goods to and from outside the EU?

If so, you should be aware that many such British businesses claim to suffer cash-flow difficulties as a result of the alleged inefficiency of HMRC’s VAT reimbursement system.

Whereas the date upon which a company’s VAT needs to be paid is fixed under the Deferment scheme, HMRC do not repay the money on any fixed date.  HMRC argue in their favour that they aim to authorise at least 90% of correct VAT repayment returns within 10 days of receipt, but because some returns are selected for credibility checks, they cannot specify a particular date on which the money will be repaid.

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Corina Kellam

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Starting her career in broadcast journalism, Corina Kellam later founded the first company to create bespoke memoir books for the general public based upon the research of historians in 2009.  The initial concept of a memoir detailing ones family history is appealing and fashionable nowadays – but in addition, the success of Life History Books can be attributed to the quality of its design, and the competitiveness of its prices.

Kellam is only 29 years old.  She was recently interviewed for a magazine, in which she set out some advice to fellow business-women.  In essence her top tips are as follows:

  1. Make sure you remain control of your own website, instead of delegating the responsibility to a third party.
  2. Every morning make a list of three things you want to achieve that day.
  3. Listen to any feedback which your customers/clients give on your products or services.
  4. Determine exactly what you want your customers/clients to understand about you and what your business offers, and practice relating your description out loud.
  5. Don’t spend money unnecessarily.