Starting a supported living business is a challenging, but incredibly rewarding, way to make a living. You’ll be helping those who struggle to help themselves, allowing them to live fulfilling lives. But, at the end of the day, it’s still a business. 

And, as a business, there are some essential things you’ll need to know before you get started. This simple guide will help you cover all your bases:

  • Conduct market research
  • Register your business with the Care Quality Commission (CQC)
  • Buy insurance
  • Choose your business name and logo
  • Make a business plan and budget
  • Market your business
  • Choose your business structure
  • Register for tax

Conduct market research

As with any business, you should do research to understand if your idea will be viable. As a basic rule, your business will only work if you are able to meet a demand. 

Who is your target market?

Supported living is a broad term, but can refer to helping people with

  • Learning disabilities
  • Mental health difficulties
  • Physical disabilities 
  • Sensory loss
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Aggressive or violent behaviour

You need to decide if your supported living business will cater to one, or more, of these groups, before you start making other plans. 

Research your area

Find out what kind of supported living businesses are already in your area, and who they cater to. Visit or call them and ask if they think there is a need for another similar kind of service. 

You could also speak to your local council to find out what kind of services are lacking in the area. 

When you know all the right information, you’ll have a choice. You can tailor the business to meet the specific need, or you can try setting up your business in a different location where the market is not as saturated. 

Location

Regarding the business premises, there’s a lot to consider:

  • Building layout – for example, does it have a lot of stairs that would be difficult for elderly of disabled people?
  • Nearby amenities – for example, are there shops, cafes, and travel links that the residents can easily access?
  • Location – for example, is the area considered safe?

Remember, the point of supported living is to help the residents live normal lives. You want your residents to feel safe, but they still need a sense of independence and purpose allowed by enjoying everyday things.  The building and location you choose will play a huge part in that. 

Register your business with the Care Quality Commission (CQC)

Any business that intends to provide personal care has to be registered with the Care Quality Commission

This committee is specifically for supported living businesses based in England. There are similar bodies in each other region of the UK:

These services will inspect your business to make sure they’re acceptable, give a quality rating, and help you improve the level of care you provide.

Buy insurance

Like any business, you’ll need to buy insurance policies. The only policy that you’re legally required to buy is employer’s liability insurance, but it’s definitely worth considering more. 

Public liability insurance

For businesses in contact with the public. This can protect you against compensation claims for injury or damage made by clients, customers, suppliers, or other third parties.

Employers’ liability insurance

If your business employs staff, you’re probably legally required to have an employers’ liability insurance policy. This covers compensation claims made by a member of staff if they’ve suffered injury, illness, or damage as a result of their work. 

Business buildings insurance

This will cover the cost of any harm done to your supported living facility. It covers theft, fires, or damage caused by natural disasters. 

Business contents insurance

This covers the cost of repairs, or replacement, of any equipment and tools you use if they are damaged, destroyed, lost, or stolen. 

Product liability insurance

This will cover compensation payments if a customer is hurt by a faulty product you’ve provided.

Business interruption insurance

This covers you in case your business operations have to stop for some reason and you lose out on money because of it. For example, if there’s a flood or fire, and you’re unable to house residents, you’ll be reimbursed the amount of money you would have made. 

There are some insurance companies that offer tailored insurance policies. They include everything a supported living business needs to get started.

For example, this policy from Insure With Care includes protection against.

  • Material Damage
  • Business Interruption 
  • Loss of Registration – compensation if you lose your registration and can’t continue with the business. 
  • Combined Liability – Employers Liability, Public Liability and Products Liability cover, a meaningful Medical Malpractice extension.

Choose your business name and logo

Choosing your business name and logo are big decisions. They are the face of your business; the first thing the public will see, and symbols of brand identity for you and your employees to rally around. 

Business name

You need a name that helps people find and recognise your brand. It’s best to avoid complicated, hard to spell words. Instead, go for something simple and clear.

You can use the Companies House name availability checker and trademark portal to make sure the name you’ve chosen isn’t taken. Once you’ve chosen your name, you need to register it with Companies House via either the online portal or postal application.

Logo

Like your name, the business logo should be unique and professional. You’ll need to register your design as a trademark to make sure nobody else uses it. 

Before registering, you should check if a similar logo exists already through the HMRC database. If there’s a similar design out there, you can contact the original trademark owner to ask for permission to use it, 

Make a business plan and budget

Creating a clear business plan will help you understand where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Think of it like a roadmap to success, something you guide you and your team through every stage of the process. You can learn more about how to create a business plan and why you need one in this guide.

One important part of any business plan is a budget for how you’ll manage different costs. It’s a huge part of the planning process, and getting it wrong, or not having one, can cause some real headaches further down the line. 

When working out your budget, consider things like:

  • Set-up costs (including equipment and supplies)
  • Hiring staff – how many you’ll need, and their wages. 
  • Mow much you plan to charge each resident 
  • Building costs – like rent, council tax, and utility costs

Getting accurate figures is difficult to get perfect, but it’s usually better to overestimate just to be cautious. 

Market your business

Set up a website

Build a professional website where people can find vital information about your business. It should include your location, pricing, services, and contact information, It’s not as difficult as it sounds. You can use website builders like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace build and host your website at a reasonable price.

Use social media

Social media is a great place to advertise your business for free. You can share blogs, pictures, and promotional offers directly to huge audiences. 

You should seek out pages that are dedicated to supported living and make contributions. The more often you post, the more well-known and trusted your brand will be. 

Choose your business structure

There are a number of different legal structures you can choose when setting up your business. The choice you make will affect how you deal with taxes, profits, and funding. 

The legal structures you might consider are:

  • a limited company.
  • a business partnership.
  • an unincorporated association.
  • a sole tradership

Limited Company

Businesses can choose to become limited companies (LC) through a process called incorporation. To do this, you need to register your company at Companies House. Any size of business can become a limited company.

After incorporation, the company is a legally separate entity from the directors and shareholders. This legal structure protects the owners’ finances, so they’re not required to pay any company debts or losses from their personal funds. 

If the company goes bust, they are refunded the ‘nominal value’ of their shares. The nominal value is just an arbitrary amount, usually quite low, assigned by directors.  

When you incorporate, you can seek out investors who can buy shares in your business in exchange for a share in the profits. In this regard, you have the choice to become a:

  • Private limited company (Ltd) – Shares can only be sold to private investors.
  • Public limited company (PLC) – Shares are open to the general public on the stock market. 

After choosing to become a public or private limited company, you’ll also have to decide whether it will be limited by shares, or limited by guarantee.

What is limited by shares?

This kind of limited company sells shares to investors (privately or publicly) who will share in the company’s profits through dividends. 

The price of the company’s shares on the stock market don’t necessarily affect dividend payments, it’s just an amount decided by the company owners, and agreed upon by shareholders. However, usually the dividend amount will increase with profits.

What is limited by guarantee?

The main difference with a company limited by guarantee is that any profits they make are invested back into the company, rather than paid to investors. This kind of limited company is normally used for social enterprises like non-profits and charities. 

Instead of shareholders, these limited companies are funded by guarantors. A guarantor can be any person or corporate body.

They invest a fixed amount of money into the company and register with Companies House. The amount they invest has to be repaid in full if the company goes bust. 

Business partnership

In a partnership, you and your partners personally share financial responsibility. They all share the business’s profits, and each partner pays tax on their share.

Unincorporated association

An unincorporated association is an organisation set up through an informal agreement between a group of people who come together for a reason other than to make a profit. For example, voluntary groups and sports clubs are usually unincorporated organisations.  

You don’t need to register an unincorporated association, and it doesn’t cost anything to set one up.

Sole tradership

Sole traders run their own business as an individual, while being self-employed.

As a sole trader, you keep all your business’ profits and you’re personally responsible for any losses and debts your business has. You can set up as a sole trader even if you hire other members of staff. 

Register for tax

Organisations and Limited companies that make profits will have to pay corporation tax. It’s a flat rate of 19% on all taxable profits. 

If your supported living business is limited by guarantee, then all your profits are invested back into the business, so there’s no corporation tax to pay. 

You’ll register for corporation tax when you register your company with Companies House. 

Unincorporated business models, like sole traders, have to pay income tax by submitting a self assessment tax return. 

Give your business the best start with a simple app

When you’re starting your own business, it’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate.

That’s why thousands of business owners across the UK use the Countingup app to keep on top of their financial admin. Countingup is a business current account with built-in accounting software.

With instant invoicing tools, automatic expense categorisation, receipt capture tools and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances and save yourself hours of accounting admin. Find out more here.