Campaign to foster start-ups backed by PM

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Thousands of people could be successful entrepreneurs but have done nothing about it, the prime minister will say on Monday at the launch of a private sector campaign to nurture latent start-up talent.

The Start-Up Britain initiative, described in last week’s Budget speech, is the brainchild of a group of London-based entrepreneurs, eager to foster a new generation of business founders across the country.

The campaign also aims to educate owner-managers to ensure that more of those who have started businesses survive the difficult early years.

About 270,000 businesses are started each year in the UK but 80 per cent of these cease trading within 12 months, either because the founders have been forced into bankruptcy or they have given up in favour of a salaried job.

The call to arms has attracted a broad collection of business founders, including vacuum inventor Sir James Dyson, Virgin pioneer Sir Richard Branson and Kwik Fit founder Sir Tom Farmer, some of whom are giving their time to help start-ups.

A website has been developed to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with resources to help them create a business, such as marketing tips and information on regulations.

This has been backed by donations of free advertising, office space and mentoring support from multinational companies, such as Barclays, McKinsey & Co and Experian.

Among the entrepreneurs donating their time are members of The Supper Club, a national networking group for high-growth companies, who have pledged collectively to provide 1,000 hours of mentoring support to promising start-ups.

Duncan Cheatle, founder of The Supper Club and a co-founder of Start-Up Britain, said: “Our members represent some of the most inspiring, innovative and successful business leaders in Britain today. By offering their time for free they are capable of making the enormous difference to the next generation of entrepreneurs by spreading their knowledge and experience.”

The founders of Start-Up Britain said they were inspired by Barack Obama’s Start-Up America initiative to encourage private enterprise to drive the US recovery. Michael Hayman, co-founder of Seven Hills, a PR agency, and one of Start-Up Britain’s co-founders, said the UK campaign chimes with David Cameron’s Big Society idea in that it is only happening because private individuals have volunteered their time.

“All that we have got is the cash and goodwill that we have raised,” he said, adding this was the biggest package of private sector support for UK start-ups.

By refusing public funds, Start-Up Britain hopes to avoid the fate of Enterprise UK, formed six years ago as a partnership between the UK’s main business groups, but which soon became reliant on government money.

It had to close its doors this year after the Department for Business decided to pull its funding, which at the time amounted to 80 per cent of its annual budget.

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