Despite starting the new year with disputes over the reopening of schools and warnings of fresh, tougher measures in parts of the UK, small business owners are starting 2021 feeling optimistic thanks to the roll out of the vaccine.
A survey of 500 SME owners, conducted by Starling Bank and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, found an overwhelming majority (70%) feeling positive about the next12 months, buoyed by the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines. More than three-quarters said they plan to hire new staff this year, with eight in ten of those planning to do so in the first quarter.
Even though mass rollout of vaccines would allow for restrictions to be eased later in the year, with businesses allowed to reopen to customers for a more ‘normal’ life, it appears that plenty of small business owners are feeling confident because of the digital offering they establish or built upon during the pandemic in 2020.
One of those entrepreneurs is Ellie Carcamo, co-founder of Caribe Coffee Company. Caribe was only 18 months old when the first lockdown began. Ellie had to move swiftly to a 100% online model in order to ensure the safety of both the business and her young son, who is classed as high-risk.
We were very well prepared to move online, Ellie explains. Our excellent service, fast and fun engagement, and fantastic coffee meant that all of our face to face customers followed us.
She added: We removed all obstacles to our clients buying online where possible, including offering free delivery and doing our own local deliveries. We’ve been described as ‘faster than amazon’.
Ellie explained that the rollout of the vaccine could lead to Caribe Coffee returning to food fayres later in 2021, but her focus remains on expanding on the digital offering that became so crucial throughout much of 2020.
We are positive about 2021 with respect to our online growth and we have lots more ideas to grow our coffee business organically, Ellie said. If, and when, Covid is under control we hope to revisit food fayres and markets again, although our focus remains on growing national online growth predominantly.
Back to business
Others are, of course, counting down the days until restrictions are lifted for good and the in-person economy can begin to recover.
Abigail Baldwin, who co-founded creative studio Buttercumble alongside her twin sister Chloe, is full of optimism. Although the pair haven’t been directly affected as a digital business, they work with a number of big clients that are desperate to see shoppers and visitors return to the High Street and attractions across the UK.
Abigail said: We appreciate that everyone is going to feel a little anxious about resuming normal life. Yet, there is a pent up demand for spending as many consumers want to hit the shops once more. New expressions such as revenge travel and revenge shopping have been spotted across social media. We are all longing to get back to business, so with this considered, we believe 2021 will be an improvement on 2020.
There are also entrepreneurs who foresee a few more months of challenges and difficulty before 2021 can really shine. Thom Elliot and his brother James are the founders of Pizza Pilgrims, a pizzeria business based in London that has won awards for its reaction to the pandemic, notably the Pivot Entrepreneurs of the Year award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.
Thom and James created a DIY pizza kit at the start of the first lockdown, sales of which absolutely blew up throughout the year. Thom believes entrepreneurs will have to endure some more hardship before they can feel the full benefit of ‘normal’ life.
I am feeling really rather positive about 2021. I think it will be a very tough start, Thom said. But I really believe once the vaccination program gets going the change in society will be positive and sudden.
People are desperate to get back to eating out again – so I am certain that as soon as the people at risk are protected the eating out economy will return with all the suddenness it left.
The survey indicates plenty of optimism among SME entrepreneurs in the UK. And given the study was conducted just days before the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by UK regulators, this optimism is only likely to increase and we move closer to mass vaccination and restrictions easing.
Commenting on the findings Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank which looks after over 300,000 SME customers’ accounts said: It’s great to see the continued resilience and optimism of many British bu”