Business start-up guide

19 July 2023

9 min read

Please be aware that this is a guide only and you should seek specific advice for your business*

Getting started is the fun part. But it also brings its challenges. Our guide should help you consider all aspects of setting up a business.

Differentiate yourself and your business

Can you offer something others can't to make your business stand out?

Avoid trying to undercut competitors and focus on establishing a loyal customer base with quality goods and services and to encourage your customers to keep coming back.

Write a business plan

It doesn't need to be the fanciest document, but be clear about what you want to achieve and what you will need to do as a business owner for it to be a success.

  • What will you sell?
  • Who is your product/service aimed at?
  • How will it be beneficial to your customers?
  • What will your charging structure be like?
  • What do you need to earn to make your business a success?
  • How will you market your business? e.g. social media, flyers, adverts etc.
  • How will you encourage word of mouth referrals?
  • What materials will you need to start?
  • How much will it cost to start-up your business and where will this funding come from?

You can view lending options that may be available to your business at The British Business Bank

Research the market and choose a name

Look at your potential customer base – is there a demand for your product or service? Try to do some customer research to understand their needs. You could do this via social media or by simply talking to people.

When choosing a name you could initially consider the following points:

  • Make it unique - be creative and make sure it is not too similar to other similar businesses in your area so your customers don’t get confused
  • Make it relevant - it should reflect what your business actually does or how it should make your customers feel or react
  • Make it short and easy to spell - if people are searching for your business you want them to find it easily and not have difficulty with the spelling

Using the right company structure

Sole trader, limited company, society or partnership?

How you set your business up will depend on the business type you choose. Take a look at our guide to help you decide.

Visit our guide to different business structures

Which you choose will depend on where you work, whether you have people helping you (such as shareholders) and your purpose. It is recommended that you seek professional advice on which company structure is most suitable for you and your business.

You can find out more on the government website about setting up as a sole trader, partnership or limited company and the various benefits and drawbacks of each. The Co-operative Bank PLC does not provide accounting, legal or business advisory services and we'd recommend you seek independent professional advice on which set up is most appropriate for your business.

Visit the Government's Business Set-up page


Co-operatives can operate under most legal structures (apart from sole trader). A co-op is a business or organisation that's owned and controlled by its members, to meet their shared needs. The members can be its customers, employees, residents or suppliers, who have a say in how the co-op is run. Members choose what to do with profits, whether distributing among members, reinvesting in the business or giving back to the community. Every co-op across the world shares the same co-operative principles and values. If you are looking to start a co-operative, you can find out about the different legal structures co-operatives can take at

Get help with your accounting

It is always smart to speak to an accountant early. Accountants are experts who can provide advice and support in the early stages of a business being established. They can help you to decide what the legal structure of your business should be, assist with creating your annual accounts and meet your tax obligations. Accountants can also advise on what you need to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and whether you need to be VAT Registered.

Open a business account

Open a business bank account to assist in running your business. At The Co-operative Bank we have a range of business bank accounts which offer some great benefits.

  • The Business Current account offers no monthly service charge with no limitations and free digital banking (charges apply for cheque and cash transactions)

  • The Business Directplus account offers free everyday banking for 30 months for new Co-operative Bank customers (subject to monthly limits)

  • The Cash Tariff account offers one of the lowest cash depositing fees on the market
  • The FSB Business Banking account offers free everyday banking for members of the Federation of Small Businesses (subject to monthly limits)
  • The Community Directplus account offers free everyday banking and the ability for our customers to apply to our Customer Donation Fund
  • The Standard Tariff has no transaction limits and charges remain consistent regardless of balance

You can access all of our business bank accounts online and via telephone banking.

View our range of business bank accounts


Marketing is key, most especially for a new business, as it can help you to reach your target customers. Social media is a really useful and cost effective way to reach your target customers, make sure you research which channels will work best for you.

The Federation of Small Business has lots of really good articles on this subject which provide further advice and support

View FSB article on Social Media and your business

Who might you need to tell about your new business?

Companies House - You will need to register your business with companies house if you are planning to start-up as a Limited Company. If you instruct an Accountant, they can assist with business registration.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) – You may need to discuss the requirements to pay tariffs if you are planning to import/export goods.

If you are setting up as a sole trader, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are compliant with UK tax requirements. Please visit to find out more. If you have any further questions, you should seek the advice of a suitably qualified adviser.

Depending on your business sector, you may need to register with certain regulators, for example, if you are opening a food business you will need to register with The Food Standards Agency.

Business Insurance

You might be surprised what types of insurance could benefit you and your business.

Personal injury, public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance are some of the more common types. If you hire staff, you may need employer's liability insurance.

To help you get the insurance your business needs, we've chosen AXA Insurance as our preferred business insurance provider. Providing cover you can tailor to suit your unique business needs.

Learn more about Business Insurance

The Co-operative Bank acts as an introducer only to AXA Insurance, and will not provide any advice in relation to insurance products. The Co-operative Bank will receive commission on business insurance policies purchased through this introductory service.


We've teamed up with our preferred 3rd party provider Assurant to provide a market leading Business Concierge Package which has been designed, delivered and is serviced with your needs at heart.

For a monthly fee of £8, the Business Concierge Package offers support for businesses with legal and HR matters and technical issues for connected devices from phones and tablets to PCs and laptops in the office or at home. By providing access to this wide range of help and support from commercial law, HR and IT; they aim to relieve the everyday pressures of starting or running a small business.

Learn more about the Business Concierge

The Co-operative Bank acts as an introducer only to Assurant, and will not provide any advice in relation to administration products. The Co-operative Bank will receive commission on business administration packages purchased through this introductory service.

Be prepared to survive without income

It can take time to grow a business into a success. As you grow your brand and create a customer base, make sure you have enough money set aside to pay for bills and essentials.


Your local Chamber of Commerce will be able to advise and point you in the right direction to get engaged with other business owners in your area. Building a network with business owners at a similar stage of creation to you can be useful, as you can share knowledge and ideas on best practice.

Your local Chamber will also offer events, advice, membership benefits and support services to help you grow your business. And if you are importing or exporting goods or services, or if you would like to start, every Chamber also offers International Trade advice.

Visit the British Chambers of Commerce website

Balance your time

Before starting out make sure you discuss your plans with your family to ensure they are on-board with the demands of starting a business. Make sure you put in place clear boundaries to separate your home life from work to make sure you balance your time effectively. It can be as simple as turning off your mobile during family time so you have good quality time away.

Recommended Sources of Information

The British Chamber of Commerce

The Federation of Small Businesses


The Food Standards Agency

Companies House

Information Commissioner's Office

The British Business Bank

*While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by The Co-operative Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. This is merely a guide and each business is unique in its requirements. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.