10 Tips for a Tier 1 Start-up Business Plan

July 8, 2019

Wendy Wu, Incubator Manager at Craiglockhart, shares top tips for those interested in applying for a Tier 1 Start-up Visa.

Since I started to set up the support for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, three years have passed. Tier 1 GE has been replaced by the Tier 1 Start-up visa, which launched at the end of March 2019. In my capacity as Business Incubator Manager at Craiglockhart for Bright Red Triangle, I am regularly asked for advice from potential entrepreneurs interested in obtaining a Tier 1 visa. I would therefore like to share some tips with you.

Develop an entrepreneurial mind-set

For current students or recent graduates this requires a change of mind set from student mode to business leader. It is not an easy journey!  It requires you to find solutions to real world problems and seize the initiative. Leadership is very important. You need to lead yourself and your team and influence the marketplace. All this involves a wide range of challenges that you are unlikely to have faced whilst pursuing an academic qualification.

Start with your passion, strengths and what excites you

Some students are keen on submitting an application but are not sure where to start. I would suggest you start from your passion; what makes you excited and enthusiastic. Also bear in mind, entrepreneurs don’t need to be jack of all trades, but they do need to be able to identify where they need help, find appropriate experts, be resourceful, and be prepared to take calculated risks.

Understand your target customer

Often, students struggle with identifying who their customers are and the target market they state is often too broad. Ideally you should be able to demonstrate a relevant, specified and comprehensive understanding of your potential customers by knowing their ins and outs – demography, buying habits, financial capabilities, and ultimately their needs and pains.

Know yourself and your competitors

Educate yourself on Porter’s Five Forces (Google it!). It is an essential tool to position your service or product in the market place. Unless you know yourself, your customers and your competitors, you will find yourself adrift in the middle of the ocean and at the mercy of the tides …. and the storms!

Build up a support network

Make contacts, find mentors who have achieved success and peer entrepreneurs who are on a similar journey. If you don’t learn from others you’ll have to learn from your mistakes! Things won’t always go to plan; sources of support, encouragement and ability to learn quickly are also essential.

There are a number of tools that can help you get your financial planning in order

Know your finances

You may have innovative ideas and solutions but dislike figures. If that is the case, you need to associate yourself with someone who can help you understand the financial aspects: revenue and costs, raising finance, cash and equity. Finances need to be front and centre.

Find Innovative solutions

The Home Office criteria for a Tier 1 visa requires this! Your business plan should address it. You need to identity a problem or gap in the current market, demonstrate an opportunity and show how you could take it forward.


As well as having a good idea you need to have the knowledge, skill-set and competence to run the business. Finally, you need to be able to fund the business until it can generate profit. And the profit needs to be sufficient to sustain the business.


You need a business plan with potential for growth. What is your growth strategy? How will the business develop over time? Will you be able to increase your product range, your customer base and/or your geographical reach? What is your staffing strategy and structure?

Validation, Validation, Validation.

It takes more than assertions to make a good business plan. Wherever possible assertions should be backed up by evidence. Do your homework!

DIY Tools

For those who love tools like me, I would strongly suggest you customise and develop your own tool kit to help you to plan for success. For example you can consider tailoring the following: Business Model Canvas, Porter’s Five Forces, Customer Personas, Competitors’ analysis grid, Gantt chart project planning and Design Thinking Processes. The key point is knowing your innovative service/product, knowing your customers/competitors and knowing your money.

Last but not least, all this takes time. Plan ahead and make sure you have sufficient time to do everything you require in order to apply for the visa – market research, raising funds, writing a business plan and going through the application process. It always takes longer than you think.

Please note, this piece is shared as a personal reflection only, it is intended only as an overview. It is not intended to be comprehensive and does not cover the visa application process. If you require any further information, please get in touch with us.

Bright Red Triangle