A Portishead resident who decided to take the plunge and set himself up in business during lockdown has launched a group aimed at offering fellow entrepreneurs a forum where they can share information and trading tips, network or simply chat over a coffee.

Jason Gillman, who works as a private tutor, explained that the idea for setting up the group, named Business Buddies, came to him when the country began to emerge from lockdown and he was beginning to feel the effects of a lack of human contact. “Working on your own has many perks but can also be lonely,” he said. “I’d spent weeks working from home in isolation on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and was keen stop being an island and meet up with other people once we were able to do so.”

Jason also found wading through the mine of information online on his own somewhat frustrating and time-consuming, while suspecting that others had found themselves in the same boat. “Everything you need is there, on websites, but not necessarily readily available,” he explained. “I thought it would be useful to bounce ideas off people who’ve found themselves in similar situations and share tips, especially knowing that plenty of other people took the decision to become self-employed in lockdown.” 

When research into whether any local organisations for businesspeople were already up and running drew a blank, Jason, a former schoolteacher, decided to launch a group himself. Business Buddies has now held its first meeting, with informal get-togethers now planned over coffee on a monthly basis.

Jason said that while it was refreshing on one level simply to be chatting to other professionals in person, he’d also found it reassuring to discover just how much they all had in common when it came to launching a business.

“Several topics cropped up time and again, such as how to put boundaries in place when working from home, being a sole trader versus setting up as a limited company and how best to market your business, for example,” he said. 

Other subjects discussed included how Covid-19 had affected work, filing tax returns and business philosophies.

Jason added that although the meetings currently taking place are on an ad hoc basis, themed events and workshops could be organised in the future. 

“For now, it’s about bringing people together who might be spending a lot of their working life sitting along at home and having conversations about doing business in the new normal,” he said. “I also like to make clear that although meetings offer opportunities to networking, the group is not a platform to peddle!”

Business Buddies is free of charge to join. For more information, you can find the group on Facebook. 

Pictured: Jason Gillman founded Business Buddies for entrepreneurs who, like him, don’t want to be an island