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Start your own business

Gain the knowledge and practical skills to turn your small business ambitions into reality. Created by experts from The Open University’s triple-accredited Business School, this course will help you to develop your business idea into a commercial proposition that is supported by a viable business plan. You’ll discover ways to inject creativity and innovation into your business idea, learn to leverage your network opportunities and identify the financial implications of a new business idea.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code



This is a non-credit bearing course.

Study method

Short course cost

Entry requirements

What you will study

Throughout this course, you’ll learn about the tools and techniques that will prepare you for business success and address the key challenges faced by entrepreneurs. Practical exercises will help you to apply your new knowledge, and the social learning approach will empower you to further enhance and reflect on your understanding by sharing your thoughts and opinions with co-learners.

Delivered over four easy-to-digest sections, you will cover:

1: Your business idea

  • Presenting your venture in compelling terms to others
  • Defining your ambitions and the business functions you intend to perform
  • Configuring your idea to launch a viable and sustainable business
  • Creating a business plan and refining your elevator pitch

2: Marketing a new business

  • Understanding customers’ motivation
  • Product and brand development
  • Customer segmentation
  • Comparisons with competitors
  • Promotion, pricing and distribution

3: Creativity, innovation and research

  • Innovation and generating new ideas
  • Networking for success
  • Marketing research

4: Financial viability for a new venture

  • Assessing the financial viability of your venture
  • Pricing your product or service
  • Sales and revenue forecasting
  • Legal entities, their implications and intellectual property
  • Sources of funding and support.

Please note: the content in this course also features in courses created by The Open University, which are available on FutureLearn.

You will learn

By the end of this course, you’ll have the skills to:

  • develop your initial business idea into a commercially successful proposition
  • engage in networking activities effectively to acquire resources, customers and opportunities
  • assess the financial implications of your plans and adjust them as necessary
  • design a brand that is distinctive and promotes yourself as an entrepreneur
  • develop resilient plans that consider the changing business environment.

Vocational relevance

Starting a new business is very different from running an existing one because it’s likely that you’re bringing something new or unique to the market. You’ll need a wide set of skills in areas that would usually be carried out by several different people in an established workplace, including finance, marketing and networking.

This course has been designed to meet those needs by academics from the OU’s highly respected Business School, which has vast experience in the delivery of online business education. It is one of only 100 business schools in the world to hold triple-accredited status with EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA.

Learner support

There is no tuition on this course, and all study is self-directed. Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to enhance and reflect on your understanding by sharing your thoughts and opinions with co-learners.

Teaching and assessment


This online course is delivered via social learning and includes video, audio and written tutorials. You can learn at your own pace with complete flexibility. Throughout the course, you will be asked to respond to questions, reflect on your experiences and learning, and carry out short exercises to help you develop your understanding.

At the end of each section, you will be asked to answer a set of multiple-choice questions to test your knowledge. You can attempt these as often as you need to. It is important to complete them because they count towards your final score.

To receive a Certificate of Completion, you will need to complete every section and achieve at least 70% in all tests.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

This course is ideal for budding entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own small business or set up self-employment for the first time.

It is suitable for learners at all levels, whether you haven’t ventured into self-employment and entrepreneurship before or have previously run a business and wish to refresh your skills for the current landscape. You should have some background knowledge of the industry in which you hope to compete. This could be from industry specific education, work experience, or prior research. The content in this course has a UK focus, but the majority of content will be useful for learners around the world.

If you'd like to discuss the suitability of the course, please contact us.

Course length

This course will take around 40 hours to complete and you can learn at your own pace. As a guide, if you set aside four hours per week, it would take ten weeks to complete.

You can begin learning at any time. You will have a minimum of six months and up to 18 months to complete the course, depending on your registration date.


Start End England fee Register
At anytime before registration end date Jan 2025 - see Entry requirements for more detail £200.00

Registration closes 31/07/2024


Ways to pay

Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2024/25 academic year. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

All learning materials, exercises and activities are delivered entirely online.

Computing requirements

You can learn from your desktop computer or laptop or take your learning with you on a phone or tablet. You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop/laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher. Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all currently supported Android and iOS versions.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet, you can contact us about the support which can be given to meet your needs.