Boris Johnson hoped to raise spirits with his roadmap out of lockdown yesterday, but small business owners weren’t riding the PM’s wave of optimism about the future. A new survey of small business owners around the UK suggests that, as the economy reopens in earnest, the Government’s handling of the pandemic has crushed our entrepreneurial spirit.
More than half (53%) of the 1,012 small business owners surveyed by the free small business PR platform, Newspage (formerly The Great British Bounce Back), said the treatment of small businesses, especially small limited company directors, would “discourage people from setting up their own businesses” in the future, and result in a decline in entrepreneurialism.
Just 31% of the respondents said the Government’s handling of the pandemic over the past year would “encourage people to set up their own businesses”, while 9% said it would likely have no impact on the number of people setting up their own businesses. 7% were unsure.
Asked how they feel as a small business owner nearly one year on from the start of the pandemic, many of those who responded expressed feelings of despair and anger. A selection of those responses are provided below.
Sarah Gatford, director of Derby-based Sarah Gatford Limited: “No doubt the Government roadmap will rely on small businesses, the backbone of this country, to drive the economy forward. And yet so many of us have been sidelined by an incompetent and arrogant Government that couldn't care less about small business, and which has crushed our entrepreneurial spirit. My resilience has been stretched to its limits just to keep my head above water and taking on debt in the form of a Bounce Back Loan is not support.”
Beverley Wakefield, co-founder of Derby-based Vibrant Accountancy: “It’s great the Government has announced a roadmap out of the pandemic, but I fear the Treasury may have burnt its bridges with a huge number of small businesses that it will rely on to reignite the economy. While the pandemic will force more businesses to start, for the simple reason that fewer people are in jobs, I’m concerned about the Budget update and whether small business owners will be penalised in new tax measures. After all, the Government has made it crystal clear it does not like how small business owners remunerate themselves. Let’s hope this isn’t the case given that small business owners are the lifeblood of our country.”
Trudy Simmons, founder of London-based The Daisy Chain Group: “The road out of lockdown will be strewn with the wreckage of many small businesses that have received zero support from the Government. And while many people could enter self-employment due to the uncertain jobs market, the lack of support for small company limited directors over the past year could discourage people from setting up companies. Clearly, this could have ramifications for the economy as companies are able to scale up in a way sole traders cannot."
Maddy Alexander-Grout, founder of the Southampton-based small business national discount scheme, MyVIPCard: "The UK has always been an entrepreneurial country but the lack of support for so many small businesses over the past twelve months could become a headache for the Prime Minister in the short-term because so many would-be entrepreneurs have become disincentivised. Government support has been very sporadic for small businesses and those trading less than one year have not received anything. As a result, I think a lot of people will be scared to take the plunge into self-employment in the months ahead, and certainly until the market is a bit more stable."
Denise Yeats, director of London-based Denise Yeats Creative Event Production: "The Government roadmap should take into account the mass disillusionment of so many small businesses. To say I feel hugely let down by this Government would be an understatement. I feel continually stressed, anxious and fearful of the future, and can only see my hard earned business disappear.”
Lynsey Pollard, founder of London-based kids’ books provider, Little Box of Books: “In economic terms, I’m optimistic about our planned exit from the pandemic as so many newly launched companies have just been through the most intense business boot camp ever. To run a business in any circumstance, for any length of time, you need resilience, courage and creativity — and emergency schooling, pivoting, stock problems, delivery problems and social distancing have tested all of these to the limit. If we can repeatedly think of solutions during a global pandemic, we can take on the world, at least after some sleep and a few weekends of childcare.”
Keisha Shah, founder of the Milton Keynes-based educational resources provider, Teddo Play: “Although the road out of the pandemic is likely to be bumpy, I feel positive about the future because of the way e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Amazon, Etsy and others have helped companies to thrive, enabling customers and businesses to interact with each other pandemic or no pandemic, lockdown or no lockdown. The wheels of the economy have continued to spin thanks to the internet, e-commerce, fintech and the cloud.”
Peter Marples, founder of the Leicestershire-based consulting business, Aquifer Solutions: “With the roadmap out of lockdown, opportunity dawns. For many, the risk of setting up a business reduces as individuals are in less secure employment, which creates opportunities for change.”
Vicki Lovegrove, founder of Staffordshire-based Seventy Three Design: “Roadmap or not, I feel completely abandoned. I’ve had my micro business for seventeen years, have always paid my tax on time and kept my accounts up to date. Yet as a company director I have been lumped in a group and essentially deemed a fraud risk by the Treasury and therefore only been given a loan. I am disgusted by our treatment.”