Local government: a great place to start when looking for funding

There are many facets to starting a business, including, of course, how to secure that all-important funding. As Chris Pitchford, founder and managing director of our company, explains, starting close to home can often be the best option.

How did you go about securing funding?

I went to the local council to see if there were any funds available for small businesses. Barnet, where I was based at the time, offered a three-month course in how to write business plans, so I started there – I thought I would bump into like-minded people, which I did.

Part of the course was putting me in touch with local business peoplem who I worked with on a work placement basis. They matched me up with a business sector that would help me in the future, so they placed me with a printer as I was looking to break into publishing.

How did working with the printer help you?

I worked there for a week and set the printer up with a couple of publishers/print buyers they weren’t dealing with previously, so they got something out of me. What I got out of it was the opportunity to understand what makes a printer tick, which makes it easier when it comes to negotiating a contract, as I am more aware of what they want.

What’s your key piece of advice?

Definitely check with your local council and the government to see if there are any small business funds.

I also knew very early on that I wanted to find investment, so I went out and found two small investors and made them non-executives. After two years, I bought those shares back.

NEDs aren’t for everyone, you need to have a clear plan on why you are bringing that person into the business and a clear exit plan for that person.

As a rule of thumb, NEDs should be with a business for no longer than three years, or for as long as you are learning from them. It’s a great resource to have and it keeps you sane, being able to bounce problems and ideas off someone who isn’t in the thick of it.

I got great advice and my NEDs helped me set up the infrastructure of the business, which is important. You need to be learning from people – that’s my mantra.

Also, look at your own personal contacts, for example, look for someone who is retired and looking for a business to invest in or someone who wants to take life at a slower pace but has valuable contacts and can help you grow the business. A good business is about contacts and sales.

It depends on where your business is going in terms of where you find your investment, but that’s the fun of looking – you never know who you might work with in the future!