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Starting your small business

Updated Friday, 1st March 2019

This course is suitable for anyone who has set up a business recently or who is thinking about setting up a small new business, or becoming self-employed.

Starting your small business is an introductory course for anyone who has recently set up a business or anyone who is thinking of setting up a small business or becoming self-employed. The course covers topics including structures, customers and responsibilities and looks at the common features shared by successful small businesses, as well as the common pitfalls to avoid. 



Introductory podcast for ‘Starting your small business’ 

Hi and welcome to the ‘starting your small business’ course. I am Rob Moore, the author of this course. For the past 14 years, I have been a lecturer with the Open University Business School and I run two small limited companies which I set up. In this introduction I want to cover three main things: First, the broad content of each of the sections and explain my thoughts for including the different things I did. Second, I want to tell you what I hope you will get out of studying the course. And finally, I want to give an overview of how the course works and fits together. So starting with the broad content. The course is split into four sections:

Section 1: Small business structures •

Section 2: Small business and marketing •

Section 3: Small business responsibilities •

Section 4: Succeeding in a small business If you complete the short assessment at the end of each section you will be able to collect a section badge. These virtual badges provide a form of recognition for your learning and you can display them on your social media profiles, for example, on LinkedIn or Facebook. The course is flexible and there’s no time limit for completion. This means you can study at your own pace and when it suits you best to do so. We recommend you try to engage with all of the sections, as this will enable you to receive a Statement of Participation that recognises the learning outcomes you have met. There is a natural flow between the sections but they can be studied in any order. In the first section, Small Business Structures, we will look at what a small business is and how it is formed. We will look at the different legal structures (for example, Sole trader or Limited Company) and how to determine which of those structures is most suitable. We mention the process for thinking up or coming up with a new business idea and we point to some great resources to help in doing this. In the second section, small businesses and marketing, we look at the relationship between the small business owner and their reason for existing, the customers. We look at how you reach customers, how you keep them and we look at different ways a small business can market itself. In the third section, small business responsibilities, we look at the legal and financial responsibilities of the small business owner. We touch on the subject of VAT (Value Added Tax) in a very basic way. We also discuss how money moves from the small business to the owner. In the final section, succeeding in a small business, we look at some of the common reasons why small businesses fail and some of the pitfalls to avoid. We then look at some of things that can be done to improve the chances of success, calling on advice from top business people. So, what do I hope you will get from studying this course?

In a nut shell I want you to have an appreciation of what is required to set up your own business and enough information to take the next steps. I have tried to include the sort of things I wish someone had told me when I started my businesses. If you complete all four sections, you should have a set of notes that form the starting point for taking an idea forward, and enough information to plan where to go next. The last point is about how the course works. We use five case studies to illustrate how the topic fits into the real world. Then in each section we ask you to apply the ideas to an idea of your own. This could be a business idea you have thought of, an idea you are already working on or an idea based on someone you know. You then summarise what that topic means for your business idea, these are the notes you will be able to take away and use later. The case studies form the basis of the practice activities. Each case study represents a different type of small business. The numbers in the case studies are all fictitious, but each case study business is based on a real business run by friends and people I know. So thank you for listening and now it is time to start studying, I hope you enjoy the course and if you are inspired to set up your own small business please let us know how you get on.


If you are interested in studying this course, visit the course website here.

This course is one of six free online courses that are produced in collaboration with the Social Partnerships Network. On completion of the course, you will receive a number of digital badges that you can display on your social media profiles. To check out other free courses in this collection, please visit the Social Partnerships Network badged open courses portal




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