‘The UK remains a phenomenal place to be a small business’ says support body founder

Economy & Politics | National
Small Business Britain founder Michelle Ovens.
Small Business Britain founder Michelle Ovens.

A new organisation delivering support, knowledge and sector insight to the UK’s 5.8 million small businesses has been launched this week.

Small Business Britain aims to be the UK’s leading champion of small businesses, and has been founded by Michelle Ovens MBE, Director of Small Business Saturday UK.

The body will champion, inspire and accelerate small businesses in the UK to foster growth and increased confidence, and help to highlight the connections and opportunities small businesses create in their local communities.

The launch coincides with the publication of the Small Report 2020, which takes stock of small business confidence, ambition and challenges facing small businesses as the country moves ahead post-Brexit.

Supported by TSB, the report reveals ambition levels are high among small businesses, despite issues accessing finance: 86% of the UK’s small businesses consider themselves ambitious for their businesses in 2020, despite a fifth (19%) relying on bank overdrafts to finance their businesses.

The report, a survey of more than 1,000 small businesses across the UK, finds that despite the UK arguably leading the world in opportunities for varied finance solutions for small business, over half (52%) have no financing at all for their businesses – and 42% admit to insufficient access to finance to keep their businesses going.

The insights reflect a lack of awareness of what is available, and indicate a significant opportunity for the sector to be better educated on financing options.

Despite financing challenges, the report finds small businesses’ appetite for growth for their businesses is high – testament to the resilience of small businesses in the face of real financial concerns.

The Small Report 2020 also identifies the digital skills gap as a persistent challenge for the nation’s small businesses, despite a considerable focus on digital skills by government and private sector in the last five years – with nearly half (47%) of small businesses admitting they do not think they have sufficient digital skills for their businesses.

Skills and staffing is a key concern more broadly for Britain’s small businesses, with over a third (37%) unhappy with their ability to maintain and recruit staff. However, the report does demonstrate that small businesses appear resilient in the wake of Brexit when it comes to staffing, with only 8% claiming that our departure from the EU has affected their ability to recruit staff.

Ovens says the report indicates a robust optimism on the part of small businesses to persevere in the face of real and persistent challenges.

She said: “It would be easy to think that amid Making Tax Digital, late payments, mandatory pensions, minimum wage, IR35, and of course Brexit, small businesses feel worn down by the new challenges on their shoulders.

“The Small Report 2020 indicates otherwise. Despite press reports of negative confidence, small businesses have every intention of pushing forward, the vast majority consider themselves ambitious and most have at least some focus on growth in the coming year – and for good reason.

“Our mission is to accelerate small business confidence, and ensure small businesses are recognised for the incredible value they provide and for the day-to-day impact they have on the lives of everyone.

“The UK remains a phenomenal place to be a small business, and the 5.8 million who remain in business in 2019 are a great testament to that.

“The next decade shows no signs of slowing down and we are excited about what these small, courageous, extraordinary businesses and people can achieve.”

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