Starting a business is a big decision for anyone and having the appropriate support can be the difference between success and failure. Business & Enterprise North East (BE-NE) which delivers a wide portfolio of support services in the region, including Business Link, offers advice and assistance to help businesses get off the ground, and make the best possible start. Here, Business Link adviser Neil Sowerby explains the ways in which the service can help turn a business idea into a viable venture.

“There is never a good or bad time to start a business. Regardless of the economic climate, with a strong product or service offer, careful planning, preparation and most of all, hard work, this can translate into a profitable business.

“The key to starting a successful enterprise is planning. Transforming an idea into a viable business model requires understanding, commitment, personal sacrifice and financial investment. At Business Link, we can help entrepreneurs to gain a deeper understanding of what is needed to get a business started and make it profitable. “We have a team of advisers, who operate across the region, and genuinely understand what makes a business work. Once an outline business plan has been prepared, they will be able to talk to businesses about what you need to do to get up and running, and will help you access other support services that will make things easier.”

Business Link is the primary access point for support in the region, as well as being the service that channels applications through to the North East England Investment Centre (NEEIC), which invests money into projects that will benefit the local economy. In total, Business Link helped to create over 4,500 new businesses between April 2009 – March 2010, an increase of over 16% from 2007-2008 and over 4% up on last year. In total it has worked with over 33,200 businesses and individuals to help them start-up, develop and grow. Figures highlight that despite the challenges that businesses have continued to face during the past year, the North East is still one of the best places in the UK to start and grow a business. “The Business Link service is free to access and is a great source of support for entrepreneurs across North East England.

“Businesses that use the service benefit from practical assistance, from advisers who understand business – and who have worked with hundreds of enterprises to help them both start up and grow, and who, in many cases, have experience of running their own company. “While entrepreneurs might have the best understanding of their product or service, our advisers can share broader business knowledge – with assistance relating to marketing, legal considerations and sales strategy among other things. This general business know-how can really help a new entrepreneur to set off on the right track, and ensure that the venture begins its life on the best possible footing.”

Aside from practical advice and support, entrepreneurs quite often need assistance with understanding how to finance a new business. By working with Business Link, they can better understand the costs of starting up, and will be able to gain valuable advice as to how to go about sourcing the capital needed to get up and running.

“Our advisers will, between them, have worked with enterprises from a host of different sectors. This experience means that they are well equipped to work with you to look at your business plan, and get a much clearer idea of the costs associated with starting up. The team has a really good understanding of what financial support is available regionally and nationally too.

“Business Link is also the gateway to services such as the North East England Investment Centre (NEEIC), which invests in projects that will benefit the local economy, so this is just one other way that the service could potentially help.

“For individuals that are looking to get started with their own business, it is absolutely crucial that they seek out all the support they can and Business Link is an important first call to make to realise their vision. With support from the team here, there is nothing stopping any entrepreneur from launching a profitable and successful enterprise – and making the leap into a new career, as their own boss.