London at the moment is literally bursting with business opportunities - it's such a great place for small businesses to start up and thrive right now. And don't just take my word for it - according to recent ONS statistics London has the highest concentration of small businesses in the country with one in six new businesses choosing to make the capital their home, and the numbers are growing every year. Small businesses are growing faster than medium and larger enterprises and now make up a staggering 98 percent of companies registered in London!
As more and more young entrepreneurs choose to go it alone in business, it's vitally important that we support them, whether they're established businesses or just starting out. That's why I jumped at the chance to be Head Judge for the inaugural Dot London Small Business Awards. It's a scheme that was launched to encourage and support entrepreneurs who have set up their own businesses, something I feel really passionate about.
In my experience, the main reason many people choose to set up a small business is because it gives them independence and freedom. This was certainly the biggest factor in my decision to set up on my own; as a mum of four young children it was vital for me to have the flexibility that you can only get through running your own company. Small business owners also reap the rewards of success for themselves, and this is definitely a powerful incentive. There's no doubt that setting up alone is hard work and can be a bit daunting, but get it right and you'll never look back.
So, what do budding entrepreneurs need when setting out on the road of running their own company?
There are a few vital things to consider before launching your start up:
Research, research, research! It's SO important to know your market, your customer, your growth opportunities, your potential pitfalls and your competition inside out. DON'T commit to any business idea until you know it back to front and can talk about it in your sleep!
Think carefully about your start-up costs. They may be very low if you're setting up a consultancy business from home, but if you're setting up a restaurant or retail outlet there will be substantial initial costs involved right from the start, so be prepared for that.
Draw up a detailed budget. It's crucial that you have a clear idea of costs BEFORE you start. If you need to, ask for help from an expert. Never be afraid to ask for help or advice - there's plenty of people in business who've been there, done that and will be only too happy to share their expertise.
Be disciplined with your time. Set yourself goals and deadlines and stick to them. Put EVERYTHING in the diary, even time for socialising/relaxation, otherwise it will never happen and the temptation to work until 3am every night will overtake you.
Nurture good relationships. If you already know influential people in your chosen field, make sure you build on these contacts. If you don't, make it your mission to network and build new relationships. Knowing the right people is absolutely key to helping your business thrive.
Make sure you know WHY you're setting out on this journey. It's so important to understand what your drivers are - it's during the tough times that this will really matter. It's these drivers that will keep you focused and driven when it seems like the universe is conspiring against you.
Finally, and most importantly, LOVE what you do. Setting up your own business involves a lot of hard work, sweat, blood and tears. It isn't easy and in order to have the dedication and passion to see it through, you have to really love what you're doing.
The winners of the inaugural Dot London Awards were announced on Thursday 21st January - full list of winners is at awards.london
Follow Sarah Willingham on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sarahwillers