Deciding to start a business is a big deal…. you need to put yourself and your business idea out there, test the market and then say to the world “this is what I have to offer” and ask customers to literally buy it!
No matter how big or small the business idea, a strong understanding of the market and confidence in your business idea is needed to take that leap of faith and become an entrepreneur.
But are entrepreneurs born, or it is something which can be learned, developed, and nurtured? Some argue that entrepreneurs, and for that matter, leaders, are ‘made not born’. While this is a hotly debated topic, Invest Northern Ireland strongly believes that entrepreneurial skills can be developed, both in the world of work and through education, training and support, and that the earlier and more often these skills are practised, the sharper they become.
Alan McKeown, Invest NI’s Chief Transformation Officer says, “It’s widely accepted that the success of any economy is closely tied to the vibrancy of its entrepreneurs, but that all-important entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it requires the support of a connected community, also known as an ecosystem.
“Fortunately, Northern Ireland has a strong track record of entrepreneurship and a reputation for innovation; we appreciate the value of applying new ideas and innovative ways of thinking to solve problems or improve existing products and processes. Locally we have reaped the benefits of entrepreneurship going back as far as the shipbuilding and linen industries of the early 1900s to present-day industries such as life and health sciences, fintech and advanced manufacturing– and we must continue to nurture this entrepreneurial culture to ensure a prosperous future for all in Northern Ireland.”
History has shown us the value of start-up businesses and entrepreneurship, and now as we look to the future, supporting and growing entrepreneurship is a key driver in achieving innovation, job creation and economic growth.
Invest NI aims to further build the supportive and connected community required to support our homegrown talent.
Alan says, “We’re working with stakeholders across Northern Ireland to further develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem to help local people get the support they need to successfully plan, start, and run new businesses.
“We recognise that most people starting a new business are spinning several different plates, whether it is holding down a full-time job while putting the foundations in place, or being CEO, Marketing, Finance and HR manager all at the same time. We recommend our My New Business microsite as the first port of call for anyone with an inkling of a new business idea.”
My New Business is part of NIBusinessinfo.co.uk (Invest NI’s free business resource website) which gives start-ups the information they need in an easy-to-absorb format that they can access when and where suits them. Users can access a plethora of guides, factsheets and tools which explain the steps of starting a business, including advice on naming your business, business planning and branding, raising finance and managing cash flow, marketing and branding and HR processes.
Some of the most popular guides on My New Business provide advice on trademarking, intellectual property (IP) and patents, while many entrepreneurs use the resource to learn more about financing their start-ups, and the site is constantly being updated to reflect the changing business landscape.
The website also signposts to useful services such as the ‘Go For It’ Programme which is delivered by all eleven local councils and Invest NI’s Business Information Centre which provides both emerging and existing businesses with access to market and industry research free of charge. This resource has proved vital for many entrepreneurs in the process of developing their business ideas and strategies.
Over recent months, budding local entrepreneurs have benefited from Invest NI’s growing involvement with national and international initiatives – in September 2021, working with Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI) and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland (HSC NI), Invest NI provided support to enable 7 local NHS employees to take part in NHS England’s Clinical Entrepreneurship Programme for the first time.
Furthermore, a cohort of Northern Ireland stakeholders is currently participating in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP) which is aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the NI entrepreneurship ecosystem encouraging the foundation and growth of more innovation-driven enterprises (IDEs).
Participation in the programme will lead to the development of a “Regional Acceleration Plan” focused on further developing the support ecosystem for IDEs that have the potential to grow at pace and contribute significantly to the Northern Ireland economy.
“It’s worth highlighting the importance of new IDEs as key contributors to regional economic growth and high value employment. These businesses usually take a little longer to get going, often requiring equity or debt funding in the early months and years, before they are generating revenues – but when they do, given that they are innovation-driven and differentiated from the competition, they have the potential for high and rapid growth and will help Northern Ireland realise the ambitions in our 10x Strategy.” says Alan.
Anyone thinking of starting a business should visit My New Business; this resource is a central, curated hub of entrepreneurial advice and support which provides free access to practical business guides, checklists, factsheets, and videos. Ultimately starting a business is not easy but entrepreneurs with access to the support and connected network provided by the My New Business microsite, entrepreneurs will create thriving businesses, forging exceptionally rewarding careers, benefitting themselves, their employees, their families, and wider communities.