I will always remember my first day working for myself. I started out very much as a freelancer, working from home with a head full of ideas and a very slim portfolio. I expected to feel nervous or even anxious, but actually I just felt excited, and was desperate to start work.

Wherever you start a business, it is a big step and a life changing decision for you and those around you. What you soon learn is that those ideas you start out with, and your visions of how your business will be, rarely work out how you expect. To some extent, you have to let the business find its own path, which you can guide, but never fully direct.

Like many people starting a business, I started out working with people I knew. I was fortunate enough that my previous employer contracted me to a few hours per week on a consultation basis. Then alongside this, pretty quickly, a small number of generous people took a chance on me and gave me enough work to just about get things going.

It was from here that I looked further afield across Worcestershire (and beyond), looking for work and, crucially, projects to pad out my limited portfolio. One thing that seemed very clear early on, was that Worcestershire had a thriving business scene.

Some cities, particularly Birmingham, have an obviously thriving network of businesses, but equally it’s easy to feel lost somewhere like that, particularly when starting out. Conversely, a lot of towns are too small to support such a thriving business scene, and I didn’t want to feel like I was fishing in a tiny pond.

For me, Worcestershire fits an ideal middle ground – the city of Worcester itself is a fantastic place to do business, and the surrounding towns and villages in Worcestershire support this perfectly. I spent enjoyable mornings in coffee shops around the county, meeting clients and working in between meetings. The range of places to meet people is great, from the big open spaces of somewhere like Starbucks on Worcester High Street, or the delightful coffee of Francini’s in their Columbian Coffee House.

Worcestershire (and Herefordshire) is also lucky to have a great Chamber of Commerce, and right from my first ‘Maximise Your Membership’ event I found it a great resource for networking with local businesses and people with newer businesses like mine. I knew that people would be looking for well-established suppliers with a proven track record, and I found that joining the Chamber was an effective way to establish my credibility early on.

After a year or so freelancing, I was given an enticing offer from one of the agencies that outsourced work to me – to join the agency full-time as a director, while keeping my old clients with me. My ambition was always to work for myself, but this really was an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I joined up and very quickly realised how loyal and community-driven the Worcestershire business scene is.

One of the first things I learned was just how much business there is to do in Worcestershire, and even in the quietest corner of the smallest villages there are hugely successful enterprises. Lots of businesses shout very loudly about their achievements, but it’s astounding how many of these quiet giants there are scattered throughout the county.

Worcestershire also has great transport links, at least by road, and considering how rural much of the county is, it’s really impressive to such a wide roll-out of fibre-optic broadband. Even at home in rural Martley, I’ve had 75Mbps broadband since 2016, which makes working from a home a totally viable option for those occasions when I can’t get into the office.

Worcestershire isn’t perfect by any means, and even though there is a wealth of talent across many sectors, in the tech industry there is a real brain drain problem, with almost every talented young developer I’ve employed or worked with eventually moving to one of the big cities. We are, however, fortunate to have a great (and growing) university which is a fantastic resource for employers – the challenge is now for local businesses to retain the graduates once they’ve built up their first few years’ experience.

I eventually left the agency I was working for to go back to my own business full-time, and again, I found myself looking to the local business community for support. Again, the loyalty and kindness of local business people was very humbling, and I quickly found myself with lots of work to do and plenty of people to meet. I put together a small team in a small office, but our tiny little workspace didn’t put people off, and we soon found enough work to expand into a bigger team in a bigger office.

Looking back on my early days starting my own business, it’s pretty clear that despite my good intentions, I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. I remember one early meeting where a client told me that I was in for some sleepless nights, but that I shouldn’t worry as it would all work out OK. I thought that was just something people said, until my first sleepless night, at which point I understood exactly what he must have gone through himself.

For me, that’s one of the strengths of having such a strong local business community, whether it be with SMEs, large companies or charities. There’s a sense that we all go through the same pains, we all have ups and downs, and we all know what it’s like to have to work for something we want. When you know what this is like, and you connect with others going through what you’ve been through, you have an urge to help, in the way that others helped you in the past.

It doesn’t stop there. Something that is very clear from my experience in business over the years, is that it just never stops. Once the growing pains are over there are new challenges, definitely as tough, but just as rewarding. There is always going to be something around the corner, and the support of the local business community is crucial no matter what size you are.