Start up support

Social enterprise, charities trading, trading arms and subsidiaries

Recently i have been researching how charities can trade by starting social enterprises. There has been a lot of press recently regarding social enterprise, with hundreds of MP’s signing the social enterprise charter, the Coalition Government talking about the “Big Society” and how social enterprise will help people get into work who are furthest away from the labour market.

On the back of this hype, there has been many workshops, seminars, courses and conferences on how Charities can start social enterprises. Social enterprise has been touted as being a way, to move away from traditional income streams, such as, donations and grants. The idea of a charity trading to the private/public sector seams a very appealing way to generate profits and help achieve its charitable objectives.

So with all this support, where are all the trading arms? Where are the charities that trade? Where is all this commerce in the third sector? And I’m not talking about trading, where charities conduct;

•        'Primary Purpose Trading – where the charities' trading activities directly linked to its main charitable objective

•        Trading activities mainly carried out by the charity's beneficiaries or service users

•        Charitable fundraising events

•        Charity lotteries

I’m talking about trading arms and subsidiary trading. Charities who have started an entirely separate trading entity, which channels profits back to fulfil its charitable objectives.

Well if you know of any please let me know, because I have looked and have manage to find three on the internet. I was initially shocked at this, I know my internet skills are not the greatest, but I thought I would have found at least 10 examples of charities trading in this manner, fairly easily. Then I did some research on how charities can start a social enterprise trading arm and was shocked that I found one at all.

For an individual or company who wants to start a social enterprise the process is fairly straight forward. You get an idea, set your social objectives, find some funding, start the business and trade. With social enterprise itself not being a legal structure, any business with the slightest social objective can call them selves a social enterprise (although it would probably be devastating for the business if they were found out). But, for charities who wish to start a social enterprise, it’s a whole different ball game.

Charities can trade and benefit from tax exemption, but to get these “tax perks” they are regulated by Charity Law. After looking at the law and the guidelines from the Charity Commission I have highlighted several issues which i feel may arise if a charity decides on creating a social enterprise via a trading arm or trading subsidiary.

1.      Charitable objectives

A charity should first have something written into its governing documents that states it is allowed to trade. Some charities may have something written at the end of their governing document, like “or any other activity which benefits our Service Users”. These ambiguous statements can be a bit of a grey area, so I would seek advice from the HR Revenue and Customs and the Charities Commission to see if you can legally trade. Otherwise you may need to amend the document to allow you to trade.

2.      Trustees

Trustees need to be fully aware off their responsibilities when it comes to trading and may be called to intervene to protect the charity (see http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Publications/cc35d.aspx)

As you can see from the link there are a lot of regulations trustees need to be aware of.

3.      Control

For a charity to have control over the trading arm they may need an employee in a position of control. From my research the most popular way to start a social enterprise is via a Limited Company. To start a Limited company the charity will need to appoint directors, either employ an external candidate or appoint an internal employee or trustees.

Who ever is appointed needs to be fully aware of there responsibilities as a director and ensure they do not breach any company or charity law.

4.      Failure

With all businesses there is a chance of failure. The advantage of using a trading subsidiary is that you can limit the financial impact on the charity. However this does not limit the impact on the charities reputation. A failed business could leave service users or beneficiaries unemployed which could bring some negative press. This negative press could have detrimental effects when a charity applies for other contract funding as funders may feel they are in capable of running a project.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt in my mind that a profitable trading arm could bring massive benefits to a charity, especially if it’s employing service users to run the enterprise. Though these benefits are big the negative side is equally as daunting. With charity and company law to contend with and conflicting against each other, charities that are not fully aware of all the issues involved could be opening them selves up to a lot of trouble. Then there is the issue of who you appoint directors and if they would want to be directors after being informed of there responsibilities.

For these reasons I am not surprise that more charities are not involved in social enterprise. If the government wants charities to be involve in their “Big Society” and create social enterprises or social firms to address problems in society in a sustainable way, then I feel they need to address the points I have raised in this article.

I freely admit I’m no expert and would love to hear your opinions on this subject in the comments below. If you are a charity who is running a social enterprise, please let me know of your experiences with these issues.

Enterprise Allowance scheme – Good for business?

Recently the government has announced the new Enterprise Allowance scheme to support people who have been unemployed for more that 6 months into self employment.

The support is 3 fold

1. A financial package of £2000

2. Business mentors

3. £1000 loan for equipment

What has not been made clear is the amount of cash being made available for the first 6 months of trading. In the past schemes such as test trading offered unemployed people the opportunity to test their business idea by enabling them to stay on their benefit whilst trading.

Details have not been announced how the £2000 will be distributed. Is it is going to be a weekly or monthly payment or is it be

Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing a web designer – What a disabled entrepreneur should look for

Many people starting their business for the first time require a website to promote their business or sell their products, but with so many web designers out there which one should you choose?

It can be very difficult choosing a web designer when you know little about web design, so in this article I will give you tips on how to find one which is suitable to your business.

Web designers don’t have magic wands to get you to the top of google, anyone who claims this I would be very wary of. If you want your website to be at the top of google then you will need to advertise and add to it on a regular basis.

The first thing I would do is think about what you want your website for. Do you want to, sell online, use it to display your products, give information to your clients. I would then do a bit of research on your competition, to see who is currently at the top of the search engines.

You can do this by typing in search terms, on how you feel your clients will look for you on google. Example, if I was a plumber in Liverpool, I would type, ‘plumbers in Liverpool in to google and see what comes up. Have a look at the sites which are top and see if the contact details of the people who designed them are on the site.

Once I had a list of web designers I would look on their website, there should be examples of their work. Contact the businesses they have done work for, preferably, companies who are similar to yours. So, in this example if I was a plumber I would look for, electricians, roofers and other building related professions.

Type, ‘electricians in Liverpool’ into Google and see how near the top they come. If they appear fairly high or even top, I would give them a ring and ask them about their website and the company who designed it for them.

This is the part most people don’t like, but I assure you, in my experience most businesses are please to help, if you are not competition. Think about it, if you were a plumber with a website and an electrician, rang you about your website and the company who designed it, I’m sure you would be helpful. Clients who I advise to do this often make valuable contacts. If the person is helpful, offer to send them work, ask for there card, they might off to do the same for you.

Tips

1. If you can operate I.T. software like “Microsoft Word” or “Facebook” then you should be able to update your website yourself. Ask the web designer if the website they are building has the option for you to edit it, otherwise if you need the web designer to change your prices in the future, it may be costly.
2. The best way to get up the search engines is by having a large relevant website with lots of quality links. Have a look at this guide about getting links, but to get a big site you will need to blog. If you have the I.T. skills mentioned above then request the web designer to incorporate a blog on the site.
3. Ask how much it cost to hosts the website each year, should not be more than £60
4. Ask how much per hour it costs for new work to be carried out on the site
5. My advice would be to get a web designer who works with either of the following website design software, WordPress, Joomla, Mambo. I say these because if you want a shop or other facilities in the future, it will be easier and cheaper to add them. This site is designed in WordPress

Bookkeeping and Accounts – For the disabled entrepreneur, tax does not have to be taxing

When you start up in business you are required by law to keep some form of accountant, in order for the tax office to calculate tax on your profits.

Many disabled people wishing to start up in business are concerned about, how they will be able to do this as they have had no experience in doing so. Some disabled entrepreneurs have concerns about the cost involved in hiring a bookkeeper or an accountant to submit there records to the tax authorities.

In this article I will use the term bookkeeper as the majority of small businesses may only need an accountant for a small part of there record keeping responsibilities. Accountants have gone through more training than bookkeepers and are able to handle more complex issues. If your small business does not need the skills of an accountant, then there is no point in paying top dollar to use one. 

Other concerns people have, is how they will be able to cope physically doing their tax records if they have a disability which limits the work they can do.

In my experience these fears are often blown out of proportion as people feel they need to be an expert in maths to be able to keep records. This is simply not true. For someone setting up a small business, record keeping is a fairly simple process which should not incur much attention from a bookkeeper or accountant.

I would advise anyone who is thinking of starting up a small business and has concerns about record keeping to first visit the tax office and ask them what is required. Many local tax offices has staff whos job it is to help small business submit their tax records and some even run courses. If you think about it, all the Government wants, is for you to pay the correct tax you owe.

When you visit them, explain your concerns and any issues you may have. From my experience they have been very helpful with people who have disabilities and may already understand the concerns you have.

They could help you set up a system which will suit both parties and keep you on the right side of the law. They may be elements of keeping and completing records that you don’t feel comfortable with. For these more taxing (sorry) elements, you could always get a bookkeeper to do them.

As I was saying, keeping records for tax purposes is fairly straight forward and  inexpensive, if you are prepared to do some of the work yourself. If all you want to do, is once a year turn up to your bookkeeper, dump a sack full of receipts on his table and run off, then yes it is going to cost you.

You can reduce this costs by keeping your records in order, which will mean less work for the bookkeeper. I would recommend that you get yourself some envelopes and files, and at the very least keep all the receipts/ invoices in order, on a month to month basis.

Talk to a few bookkeepers, tell them you are on a budget and you want do the majority of work yourself. Work with them and the tax office and find a system that is right for you.

There is also support available from Access to Work. If you have a disability which restricts the bookkeeping work you can carry out, you may be entitled to equipment or a support worker to enable you to operate your business effectively. They will not pay for someone to do your accounts, but will help easy issues which are directly related to your disability.

If your local tax office does not offer courses, try your local enterprise centres or the council. From time to time these organisations run courses for all abilities.

Business blogging – get it right from the start

Blogging has become big business and for some it has led to quitting their day job and blogging full time. For some disabled entrepreneurs, blogging could provide the flexibility to work from home, to put in the hours that suit their disability, and has very low start up costs. Sound appealing? There is a catch. Blogs are hard work and it could take years before you can make enough money to take a wage.

So, what is a blog? A blog is similar to a website, it can be on any subject but unlike a regular website, it is updated regularly with articles or posts. These posts appear on the top of the homepage and as new posts are added, the older ones move down the page. Once the page has 10 or so posts they are archived and are found using a search facility, categories bar or archive page. The front page of a long standing blog is usually the tip of the iceberg, showing only the 10 most recent entries. The rest of the blog may have hundreds or even thousands of posts, all about one subject.

Anyone can start a blog; the software used to power them can be as simplistic or as complex as you need it to be. Blogging software such as “Wordpress.com” and Google’s “Blogger” are free to use and have lots of online support.

The three main things you will need to make money from a blog are;

1. A topic that you are passionate enough to write about on a regular basis
2. A topic which is financially lucrative (I will explain this later in the post)
3. A topic which is popular (lots of people searching for it)

If you don’t have all of these factors then you will find it much more difficult to make money online.

So how does it all work? Well one of the main theories behind making money with a blog is to get a lot of useful articles about a chosen subject. Then through SEO (search engine optimisation), you get lots of traffic or visitors. Once you have all this traffic there are 4 main ways you can make money from them;-

1. Selling advertising banner space to other companies
2. Affiliate advertising – Advertising individual products; when a visitor clicks the ad, it will take them to another company’s website. If they buy the item then you would get a percentage of the total cost.
3. Having a blog with loads of articles will show off your expertise and will encourage people to use your own services.
4. Having Google ads on the blog will get you a percentage every time a visitor clicks one.

Making money with Google Ads;-

Having a blog with hundreds of articles still won’t guarantee financial success if you’re blogging about the wrong subject. To be really successful you need to be blogging about a subject which is profitable and to find this out you can use a tool called “Google keyword selector”.

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

This is the best place to start to see if you have a profitable blogging topic. You can type your keyword into the tool and it will list the amount of traffic that particular keyword generates on a monthly basis. Not only that, there is a drop down box “Choose columns to be displayed” which gives you the option to see how much the average CPC (Cost Per Click) would be. This figure is the average cost that a business is prepared to pay to get on Google’s “Sponsored Links”. The higher the amount the company is prepared to pay, the higher they will appear on the right hand side of Google when the relevant keyword is searched.

When you create your blog you can display these ads within each articles. If someone clicks the ad, Google will charge that company and you will get a percentage, regardless of whether the visitor buys something or not.

This is commercial blogging. Yes, you might be an expert in model areoplanes, but if there is no money in the keyword then there is no point trying to make money from it. Yes, do it as a hobby, but if the average CPC is 4p, you will only be getting a percentage of that amount. It will not matter if you get 100,000 visitors as only a small percentage of these will click an advert.

If you can pick a subject which is profitable e.g. “plumbing”, you might be able to get a percentage of £3. You can see that a percentage of this amount would mean far less visitors to achieve the same revenue. You also might be able to see a conflict of interest. If you are a plumber do you write about lucrative subjects such as “emergency plumbing” CPC £4.33 or “leaking plumbing” 4p? The answer is if the subjects are both relevant then do both and don’t compromise the integrity of the blog.

In summary this is how it all works;-

1. Create a blog
2. Write lots of articles on your chosen subject.
3. Read about SEO for blogs and apply to your own blog
4. Through a combination of lots of articles and SEO, you will eventually climb up Google
5. Visitors will come to your blog
6. A visitor clicks on a Google ad
7. You get a percentage of the CPC for that Advert

For a video/audio tutorial on commercial blogging have a look at Courtney Tuttle’s blog;-

http://CourtneyTuttle.com/2008/06/26/why-almost-everyone-should-be-starting-a-blog/

Make your Business Succeed – Self employment start up event

Thursday 12 March 2009
10.00 – 16.00
British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

This is a one-day conference for people with a disability who are interested in setting up a business or working for themselves, run by the British Library Business & IP Centre and Leonard Cheshire Disability.

The event includes a tailored programme of workshops and one-to-one advice sessions to help you get started. It will give you an overview of the different aspects of running a business which you need to be aware of, and the opportunities and support available to you, such as the Ready to Start programme. You will have the chance to network and make contact with like-minded people with similar aspirations and concerns. You might also find potential customers, business partners and suppliers.

During the event you can attend a workshop and have a one-to-one advice session with business and information experts from the British Library, Business Link for London, HM Revenue & Customs and the Ready to Start programme, which will give you the chance to ask specific questions and gain expert advice. Jobcentre Plus will be giving advice about in-work benefits and how they can help you make the transition from benefits to work.

The event is wheelchair-accessible and we will endeavour to cater to individual access needs if you tell us your requirements when you book.

Agenda

10.00 – 10.30 Registration and breakfast
10.30 – 11.00 Welcome speeches
11.00 – 12.30 Workshops (to choose on the day on a first-come, first-served basis)
Option 1: Marketing on a Small Budget
(Business Link London)
Option 2: Working for Yourself (Business Link London)
Option 3: Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property
(British Library)
 
12.30 – 13.15 Lunch and networking
13.15 – 14.45 One-to-one advice sessions with business advisers and exhibitors
14.45 – 15.30 Case study and closing session
15.30 – 16.00 Refreshments and networking

View our events calendar and book your place

Find out more about disabled access in the Library at http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/visits/access-guide.html

If you have any queries about this event please contact Gabrielle Rose on
+44 (0)20 7412 7080 or Clare Harris on +44 (0)20 7412 7257.

A list of disabled business awards to apply for

disabled business awards There are lots of awards celebrating the achievements of people who have taken the plunge. They are many and varied, and cover everything from starting up to lifetime achievements.

The awards season is upon us and there are lots of ceremonies taking place. disabled entrepreneurs are promoting their businesses by achieving award success.

The Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs

This highly prestigious business award is being sponsored by Sir Stelios Haji Ioannou of Easy Jet fame who is known globally for being a serial entrepreneur.

The purpose of this award is a genuine desire on the part of Stelios to help support disabled people in business and with £50,000 it is well worth applying for.

RADAR People of the Year Awards 2008

For over 40 years RADAR’s People of the Year awards have recognised the tremendous work of both individuals and organisations striving for equality for disabled people.
The People of the Year Awards celebrate these contributions, and included is a Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permitted Work increased could help entrepreneurs with disabilities

Permitted work formThe amount you can earn whilst on Permitted Work has increased from October 2008. Previously a disabled entrepreneur on Permitted Work could earn £88.50 profit without it affecting their benefits. Now the amount has been increase to £92.00 to fall inline with the national minimum wage increase.

This extra £3.50 is only a small rise, but it’s worth remembering that it is profit and not earnings.

Example;- Now, if a disabled person’s business expenses (rent, materials, staff wages) were £100.00, they would be able to earn £192.00 without it affecting their benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

There are many reasons why a disabled entrepreneur should not start a business – fear of failure should not be one

disabled person scared of failureIn my experience the fear of failure is the number one reason why disabled people do not embark on self employment. Breaking this down further, they are worried about the business not making enough money to pay their bills, how will they manage with the accounts? Will they be able to cope with there disability and if they can afford to start up in business?

But what is the real cost of failing in business? Does it really matter? Will people laugh and mock me for the rest of my days? Well speaking from experience the answer is no!

When I was 22 I started my own business, well I had my own business thrusted upon me. I was working for a company which suddenly closed. I was left with no job and no finance to start up my self. Left with the prospect of being unemployed, I went to the Prince’s Trust and got a loan and grant for £2000 and started my own clothing shop.

After 3 years of working 6 days a week I realised that it was not going to buy me the house and car I wanted and decide to call it a day. I tried to sell the business and get out of my lease, but it ended up costing me £3000 to leave.

The loss of money did not really bother me at the time my major concern was the dent in my ego. Coming from a small town, I dreaded bumping into old aquatances and customers and being mocked for failing. As I said, this did not happen, in fact the opposite happened. People would say “Hey, didn’t you have that shop. I wish I had the bottle to start my own business” or “I’m thinking of starting my own business, can you give me some advice”

Running my own business tort me skills in, negotiations, finances, penny pinching, DIY, travel, importing, advertising, security, time management, I.T., project management, networking, creative accountancy, point of sale and a whole load more.

Failing in business has made me realise that I could have done all these skills a whole load better. But, where could I have learned all these skills and put them into practical use in such a short period of time? Not from being employed, that’s one thing I am sure of.

I feel running my own business has made me a better person and failing in business made me a better adviser. I can understand people’s worries about financial pressures and the day to day running of the business, especially with a disability. These worries should be tackled head on and addressed before you start up in business, ignore them at your peril.

If you are worried about if your business will be successful enough to pay the bills, Test Trade, go on Permitted Work or Working Tax Credits. If you are worried about the accounts, do a free course. If you are worried about, if you will be able to manage because of your disability, contact Access to Work. If you are worried about failing, join the club, but from my experience it’s not such a bad thing.

Test Trading Vs Permitted Work Vs Working Tax Credits for the disabled entrepreneur

Test Trading Vs Permitted Work Vs Working Tax Credits for the disabled entrepreneurStarting a business is tough! Thankfully there are different government schemes available designed to financially support a disabled entrepreneur when starting their own business. Entrepreneurs now (if they are eligible) have several options for financial support when running their business. Schemes such as Test Trading, Permitted Work and Working Tax Credits are the main three schemes that entrepreneurs join to get financial help when they first start their business.

If a disabled business person is eligible for all three schemes, then some time must be given to consider which is the most suitable for them and the business. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, the wrong choice could mean missing out on grants and other financial support.

Test Trading

Advantages
1. You can stay on your benefits whilst testing your business idea for up to 6 months.
2. After the 6 months if you decide to go back on your benefits there is a smooth transition back to your existing level of benefits.
3. You are eligible to apply for Access to Work.
4. You will be allocated a business mentor to help you develop the business.

Disadvantages
1. You will have a joint bank account with the provider of Test Trading. These providers are usually flexible but it could mean a delay when you want access to your money. This may not affect a lot of businesses, but if you need money quickly for a contract and it’s out of office hours, then there could be a problem.
2. You may not be eligible for grants that are only issued when you sign off your benefits.

Permitted Work

Advantages
1. You are eligible to apply for Access to Work.
2. You can trade whilst still receiving your benefits
3. You can stay on the scheme for up to a year

Disadvantages
1. You can only trade for 16 hours
2. You can not earn over £88.50 profit without it affecting your benefits
3. You may not be eligible for grants that are only issued when you sign off your benefits

Working Tax Credits

Advantages
1. You could receive a payment that totals over your current level of benefits.
2. It is possible to stay on the scheme over a year.

Disadvantages
1. Receiving Working Tax Credits may affect other benefits, lowering your overall benefit income
2. At the end of each year you will be reassessed, which will involve the completion of documents.

Does a disabled person need specialist support to start a business?

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