Helping microbusinesses to have full opportunity to grow

In all the time I’ve worked with small businesses sole traders and microbusinesses have always stood out as being particularly ripe for growth

Helping microbusinesses to have full opportunity to grow

There is a very clear opportunity to help founders at this stage – who are often hugely ambitious, resourceful and resilient. Yet the path to growth for businesses of this size isn’t always clear-cut or straightforward.

This has always struck me as an important problem to solve. So we set about fixing it! This month, our iconic ‘Small and Mighty Enterprise Programme’ returns, and has already seen over 1000 sign-ups, with a full waiting list. It was born exactly out of the feeling that we need to do more to supercharge the nation’s smallest firms, adapting uniquely to their needs.

While entrepreneurs may have great business ideas, they don’t necessarily always have all the skills to build a business, and there are a lot of hurdles that can prevent even some of the most promising businesses from getting off the ground or from flying high.

And with the UK’s 5.2 million microbusinesses still recovering from all the turmoil of recent years, and facing fresh challenges posed by recession too, they are particularly vulnerable in today’s choppy economic climate.

They need targeted support to not just survive, but thrive beyond the state of crisis some have found themselves in over the past few years. And this support needs to be targeted, inclusive and match their unique circumstances and potential.

Because the reality is that entrepreneurs have different needs and face different barriers – particularly in terms of business support. Helping more to make those first small, but vital, steps towards scaling up can unlock huge growth opportunity for the UK.

For instance, mentoring can have a particularly powerful impact. Entrepreneurs can benefit greatly from direct, one-to-one wisdom, insights and guidance. Just having a chat and an opportunity to learn from someone more experienced, who has paved a similar path, can provide a whole new perspective.

Equally, business owners can gain from the community and knowledge sharing that comes with peer support. Being an entrepreneur can sometimes be a lonely business, so having access to like-minded founders in comparable situations can also be a game changer for navigating the tricky road of entrepreneurship.

‘Small and Mighty’ offers 1-2-1 and group mentoring, as well as access to a network of peers, all of which will boost confidence, collaboration and opportunity.  The programme is designed to be flexible and accessible, to fit around the (often demanding!) schedules and responsibilities of small business owners. Participants attend live weekly sessions, (which are also available on-demand) and are guided through remote worksheets by expert trainers.

Accessibility is not only core to ‘Small and Mighty’, but central to our ethos and every initiative Small Business Britain runs. Earlier this year we launched The Lilac Review – an independent, Government-backed initiative – to identify and address the challenges disabled entrepreneurs face in their business journeys. Though disabled entrepreneurs currently account for about 25 per cent of the nation’s 5.5 million small businesses, they only represent 8.6 per cent of total small business turnover. Many face considerably more barriers and are less likely to receive external business support when starting out.

The need to think about entrepreneurial support from all angles is therefore really important. We have seen time and time again that existing business support can be far too inaccessible and rigid. In reality all entrepreneurs are all unique, with different needs—business needs, care responsibilities, impacts on their time such as life events and illness, and personal preference when it comes to learning style.

These businesses may be small, but they are mighty force in our economy and represent the future of our nation’s prosperity. My hope is that as support for this part of the economy grows, so too will their power and performance.

Michelle Ovens
Michelle Ovens

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