How do small businesses feel about the future?

Small businesses are powering through another demanding year. The cost-of-living crisis accompanying the rise of inflation, particularly increases in the cost of goods, services, and energy, are just a few examples of the obstacles thrown at small firms

How do small businesses feel about the future

However, there are growing, positive signs that small businesses are now reaching a turning point. New research from Small Business Saturday UK and its principal supporter American Express has found that despite inflation and cash flow remaining a challenge for firms, the majority of business owners are now growing in confidence.

The annual Barometer report – which surveys 1,000 UK small and medium sized business owners and decision makers – found that eight in 10 (79%) of small business owners expect their business to grow over the next 12 months. This is an uplift of thirteen percentage points year-on-year. The survey also found the same percentage (79%) feel their business is currently in good shape, (compared to 74% a year ago).

It is really encouraging to hear small businesses sounding more up-beat. However, the picture is not all rosy and huge challenges remain. Concerningly over a third of small firms (35%) said that it is increasingly hard to run a small business. This is not surprising considering the impact of inflation, with over half (53%) stating rising costs as their biggest challenge, followed by business rates and taxes at 25%, and labour at 23%. Almost six in 10 (57%) respondents believe cashflow challenges have hampered their growth ambitions. 

Yet in spite of all these changes the determination of entrepreneurs is not easily deterred. The majority (70%) of business owners feel the challenges of the last three years have made them a more resilient business leader.

And we can see this in the way they are tackling the challenges coming at them, with almost one third (30%) planning to ramp up sales and marketing activity to drive growth in the coming months, a quarter (25%) looking to diversify their products and service offerings, and a fifth (20%) investing in new technology.

This is all inspiring stuff to hear! However, it’s important to acknowledge that a significant majority – eight in 10 (82%) – of small business owners feel there is a need for more celebration and recognition of entrepreneurship. 

This should give us pause for thought. Being an entrepreneur is no easy feat. It involves hard work, sheer determination and dealing with a lot of risk and uncertainty.  Our nation relies on these people to set out on their own, and drive innovation and growth. 

There certainly needs to be greater acknowledgement of the courage it takes to start your own business and the positive impact this has on broader communities and the economy.

Initiatives like Small Business Saturday UK play a big role in cheering entrepreneurs on. Now in its second decade in the UK the campaign aims to channel much needed public support for the nations 5.5 million small businesses, particularly over the challenging winter months, but with an impact that lasts all year. This public support for small businesses is in no short supply, and we have seen it rise as a force. Over the time the campaign has been running Small Business Saturday has engaged millions of people and seen billions spent on the day itself.

Each year we select 100 impressive entrepreneurs from across the country to spotlight, as a way to represent the face of entrepreneurship in the UK and officially mark the countdown to Small Business Saturday on the first weekend in December (this year on 2 December).

We kick off our countdown with an amazing business from Portsmouth called Chilli Mash which makes condiments from chillies, working with farmers in Rwanda. 

Among the incredible entrepreneurs featured in this year’s SmallBiz100 line-up, you’ll find beauty salons,  butchers, bootcamps, innovative tech-start-ups and family-run restaurants.

The businesses we are featuring hail from all corners of the UK. They put their heart and soul into the work they do, embracing a strong mission and core values of sustainability and inclusivity. 

The eclectic array of phenomenal entrepreneurs in the SmallBiz100 sums up the inspiring and unrelenting spirit of entrepreneurship across our nation. They rightly deserve to be celebrated and to receive greater recognition from us all. As the countdown to Small Business Saturday begins, it is an important reminder for us all to keep this in focus. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but this support means a lot to business owners and makes a major difference to the confidence they feel, and the broader collective economic impact they have. 

Michelle Ovens
Michelle Ovens

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