The advice on offer will depend on whether the small business associations are national or local, focused on one specific industry (such as a trade association) or a generalist (e.g. a chamber of commerce).
For readers interested in taking advantage of the support offered by such groups, here is our list of UK small business organisations – many of whom we regularly work with when creating our advice articles and guides.
Any additions or updates gratefully received. See our contact details section to get in touch.
UK small business associations
Name: Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed
Mission: Empowering, protecting and connecting our members for success, making IPSE the association of choice for the self-employed.
Description: IPSE is a not-for-profit association that represents freelancers, consultants, contractors and others following the self-employment route. Benefits of membership include: tax and legal helplines, contract review service, discounts and deals on third-party services such as insurance, a group pension offer, and various guides and events.
Name: British Chambers of Commerce
Mission: “Our network exists to support and connect companies, bringing together firms to build new relationships, share best practice, foster new opportunities and provide practical support to help member businesses trade locally, nationally and globally.”
Description: There are 53 ‘Accredited Chambers’ which make up the BCC network. Together, they represent tens of thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes, which employ almost six million people across the UK. To join you should first seek out your local chamber which can be found here: https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/join-a-chamber
Name: Federation of Small Businesses
Mission: To help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. A business campaigning group which ensures the voice of small businesses is heard at the highest level across the UK.
Description: The FSB is a not-for-profit organisation that represents small and medium-sized businesses. Originally formed in 1974 as the National Federation of Self Employed it changed to its current name in 1991. As well as the important networking element, other benefits of joining include: a legal advice hub and protections scheme, cyber protection helpline and insurance, tax investigation protection, debt recovery service, health and safety advice, plus a range of benefits and discounts on typical small business services from third-party providers.
Name: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Mission: To enable excellence in small business and entrepreneurship across our research, policy, practice and learning communities.
Description: The ISBE was originally formed in 1989 as the UK Enterprise Management and Research Association. It is a network for people and organisations involved in small business and entrepreneurship research, policy, practice, education, support and advice. Benefits include: regular expert seminars and webinars, access to all research papers, attendance at the ISBE annual conference, monthly bulletin.
Name: The Association of Small Businesses
Mission: To reduce the number of businesses failing within the first 5 years of trading – To provide members opportunities to acquire more business – To cultivate a strong business community.
Description: A free to join, not-for-profit community of small businesses coming together for mutual benefit. It’s main offer is one of mutual support services, for example in the form of sharing contacts, actively seeking business opportunities for one another, and to leverage group purchasing power to secure discounted deals on multiple goods and services. The association is run by a voluntary panel of small business owners.
Name: The Forum of Private Business
Mission: “We are dedicated to providing our members with solid business advice, support and protection helping business owners to focus on profitability, growth and long-term business success.”
Description: A not-for-profit organisation founded in 1977 primarily made up of companies that employ between 1-50 employees. It provides business support and protection to SMEs across the UK. Key benefits for members include online guides, regular business and regulatory updates, free breakfast networking events, and a dedicated 24/7 business support forum.
Name: SME Alliance
Mission: “We are here to help SME’s make a change, have a voice and finally be listened to with regard to the issues that affect them the most.
Description: Started in 2014, SME Alliance is a member-based organisation set up to support, share knowledge, network and lobby with, and on behalf of, SME owners who have fallen victim to banking, financial and regulatory misconduct.
Name: Enterprise Nation
Mission: Supporting people in Britain to start and grow their own successful business, and representing their views to government and media.
Description: Founded by Emma Jones CBE in 2005, Enterprise Nation has now grown to be a community of over 75,000 people made up of small businesses and business advisers. Members can access support at a selection of events throughout the UK, or online via a personalised platform that gets you to answers and advisers.
Name: Small Business Britain
Mission: To inspire and accelerate small businesses in the UK to foster growth and increased confidence.
Description: Founded in 2016 by Michelle Ovens CBE, it manages events, runs campaigns and creates reports designed to champion small businesses throughout the nation.
UK business networking groups
Mission: Belong to a community of 1000’s of positive and likeminded fellow business owners who connect, share ideas and pass leads on a daily basis in order to propel them, their business and their network further.
Description: Formed in 2006. Members get access to all online networking meetings running 6 days a week, from 8am – 8pm, plus access to the Facebook group.
Name: The Business Network
Mission: To provide business owners and directors with an effective and focussed environment to do business.
Description: It is a national organisation with local chapters hosting events and seminars in Birmingham, Chester, Exeter, London, Manchester, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, and Humberside.
Name: Network B2B
Mission: To ease the pain of finding new clients and network in structured yet relaxed groups.
Description: Originally created as a business network for the North East it has since expanded to a UK wide networking group for businesses of all sizes. The group has a distinct guidance system for meetings that aims to improve the effectiveness of each session.
Mission: Professional networking with the right people for you and your business.
Description: The members of NRG are the owners and directors of service businesses and partners in professional firms who attend regularly to build a trusted network for business, support and friendship.
Mission: To help BNI Members increase their business through a structured, positive and professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.
Description: A long established global networking group, it is organised by local ‘chapters (over 10,000 worldwide). Only one person from each ‘trade’ is allowed in each chapter.
Name: MINT Business Club
Mission: A membership club for solo and micro business owners who want to keep learning, keep growing and be part of a community of people who just ‘get it’.
Description: For the self-employed or those with businesses employing less than 10 people. Weekly ‘Connect, Support, Ideas’ sessions. Training courses. ‘MINT bootcamps’ focused on growth and development. Members only Facebook group.
Name: Women in Business Network
Mission: To support and encourage each other through collaboration and the sharing of business contacts and opportunities.
Description: A membership organisation and forum for women who wish to gain new business opportunities through word of mouth.
Name: The Athena Network
Mission: To create opportunities for members to make strategic connections and accelerate business growth. To inspire success and collaboration by developing members’ business and networking skills. Encourage women in business to inspire and support others to achieve success
Description: A networking, training and development business club for female executives and entrepreneurs.
Mission: Find out what’s happening in Small Business Networking Meetup groups around the world and start meeting up with the ones near you.
Description: Small Business Networking groups organised via the meetup.com platform. UK-based meetups include: Entrepreneurs in London – Networking 4 Business – BOSS CEOs London – Pathway2Grow – Master Mind of Entrepreneurs – Manchester Small Business start-up support group – and many more.
Name: The Yorkshire Mafia
Mission: To inspire and educate, to build stronger and long lasting partnerships and wiser, more imaginative bonds which extend and expand horizons and trading opportunities.
Description: Brings together executives and stakeholders from the Yorkshire Business Community to meet, network, share experience, learn, build relationships and ultimately trade. Membership is held exclusively on LinkedIn.
UK trade associations
There are many hundreds of trade associations in the UK representing every conceivable sector of industry and business. Here we list out the associations, federations and councils that we think are most relatable or useful to sole traders and SMEs.
Any additions or updates gratefully received. See our contact details section to get in touch.
Name: Association of Convenience Stores
Mission: “ACS’ core purpose is to lobby Government on the issues that make a difference to local shops, supported by an expanding research programme designed to discover new information about the convenience sector which can be used to inform decision making both in Government and with those involved directly in the sector.”
Description: The ACS represents over 33,500 local shops, supporting its members through lobbying, advice and networking events.
Name: Association of Cycle Traders
Mission: The ACT is committed to the longevity of speciality cycle retailing, an over-arching brand available to all independent retailers engaged in the UK cycle market.
Description: The ACT is the largest cycle trade organisation in the UK and has been promoting cycling for over 100 years. It is a membership organisation representing the interests of over 4,000 businesses involved in the cycle industry through promotion, business support and skills development.
Name: Association of Professional Staffing Companies
Mission: Our mission is to support, promote, and differentiate the provision of top-quality recruitment services in the professional staffing sector..
Description: APSCo was formed in 1999 and has offices in the UK, Germany, Singapore and Australia. It provides members “with the information, intelligence, ideas, opportunities and support they require to become compliant, efficient and successful.”
Name: Association of Recruitment Consultancies
Mission: To operate in the best interests of recruiters, to promote the industry,and to provide excellent support for its members.
Description: Formed in 2009, the ARC has two levels of membership – Core and Core Plus. Benefits include: events and webinars, marketing materials, regular bulletins, a knowledge centre, and a research desk facility for support on legal issues.
Name: British Allied Trades Federation
Mission: Our mission is to support, promote, and differentiate the provision of top-quality recruitment services in the professional staffing sector..
Description: The BATF represents retailers and manufacturers within the metal finishing, jewelry, goldsmithing, leathergoods, travelling and fashion accessories, and giftware sectors. Federated trade associations include: National Association of Jewellers – Giftware Association – British Travelgoods and Accessories Association – Jewellery Distributors Association – Surface Engineering Association
Name: British Association of Removers
Mission: Dedicated to promoting professional excellence in the Removals Industry, developing and maintaining professional standards and services for the benefit of its members and their customers.
Description: The BAR offers support and advice to its members on financial and legal matters, training and a Quality Service Standard certification, and discounts on a range of products and services.
Name: British Association of Social Workers
Mission: “We champion social work and help members achieve the highest professional standards.”
Description: BASW is for self-employed social work professionals. It offers members insurance cover (professional indemnity and public liability), training, networking events, and PAYE/payroll services.
Name: British Cleaning Council
Mission: Key priorities for the BCC include raising professional standards, employee health and wellbeing, career development and training, improved quality control and better procurement practices.”
Description: The Council’s membership is made up of over 20 trade and membership associations which are all linked to the cleaning and hygiene professions. Associations of note for SMEs include: Domestic Cleaning Alliance (DCA) – Federation of Window Cleaners (FWC) – UK Housekeepers Association (UKHA) – Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) – Cleaning & Support Services Association (CSSA) – National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA).
Name: British Franchise Association
Mission: To influence success in franchising, set high quality standards within the industry, and deliver a globally leading education and networking platform for its members.
Description: Established in 1977, the BFA describes itself as the voice of ethical franchising in the UK. Membership benefits of this trade association include: training and support services, an ‘Expert Advice’ zone, regular newsletter, conferences and networking events, and the opportunity to get the Qualified Franchise Professional (QFP) certification (a formal recognition of professional knowledge and experience in franchising) . It also hosts the annual National Franchise Exhibition.
Name: British Holiday & Home Parks Association
Mission: The Association is committed to lobbying and representing BH&HPA members’ interests to government and policymakers at all levels. The Association’s strategy is directed by park owners and managers.
Description: BH&HPA represents those who own or manage holiday, residential, tenting, touring and glamping parks, and all forms of self-catering accommodation in a park setting.
Name: British Independent Retailers Association
Mission: Representing and supporting independent retail businesses for over 120 years.
Description: Bira represent thousands of members across the UK, from single retail outlets to small chains, to large department stores and agricultural dealerships. As well as its lobbying and campaigning activities it offers an extensive range of membership benefits which cover three main areas: Sales & Marketing, Product Buying, Legal & Employment (advice, training and pensions).
Name: British Metals Recycling Association
Mission: To promote the metals recycling industry while safeguarding the interests of its member companies.
Description: Membership is open to metals recycling companies of good standing that have been in business for at least two years as well as those providing valuable services to this industry. All members are expected to abide by the BMRA’s Code of Conduct.
Name: British Pest Control Association
Mission: To promote professional pest management, represent the industry, and drive standards and ethics while protecting the environment.
Description: A not-for-profit organisation, it represents and supports member companies and the pest management sector in general. The BPCA provides advice and guidance documentation, a code of best practice, and for the general public it offers advice on selecting an appropriate pest control professional.
Name: British Promotional Merchandise Association
Mission: We exist to inspire, connect and educate our members.
Description: The BPMA provides inspiration and motivation to help grow members’ businesses. It maintains a code of conduct for its members that allows customers to buy with confidence, and has an accredited industry education programme.
Name: British Sandwich & Food to Go Association
Mission: To provide a collective voice for all those involved in making, distributing and retailing sandwiches and food to go and to represent the views of the industry.
Description: The association represents those businesses where sandwiches form a core part of the ‘Food To Go’ offer. It sets technical standards, encourages innovation and excellence while providing a collective voice for all involved in the making, distribution and retailing of sandwiches, sushi, salads, baked goods and the full spectrum of food to go.
Name: British Security Industry Association
Mission: “The BSIA is the voice of the professional security industry, supporting and encouraging excellence; educating the marketplace on the value of quality and professional security; and creating an environment in which to flourish.”
Description: Products and services on offer to members includes: Skills for Security apprenticeships, the Home Office backed SaferCash intelligence initiative, the SaferGems initiative against crime in the Jewellery, Antiques and Fine Art trades, the British Security Awards event, the Police and Security Group Initiative aims to build upon successful partnerships for a mutual benefit.
Name: British Toy & Hobby Association
Mission: “To promote best practice and excellence in all aspects of product design, toy safety, ethical manufacturing, environmental issues and responsible marketing and by so doing protect and promote the interests of our members.”
Description: The BTHA was established in 1944 to represent the interests of British toy manufacturers and to raise standards of practice in the industry. Members range from international toy giants to small family-run businesses. It manages the BTHA Code of Practice under the umbrella of the Lion Mark which includes rules covering ethical and safe manufacture of toys, toy safety, a ban on counterfeit goods, an assurance to market responsibly, a commitment to improving sustainability and a desire to promote the value of play through support of the Make Time 2 Play campaign.
Name: British Woodworking Federation
Mission: “Building it Better with Wood’ – promoting the inherent advantages of wood and helping our members to achieve more around our themes of healthy, sustainable, productive and safe ways of working.
Description: The BWF is a trade association for the woodworking and joinery manufacturing industry in the UK. Members drawn from manufacturers, distributors and installers of timber doors, windows, conservatories, staircases, furniture, all forms of bespoke, interior and architectural joinery as well as suppliers to the industry.
Name: Craft Bakers Association
Mission: Working together to ensure a sustainable future for craft baking.
Description: Previously known The National Association of Master Bakers, The CBA represents over 500 bakery businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 3,000 shops on the high street and 38,500 employees. Member Benefits include: employment law advice, health and safety and environmental health advice, training, events, government lobbying on legislation, and Thirteen Magazine.
Name: Federation of Independent Retailers
Mission: To be the voice of the independent retailer.
Description: NFRN exists to help independent retailers compete more effectively in today’s highly competitive market. It provides its members with: help and assistance, commercial support, deals and buying opportunities, training, expertise and services. It represents its members’ interests at governmental and parliamentary level. Members include newsagents, convenience stores, confectioners, florists, petrol forecourts, news deliverers, off-licences, post offices, coffee shops, and card and stationery shops.
Name: Federation of Master Builders Association
Mission: To raise awareness and help shape policy outcomes on the issues that matter most to our members.
Description: Established in 1941, the FMB is the largest trade association in the UK construction industry representing the interests of small and medium-sized building companies and lobbying for members at both national and local levels. Members get access to support services to promote, protect and grow their business.
Name: Horticultural Trades Association
Mission: “We’re all about supporting UK garden businesses. Everything we do is for the benefit of our members and the focus of our activities are driven by member feedback.”
Description: The HTA was founded in 1899. It provides lobbying, marketing, training and information services to help its members “stay fit for the future.” A key part of its services involves the National Garden Gift Voucher scheme.
Name: National Access & Scaffolding Confederation
Mission: The raising and maintaining of safety standards remains at the heart of driving every activity we undertake.
Description: The Confederation produces a wide range of industry-recognised health and safety, contractual, technical and product purchasing guidance for scaffolding contractors, their operatives and their clients – accepted as the industry standard by HSE, Build UK, and CITB.
Name: National Hair and Beauty Federation
Mission: Our aim is to help Members build successful, profitable and sustainable businesses.
Description: Established in 1942, the NHBF is a not-for-profit organisation with over 6,800 members, making it the UK’s largest trade body for the hair, beauty and barbering industries. Membership benefits include: free advice on employing and managing people, tax, VAT, payroll and health and safety – free employment contracts, staff handbooks, apprenticeship contracts, chair renting and room/space agreements – savings and discounts on business essentials including insurance, guides to all aspects of running a business – events and competitions.
Name: Painting and Decorating Association
Mission: To promote the painting and decorating sector within the construction industry and on the wider national stage as well as leading lobbying activity on behalf of the UK painting and decorating trade.
Description: The PDA offers tailored support to painters and decorators across the industry, from sole traders and SMEs to national contractors. Members of the Association must demonstrate their experience, workmanship and commitment to customer service before they are allowed to display the PDA’s quality marque. Members benefit from business support, networking, training and awards events, guidance on a range of issues from health and safety to marketing as well as legal support and employment advice.
Name: Pet Industry Federation
Mission: To provide a quality assurance for businesses in the pet care sector. To represent your business at local and national level to ensure you views are heard and your interests supported.
Description: A membership association for pet industry specialists in the UK open to businesses of all sizes, including groomers, walkers and sitters, kennels and catteries, pet retailers and manufacturers. PIF combines five specialist trade associations under one umbrella group.
Name: Quality Franchise Association
Mission: “The QFA philosophy stands for Encouraging Franchising For All (EFFA).”
Description: A not for profit organisation providing free franchising advice and information to assist people seeking self employment through franchising or businesses seeking expansion through franchising. Benefits for members include: recruitment and franchise promotion advertising, free marketing materials, regular meetings and events (including webinars and chat groups), a business advice helpline, and audits of franchisee digital systems.
Name: National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers
Mission: “Leading your business to success across the building services and fabric sector.”
Description: NAPIT is a government approved and United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited membership scheme operator in the building services and fabric sector. It supports over 14,000 registered installers in the electrical, heating, plumbing, ventilation, micro-generation and building fabric trades across the UK domestic, commercial and industrial markets.
Name: Recruitment and Employment Confederation
Mission: To drive standards and empower recruitment businesses to build better futures for their candidates and themselves.
Description: The REC is a not-for-profit organisation representing a network of more than 3,300 recruitment businesses and 10,500 individual recruiters. It provides legal advice, business support and training to members and has a ‘Compliance Test’ and ‘Code of Professional Practice’.
Name: Registered Nursing Home Association
Mission: “We campaign passionately for high standards in nursing home care.”
Description: Support for members includes: an annual national roadshow series, monthly e-bulletins and updates, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, access to legal and PR advice, engagement with other national associations through the Care Provider Alliance and Digital Social Care.
Name: The Scaffolding Association
Mission: It’s mission statement is quite long – so here’s the link to it: scaffolding-association.org/mission-statement/
Description: “Membership of the association provides protection, promotion and representation of your interests amongst key industry stakeholders.” Training and certification is available plus discounts on various third-party services.
Name: The Timber Trade Federation
Mission: “We are the voice of the UK timber industry, supporting and promoting our members’ interests. We work to maintain and enhance timber’s sustainable reputation at a national, European and international level.”
Description: The TTF is for UK companies supplying or working with timber products within the construction, joinery and design markets and includes architects, builders, joiners, and merchants.
Name: UK Fashion & Textile Association
Mission: To bring together designers, manufacturers, suppliers, agents and retailers to promote their businesses and our industry, both in the UK and throughout the world.
Description: The UKFT represents the entire UK fashion and textile supply chain, from spinning, weaving and knitting, right through to the catwalk. Activities are focused on five key areas: lobbying, business support, UK manufacturing, skills and training, and international business (exports).
Mission: “As the industry trade body, we seek to unlock the industry’s full potential as one of the biggest engines for growth in the economy and to ensure that the industry’s needs are effectively represented by engaging with the Government, the media, employees and customers.”
Description: UKH represents businesses across the broad hospitality sector – covering everything from bars, hotels, coffee shops, contract catering, nightclubs, visitor attraction, escape rooms, bowling alleys, independent and large multi-national sites. The organisation has a strong networking focus and member engagement meetings are classified into three different categories: Expert, Sector and Regional groups. Each of these are designed to create platforms of collaborative debate and discussions.
Other SME business groups and resources
Name: Small Business Saturday
Mission: A grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.
Description: The day itself takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses. On Small Business Saturday, customers across the nation go out and support all types of small businesses, online, in offices and in stores. Many small businesses take part in the day by hosting events and offering discounts.
Name: Save The High Street
Mission: The board was formed to identify and evaluate recommendations for success on the high street.
Description: It’s free to join and there are various benefits including: early insight into our local campaigns, PR opportunities and findings from our research.
Name: Colleagues on Tap
Mission: To help you #GetSurrounded with colleagues for a day, so that working for yourself no longer means working by yourself.
Description: If you are an entrepreneur, freelancer or homeworker then you’ll usually work alone and that can become lonely. Colleagues on Tap organises co-working days for solo workers. Events are run across the North East every month.
Mission: “Prowess is the online hub for women-friendly business support, inspiration and information. Our vision is an environment where women in business can flourish.”
Description: The link above takes you to a resource page of women’s business network listings with connections to local groups across the UK.
Name: Ipswich & Suffolk Small Business Association
Mission: To connect like minded business owners through our website, newsletters, full directory, annual exhibition and lively and successful networking events.
Description: ISSBA provides a forum for the mutual support of small businesses in Ipswich and surrounding parts of Suffolk, in the east of England. It is an informal organisation of business owners and others involved with small businesses, funded by sponsorship, members’ subscriptions and organised by an elected committee.
Name: Marches Growth Hub
Mission: A single point of access to information and guidance on business grants, loans, support and advice available to enterprises across the region, regardless of sector or size of development.
Description: Developed by The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (MLEP), the virtual hub is a business-friendly website, where start-ups, SMEs and large employers can search for products and services and be signposted to advice and support.