London Small Business Centre – a longstanding COBRA subscriber

London Small Business Centre is one of the capital’s leading enterprise agencies, working with start ups and small firms across all 33 London boroughs. The centre has been operating for 37 years and is a longstanding COBRA subscriber. Since its formation in 1978, its advisers have helped over 33,000 firms to start up and build their business.

The centre provides start ups and business owners with a mix of support, including face-to-face advice, training and access to finance. It is a delivery partner of The Start Up Loans Company and manages several other small business loan funds.

Advisers at London Small Business Centre see clients at all stages from pre-start to growing an existing business. After submitting their business plan, or an outline of their business idea, clients are invited in for an initial advice session.

“It’s about working with people to make sure their business is going to be viable,” explains Martin Allpress, a business adviser who has worked at the centre for nine years.

To help them research their market effectively, Martin refers his clients to sector research information on COBRA, as well as to other specialist reference resources available at the British Library. Martin encourages his clients to reference relevant statistical information from COBRA and other sources in their business plans, especially when applying for finance.

“Then we’ve got a document which we can put to our loan funds panel who can then say ‘Ah, this person’s research is on point’… because often they just guess and that’s no good at all.” After the first meeting, Martin e-mails his clients relevant reading material from COBRA as part of his follow up.

“This saves us an immense amount of time,” he says. “It also gives the client the opportunity to have something written down… For example, if someone wants to set up a food business, they’ve got to have a hygiene licence, they’ve got to have their premises inspected, they’ve got to understand how to deal with customers and register their business with the local council. So, I can tell them those things, but they will forget… The great thing is, I can give them a COBRA information sheet that reaffirms what I’ve told them.”

Advisers at the centre can be faced with a diverse range of business ideas. With its unique focus on sector- and business-specific information, COBRA also proves useful when preparing for advice sessions.

“I had a client who wanted to work providing a taxi service for animals and I’m certain there was information I wasn’t sure of, so I provided them with some info from COBRA. I used it for that client and I also read it myself, so I could be better informed… so I do use COBRA for my own benefit as well,” says Martin.

Information on COBRA is constantly updated so that business advisers and their clients can keep abreast of the latest issues. “The updating of the legal processes is very good as well. I think that is important,” says Martin.

“I’d say that COBRA is an excellent tool,” he says. “We use it a lot and we appreciate it.”

Client Quote

What our clients say:

You can't get a lot of information across in an hour, so we'll use COBRA.

- Martin Allpress, London Small Business Centre