Launching a company must be hard at the best of times, but launching in the middle of a recession takes a very brave person indeed. Sill, people are taking the plunge, so, once the decision has been made to start up, where do you go?
According to Scottish Enterprise, the creative industries bring around £5.3 billion into Scotland each year. In addition to this, the Lothian and Edinburgh region remains more heavily populated by micro businesses than any other area not only in Scotland, but the UK. Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian offers a vast amount of help when it comes to setting up a new business. Information centre manager Lynda Gosden says: “We are probably the first port of call when setting up a new business. We offer evening seminars in getting a company started, where people can come along and get help either from financial experts or from experts within their specialised field. There are many start-ups occurring within the creative industry sector – in fact, we have a higher start-up rate in this region than anywhere else in the whole of the country.”
Once a decision has been made to set up a company, the next step is the dreaded writing of a business plan. This is often the most difficult task, says Gosden: “People have all these great ideas, but putting it down on paper is sometimes the hardest part. We aim to give assistance in this field. We also find that those companies who have put a business plan into action tend to succeed better than those who haven’t.”
Bryan Hook of Hookson Design agrees. When he was setting up the company 18 months ago, he found that the most difficult part of getting started was the business plan. “I found the most stressful part of starting the business was having the strength to write the business plan. But once I had done that, everything seemed to fall into place. I found that once you have your business plan and the money in place that the hardest part is over. It is daunting to start with, but then the most enjoyable part of the work starts – trying to find new business and keep your clients both happy and with you.”
Rachel Jones of Great Circle set up her PR company with partner Mike Groves in 1998. Whilst she did not think that Edinburgh and Lothian Enterprise offered the best of services at that time – she received around £20 a fortnight for the first six weeks that the company was in business – Jones does believe that a company should take advantage of all that is offered. “I have to say that most of the information I was given when enquiring about setting up a business was just pure general knowledge. But probably the best course that I went on was one offered by the Inland Revenue Service, which offered advice on book-keeping.”
Once the business is up and running, there are a variety of networking organisations offering support, useful industry information and also contacts. The Edinburgh Publicity Club invites people from a variety of sectors to join and network. Committee member Camille Craig, who is also head of marketing at Radio Forth, maintains that the EPC offers a way to network on a more light-hearted level. “We offer a great deal of events on both a social level and on a more professional level too. We hold seminars, with expert speakers on a variety of topics coming along, but we also do have more light-hearted events, such as our pub quizzes. All members get invited to the events at a reduced rate, and receive our newsletter. They also get the chance to mix with people from a variety of industries and can network and get contacts from it.”
Sue Hesketh, MD of The Crimson Edge, believes that networking is a positive approach in business, stating that it has helped her build up the business, “I go to events that the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce arrange and I have to say that I normally come away with one client every time we go there. I don’t like to give away trade secrets, but I do find these type of events very, very helpful.”
Andrew Glidden recently relocated with his company Glidden Design from London to Edinburgh. He believes that the advice and support offered in Edinburgh is of extremely good use. “When we first moved up here I went to see Scottish Enterprise for advice. We explained what we were trying to do and found that the advice that they offered was fantastic. We also got in touch with Creative Edinburgh, who managed to keep us informed of what was going on and provided us with a network of support and a community who could offer assistance if we needed it. In London everyone really is out for what they can get for themselves and there is more of a communal feeling here in Edinburgh. The government is also keenly aware of the need to generate business here.”
Finding the lay of the land is the best way to get started when launching a business, and the easiest way to do this is by talking to established companies within the sector. The key to starting up, says Scott Thornton of Scot PR, is to get as much advice as you possibly can. “I am a firm believer that you should try and get as much as you can out of the system. You need to study the market and find out what the situation is like in terms of your competitors and potential clients and take it from there.” MD of new media company Revolver, Allen Bell, agrees that one of the most important aspects is getting as much advice as possible from as many different people as possible. “When I first started there weren’t many experts with Lothian Enterprise to advise me. I think that this will probably have changed in recent years, so my advice to anyone thinking of starting up in the industry is to take everything you possibly can from these organisations. Any area of advice or expertise that they can give you will be worth it in the long run.”
After starting up the company there inevitably comes the task of recruiting for staff. Whilst recruiting can be expensive, at this time of year many people are looking for new jobs and a change, says Nicki Denholm, MD of Denholm Associates. “At the moment there is a lot of talk about an economic recession, but I have to say that we are busy at the moment placing clients. The three main aspects that a company should be looking at when they are considering employing a new member of staff are that the potential candidate should have a knowledge of the sector, can offer a valuable service to the company and can get on well with people.”
The variety of agencies setting up in Edinburgh, along with the amount of help available, is why there is currently an influx of new business. “At the moment times are tough, and with the long winter nights drawing in people are sometimes looking to change their career path. That is why they get in touch with us,” says Gosden. “I wouldn’t say there is one particular part of the creative industry that is setting up in the area more than others at the moment. There is a mix of start-ups and I think that variety is what makes the region unique.”
See The Drum on 14 March for our focus
on Glasgow’s emerging creative companies.