How to start a business in 10 steps: a guide for UK entrepreneurs

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 13/12/2023 | Updated • 13/12/2023

Starting a business

How to start a business in 10 steps: a guide for UK entrepreneurs

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 13/12/2023 | Updated • 13/12/2023

Starting a business

Taking the leap to becoming your own boss and embarking on a journey to start your own business from scratch is a unique and exciting experience. There are many answers to the question “how to start a business,” depending on the industry you’re planning to enter and your unique goals as an entrepreneur. Having said that, there are certain steps that all business owners will need to take when they’re first getting their business off the ground.

This 10 step guide will walk you through each key milestone of successfully starting your own business. From deciding what problem your new business will solve for its customers, to the funding, legalities of registering your business and the branding. This guide will walk you right the way through to your big launch day. 

Step 1: Come up with an idea

The first step in starting a company is deciding on your small business idea.

Following on from the momentum found during the pandemic years, the UK saw a new business boom, with almost 800,000 new start-ups founded in the UK in 2022. This explosion of new start-ups has not only bolstered the UK economy, but also captured the imaginations of many entrepreneurs like yourself.

You may already have an idea, or even a few different ones for your business venture. However, taking the time to stop, think, and strategise the direction your business will take is vital. 

Fundamentally, it is the core from which the business will be built and how to make money online or at your physical store. It is therefore wise to think carefully about the idea and its commercial potential, as this will also provide the sense of vision through the day-to-day running of your business.

Some business owners attribute their core idea to a single lightbulb moment. For others, however, viable business ideas come from careful, methodical consideration of different industries or consumer trends that are calling for something new.

Inspirational business ideas can land when you least expect them, but there are many tried and tested methods to approach the conception strategy head on, which we’ll cover in greater detail below.

Don’t get hung up on originality

Starting a business based on a wholly original idea is great. But don’t let this desire for a revolutionary, disruptive business model prevent you from ever getting started. 

There are more than 5.5 million businesses registered in the UK alone. So, don’t worry if you’re not the first person to come up with your product, service, or business model.

If you’re finding it hard to come up with a business idea you can feel good about, try to adopt an attitude of finding a niche to compete in, rather than inventing an entirely new one.

Think of solutions your previous employer didn’t provide

Many great businesses have been founded on the professional experiences that entrepreneurs had in their previous day jobs. 

Your last place of employment has likely earned you a lot of industry experience, and also given you some unique insights into what your employer could have done better.

Remembering times where the company’s clients or customers seemed disappointed by product features or standards of service can be a great place to start. Not reinventing the wheel, but improving it with your insight could be the basis for a solid business idea.

Build your network

Like any other creative endeavour, coming up with a business idea can be helped along by researching the work other entrepreneurs have already achieved, and trying to take the next step.

Fortunately, we’re living in an age where communicating with people who share your entrepreneurial mindset is often just a few clicks away.

Building a network of entrepreneurs is a great way to find inspiration and get those creative juices flowing. 

Whether you connect with people within your industry or cast a wider net, developing a network will expose you to new ideas, keep you in the loop about emerging trends, and help you view the task of starting a small business in a new, creative light.

Help with your business idea

Brainstorming business ideas can be an exciting process, but it’s often one of the hardest parts of starting a business. For more support on coming up with a business idea you can feel passionate about, be sure to check out some of our other guides:

Step 2: Do your research

With your new business idea forming, the next step is to thoroughly research the market and the industry to validate the idea.

Market research will help you better align your business idea with the demands of your target audience, crafting the finer details around their pain points and desired solutions. 

It will also serve to provide a better idea of the market you’re about to enter, in terms of the competition you’re going to be facing and the position you’ll be able to take in the market.

Phases of market research

Market research can be simple or complicated, depending on the business model you’ve settled on, the current state of its market, and many other variables. 

Regardless of how much resource you’re going to put into it though, you’ll be able to divide your market research into two distinct phases:

  • Primary Research: This is the process of finding your own first-hand facts and data, with the aim of forming detailed buyer personas and articulating how your business model will rise to meet the demands of the market. 

This can include exploratory research, which is concerned with communicating with members of your target audience and learning about the problems they face, and specific research, which deals with more precise segments of your audience and focuses on singular issues.

  • Secondary Research: As the name suggests, secondary research is concerned with secondary sources, gathering publicly-available datasets like case studies and trend reports. 

This kind of research is particularly useful for carrying out competitor analysis, and finding untapped niches you can target as you develop your business strategy.

Cost-effective market research

Many new entrepreneurs have limited resources they can contribute to their early market research. This has the potential to be one of the more costly steps on how to start a small business, so it’s important to make sure your market research is as economically viable as possible

Here are a few affordable methods of market research we recommend for when you’re still working to monetise your business idea:

Ask questions on social media

Asking questions on social media is free, easy, and gives you access to a huge pool of opinions to draw on. 

It doesn’t allow you to zoom in on specific age groups, salary bands, or geographic locations in the same way a professional focus group would. However, you can still focus your search on your target audience by posting on certain groups, subreddits, and other ways to divide popular social media platforms.

Leverage your network

If your future small business competitors are active on Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn or other popular platforms for your industry, you might be able to glean some valuable insights from the things they post. 

Aside from the more general advice on how to start a business or milestones they’ve reached, many of these often share detailed accounts of entrepreneurial experiences that can be used as valuable pieces of primary research.

Searching for the more socially active entrepreneurs who match your industry and audience focus is likely to provide the most valuable original findings.

Study competitor reviews

Studying the public reviews of your soon to be competitors can also be a great way to carry out easy, inexpensive research.

Researching the reviews on platforms like Google Business Profile and Trustpilot is a great way to study your audience's relationships with businesses like yours, as are industry specific directories where your competitors may be listed.

As with researching via your network, focus on businesses that match yours closely in size and scope. Highlighting and documenting the recurrent pain points customers and clients are facing can be a big help in refining the core focus of your business.

Step 3: Create your business plan

In this phase, you’ll essentially use your prior research to answer the question ‘how to start a business’ in a way that’s specifically tailored to your means and overarching business idea.

Business plans are broad and complex, and can be a somewhat daunting process for entrepreneurs. We shared a guide to help with writing your business plan, and have pulled out the core aspects below.

  • Executive summary: A basic overview of your business, formatted in a concise, elevator-pitch style that covers all the core facts of your business. Usually designed in a way that grabs the attention of investors and helps them to understand your mission.

  • Company description: An extension of your executive summary that aims to create a higher-resolution picture of the company, through details like its registered name, its address, and the profiles of the people involved.

  • Business goals: The goals of your business help you to make key decisions, objectively track your progress, and keep your organisation moving in the right direction. These will include numerical goals, such as reporting a certain profit margin or acquiring a certain amount of traffic through your marketing campaigns, and progress milestones like bringing a partner onboard or receiving a positive review from a certain trade journal.

  • Product or service description: A good business plan should also include a profile on the products or services your business is going to be selling. This should outline where they fit into the current market, and what distinguishes them from their close competitors. Your pricing strategy, along with visual aids such as graphics and prototype photography, should also be included here.

  • Market research: It’s important to have a section in your business plan where you summarise any market research you’ve carried out, explaining how your findings and expertise will help establish your business’ place in its market and inform successful sales and marketing.

  • Financial plans: It’s important to set budgets for your spending within monthly and annual timeframes. When recording your financial plans, you’ll need to account for operating costs, such as the rent for your business premises, equipment like computers and card readers, and essential software. It’s also important to project for emergency liquid capital, so you’re able to keep running your business in the event of unforeseen challenges.

  • (Optional) minimum viable product (MVP): Creating or building a minimum viable product could also be a useful element to your business plan. A minimum viable product is a stripped-down version of a product that’s central to your business, with just enough features and functionality to validate consumer interest prior to a full launch.

Business plans can take a few drafts to make sure all your bases are covered, but their importance can’t be understated when starting a business. 

You'll know when your business plan is ready to move forward when you feel confident that it can answer any question that a potential investor or interested party may have, and you're happy for it to be referred to as a business manual in future.

Step 4: Choose the right business structure

Now that your idea is backed by market research and a solid business plan, it's time for one of the most important steps in its formation: considering your business' legal structure, and choosing the right one for you.

Here’s a brief summary of the most common structures you can choose from when you’re starting a business in the UK:

Sole trader

A sole trader is an individual who’s self-employed. In this business model, you’re the sole owner of your company, and the sole beneficiary of any profits you make after tax. To get going you’ll have to register with HMRC and declare your income. 

Adopting this model also means you’re personally responsible for any kind of debt accrued through your business operations. 

Sole tradership is attractive as it can provide a low set-up cost and high degrees of control, though it’s not always easy to scale your business in the long-term.


In a partnership, control over the business and responsibility for debts and other obligations is shared between you and your partner or partners. 

In this model, a nominated partner of the business will be responsible for the entity’s financial record keeping and tax returns. This partner doesn’t necessarily have to be an individual, and certain business entities can be listed as a ‘legal person’ where the situation demands it. 

Aside from the sharing of management responsibilities, partnerships can often be a potential way to raise finances in the early days of your business. However, it’s important to note that all partners will be liable for the business’ debts

While the potential for management conflict can make this a riskier structure than others, the benefits of additional support and an enhanced skill set for the business make partnerships an attractive option.

Private company limited by shares

Most limited companies in the UK are structured as private companies limited by the form of shares.

Ownership of your company will likely be divided into shares, which are distributed between shareholders. Each shareholder can buy one or more shares in the business. Their liability is directly linked to the amount paid (or agreed to be paid) for those shares.

In many private limited companies, it’s common to have a single share issued to a sole shareholder. If this is the case, then that shareholder would own 100% of the business and can effectively control it. Similarly, if there were 100 shares issued, but they all belonged to 1 shareholder, the outcome would be the same.

Step 5: Secure funding

In many industries, it’s possible to start a business with no money at all. However, most business models require some start-up capital to get the wheels turning.

Like with how you register your business, there are a number of different options you can leverage to help finance your business when you’re getting started. 

Some of the best sources of finance for small business owners include:

Business loans

Bank business loans aren’t always accessible to new business owners, as you may not have an existing relationship with the bank or a strong enough credit score. 

However, if you decide to go down this route, it’s important not to opt for the offer that seems like the quickest or most convenient, and thoroughly research all options across several different providers

Whichever bank you approach for a traditional business loan, they’ll want you to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the market you’re entering, with a detailed plan about how you’ll reach your goals. 

This is another of those times where all of that hard work you put into your business plan will pay off.

Angel investors

Angel investors are individuals with high personal wealth, who agree to provide funding for your company in exchange for a share in the business. They’re similar to venture capitalists, except that they focus solely on financing start-ups.

Angel investors aren’t as readily available as some other sources of capital like traditional bank loans. However, they can be a hugely attractive prospect for first-time entrepreneurs, as many of them are experienced business owners themselves, and can provide guidance as well as potential introductions to their network.

On the other hand, this personal investment in your company might come with a tradeoff in terms of control. Angel investors will want to see your venture succeed, so it’s important to expect a certain amount of pressure after funding has been agreed, whilst understanding that you might not have total control over your business’ direction.


Small business crowdfunding involves seeking funds from the general public in exchange for a certain amount of equity or the promise of other rewards depending on the investment.

Crowdfunding might not be suitable for your specific business plan, as it can take a long time to hit target investments and can require marketing investment to achieve the required capital. However, for certain public-facing businesses with high growth potential, crowdfunding can offer you a large investment pool and an accessible way to raise funds.

Friends and family

As a new entrepreneur, you may have reservations about borrowing from friends and family for obvious reasons. Though the idea may seem less professional or ideal, there have been many great businesses that started with loans from friends and family, including Amazon and Dyson.

With no credit checks and favourable or non-existent interest rates, these loans are often a great option if you’re a first-time entrepreneur whose finance options are limited. However, like with any kind of loan, you still need to borrow responsibly.

When seeking funding from your friends and family, it’s recommended that you treat the approach the same way you would when pitching to a bank or venture capitalist. Here are some pointers to bear in mind:

  • Be honest and transparent about every detail, including the investment you’re putting into the venture yourself and the level of risk you’ll both be facing. Make sure whoever you pitch to understands that you won’t be able to return their money right away should an emergency come up.

  • Share a detailed breakdown of your budget and business plan, explaining why you need the amount you’re asking for and how you’re planning to use it.

  • Present a plan that explains exactly when and how you plan to pay back what you borrow, or provide the ongoing financial reward agreed with the initial investment.

Step 6: Register your business

In order to be legally recognised as a business in the UK, you will need to register with HMRC.

The exact information you’ll need to declare when registering your business will depend on the legal structure that you chose earlier in the process. 

Here’s a simple breakdown of what’s required to register for each of the different types of business entity:

Sole trader

Registering as a sole trader is very simple. All you need in the way of documentation is a valid National Insurance number. 

At the end of the financial year, as a sole trader you must submit a self-assessment tax return and pay any income tax due, while also fulfilling your National Insurance obligations. In the year leading up to this, you must also:

  • Record your sales and allowable expenses.

  • Register for Value Added Tax (VAT) on annual turnover exceeding £85,000. This can be done voluntarily if you’re below the threshold, which will allow you to reclaim VAT on things purchased from other business entities. Note that if your annual turnover is below £150,000, you may be able to opt for the flat rate VAT scheme

This is where you pay a fixed rate of Value Added Tax, rather than the difference between the VAT you pay on your own purchases and charge to your customers.

  • Pay business rates if applicable to your business’ registered property.

  • Log your name and your business’ name (these can be the same) on any official documentation you use.


As we explained earlier, partnerships are an extension of the sole trader model. The main difference here is that relevant responsibilities are shared between multiple people.

To register as a partnership, you must:

  • Designate a nominated partner. This is the person who will be responsible for keeping financial records and submitting tax returns from your business’ cash flow management.

  • Designate a business name which doesn’t imply that the business has another legal structure, doesn’t violate copyright, and doesn’t contain offensive terms.

  • Register the official company name as a trademark. Though this isn’t strictly necessary, it will protect your brand by preventing other entities from trading under the same name.

  • Record your name on official documentation and register for VAT (see requirements for sole trader).

Limited company

As limited companies are a separate legal entity to the owner(s) as individuals, and require incorporation through Companies House, setting one up can be fairly complex compared to other business structures.

To get started, here are the requirements for registering your business as a limited company:

  • Create an original (not already on Companies House) company name ending with ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’.

  • Create a separate company name if you don’t want to trade under the ‘limited’ name.

  • Have a valid UK property which you can register as a business address.

  • Designate one or more directors whose name and address will be registered in the incorporation.

  • Designate at least one shareholder.

  • Write an ‘articles of association’ document specifying the rules on how your company will be run, as agreed to by all directors and shareholders.

  • Write a prescribed particulars section of the articles of association which specifies your business structure, as well as the rights each shareholder has in making business decisions, and the share of profits they’re entitled to.

  • Write a memorandum of association document, which is a legal declaration that all shareholders must sign before the company is registered.

  • Register for corporation tax and VAT. This must be done within 3 months of your business starting trading.

Step 7: Premises and equipment

Your premises

Many great entrepreneurs set out by starting a business from home. This is a good way to save money and keep things simple in that high-pressure period when you first start out.

However, if your business does require premises in order to trade, there are a few important variables to consider to find a solution that’s right for you.


The type of business you’re opening will have a major impact on the kind of locations you should be looking at.

If you’re opening a customer-facing B2C company like a retail store, cafe, or restaurant, you’ll want to be somewhere that’s easy to access and gets a lot of foot traffic. 

For an office premises, you’ll want to be near major population centres and public transport links to increase the pool of talent you can draw from during recruitment. Additionally, if your business is going to be a distribution hub, you’ll want it to be near major motorways or rail links to help keep up with logistical demands.


Commercial property leases tend to be much longer than those for a domestic house or flat. As your business becomes successful, it’s likely to experience growth phases during the early stages of trading, which will impact the requirements of the premises. 

Moving can be highly disruptive for any company, so it’s best to find a lease with as short a minimum term as possible, or try to negotiate with landlords for a break clause that will allow you to stay flexible. 

You can also look for premises within a large building where you have the option to expand later by renting out additional units.


Just like buying a home, ensure to conduct due diligence on any premises that are viewed, in terms of their condition. Faulty plumbing, damp and mould, and other issues will not only disrupt your operations, but also make your business an unattractive prospect for hiring new talent.

Aside from these factors, a premises in poor condition could also potentially impact the legal compliances for your business type. 

Whether your entire workforce is office-based or dealing with hazardous materials, there will be certain health and safety standards that you’ll need to comply with to stay on the right side of the law. 

Making sure your premises are in excellent condition is a great first step towards avoiding costly compliance issues in the future and creating a workplace culture where people look forward to coming to work every day.

Your equipment

Equipment can sometimes be rather costly, but always an exciting consideration for the establishment of your business.

Acquiring business equipment for the first time can be a bit of a head-scratcher. However, by sticking to the following best practices, you can ensure your equipment budget is used as efficiently as possible:

  • Plan for your space: Begin with an accurately-scaled floor plan of your business premises so you can make sure that any new equipment you acquire can be used in your available space.

  • Prioritise value, not price: Money is bound to be tight in the early days of your business. However, looking for the cheapest possible option for every requirement can easily backfire. Be sure to prioritise value over price alone, and look for quality equipment that will stay effective and reliable in the long run.

  • Look into outsourcing or renting: As a new business owner, you don’t have to own all of your assets outright, especially when it comes to IT assets or large, expensive pieces of equipment. With each piece of equipment your business needs, perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether you need outright ownership at this stage.

  • Don’t be afraid to buy used: Whether it’s comfy seating for your cafe or heavy machinery, buying used is often a smart move for cash-strapped small businesses. Buying used will likely be more suitable to the cash flow in the early stages, and it might even allow you to purchase higher quality equipment as well.

Starting a brick-and-mortar business?

You’ll need payment processing equipment you can count on. At SumUp, we offer a range of great payment processing tech, including:

Portable card readers allow you to take payments with flexibility and efficiency, ideal for restaurants and cafes. 

Point of Sale (POS) systems, an all-in-one solution for consolidating transactions and inventory management, so you can spend less time crunching numbers and more time developing your business.

Step 8: Build your team

Next, it’s time to think about your business’ most important asset of all: its people. 

More than 80% of small businesses say they’re experiencing major recruitment concerns. Whether you have an experienced hiring manager onboard or are stepping into unfamiliar territory as a new business owner, there are some important things to bear in mind when hiring for your new business.

Hire for flexibility

One of the biggest things to remember when hiring talent for your new business is that candidates tend to be risk averse. 

Using freelance staff and fixed term contracts can provide an additional layer of security over permanent employees when starting out. As cash flow will likely fluctuate during the early stages of your business, not being bound to permanent contracts provides greater flexibility and allows you to scale up or down more easily. 

Firstly, this might help alleviate the fears of professionals who aren’t ready to commit to a start-up business still finding its feet. It will also help you align your available resources with the current demands of your organisation, and help you avoid paying for full-time employees who don’t need to be available full time.

What’s more, hiring independent contractors can also serve as a kind of trial period to help you head hunt in the future. If the contractors you enjoy working with aren’t looking for a full-time role at the end of your relationship, they can still give you valuable benchmarks you can use for future recruitment drives.

Forward-plan for retention

Certain industries such as retail are infamous for having a high employee turnover rate

When building a new business, it’s essential that you mitigate this as much as possible from the start, and avoid repetitive, labour-intensive recruitment drives in the future and improve employee retention in your small business.

Before you write your first job advert, take some time to think about ways you can enhance the experience for new employees and minimise the risk of experiencing a high turnover.

Some of the best ways to do this include:

  • Create a great onboarding experience: The onboarding experience of your employees is your chance to set a positive tone from the beginning and prepare employees for success in their job. 

Be sure to provide a clear and reliable flow of information, and ensure close working relationships between new employees and those training them.

  • Plan for continual training: Research shows that two out of three UK workers have quit jobs due to a lack of training or career development.

Though the needs of your business will change a lot as it grows, there are many benefits of training employees throughout their time with you. It's still a good idea to begin with a roadmap for training and development for every role you’re going to be recruiting for.

  • Automate: Roles that consist of manual, repetitive tasks are likely to lead to low job satisfaction. Automating wherever possible through machinery and software will not only reduce the number of menial tasks for employees, but also provide valuable savings to your bottom line.

  • Collect feedback: As you recruit for your business, make a point to constantly seek out feedback from all levels of your organisation and make plans to action it. Different people will want different things from their employer, but over time this will lead you to a more comprehensive plan for providing a positive work culture and experience for your employees.

Don’t fence yourself in

When developing your first team, it’s also important not to limit your search for candidates geographically. 

Though you may not be used to it, casting a wide geographic net to look for talent can prove to be a huge bonus for your business. There may be a candidate who’s perfect for your start-up at the other end of the country, or even in another timezone altogether and willing to relocate. However, if you limit your search for talent to your local area, you may never find them. 

Making someone an offer that will convince them to relocate can be tough, especially for small businesses who are just getting started. Still, by removing as many barriers to entry as possible, you’ll likely have a much wider pool to choose from. 

If you’re opening a brick-and-mortar business (rather than an online business), this doesn’t mean that you can’t also benefit from the expanding talent pool on offer to new businesses through remote work. For example, if you’re opening a flower shop in your local village, perhaps you could hire a remote marketing specialist to help build your brand presence online while you take care of the customer-facing selling in store. 

The people you hire during the early stages of your business will play a pivotal role in shaping the success of your company long-term. If you’re a founding team of 3, your first hire will contribute 25% of your overall company culture. So, avoid putting up unnecessary obstacles by limiting your search for talent. Instead, embrace the opportunity to build an exceptional team of talent that can contribute significantly to your business growth strategy.

Hire from your network

As a business owner, you’re free to make your interview process as rigorous as you like. However, nothing’s going to display a candidate’s aptitude for a position more than having a real relationship with them, and knowing their qualities as an individual.

If you haven’t already, it’s worth forming a professional network with a number of stand-out workers who are knowledgeable, responsible, and forward thinking in order for them to be a consistent asset to your whole organisation.

The value of working with someone you already know and trust can’t be overstated, especially when you’re taking those first steps on your entrepreneurial journey.

Depending on the type of employment you have set up, contracts will include a non-solicitation clause meaning you won’t be able to recruit your former colleagues if you’re planning to go straight from employment into running your own business. 

However, you can still reach out to people in your wider network who might be interested in your venture, and won’t break any laws or clauses in contracts.

Think about your brand as an employer

Successful recruitment is like running a strong marketing campaign in many ways. Even if your brand is only vaguely defined this early in its formation, you still have an opportunity to frame your company as an exceptional employer, which will help you attract great talent.

Even before you hire your first employee, there are a number of things you can do to make your company a more attractive place to work:

  • Having an updated careers page on your website that reflects your workplace philosophy through its copy.

  • Dedicating more of your site to exposing your core values as a brand, helping candidates get an idea of what it’s like to work for you.

  • Being active and visible on LinkedIn and industry forums, which espouses your belief in providing a great workplace for new team members.

  • Exhibiting positive employee testimonials from your earliest hires.

Now, more than ever, people are looking at much more than the salary band when they decide what kind of jobs to apply for. 

McKinsey & Company reported that workplace flexibility, adequate compensation, and reasonable expectations about performance as top factors in their decision to accept their current role:

Credit: McKinsey & Company - Great Attrition, Great Attraction survey who left a job between Dec 2020 and Dec 2021 without another job offer in hand: LINK | Screenshot taken August 2023.

Showing that your business is a great place on a cultural level will help you bring in those superstar candidates who will make all the difference to your success.

Step 9: Branding and launching

Branding is important for your business as it initiates the relationship with your customers, and creates the long lasting feeling they hold for your product or service. 

It’s a powerful way to demonstrate your company values, and why they should purchase from your company over the competition. 

At this early stage, nobody will understand your business like you or your partners. Therefore, it’s the perfect time to utilise the preparatory work from earlier stages, including market research, the values and the driving force behind why the company has been established. 

Most bootstrapped start-ups will refine the branding over the first years of trading, but it’s important to get started and build upon what you have. 

Demonstrating your business’ values in an attractive and appealing way to your target audience is vitally important, so don’t be afraid to outsource to professionals if your business does not have the required skills in house, and the budget allows. 

Elements of your brand

Your brand is your business’ signature, the thing that allows it to be recognised no matter when or where someone sees it. 

For Cadbury, it’s exemplified by the distinct purple wrappers, luxury, royalty, and still manages to be quintessentially British. For Apple, it’s the colour white, intelligent minimalism, and an emphasis on revolutionary technological progress.

Whatever direction you take it in, your brand is going to be made up of several separate elements which have to work in harmony:

Your logo

Possibly the hardest part of building your brand, your logo needs to summarise your identity as a business within a single, easily recognisable image. 

This is going to be many customers’ first ever contact with your business, and an opportunity to appeal to them.

Your colour palate

The colours you use in your branding can have a huge impact on the emotions your target audience associates with you. Are you going to go use bright colours to make yourself feel bold, fun and unique, or go for something more subtle or muted?


Though taglines tend to be more central to the branding of B2C companies, they can be used to buttress practically any company’s brand identity. 

Summarising your values and product in a single line of memorable copy is far from easy, but focusing on the benefits of your product or service rather than the process or practicalities is a good place to start. 

Tone of voice

The way your copy, video scripts, and any other kind of written or verbal communication sounds. The idea here is to create a tone that’s distinct enough that it’s easy to recognise, but still accessible to the entirety of your target audience.


The unique position in the market that your brand fills. This is not only about the unique selling point (USP) you offer through your product or service, but also the position you occupy among other brands in the market. 

  • Do you offer great value, or a luxury treatment? 

  • Are you a brand that constantly looks to the future, or focuses on what’s tried, tested and timeless?

  • Are you going to cast a wide net with your marketing, or sell to a highly specific target audience?

  • What kind of benefits do your customers enjoy as a result of your product or service’s unique attributes?

  • What are the nuances that give your brand a unique personality?

Developing a marketing strategy

Once you’re armed with a unique brand identity, it’s time to start putting that brand in front of potential customers

Alongside the more traditional methods including local advertisements, partnerships and flyers, today’s success often hinges on your digital strategy. 

Your website, social media presence and ability to be found online are critical to  generating leads and connecting with your target audience.

Small business marketing strategies can be complex, and will require their own focussed research to fully understand. For now, let’s look at 4 essential elements every new business should have as part of their strategy.


Your website works as a 24/7 marketing asset to showcase your products or services and brand identity. They can be built in house using site builder tools, or you can go for a more bespoke route using outsourced web development services. 

Whatever approach you take, it’s important to structure your site in a logical and user-friendly way that minimises the steps between a visitor and the information or assets they’re looking for. 

Your site should also exemplify your brand identity in its colour scheme, imagery, and the tone of your copy.

Planning to start an e-commerce business?

Check out SumUp’s own easy to use storebuilder – an easy way to showcase your brand.

Set up an online store

Print advertising

Due to the cost efficiencies of online marketing, print is not quite the force it once was. However, it can still be a hugely powerful tool for reaching your target audience. 

This is especially true for small, brick-and-mortar businesses looking to prioritise marketing in their local community.

Just like digital paid ads, you’ll need to work hard to ensure a total consistency in your designs in order to develop a strong brand identity. 

It’s also important to structure leaflets, publication ads, and other materials in a way that will put your core USP front-and-centre. This will help separate your ads from the deluge of other print materials your target audience will see every day.

Social media

Aside from your site, your social media profiles are going to be the second most important assets in showcasing your brand to your target audience online.

Using organic posts and paid ads, your social media platforms will be a key way to communicate your brand messaging to the world. It will be a primary point of contact for your audience and active fans, and with audiences who may not have discovered you yet.

If you’re stretched for social media resources, try to at least pick at least one platform that you know is popular with your target audience, and refine your brand as much as possible here. It’s better to service one platform really well than spread your resources too thinly across them all.

Content marketing

Content marketing is a cost effective way to gain valuable brand exposure in the early days of your business. It involves creating blog posts, video content, podcasts and other kinds of content that’s likely to engage your target market.

Unlike paid advertising or refining your landing pages, content marketing isn’t about overtly selling. The aim here is to produce valuable, interesting content that’s likely to engage your audience, showcase your expertise and offering, and make your brand more trustworthy.

Content marketing is also an essential pillar of search engine optimisation (SEO). This is a marketing method that aims to raise your website’s rankings in Google’s results pages by demonstrating consistent value and authority.

Step 10: Grow your business

The formation of a company is one of the most exciting parts of the journey, with no limit on your aspirations or creative freedom. However, this is just the beginning of the journey.

One of the definitive elements that separates successful businesses from unsuccessful ones is the ability to scale and adapt at a healthy rate.

Whilst your resources may be stretched, and your work - life balance in disarray, it is important to build the business with the future in mind, rather than what is most convenient now. 

  • Will the process you’ve implemented work if the team doubles in size? 

  • Will it work if your orders quadrupled next week? 

It can seem like overkill at times, but providing your business the ability to grow without barriers or an over-reliance on a single aspect is likely to help you avoid being part of the 60% of businesses that sadly fail in the first 3 years

Here are some of the key ways for new businesses to expand and reach new horizons:

Expand your reach

If you want to take your brand to the next level, it's time to think about expanding your reach. This could mean opening a new store branch, expanding into new geographical markets, or targeting a new audience segment you hadn’t considered before. 

Expanding your reach doesn’t have to involve any revolutionary change to your business. However, the difference it makes to your success can be huge

Try to look out for little steps to continually grow the touchpoints your audience has with your business, and you’ll be able to grow your business at a healthy, sustainable rate.

Focus on customer retention

To focus on customer retention, your business has been successful in attracting customers in the first place, which is a result of the hard work outlined in previous steps. 

Retaining those customers or encouraging repeat business is now a vital component to the long-term success of your business, and a huge focus for you and your team.

Customer retention is just as important as customer acquisition, and it’s much less resource intensive too.

To retain that loyal core of customers, it’s essential to constantly review your standards of customer service for quality. A single bad experience with a brand is enough to ruin a relationship, especially when you’re developing a small, brick-and-mortar business like a high street shop or restaurant. 

Though you may not have the same resources as some of your bigger, more established competitors, every business can go the extra mile to improve the customer experience and foster positive interactions.

Aside from this, you might want to consider implementing a loyalty program, retargeting people who have converted on your site, sending out coupons to repeat customers, and other retention strategies. 

Make sure you’re hanging on to your customers’ every word and actioning feedback as a priority.

SumUp offers users free customer loyalty programs including a public profile feature designed to help grow your local customer base. Find out how your loyalty program can work seamlessly with our POS services and help you boost sales and retention.

Invest in marketing

How you reach your target market and deliver your message is arguably the final piece in the puzzle.

Identifying the channels that will yield the highest return on investment, and create brand loyalty is key for future business success.

This could mean expanding or optimising your advertising budget, or outsourcing your campaigns entirely to a marketing agency to kick things up a notch.

It’s also a good idea to experiment with new marketing disciplines to see if there’s untapped potential you could be exploiting.

If you’re running a coffee shop and relying on traditional marketing techniques to bring in new customers, try some localised social media. If you’re an e-commerce business, try sending print offers to your most loyal customers.

No business can survive for long without active marketing channels, and your continual investment will give you the foundation for continual, healthy growth.

Here’s a handful of effective marketing methods to research as you develop your business:

  • Local print marketing: Many businesses do well in their early days of trading by focusing on a core customer base in their local area. 

Advertising in local papers, sending out flyers and introductory promotions, and other traditional methods can be a great way to integrate your brand in the local community.

  • Social media advertising: Cost-effective and highly targeted, paid and organic marketing on social media platforms like Instagram allow start-ups to reach a precisely-defined audience.

  • Content marketing: By creating valuable and relevant content, start-ups can attract and engage their target customers, building trust and brand authority.

  • SEO: Optimising your website content and structure for search engines can boost organic traffic and visibility, increasing the chances of attracting potential customers.

  • Email marketing: Directly reaching out to interested prospects through personalised email campaigns helps start-ups nurture leads and build long-term relationships with customers.

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: This model enables start-ups to drive targeted traffic to their websites by bidding on relevant keywords and paying only when a user clicks on the advert in search.

Stay agile

Finally, as your business grows, it’s essential to keep flexible and agile to market conditions.

Consumer markets are constantly adapting to technological advancements, and changing trends in consumer behaviour. 

Customers' needs, pain points, and preferences can vary wildly from one year to the next, and as a business owner, you will have to adapt to stay competitive within your industry.

Keeping your business flexible enough to adapt to its market is one of the most challenging, but also one of the most exciting parts of being an entrepreneur. By staying agile, you can quickly identify and capitalise on new opportunities, adjust your strategies, and stay ahead of the competition.

Don't be afraid to pivot or make changes to your strategy if something isn't working. 

Staying up to date on industry trends, emerging technologies, and the success of your close competitors, can help you stay in step with your industry.

By following these tips and remaining focused on your entrepreneurial goals, you’ll be well on your way to growing a successful and sustainable business.

Start on the right foot

We hope this guide on how to start a business has answered some of your big questions and given you a detailed roadmap to seeing your dreams of becoming a business owner a reality.

By carrying out thorough research, strategising as much as possible, and giving due diligence to your resources and recruitment, you’ll be able to start your entrepreneurial journey on the right foot and move forward with confidence.

Need support in starting your business?

Be sure to check out our new Free Business Account and learn how it can make managing your start-up’s finances that much easier.

Find out more

Disclaimer: The contents of this page are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. For matters requiring legal or financial expertise, it’s recommended to seek guidance from qualified professionals.


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