Business Start-up

This practical online course is ideal if you're considering setting up your own small business. You will be guided, step-by-step, through everything you will need to know to plan and establish your business.

Business Start-up consists of two shorter courses which can be taken together or separately:

  • Course 1: Planning to start your own business
    The first course will take you through the first steps of identifying if self-employment is right for you, what your business idea is and what are the basic things you need to do to get the business off the ground. By the end of this first course you will have a fully developed business plan.
  • Course 2: Succeeding with your own business
    The second course covers the range of activities required to keep your business running in the early stages, including sorting out the legal and financial issues and developing a solid customer base.

To help you understand how to turn your business idea into a reality, both courses will include four examples of real-life case studies – a caterer, a fruit and veg supplier, a cleaner and a personal trainer. In addition, the courses also include two fictional case studies – a gardening business and a painting and decorating business – to provide further examples of the type of activities (with exemplar documents and realia) that typical small businesses will need to engage in. Full details of the courses can be found below.



Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this course, but it is recommended that you have the ability to read and write English effectively.

Hours of study

As a guideline, you should allow for around 30 hours' study time, plus additional time for completing assignments. You will have tutor support for the following periods from the date of enrolment:

  • Business Start-up (Course 1 + Course 2) – 6 months
  • Course 1 – 3 months
  • Course 2 – 3 months

Exams and assessment

Five progress checks in Course 1 and four progress checks in Course 2, for a total of nine if the full course is completed.

Additional information

Your course is delivered online through learn@nec, so it’s important that you have access to a computer and the internet. We recommend that your computer is using one of the following operating systems and browsers to improve your experience of using learn@nec:

Operating systems:

  • Windows 7 or later
  • Mac OSX 10.7 or later
  • Google Chrome OS
  • Android 4.4 or later, using the Chrome browser
  • iOS 6 or later, using the Safari browser


  • Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Mozilla Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari 6 or later
  • Internet Explorer 10 or later (excluding IE11)

learn@nec may work on other operating systems and browsers with some restrictions. You can see full details of the system requirements by clicking here.

How to enrol

How to enrol
There are several ways to enrol with NEC:

  • Click the ‘Enrol now’ button above
  • Telephone us on 0800 389 2839 or +44(0)1223 400200 and speak to our course advice team
  • Ask us to send you an enrolment form which you can complete and return by post.

How can you pay?
It’s your choice: you can pay in full at the point of enrolment, or spread the cost with our finance offer. To pay in instalments, you will need to enrol by telephone. Please note that instalments are available for the full Business Start-up course only.

Representative example:

Course fee:  
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  6 months

The National Extension College (NEC) is the trading name of the Open School Trust, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 676788). Finance is provided through the Deko platform by a number of lenders. You will be offered the best rate available based on your credit history and the lenders’ credit decision policies.

Deko is a trading name of Pay4Later Ltd who act as a credit intermediary. They are registered in England and Wales (company number 06447333) and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 728646). For more information please go to or visit

Course 1 - Planning to start your own business

  • Topic 1: Is self-employment right for you?
  • Topic 2: Developing the business idea
  • Topic 3: Market research
  • Topic 4: Money matters
  • Topic 5: Sources of advice and support

Course 2 - Succeeding with your own business

  • Topic 1: Formalising your business
  • Topic 2: Finance
  • Topic 3: Marketing and selling
  • Topic 4: Customer service and quality
Including area code and country code (if outside of UK)