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Starting and growing your business

Starting and running a successful business can be one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. It can also be one of the most daunting. However, statistics show businesses that take advice during the start up phase are more likely to be successful.

If you are not sure where to start, then email our Business Development Team or call 01993 861482 and we will point you in the right direction.

Free Startup Guides

A series of free guides covering a range of key business topics is available from the Start Up Loans Company. They’re packed full of practical tips, examples and ‘how-to’ information. Advice ranges from how to actually set a business up, conduct market research, analyse strengths and weaknesses and optimise your website. To download the guides, please visit:

Creating a business

When you start a business you must choose a structure. Most businesses in the UK are:

  • sole traders
  • limited companies or
  • partnerships.

If you are a sole trader you need to register as ‘self-employed’ - this means that you are working for yourself, not for someone else. For more information on the different structures and how to set them up see the Government website:

Help available for starting your business

Business Spark

Available until March 2025, OxLEP's fully funded Business Spark programme will help people to start their own successful businesses, or create a profitable ‘extra income stream’, with support covering key areas including business fundamentals, understanding customers, marketing and sales, financial planning and developing a first-year action plan.

The programme will cover:

  • Business Fundamentals and the Business Model Canvas
  • Understanding Your Customers, Marketing and Sales
  • Financial Planning and Management
  • Developing Your Year 1 Action Plan
  • Business Pitch for Success

To find out more and apply to join the programme go to:

Enterprise Nation

Enterprise Nation is the UK's most active small business community. Its online portal allows small businesses to connect with advisers, network with like-minded entrepreneurs and access a huge range of resources.

Having a written business plan will help you secure finance as well as help you clarify your business idea, spot potential problems, set out your goals and measure your progress. It is a document that describes your business covering objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts. There is a very good business plan template available to download from the Enterprise Nation website.

Startup Donut

Further information about writing a business plan is available on the Start up Donut website:

Jobcentre Plus employer support

Jobcentre Plus can work with employers to help you grow and develop your business. Signposting, advice and recruitment support are on offer. For more information, please see:

Courses, workshops and mentoring


The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) runs a series of local business support schemes as well as a free workshops covering important topics for new businesses including business planning, marketing and managing cashflow. For more information and a schedule of forthcoming workshops, please see:

OxLEP's Business Accelerator

Available until March 2025, OxLEP's Business Accelerator programme will provide expertise and support to help small businesses in West Oxfordshire grow and thrive.

What’s included?

  • Focussed bespoke 1:1 support from our team of 20+ Business and Innovation Advisors
    • Business Planning for Growth
    • Financial Planning & Management for Business Leaders
    • The Innovation Process
    • Investment Readiness (including Angel Investors)
  • Leadership Development programme for senior managers in the business
  • Facilitated Peer-to-Peer Sessions (9 ‘Action-Learning’ Groups of 8/9)
  • Exit Review & Growth Action Plan
  • A West Oxfordshire Innovation Unconference event

Find out more:

Prince’s Trust

Young people aged 18-30 can get help from the Prince's Trust to work out if their business ideas are viable, and decide whether self-employment is right for them. The programme then offers mentoring support and, for those that really need it, financial support to start a business.


Getting the right type of finance for your business is essential. There are several different ways of financing a business including loans, investment and occasionally grants. For more information see:

Business premises

Working from home

Many people run their business from home when they start up as it is convenient and saves the extra cost of renting commercial premises, for more information see:

Commercial premises

In many instances it is either not convenient or not possible to run the business from home. The commercial property page has a link to a commercial property search as well as details of business centres and serviced offices.

If you operate from commercial premises you will almost certainly need to register for business rates unless the landlord is paying them as set out in the terms of the lease. For further information, including the possible reliefs available, see:

Number 14

Are you looking to bring your idea to life? Then take a look at the space and popup at Number 14 in Woodstock.

Food business

All premises that prepare, serve or sell food or drink must register regardless of whether or not the premises operate commercially. Registration is free of charge and can either be done online or by completing and returning a form. Failure to register is an offence. For further information see:


Many businesses need a license or permit of some kind. The Government run a Licence finder tool which acts as a guide. For further local advice see:

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)

KTP is a Government funded scheme which embeds an ambitious graduate, supported by a university specialist, into a business to lead a project that transforms the business and makes a step change in growth. It is one of the best ways for businesses to make use of the specialist knowledge and expertise developed in the University. Please: