• Entrepreneurial Business Hubs the Key to Business Growth

    Startup Stock PhotosBeing an entrepreneur is not easy.

    In fact, when it comes to a career path, it is probably one of the most difficult things you can do.

    Essentially, you are creating something from nothing.

    And on top of that, you are doing it all on your own.

    The lonely road to success

    Having a good idea is a good place to start. But what then?

    If you have the cash to splash you can build a website, road test a product, launch an ad campaign, open a shop.

    But more often than not an entrepreneur needs the encouragement, expertise, support and input of others – and I don’t just mean staff.

    A community of creativity

    Believe it or not there is a sense of community in the world of the solo entrepreneur.

    There is a network of individuals who congregate in spaces known as “hubs” where lone entrepreneurs are discovering that they need not be lonely at all.

    The biggest of these hubs are very well-known – think Silicon Valley in California or Tech City in Shoreditch, East London.

    Here thousands of tech entrepreneurs are sharing ideas, driving forward each other’s visions and forming collaborative teams to work on some of the most exciting projects we have ever seen.

    They have found that by bringing entrepreneurs together in one community melting pot, they create better businesses.

    Replicating the system

    Many entrepreneurs are working to create mini hubs within their own locality or specialism so they can share their incredible knowledge and experiences as well as support each other to survive and grow.

    Some are privately run for a profit, some are managed by universities, and others are run by local authorities or charities.

    Even more are appearing as online forums.

    Government measures to support small enterprises, such as Startup Britain, have also paved the way for more of these networking opportunities.

    Diverse skillsets

    The very best hubs tend to boast a mixture of businesses developing new products and those providing services that might support them.

    That allows some of those small businesses to act like a virtual larger company by being able to outsource a lot of their services like their HR, accounts, copywriting and web development to other businesses within that hub.

    This protects the smaller companies from the joint liabilities of newness and smallness – better known as safety in numbers.

    Competition and co-oporation

    Joining a hub is a good way of combating the loneliness of startup life.

    But it is also an opportunity to get an inside look at your competition.

    Of course working in a hub environment often means rivals compete intensely to win and retain customers.

    But it also allows for more collaboration and cooporation among companies in related industries and fields.

    This allows for competitive advantage and growth.

    Where do you find a hub?

    Good question.

    Where do entrepreneurs, freelancers, and start-ups hang out?

    Well with mobile technology there’s been a dramatic increase in co-work spaces, hubs, co-work offices, and café culture working.

    And the list and regional spread of these places is near-endless.

    There are still plenty of serviced offices of course but there are also more high end meeting places.

    One Alfred Place in London’s Fitzrovia costs £1,300 a year but boasts workstations and boardrooms, a swanky restaurant and bar, locker and shower facilities, and PA support.

    Nearby The Clubhouse is £1,875 per year but holds a regular programme of events and talks for members, in addition to a newly-launched online platform allowing members to exchange ideas and find opportunity for collaboration remotely.

    Central Working in London and Manchester is just £99 for club membership with its key advantage from a start-up’s point of view being flexibility. Unlike some other co-working spaces, there are no leases or long-term contracts tying you down, so you can focus on growth and collaboration.

    Impact Hub is £20 a month and touts itself as an innovation lab, business incubator and social enterprise community centre all at once.

    TechHub is similar but for tech businesses only and costs £375 a year and Co-Work offers Londoners desks for £450 per month.

    If you travel frequently there is Regus Business Lounge from £39 per month which offers free Wi-Fi, print facilities, dedicated administrative support, and extra privacy at private ThinkPod desks.

    These are available in major city centres, transport hubs such as airports, and even in an increasing number of motorway service stations, following a major deal with Roadchef. 

    Suffolk skillset

    You don’t need to venture into the capital to find a hub that works for you.

    In fact Suffolk has a wealth of opportunities for start-ups looking to share skills and learn from each other.

    As someone who sits on the New Anglia LEP Skills Board and is a board member for Menta, I would recommend accessing the free, impartial advice they offer on the best ways to manage and grow your enterprise.

    As entrepreneurs and business owners themselves, the Menta team of Business Advisors have first-hand knowledge of the issues you face when setting up and running your own business.

    They also help you connect with other business individuals in your area.

    The Digital Enterprise Engagement Programme (DEEP) is a pioneering new programme they are currently offering to food, gaming, tourism, e-commerce and developer start-ups under 12 months old.

    This startup programme of courses which focuses on sharing knowledge is supported by a series of networking events.

    Also in Suffolk is hub networks Sync Ipswich for tech companies, SIMS Ipswich for internet marketeers and the new innovation hub at UCS Ipswich.

    No more flying solo

    In any hub of knowledge and expertise, entrepreneurs can access help to navigate the choppy waters they all experience in the early years of building a business.

    After all, a third of new businesses will not survive to their third birthday and 90% will not see out a decade of trading.

    So to boost our economy, the challenge is not just about encouraging start-ups but enabling scale-ups, offering entrepreneurs the network of advice, support and resources that can help them overcome the barriers to growth.

    People need people, whether they realise it or not.

    So consider looking into networking opportunities for a way to take your start up into the stratosphere.

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