Business Information Factsheet

Business Start-Up  Support


  • Introduction
  • National support schemes
  • Regional business support
  • Local business support around the UK


There is a wide variety of national schemes that support new business start ups. Some are UK-wide, while others are only available in specific areas, or restrict support to particular demographics, such as people in certain age groups.

Local schemes are also available in many areas, and are typically run by organisations such as local enterprise agencies, business reference libraries and local chambers of commerce.

This factsheet provides information about the types of business start-up support available in the UK, and some of the organisations that run the various schemes. Support ranges from signposting clients to other sources of specialist help, to the provision of one-to-one advice and guidance or training workshops and events.

National support schemes

Nationally available support is provided by a variety of agencies and organisations. However, support is usually targeted at people who fall into specific age groups, or who are unemployed.

Start Up Loans is a national scheme funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The scheme provides loans to people in the UK aged 18 or over to help them start up or develop a business that has been trading for less than 24 months. Loans of up to £25,000 are available and the average loan amount is £7,200. Free business-planning advice is provided to successful applicants, together with mentoring and support. A Start Up Loan is an unsecured personal loan made for business purposes that is repayable over one to five years with interest at 6% per annum.


New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is a scheme funded by the Department for Work & Pensions that helps unemployed individuals in England, Wales and Scotland to start up their own business.

To be eligible, an individual must be aged 18 or over. The NEA is open to anyone claiming Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance (dependent partners are also eligible), and anyone claiming Income Support who is either a lone parent or receiving sickness or disability benefits.

The NEA provides access to a mentor and financial support comprising a weekly allowance for 26 weeks.


The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme supports young people anywhere in the UK who are aged between 18 and 30, unemployed (or working fewer than 16 hours a week) and have a business idea.

The Prince’s Trust provides training, one-to-one help to produce a business plan, and ongoing business support and mentoring for individuals in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It can also provide individuals with a low-interest loan of up to £5,000, and, in some cases, it can provide grant funding. However, gap-year students, recent graduates and individuals with a Master’s degree qualification are not eligible for support.

Tel: 0800 842842

Shell LiveWIRE supports young people aged between 16 and 30 anywhere in the UK who are either planning to start a business or in their first year of trading. It offers free online start-up support, including an online library of articles covering a wide variety of business topics and a discussion forum that anyone can access.

Shell LiveWIRE also provides funding for young people aged between 16 and 30. The Smarter Future Programme offers a start-up grant of £5,000 to one winner each month who has an innovative business idea that addresses global challenges such as energy, natural resources or transport needs, or provides a solution to improve the urban environment. Aspiring proprietors of start ups that are no more than 12 months away from beginning to trade, or those that have been trading for less than 12 months, are eligible to apply.

Winners of the Smarter Future Programme can also apply to enter the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, which includes a prize of £25,000.

Tel: (0191) 691 4900

Young Enterprise runs business support programmes to help people under 25 who want to set up their own business. Its Start-Up Programme, which is run in universities and higher education colleges, helps students to set up a business as part of their studies, or alongside them. Participants have access to printed and online resources, mentoring from local business volunteers and the opportunity to take part in workshops and local trade fairs.

Tel: (020) 7549 1980

Regional business support

Support for start ups in England

Growth Hubs provide a ‘single port of call’ for business support across England. The hubs are partnerships between Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and other providers of business support such as local authorities, chambers of commerce and universities.

Growth Hubs provide advice and support to start ups and existing businesses. Typical services include managed workspace, mentoring and guidance, training courses and access to funding.

Go to for a directory of Growth Hubs in England.

Support for start ups in Scotland

Business Gateway provides face-to-face advice, training and information for business start ups through its network of business support centres, which are located all over Scotland. Business Gateway also runs a telephone enquiry service, as well as providing free information and resources such as business plan templates, articles and case studies on its website.

Tel: 0300 013 4753

Creative Entrepreneurs’ Club is a membership organisation for creative and cultural practitioners and micro-businesses in Scotland. It runs networking events and provides online resources, business advice and mentoring for its members.

Tel: 0333 999 7989

Scottish Enterprise is an economic development agency funded by the Scottish Government. It provides information about grant and loan funding, runs training events, and operates a helpline and website providing advice and information. Sector-specific support is also available for sectors such as manufacturing, food and drink, and creative industries.

Tel: 0300 013 3385

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is the economic development agency for the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It provides start-up support and access to funding, as well as specialist support to help small businesses use digital technologies to grow and improve their business. HIE operates out of nine regional offices located across the Highlands and Islands.

Tel: (01463) 245245

Support for start ups in Wales

Business Wales provides face-to-face business support at four regional centres. Business Wales also runs training events, provides information about grant and loan funds, and operates a helpline and website providing advice and information. Advice about starting, running and growing a business is provided, and sector-specific support is available for sectors such as tourism, creative industries, food and farming, and ICT.

Tel: 0300 060 3000

PRIME Cymru (the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise in Wales) supports people aged 50 or over in Wales who want to become or remain economically active. It provides access to accredited business training and workshops, online support and resources, and ongoing mentoring and networking events.

Tel: (01550) 721813

Support for start ups in Northern Ireland

Invest NI is Northern Ireland’s regional development agency. It provides help in accessing start-up funding, and specialist support for technology businesses with high growth potential. It also supports social enterprises, as well as businesses that are established and require support with strategic development and raising finance. Invest NI offers research and marketing support to businesses looking to sell outside Northern Ireland and to those that intend to develop new products and services.

Tel: 0800 181 4422

NI Business Info is an online resource that provides advice, guidance and information to start ups across Northern Ireland. Business guides on specific sectors are also available for sectors such as tourism, construction and creative industries.

Tel: 0800 181 4422

InterTradeIreland is a cross-border economic development agency funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. It provides advice, support and funding to boost business growth and cross-border trade in Ireland.

Tel: (028) 3083 4100

Local business support around the UK

A variety of locally based business support organisations deliver a range of schemes to support new and expanding small businesses. Most provision includes business advice, training and mentoring, and access to some form of financial support. However, availability of support varies depending on location.

Local enterprise agencies and enterprise trusts

Local enterprise agencies are not-for-profit organisations that provide independent and impartial advice, training and mentoring, as well as access to financial support for pre-start, start-up and micro-businesses. Those agencies that do not provide funding themselves are able to signpost to other sources of financial support.

Enterprise agencies typically provide access to:

  • ‘Soft’ loans, which often require no security and are used to support viable business ideas and start ups that cannot raise all of the finance they need from other sources.
  • Grants, which may have narrow eligibility criteria. For example, they may only be available in certain geographic areas or for certain business sectors. Grants are often provided only for specific people (for example, unemployed or young people) or for specific types of projects (for example, to boost business growth through consultancy support or marketing).

Enterprise agencies also specialise in providing one-to-one coaching and mentoring, along with advice about topics such as business planning and financial forecasting. They also offer networking opportunities and provide training, for example, in starting a business, marketing or bookkeeping.

The National Enterprise Network ( is the key membership body representing not-for-profit organisations that provide independent business support in England. It has an online tool to help anyone looking for local support (

In Scotland, local enterprise agencies are referred to as ‘enterprise trusts’ and are located around the country. An example of an enterprise trust in Scotland is Elevator (

In Wales, local enterprise agencies are independent organisations located throughout Wales. Menter a Busnes ( is an example of an agency operating in Wales.

In Northern Ireland, local enterprise agencies are co-ordinated by Enterprise Northern Ireland ( An example of an enterprise agency in Northern Ireland is CIDO (

Local chambers of commerce

Local chambers of commerce are membership organisations that provide business advice and support to members. Chambers also provide help with exporting and they organise networking events. Some chambers of commerce also make their services available to non-members.


Business reference libraries

Business reference libraries in most of the UK’s major towns and cities provide a variety of business information, advice and guidance to people who are interested in starting their own business.

The British Library’s Business and Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC) in London provides an extensive range of business and start-up support services, including workshops and training events, business information and resources, and expert advice sessions.

A network of BIPCs has been established through a collaboration between the British Library, the Intellectual Property Office and 12 city libraries: Birmingham, Exeter, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Norfolk, Northampton, Nottingham and Sheffield. Each of these libraries now has their own BIPC offering a range of facilities, information and support, with a particular focus on intellectual property. Go to for more information.

Responsible finance providers

Responsible finance providers are independent not-for-profit organisations that specialise in providing finance and support to new and growing businesses and social enterprises. They support small businesses and start ups anywhere in the UK that are looking for non-bank funding. For example, the Start Up Loan scheme is delivered by a consortium of community development finance institutions through a £1.7 million contract secured by the Community Development Finance Association, which is now trading as Responsible Finance ( and is the membership organisation that represents most responsible finance providers.

Go to for a national directory of responsible finance providers.


Many universities in the UK provide business support services to their students, graduates and staff. Services often include start-up support, training and events, funding and access to workspace. A number of universities also run enterprise competitions which students can enter to win funding and a business support package.

CitySpark at City University of London ( is an example of a student enterprise competition.

Local authorities

Local authorities provide guidance and advice to small businesses and start ups about a wide range of activities and regulatory issues. These include planning and building control, licensing for specific business activities, alcohol and entertainment licensing, gambling licences and permits, food hygiene and safety, trading standards, health and safety, pollution prevention and control, commercial waste disposal, employing children under school-leaving age and business rates.

Some local authorities also provide funding and individual business support and advice via their managed retail units, industrial units, office space and incubation space.