Army spouses frequently have to overcome barriers to sustaining continuous and rewarding employment that works around the military lifestyle. For some of you, the solution is to set up your own business. We receive a number of enquiries from spouses wanting to know what steps they can take to set up their own business.
Please check our COVID-19 section for up-to-date information, as the coronavirus outbreak may affect the advice given on this page.
01 Starting your own business
AFF has consulted with business experts to find out what you should consider before setting up a new business.
Why do you want to set up a business? – Establishing and running a business takes time, dedication and self-sacrifice. To succeed, you will need to be well organised and able to structure your time. Starting your own business can be very rewarding, however, you must be sure you have the capabilities required and can cope with going it alone.
In the early stages, a sound business plan is a must! Writing down ideas in a structured format, returning to them later and seeking the opinion of others (especially those with business experience) is a great way of evolving your plan. A good plan allows you to focus on the business and develop priorities and goals; it can also help you to obtain finance.
Type of company – Will it fit into the sole trader, limited company or partnership categories? You will need to find out what obligations and responsibilities you, as a new business owner, will have. Certain types of business require you to have a license to trade or operate. For example, licenses are needed to sell alcohol or tobacco, or a beautician would need a license if offering a massage service. The license will usually be issued by the local District or County Council.
Be realistic – Identify your capabilities; but don’t forget your weaknesses. Be honest and ask people who know you for their honest opinion of your ability and suitability to run a business. If there are areas where you need help, don’t worry; just ensure you seek professional advice when needed.
Professional advice – Both during the setting up stage and when the business is up and running, it is vital that you employ the services of an accountant and a solicitor. It is also highly recommended to seek the help of a professional business adviser. All three could make the difference between success and failure. Before taking any of these professionals on, shop around – cheap is not necessarily good. Other small businesses may be able to help by recommending trusted professionals.
Profits – However good and attractive your initial idea, you cannot expect to make a profit straight away. Don’t be too ambitious at first and don’t over-estimate profits. Try and save money to keep you going through the early stages. If that is not possible, make sure you present a clear, well thought through business plan to your bank manager and ask for sufficient funds to get your business well underway.
Competition – There will inevitably be strong competition for your business. Before starting, make sure you do sound research into other similar companies in your area. See if you can spot weaknesses in their service or product and aim to offer something of a higher quality.
Employees – As your business grows, you will almost certainly need to take people on. You will have to check they are suitably qualified and have the right skill sets. But, most importantly, they need to be people with whom you can work every day! Be sure to check you are clear on the whole range of regulations that govern managing staff.
The bottom line – Over ambition can be fatal when setting up a new business, along with failing to conduct thorough market research. Don’t start a business if there is no likely demand for your product or service. Make sure the market is strong in your area and that you are not duplicating other similar businesses too close to your own. Ensure that you factor in enough funds for contingencies and leaner times. Finally, seek professional advice and produce a detailed business plan. If you follow this simple rule and are dedicated, setting up a business should prove to be a life-changing and highly rewarding enterprise.
www.gov.uk/set-up-business-uk – A useful guide to setting up a business in the UK.
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02 Grow your business idea with the Prince’s Trust
If you are aged 18-30, unemployed or working fewer than 16 hours a week and have a business idea or some ideas to explore, the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Scheme might be the right course for you. It provides advice, guidance and support .
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03 Get business savvy in Wiltshire
AFF understands the various barriers many army spouses still face when it comes to securing that (often all-important) second income. Unsurprisingly, many of you turn to self-employment; but do you have the right connections to start and grow a business of your own?
If you’re based in Wiltshire, The Enterprise Network (TEN), an initiative led by Wiltshire council with government and EU funding, is nurturing and growing small businesses like yours by supporting you right from your first ‘light bulb’ moment. While support through The Enterprise Network is available to all small businesses with identified growth potential, the network particularly seeks to engage with service leavers, military spouses and their dependants.
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04 Self-employed and working overseas?
AFF has received a number of queries from spouses posted overseas who want to continue running their own business from a BFPO address, but are concerned about tax and National Insurance. This is a very complicated area; however, we have done a lot of research with the University of Wolverhampton and HMRC and the answer is actually surprisingly straightforward.
A simple solution
If you’re posted within the European Economic Area (EEA) and are registered as self-employed, it should just be as simple as calling HMRC on 0191 2037010 or 0300 55 5734, and changing your address (probably to your BFPO address). This will enable you to continue paying tax and Class 2 NI as normal.
AFF is also working on this issue for spouses posted outside of the EEA and will let you know the outcome as soon as we find it.
We are very interested to hear your stories about running a business from an overseas posting, to share your experiences, contact AFF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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05 Business support for army families in Wales
Posted to Wales and thinking about starting a business or growing a current one? The Welsh Government runs a funded business start-up programme, Antur Teifi, under the Business Wales umbrella.
Antur Teifi provides business advice and support to individuals and groups who are looking to start a business in Wales; it is open to anyone regardless of your employment status.
How can Antur Teifi support your business?
- offers one-to-one advice and support at any stage of setting up your business
- has a series of workshops/events open to anyone throughout Flintshire, Wrexham, Powys, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire
- manages/provides a national start-up loan service
- can offer you a business mentor to speak to and spend time with
- can provide you with ongoing support once you start trading, including mentoring, environmental support, equality and diversity support, workshops and much more.
There is a lot of support available for members of the Armed Forces community in Wales who wish to start their own business.
For more information, visit www.anturteifi.org.uk or contact AFF at email@example.com
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06 Could you be brilliant in business?
X-Forces help Armed Forces families to start-up businesses across the UK with start- up loans, mentoring and support.
The X-Forces story
An innovative social enterprise, it supports Forces personnel and families with entrepreneurial ambition, to help fast-track them into becoming successful business owners with fulfilling careers; since its foundation, it has helped to launch new entrepreneurs within the Armed Forces community.
How does it work?
Their unique process takes raw ideas and helps turn them into a successful business reality through business advice and planning, access to start up loans and mentoring for up to five years post-launch.
With encouragement and support, business can be a more viable alternative to employment if you possess the right skills and a focused and determined work ethic.
Who can access support?
Service leavers, military spouses and partners, Reservists, cadets and children of Armed Forces personnel can all apply, including those on overseas postings provided they are assigned a BFPO address.
An experienced business advisor with sector-specific experience is allocated to each individual for one-to-one mentoring; candidates can expect a warm reception from an understanding team who will escort them from business idea to business success in a supportive and managed way.
Want to know more?
Considering embarking on business? To register for X-Forces support or simply find out more, visit www.x-forces.com
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07 Supporting the Unsung Hero: Armed Forces dependants’ business start-up programme
Do you want to achieve your ambition of starting your own business, but lack the confidence, knowledge and resources?
The University of Wolverhampton business start-up programme has been developed specifically for service dependants offering support to start and maintain a business. The 10 month programme aims to equip participants with transferable skills and the ability to start a business regardless of location.
Whether you want to go it alone, or start a business with a couple of friends, this programme should provide you with the knowledge and reassurance you need to make your idea a reality.
For more information, click here, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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08 Do you work from home?
Did you know, if you have to work at or from home, you can get tax relief for the extra household expenses you have to pay.
Typically these extra expenses include:
- the extra cost of gas and electricity to heat and light your work area
- business telephone calls
For more information see the HMRC website.