News and blog

Cobweb publishes occasional opinion articles and papers which review, question and challenge different topics relating to business start up and micro-enterprise, business support policy and entrepreneurship best practice.

Practitioners, policymakers and business owners are welcome to comment and share their own views or experiences.

Sorry, nothing has been found using those filters. Please try again.

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Some facts about micro-business and enterprise support

November 27th, 2015 / 16 comments

The publication of the latest annual figures in the Business Population Survey has reminded us of an article we published in EnterQuest a few years ago which looked into the make-up and characteristics of the UK’s small and micro-business sector….

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The misunderstood and misrepresented needs of the self-employed

February 27th, 2015 / 4 comments

There has been a considerable amount of commentary, statistics and dialogue reported about the rise in self-employment levels across the UK over the last five years. At first glance, these top line figures seem impressive and have been heralded by ministers, think tanks and start-up groups as a healthy surge in enterprise and entrepreneurial activity which is fuelling the UK’s return to economic growth…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Goodbye to growth – hello to micro-investment in 2015

December 19th, 2014 / 12 comments

Whether you’re starting, running, or advising a small or micro-business in 2015, there’s only one thing of ultimate strategic importance to the firm you’re involved with. Keeping the business solvent. Being solvent and profitable should be the primary aim of every business. Otherwise there will be no business to start up, run or support…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The disappearing benefits of self employment

October 23rd, 2014 / 6 comments

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to review the levels of social security contributions and entitlements of both self-employed and employed workers. The SSAC is an independent statutory body that provides mandatory scrutiny of most of the proposed regulations that underpin the social welfare system…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

What support do micro-business owners need in 2014 and beyond?

January 10th, 2014 / 6 comments

Towards the end of 2013 and early in the New Year, there has been a considerable amount of official activity, reports and PR surrounding publicly-funded business support, access to finance for start ups and smaller firms, and an imminent new platform for small firms to access advice from business experts…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Goodbye to business mentors, hello to Baldrick the business adviser

December 13th, 2013 / 5 comments

At the end of another underwhelming year in terms of relevance of Government-backed initiatives for small firms, the extent of the business support vacuum has been highlighted perfectly, with the publication this week of a Department for Business (BIS) report – Small business: GREAT Ambition…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

What micro-business owners don't need

September 20th, 2013 / 14 comments

It’s almost two years since the Coalition Government withdrew all central funding for face-to-face support for business start ups and the small/micro-business sector. Since then, the Coalition and the Department for Business (BIS) have made various attempts to put something else in place and have either backed or provided token levels of funding for several initiatives to compensate for the micro-business support vacuum…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The Monty Python guide to 'Great Business' support

July 25th, 2013 / 10 comments

The business support landscape has changed dramatically in the last two years, with a shift away from subsidised local provision of face-to-face support and training for start ups and micro-business owners, to a mixture of celebrity-led initiatives alongside the Department for Business’ (BIS’) attempts at providing ‘support’ on an online basis…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

How to be a successful small business failure

April 4th, 2013 / 10 comments

The role that the small and micro-business sector plays and contributes to the health of the economy in the UK should never be understated. In 2012, over 4.5 million small/micro-business proprietors accounted for 47% of private sector employment and 35% of total private sector turnover…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Why Mentoring and the Department for Business are failing

March 28th, 2013 / 4 comments

Contrary to continual claims by BIS that the biggest headaches and priorities faced by small business owners are red tape and access to finance, BIS’ own survey results provide a strong indication that problems with sourcing funding has not been an issue for 90% of business owners, and 98% had not sought information or advice relating to regulations.

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Treasury and BIS accept most of Heseltine’s recommendations

March 25th, 2013 / 1 comment

The Government has accepted the majority of recommendations that Lord Heseltine set out in his ‘No Stone Unturned’ review of business support in England, which was published in October 2012 placing particular emphasis on enhanced responsibilities for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Mentoring supply to be increased, despite negligible demand

January 31st, 2013 / 6 comments

The Department for Business (BIS) has announced that it intends to continue its policy of supplying and encouraging use of mentors as a key component of its business support strategy, despite evidence showing a lack of demand…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

A milestone, a cow's backside and the business support banjo

January 10th, 2013 / 5 comments

This week, EnterQuest reached a significant milestone with this being the 500th issue of the bulletin since it was launched back in 2003. One consistent subject upon which we have steadfastly held our ground is that, despite what is widely claimed elsewhere, starting up and running a business is far from easy – in fact, it can be eminently difficult and merciless – something that most people are not cut out for…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

2013 – the year of the back-street business

December 19th, 2012 / 5 comments

Every year the final couple of weeks before Christmas brings the usual round of forecasts and predictions offering a mixture of interesting professional foresight from those who seem to know what they’re talking about, along with the typical self-promotions from the self-obsessed. Here are EnterQuest’s devilishly accurate predictions for what COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN next year…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

2012 – the year of imaginary small business support

December 14th, 2012 / 14 comments

At this time of year its customary to reflect on what has happened over the preceding 12 months (in a business sense) and ponder what lies in store over the next year. Across the UK in 2012 there has been no core support or major push to build capacity and quality in the development and promotion of viable start ups and micro-enterprise…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

LEPs losing business support, Heseltine champions their cause

November 5th, 2012 / 1 comment

The Work Foundation has reported that business leaders are preparing to vote with their feet and move away from supporting Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which they see as ineffective. The report has been followed this week by the publication of a comprehensive economic review by Lord Heseltine…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The past, present and future of business support

November 1st, 2012 / 7 comments

A significant event occurred at the end of last month when the Business Link website was finally switched off and […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The business start up crimewave

October 11th, 2012 / No comments

One particularly damaging effect of the economic downturn and cutbacks to funding of frontline business support has been a surge of people starting up on the side, without registering with HMRC or Companies House, rogue trading without statutory licences and permits, and plain illegal trading…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Businesses barely accessing online Government support

September 17th, 2012 / 10 comments

Online Government support services such as and are still only being used by a tiny minority of small […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Start up ignorance and the enterprise graveyard

August 30th, 2012 / 12 comments

At the beginning of this year we published a couple of articles highlighting the dangers and ignorance related to the Department for Business’ (BIS) policy of blanket encouragement of unchecked business start ups without appropriate business support…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Is there an Insolvent Business In You?

August 16th, 2012 / 16 comments

EnterQuest is considering an approach to the Department for Business (BIS) with a proposal to launch a new business start up initiative…but with a twist. We are proposing to BIS that they should launch a new campaign entitled There’s an Insolvency In Everyone – What’s the Insolvency In You?…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The wheels on the enterprise bus

May 31st, 2012 / 4 comments

The last week has seen the latest announcements relating to the publicly funded business support that is now available across the country. The first was the announcement of the Growth Accelerator initiative which claims it will support 26,000 firms with high-growth potential. This was quickly followed by the launch of the Start Up Loans scheme for young people and Lord Young’s ‘Make Business Your Business’ report on enterprise…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Why governments 'don't get' entrepreneurship

May 17th, 2012 / 3 comments

The results of a fascinating study published by the Kauffman Foundation look into the reasons why government intervention programmes to support entrepreneurship either consistently fail or don’t work…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Young persons' start up loans – sublime or sub-prime business lending?

May 4th, 2012 / 1 comment

Going into debt when starting up, in the majority of cases, increases the likelihood of early failure. In young people these figures will almost certainly be higher, due to their lack of experience and more crucially lack of financial acumen. Providing a loan to a business that otherwise would not get off the ground is, in essence, funding a business model that starts out requiring a sticking plaster or crutch…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Return of the ‘one-stop shop’ for business support recommended

March 19th, 2012 / 9 comments

The Government must clear up the “alphabet soup” of business support schemes and set up a single business support agency, according to a new report commissioned by the Department for Business (BIS)…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

FSB calls for US-style small business administration

March 5th, 2012 / 1 comment

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on the Chancellor to set up a new department modelled on America’s Small Business Administration (SBA), which would represent the interests of small businesses across all Government departments…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Report questions the use of mentors in business support

February 21st, 2012 / 17 comments

A Government-commissioned report has concluded that volunteer mentoring from successful entrepreneurs is ‘not to be relied on’ as a core source of advice…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Professionals question the thinking behind 'Business In You'

February 6th, 2012 / 4 comments

The Government’s latest web-based initiative to support and encourage start ups was launched by David Cameron last week. The Business In You website has been set up by the Department for Business (BIS) to highlight support for start-ups and growing businesses and encourage entrepreneurial spirit in 2012…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The enterprise graveyard – Part 2

January 12th, 2012 / 8 comments

Our lead article last week presented a rather controversial argument which raised questions about 2012 being held up by Government and others as the ‘year for enterprise’, and whether it makes sense to encourage more start ups, especially now there is so little genuine local business support available…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

2012 and the enterprise graveyard

January 5th, 2012 / 13 comments

Is it right to encourage the start up of more hairdressers, shops and freelancers to add to the struggling hairdressers, shops and freelancers who are already scraping the barrel in terms of finding demand from customers with spare disposable income for their already widely available products and services – especially following the near wipeout of practical, face-to-face support?…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Minister rejects call for new 'micro business' category

November 28th, 2011 / 4 comments

A cross-party group of MPs has called on the Government to create a new official category for firms with up to five employees, arguing that current definitions leave many of the UK’s smallest firms burdened with policies designed for larger organisations…

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Prime providers starving Work Programme subcontractors of referrals

November 7th, 2011 / 2 comments

The Government’s flagship Work Programme has come under fire from a number of the organisations responsible for its delivery. Under […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The current state of business support: has BIS got it right or wrong?

October 3rd, 2011 / 5 comments

New research has been released by the Department for Business (BIS) into the way that businesses use formal external support. The […]

RIP face-to-face business advice

July 7th, 2011 / 17 comments

Last week business minister Mark Prisk finally clarified the Department for Business (BIS) stance on Government-backed business support and where […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Government launches business mentor network

July 4th, 2011 / 19 comments

The Government has launched its new network of volunteer business mentors, Speaking ahead of the launch last week, business […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Stop calling us entrepreneurs and 'SMEs'

April 14th, 2011 / 2 comments

The UK’s large and diverse community of micro, small and mid-sized businesses have in recent times been increasingly regarded as […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

StartUp Britain – version 2?

March 31st, 2011 / 12 comments

Back in 2002 a new initiative designed to boost business start ups and support smaller businesses in the UK was […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Department for Business report on entrepreneurship in the media misses the point

March 21st, 2011 / No comments

The Department for Business (BIS) has announced in a report that rising coverage of successful entrepreneurs in the media is […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

BIS research shows businesses prefer face-to-face support, but it’s going online instead

February 28th, 2011 / 3 comments

Research into what businesses in England would like from a revamped Business Link service has indicated that face-to-face advice for […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Business Link: friend or foe to local enterprise agencies?

February 21st, 2011 / 5 comments

This week minister for small business Mark Prisk invited readers of to a live question and answer session regarding […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

New Enterprise Allowance and business support changes announced

January 10th, 2011 / 17 comments

The Government has announced details of the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA), which it claims will create up to 40,000 new […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

The enterprise frenzy and the Spending Review

October 21st, 2010 / 3 comments

There are one or two interesting debating points arising from the Government’s public Spending Review – to do with the […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Local Enterprise Partnerships or Local Enterprise Politics?

August 2nd, 2010 / 5 comments

At the end of June, Ministers Vince Cable and Eric Pickles wrote to local authorities and business leaders, asking them […]

‘Must haves’ for small business support

July 1st, 2010 / 7 comments

In the last few days Business and Enterprise Minister, Mark Prisk, has been reported as saying that the regional Business […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Mixed reactions to Tories' plan to scrap Business Link

February 23rd, 2010 / 5 comments

Shadow Minister for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk’s announcement that the Conservatives will scrap Business Link if they win the […]

Cobweb Default Thumbnail

Business support policy should not be driven by central Government, say advisers

February 2nd, 2010 / 3 comments

In December 2009 Cobweb carried out its latest survey of UK business advisers to find out their opinions on whether […]