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How Tough Is It to Do Business in Britain?

Jessica Wilkins, Special to CNBC.com
Tuesday, 13 Nov 2012 | 1:44 AM ET

The U.K is the seventh easiest country in which to do business, according to a World Bank report, but many entrepreneurs CNBC spoke to highlighted the difficulties small businesses still face in the country.

The World Bank report "Doing Business", looked at domestic regulation across 185 countries. It found Singapore as the easiest place to do business. While Britain made the top 10, it came in behind Hong Kong, New Zealand, the U.S., Denmark and Norway.

According to the World Bank, governments in countries which performed the best had been shrewd to "create rules that facilitate interactions in the marketplace without needlessly hindering the development of the private sector."

The report said the U.K is the best country for access to credit, surpassing nations like Singapore and Hong Kong which were deemed more "open for business" overall.

But despite acing the lending game, access to credit does not guarantee the right kind of capital to back up a project, one entrepreneur told CNBC.

Elena Mingus applied to—and was rejected—by Barclay's bank for a loan to start her couture evening-wear store, Tangled. "The bank told me I had no chance!" she said.

Mingus opened her shop in September on Rochdale Road, Bury, in Greater Manchester.

"I was told the best thing to get was a credit card. Everyone was closing the door in my face. Every avenue I went down was a dead end but I did not care because I was not going to give up."

Mingus felt getting herself into consumer debt was not the right way to fund her enterprise. After months of searching she managed to secure a loan from a government backed project called "Start-up Loans", but not before failing to meet the criteria for a wide range of entrepreneurial schemes.

"The criteria is so specific…start-up loans for 18-24-year-olds, that was basically it," the fashion graduate said.

Global Rating

Experts are hardly popping champagne corks at the World Bank rating for Britain, which fell one notch from sixth place in the previous year's survey.

"I am not sure that is us getting worse or others getting better," said Priyen Patel, Policy Advisor for the Federation of Small Business (FSB).

The SME sector "can probably take some confidence" in the U.K.'s overall position, despite the slip down the top 10, Patel said.

Other countries had been "quite radical" in their approach to "simplifying" liabilities, explained Patel.

Dubbing the U.K tax system "a patchwork model", Patel felt British entrepreneurs would benefit from simplified liabilities and a clearer tax system.

He added: "If you are going to cut taxes you should at least make them simpler."

Mingus shared Patel's sense of confidence in the results and the U.K's ability to provide a fertile ground to grow a small business.

"I would say that yes, it is easy because there are workshops where you can learn about setting up and marketing [a business]."

The dressmaker felt U.K infrastructure was very good at providing the intellectual and emotional support needed for entrepreneurs to follow their ambitions, but lacked the easy access to start-up funding which had been prevalent before the 2008 financial crash.

"You can get it if it is a credit card but it is not realistic. I think there is a lack of funding. I researched for months."

She added: "I would still have opened [my business] but I would have had to cut costs somewhere else."

Patel was not surprised by the nations which made up the top five and was very complimentary of the U.S. which came in fourth.

"Even though they are not the highest in terms of value, in terms of small business, we should see America as the standard bearer. In terms of involvement [for small businesses] it is very structured in a formulated way," he said.

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