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“This time next year, we’ll be millionaires!”

Tue, 05 November 2013

Contributed by Mazuma founder and Shell LiveWIRE regional winner, Lucy Cohen
The word “entrepreneur” has significantly different connotations today than it did back in the days of Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses. No longer is it a dirty word associated with TV crooks, but a genuine career aspiration for many. And so it should be! Popular TV shows like Dragons Den have helped to get the entrepreneurial flame re-kindled in the UK mainstream – but how are us Brits faring compared to other parts of the world?
I know how tough it is to start a business in the UK having launched Mazuma in 2006. And I know how tough it is to start a business in the USA, having launched Mazuma USA in April 2011. So I’ve asked the guys from Mazuma USA to tell us a little bit about their experiences and see if they tally with what we’re experiencing in the UK.
It’s not the most scientific test in the world, but it is comparing the experiences of the same business in two different continents. Comparing apples with apples and all that! From what I can tell, here in the UK we face very much the same challenges as our cousins in the USA, and probably across much of the entrepreneurial world. Ben Sutton from Mazuma USA says: “Certainly this is a… how shall I put it… “thrilling” time to be starting and running your own business in the United States. With the notable political upheavals and dark cloud of regulatory uncertainty looming, it’s an era where the faint of heart won’t make it. However, no matter the difficulties placed in our path, we American entrepreneurs will never settle for punching a time clock!”
This is not a dissimilar story to the UK – despite the government’s efforts to help small businesses, there is still a myriad of red tape to deal with when starting or expanding a business. From new pension regulations to employers NI, health and safety and employment law I sometimes wonder why any of us bother with expanding our businesses! But yet we do... and with great gusto! As the co-founder of Mazuma, an accountancy firm specialising in small and start-up businesses, I can safely say that the enthusiasm for entrepreneurship we see from our own clients is vast. People quite simply aren’t scared to go it alone and things like redundancy have provided an opportunity for many to pursue that business that they’ve always dreamed of. I think that the challenge to make those sales and grow the business is a universal one.
And I think that getting the sales process right is key to making the business succeed in the UK. Us Brits aren’t generally a fan of being “sold” to – I for one hate marketing calls or pushy sales people. Is it different in the USA? The stereotype suggests a culture that is much more comfortable with “salesy” patter. Aren’t they all out there closing deals and hitting targets left, right and centre?! Not so, says Greg Nielson from Mazuma USA! “Having patience in making sales is so important.
Getting exposure to your target market in the US is extremely difficult if you don’t have hundreds of thousands to spend on marketing. For that reason, most entrepreneurs find that success in business is a much longer, strenuous road than they ever imagined. But, it’s important to remember that most successful businesses don’t happen in one, three, or even five years. Yes, it takes maturity and perseverance to outlast the many flashes and flops that cycle through US markets every day."

So again, they’re facing the same issues that we are. I do find that comforting on some level! Where I think that the UK excels over its counterparts though is our attention that we pay to entrepreneurs. Like I said at the beginning, entrepreneur is no longer a dirty word... The Apprentice, Dragons Den and the like have certainly brought the idea of being an entrepreneur to the forefront of popular culture. Whether you think that these programmes represent an accurate of portrayal of entrepreneurship in the UK is a topic for a different day; but you can’t deny that they have put the idea out there for the masses. When we started Mazuma back in 2006 we were overwhelmed by the amount of support out there in the UK for start-up companies, and we certainly enjoyed our fair share of media attention without having to spend a fortune.
Why? Because the UK is interested in its young entrepreneurs which I think gives us a very unique advantage. This seems to be a bit different from the USA as Ben Sutton says: “The media doesn’t pay attention to 99.9% of US entrepreneurs, but that certainly doesn’t mean that every successful small business has to be a Facebook-like hit. There is a vast range of success between the fledgling business that finally broke even and Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 billion IPO. Both are success stories in my book.” So despite the political changes, the economic challenges, the red tape and British weather – I actually think we’re faring pretty well compared to the rest of the world.
It may only come from personal experience, but to my mind there is an underlying buzz to British entrepreneurship that definitely sets us apart from other countries. I love being an entrepreneur in the UK and can’t see that changing for a long time!

About Lucy Cohen (founder of Mazuma)

Lucy set up Mazuma in 2006 with her best friend and business partner Sophie Hughes. Mazuma was set up to do away with the boring accountancy stereotype and to make accountancy services cheap and accessible to the businesses that really needed them most.  Mazuma is now one of the UK’s largest providers of accountancy services to small and start-up businesses, and their UK success saw them launch in the USA in April 2011. They have won many awards over the years including the Shell LiveWIRE Wales Region award in 2007 and the HSBC Start–up Stars award in 2010. 

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