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Guide to Starting Your Business in Scotland

1 August 2019

Scottish bank notes

Previously here at Stelmain, we championed the advantages of starting up your business in Glasgow. We’ve even provided readers with a handy checklist of things to look for in a Glasgow office space to make their job easier! What we haven’t done, however, is talk about starting a business in Scotland as a whole — this is because we’ve focused solely on Glasgow. This is because we have office space in Glasgow and we are dedicated to seeing the city continue to be the most prosperous business hub in Scotland. However, Glasgow grows as Scotland grows, and we think Scotland is a pretty fantastic place to start a business. As such, we thought we’d put together a short guide to starting a business in Scotland.

Remember that you are not alone

The first piece of advice is for you to remember that you aren’t alone. The UK as a whole is a great place for entrepreneurs and start-ups, with plenty of infrastructure and systems in place to help. Scotland, however, has even more funding, support, tax incentives, etc, in place to give new businesses the help they need to grow and flourish. Mygov.scot is especially useful as it features a wide range of useful information on the following areas:

  • Tax
  • Business law
  • Funding opportunities
  • Working from home
  • Common pitfalls/mistakes
  • Starting a business in a recession

This resource also has a range of video diaries from successful Scottish businesses, so you can learn the ropes from people a few steps ahead of you that have proven themselves. Business Gateway is also a fantastic resource, especially with regards to the legalities around naming your company. They also offer more specific advice for women in business.

Scottish Enterprise

Scottish businesses are lucky to have Scottish Enterprise as a business resource. This organisation is designed to assist with funding and grants and to aid in the development of the skills and workforce required to help local businesses grow and thrive. Scottish Enterprise can help with business development, training, and even with preparations for Brexit and how you can minimise any disruption it might cause for your business .

Consider Where in Scotland Best Suits Your Business’s Needs

Glasgow’s busy Buchanan Street

While we wrote a blog a few months ago entitled ‘Why Glasgow May be Better than Edinburgh for Your Business’ we would never argue that Glasgow is the best place in Scotland for all businesses. Scotland is a rich, diverse country, and the people and resources available in each city, town, mountain, and valley all vary massively. Perhaps your business idea is so new and guaranteed to impress people that you simply need to attract the maximum number of customers. In that case, Glasgow is clearly the best option for you as it has the largest city centre and the highest population.

However, you shouldn’t presume that the bigger the city, the bigger the profits, as there is also higher rent and higher competition. And it may make more sense for your business to be based outside of Glasgow or Edinburgh. For instance, if your business idea is tourism related and relies on easy access to the highlands and the central belt, it may make the most sense to establish your business in Sterling. If you need access sorely to the highlands and the north of the country then Inverness is the obvious choice.

Don’t be Afraid to Spend a Little Longer Figuring Out Your Market

This advice holds for any business starting up in any country, but it’s too important to leave out of this blog and it follows neatly from the previous point. Remember that you can’t really stop your business or take a pause once you’ve taken out a loan, rented your property, and started marketing/advertising. If you start your business sprinting in the wrong direction, you could waste a lot of time and money trying to attract the wrong audience; if you take the time to research your audience first of all (age, gender, income, quirks, locations, preferences) you can mitigate the heavy losses incurred by many starter businesses.

Of course, there will always be an element of risk to starting a business — and you will need to jump into it at some point, but don’t confuse courage for foolhardiness. You can make a brave first step for your business without risking too much. Take the time to research on your own, but don’t be afraid to talk to the professionals. Scottish Enterprise offers a free International Market Research Service and there are other small services available if you take the time to look — you just may need to pay for some of the data.

One of the best free data resources is Google, as it offers search volume data for free. Search volume is the number of people who have searched for a specific term on Google each month, and it can break down these searches by location, allowing you to get an idea of the location-specific appetite for your product or service. Thinking about starting a vegan restaurant in Edinburgh? Find out the search volume for search terms like ‘vegan restaurants in Edinburgh’. It’s unlikely that search volumes will give you all the information you need, but they can at least give you some idea and they help you figure out exactly what to call your products and services on your website.

That’s all we have time for today. We hope this brief guide has helped several readers along the path towards starting up their own business in Scotland. And, if you decide to set up shop in Glasgow and you’re in need of high-quality serviced office space, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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