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The Pitch: Quest to educate entrepreneurs continues

23rd Sep 2014
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At the second Pitch bootcamp in Manchester this month, Rachael Power spoke to two former accountants about their new start-up business ventures, and the ICAEW's Clive Lewis about his views on entrepreneurs and finance. 

Following on from the London bootcamp blog, I stuck with the theme of entrepreneurs and finance. I wanted to find out more about their level of knowledge and what the ICAEW and other accountants were doing to educate them about cashflow forecasts, P&Ls and balance sheets. 

What I found at The Pitch bootcamp in Manchester was very encouraging. 

Not only did the ICAEW's head of enterprise Clive Lewis impart a few pearls of wisdom about what accountants can do to help these individuals, but the entrepreneurs themselves showed real promise when it came to figures. 

So much so that among the hopefuls, there were two former accountants-turned-entrepreneurs who turned their hand with figures into a viable business idea. 

In addition, there were a few companies so concerned about people's knowledge of numbers and finance in general, that they built their whole business idea around it. 

But firstly, I spoke to Lewis, who painted me a picture of what the ICAEW's business advisory service thought of the level of knowledge among the entrepreneurs. 

"I certainly think businesses need to talk to an accountant before they start," he said. 

"There are a number of issues they need to consider, from what legal status they should have, i.e. a limited company, sole trader, etc, and also the tax situation - what it would be for their business. They also need someone to talk to about their business model and whether they need a financial forecast and also generally a mentor and adviser." 

He added that The Pitch bootcamps showed that the small business competition was more than just about winning. It's also about educating the owners of the budding businesses about different elements of running one - and vitally about finance, to help inform them for the rest of their careers. 

"It is very easy for a business to run out of cash and find themselves in a very difficult position. That can be avoided at all costs, and accountants can help them to avoid that situation," he said.

I discovered the accountants in the room by accident. 

Tim Hill, former financial controller of a Caribbean resort, qualified with KPMG in audit in 1976. He started his own app which he said gives intuitive understanding of finance to people of all ages from children to company directors. 

Rather than needing to be educated in finance, Hill found other elements of the Pitch, such as the digital marketing, how to more effectively use social media and how to pitch, the most useful. 

"I’ve been in business for a long time but the advice you got [from the sessions] was tremendous. I'm much more confident now about social media. My grandchildren are better though," he laughed.

Another financially savvy entrant is Kate Baucherel, a CIMA-qualified accountant and former FC/FD. 

She's director of tech start-up JDrew Creations, a secure intranet computer system for use between company employees. Baucherel founded the company with James Drew, and covers business development and client relationship management, using her 25 years of business experience. 

This threw up another question, essentially.

If financial knowledge is central to being a good entrepreneur with a solid business, then do accountants - with the right mixture of other skills - including marketing, networking and a good business 'nose' - make the best entrepreneurs? 

The Pitch shortlist will be out in very early October. We'll post an update of who's in on AccountingWEB, with our fingers crossed for Aweb member Henry Tapper and of course, the aforementioned accountants.

Those interested can attend The Pitch Final in Bristol on 23 October for £10. The event will feature entrepreneur success stories, live pitching, business workshops, free food and drink plus much more. Get a ticket here.

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