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.

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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?…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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)…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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?…

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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 […]

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Government launches business mentor network

July 4th, 2011 / 19 comments

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

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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 […]

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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 […]