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Emma Jones is out To Start Up Britain

When business woman Emma Jones and a group of fellow entrepreneurs launched Start-Up Britain 18 months ago to promote enterprise, few believed it would have much of a story to tell any time soon.

Starting up in business looked the last thing to do. The economy was slowing, household incomes squeezed by inflation, monetary stimulus was having little effect and business news was dominated by company failures and problems getting loan finance from banks.

Since then conditions have got no better. In fact, the economy has slipped back into recession.

But the campaign has an astonishing story to tell.

An activity tracker using data from Companies House has found business start-ups across the UK to be running at almost 9,000 a month, with the total of start-ups so far this year now well over 320,000 and heading for a record.

The figure was clicking strongly upwards when Scot-Buzz caught up with Emma last week on a hectic day of campaigning.

“It’s astonishing to think that in the last week alone”, she told me, “some 8,600 people decided to start up a business in Britain.

“We’re seeing record numbers of people setting up a business.

“In the times we’re in at the moment, there’s an element of necessary entrepreneurship – people being laid off compelled to launch out on their own.

“But more than that, there is a huge increase in young people who have a talent, hobby or skill that they want to turn into a business.”

The StartUp Tracker data fed from Companies House and interpreted by the Made Simple Group, shows that 329,000 businesses were started in the past year.  “But”, says Emma, “we have still 172,000 businesses to go to beat the 2011 record. The figure does not include sole traders.

“A recent survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor UK found that more than one in five adults expected to start a business in the next three years, were actively trying to start one or were already doing so.”

The proportion of working age adults actively trying to start a business who were not already running another business rose from 2.9% to 4.1% in 2011, while a further 6.8% expected to start a business in the next three years, up from 4.6% in 2010.

“I’m delighted”, says Emma, “to see these results show the highest recorded number of people starting a business.

“It’s never been so cheap to start a business and there’s an abundance of support available. The UK just keeps smashing records when it comes to the rate of start-ups. Long may it continue!”

Emma Jones is the Founder of Enterprise Nation, a small business support company. She is also the author of books such as ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’, ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a successful business in your spare time’ and ‘Go Global – how to take your business to the world’. She was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours List for services to enterprise.

Start-Up Britain she explains, “really began in January of last year when Oli Barratt (social entrepreneur) called a number of like-minded people together. Lord Young had just stepped down from the Cabinet and eight of us ended up in Lord Young’s office. He introduced us to Steve Hilton (then director of strategy for David Cameron). It just took off from there.”

 And it has been a frenetic 18 months. It has organised free events for start-ups across the UK including meetings in Glasgow (with Jim Buchanan at The Hatchery) and Edinburgh (facilitated by Microsoft executives in the capital). The campaign now has more than 70 local champions running campaigns across the country.

It has facilitated more than 1,600 hours of mentoring for budding entrepreneurs. Earlier this year it launched an Enterprise Calendar carrying details of more than 800 events designed to help start or grow a business.

And in May it launched StartUp Loans, a project that will provide anybody aged 18-24 with a loan of up to £2,500 to start a business. The Treasury has made available £82 million for the scheme. “However”, Emma pointed out, “no similar scheme has been made available in Scotland”.

Start-Up Britain was formally launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in March 2011. It is completely funded by private sector sponsors including AXA, Dell, Intel and PayPal). In addition to Emma, co-founders include Duncan Cheadle, founder of the Prelude Group, Jamie Murray Wells, founder and executive chairman of Glasses Direct, business author Laura Morgan and Oli Barratt.

The campaign is about to launch PitchUp, a scheme by which start-ups can win the chance to pitch to John Lewis buyers. It is backing an experimental shop in Richmond which allows start-ups to co-fund the use of a once-empty street shop, and is looking to roll this out to other areas.  And it is distributing 100,000 beer mats on which people can outline their business plans. Prizes include mentoring and a laptop computer.

For more information on how to join StartUp Britain, find your local champion or check out the start-up tracker which is updated daily, visit