Start-Ups are booming in Sheffield - here’s some free advice on how to be one of them

Despite the political uncertainty and delays over Brexit, the number of entrepreneurs setting up in the region soared.

By David Walsh
Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 6:00 am

Data from the Centre for Entrepreneurs shows 196 new tech start-up firms were created in Sheffield last year alone. That’s up six per cent on 2018 and puts the city in the top 20 areas for the sector in the UK.

Meanwhile, last year was the biggest on record for all start-ups in the UK. According to data from Companies House, 678,288 firms were registered in 2019, an all-time record.

Don’t miss our bumper ‘Survey’ supplement - with eight-page Start-Ups Special - in The Star on Wednesday January 22.

Toby Harper, CEO of Harper James Solicitors.

Toby Harper, who set up Sheffield law firm Harper James with a business start-up loan, said the figures show the region is a great place for any would-be entrepreneur.

His company provides legal services to more than 1,000 businesses and specialises in helping start-ups.

He said: “These figures are fantastic news for the region and prove it is a brilliant area to do business. They underline how, despite the political uncertainty businesses faced in 2019, entrepreneurs are still coming up with new ideas and being as ambitious as ever.

“As an entrepreneur myself I know the barriers that exist in getting your idea off the ground so it is hugely encouraging to see so many new businesses, especially in the tech-sector, entering the market.”

Mr Harper has issued this advice for start-ups, starting with what you do NOT need a solicitor to help you with.

Having an idea! Many entrepreneurs get their light bulb moment when they least expect it. Others have to work on it. Talking to friends, family, work colleagues, attending local chamber of commerce events and visiting websites like are a great way to help come up with and develop an idea. Making a business plan. There are numerous free templates and guides available online for writing your business plan. Some of the best are at and Market research. An absolute must when setting up a company. You can do your own primary research in the form of surveys, polls, questionnaires and focus groups. These are reasonably simple, once you have decided which questions you want answered. You can also commission any number of market research companies to do this for you on a bespoke basis. Some of the bigger market research companies include Mintel and Euromonitor. Choosing a name for your business. You don’t really need a solicitor to advise on choosing your business name. You can check existing names of trade marks via the Intellectual Property Office and check the Companies House Register for details of business names already registered.

Will I need a solicitor to help choose the right business structure and register?

Yes and no…Whether or not you will need legal advice on choosing the best legal structure for your business clearly depends very much on the size, complexity and goals of the business you’re setting up.

Of course, a solicitor can advise you on which legal structure will best meet your needs, but so can a business adviser or financial adviser. For more information on this visit our website at

What you DO need a solicitor for.

Helping you with agreements about business premises. No matter what kind of business structure you’ve chosen, it’s advisable to get legal advice from a commercial property solicitor if:

Your business is buying or selling commercial property Your business is going to be a landlord or tenant of commercial premises Your business is taking over an existing commercial lease Helping you with licences to trade. There are as many licences to trade as there are different business ideas. There are, however, many licences which you can apply for yourself, including those for street trading, selling alcohol, and operating food premises. You can find a complete list and usually apply online. However, there are some kinds of licences that are very specialist, and which will require advice from a licensing lawyer. The types of licence you may need legal help with include: air carriers and civil aviation; controlled medical drugs; consumer credit; due diligence on licensing; gambling and betting licences; licensing any intellectual property and overseas trading, such as importing and exporting.

Mr Harper’s top tips for new founders in 2020:

Firstly, be super organised-have a clear plan of what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it, bearing in mind the things that you have control of and those that you don’t. This could take the form of a detailed business plan or it could simply be a short list of priorities for your first quarter. It most certainly should include some form of financial forecasting, for you personally and the business. Think about worst-case scenarios and plan for them, ensuring you can weather early set backs...because there will be some. Continually measure performance against the plan and be prepared to make changes, but not too soon.

Secondly, put in place solid foundations to protect you and the business. This can mean needing to fork out for professional support in the early days, but likewise it could simply mean making well considered decisions and doing some of your own legal and accounting work.

Finally and most importantly, enjoy it! In my experience there is nothing else like it - there will be lots of highs and lows. Revel in the highs and celebrate them because they will get you through the lows.