Durham Sparks offers fully funded, hands-on practical business support, information and advice to community enterprises looking to make an impact in County Durham.
Driven by you and your organisations needs we can look at every aspect of your business with the aim of adding value to what you are already doing. We will challenge your thinking and help you to develop your organisation to deliver the services that matter to you and the communities you serve.
We have a wealth of business expertise and our Business Advisors can work with you to maximise your skills, talents and aspirations.
Our specialist team can work with you relating to:
We can also offer brokerage to other value added support and access to workshops and network events BUT, it doesnt stop there; our bespoke approach means we can become a member of your team working for you and with you to help you to get to where you want to be.
Whether you are a new or existing business considering becoming a community enterprise, a newly formed community enterprise developing your business, or an existing community enterprise that has been trading for a while, the Durham Sparks programme is designed to help and support you and your organisation.
To make an appointment, or for more information call us on 0191 386 2634.
Here, Durham Sparks Business Advisor Katherine Briggs, outlines her key steps to get you started: -
One of the very first parts of the start-up process is to test the market to find out if there is a demand for your business idea.
This is known as testing the market, and from experience; I can safely say that this is a very important part of the process. Many start-ups have fallen foul of skipping this step, and the sum total is this, if you fail to accurately achieve product/market fit, where money gets made, you're sunk!
Remember, the goal is to arm yourself with as much information as possible about the size, needs, and condition of your market. Conduct enough research to ensure the results arent one-sided, and listen to the feedback you receive. Be prepared to change your idea according to what your customers want, not necessarily what you think is the best solution.
If you are considering self-employment for the first time, or you already have a business and you want to discover more about community enterprise, the team at Durham Sparks can
provide an introduction to everything that you need to think about from legal structures, branding and marketing to business planning and finance.
For more information and to book an appointment call us on 0191 386 2634 or email [email protected]
There's certainly a lot of information out there across the Internet, and it's often difficult to decipher what you should and shouldn't include. From our experience of writing and developing business plans, it definitely doesn't need to be complicated, but for it to serve its purpose it does need to be crystal clear to whoever is reading your plan that you have a clear understanding of how and why your business will be a success. To find out more, we caught up with Durham Sparks Business Advisor David Beavis, to find out what a business plan is, why you should have one and his key tips for writing one successfully.
A business plan outlines what your community enterprise is - its core purpose; what you are aiming to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.
In a nutshell, a business plan is the vehicle for enabling you to communicate your vision to others and to persuade them to help you to reach your goals. Think of it like your businesses CV, explaining your objectives to a range of audiences including investors/funders, partners, employees and others.
Durham Sparks provide guidance on all aspects of community enterprise development in County Durham. If you're looking to start a community enterprise or grow your existing enterprise contact the team on 0191 386 2634 or email [email protected]
What are the most important things to consider before looking for an office space? The first thing is to consider your budget and needs. Then look at the various options available. Finding the right environment to run your business is critical, but can be expensive. It can mean that you are working hard to pay rent and not investing back into your venture - subsidising your income to support a landlord’s income. What is your budget?
To consider what options are best, you’ll first need to consider and determine your budget. What are your current expenses? And don’t forget to consider all of the details, for example; internet and telephone, staff and supplies. On top of that include your own expenses. Once you have a full list of your expenses figure out your estimated income to determine your cash flow. How much do you estimate to be making each month? Be sure to factor in slower periods such as during holidays. After carefully considering your income and expenses you should have a clearer idea of the budget you’ll be working with. What are your needs?
Once you have a budget in mind, write down your needs for the business space. Why do you need it? Is it to provide your services and products? Is it somewhere that you can work away from distractions? Do you feel that you need a place away from home? Do you need to present a professional face to your business to meet with clients? Is it that you feel that you need a high street presence to trade or support online activity?
Top tips for finding the right business space
If you decide you need business space here’s David’s top tips for making the right choice first time:
In our experience flexibility is key. You may only need a few desks now, but in six months’ time you might need dozens more to accommodate a growing number of staff. Conversely, if your community enterprise isn’t doing so well you don’t want to be stuck paying a large amount of rent on a business space that you can no longer afford. Here’s a quick run-down of the main types of business space that you might wish to consider:- Options when looking for a business space – Advantages and Disadvantages Hot desking This is where you can rent space as and when you need it. The organisations who operate this type of space can often provide you with a range of services - an address, a point of contact, as well as access to meeting rooms and office space. This provides real flexibility; you will have access to high quality offices that reflect the quality of your business and that can help position your business. Often located within a business park these types of spaces usually offer plenty of parking for ease of access. An added bonus to hot-desking is that you will have access to other entrepreneurs and business owners where you can share ideas, and be less isolated.
Shared Office Space
Identify like-minded individuals and organisations who offer complimentary services to your business and you can offer complimentary services back to them. It’s a great way to share costs, have people around you so reducing isolation at work and an opportunity to learn business skills from other business owners.
Gifted Space (CIC/Charities/Community or Social Enterprises)
Very often landlords and businesses have large office or retail space that they rent out - economic conditions will dictate how successful it is to rent out.
Where a landlord has part of a building rented out, they will still have to pay business rates on the remaining space regardless of whether or not it is occupied.
If the landlord can work with a CIC/Charity etc they can gift the space. As a CIC or Charity you can then apply for business rate exemption on the space you occupy providing a saving for the landlord.
Working from home
This has to be the most cost effective office space you can access - certainly for a start-up or business in its early days.
It helps you maximise your income and uses the resources you own or are renting.
Working from home can be difficult; you’ll need a defined space to work away from distractions and temptations.
To be successful working from home you will need develop your work mind-set but you can enjoy the flexibility that comes with working from home. Remember – working from home means you have no commute time so you can use that to improve your work/life balance.
I know people who put on a suit and tie to go to work in even though they won’t be leaving the house - it helps them get their mind-set right!