Brexit prompts the rise of the micro business

Katherine Denham
We should actually take pride in the entrepreneurial spirit of our nation (Source: Getty)

More business-minded people are taking matters into their own hands.

Figures from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy indicate that there are now more than 5.5m companies in the UK, and 99 per cent of these businesses are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

This figure is at a record high – jumping dramatically from 2010, when there were 4.5m SMEs, and from 2000 when there were 3.5m. It’s clear that small firms are now the engine of our economy.

Read more: Coping with the cocktail of issues facing SMEs

Peter Alderson, managing director of business finance provider LDF, says the small business population is experiencing a period of notable growth.

He says LDF has seen a new wave of entrepreneurs who are “refreshingly ambitious”.

A large proportion of these small businesses fit into the “micro” category, meaning they have less than nine employees. But why are we seeing such a rise in people opting for this route?

Arguably, it’s a sign of the state of a changing workforce, a workforce which demands more flexibility and freedom from jobs.

People no longer want to work in a job that they despise, commit to normal hours, or be forced to come into an office – they want to work for themselves.

Opting for the self-employed route also means that workers can fit their career neatly around their personal lives, and ultimately take control of their own destinies.

Of course the internet has a huge part to play in the growth of this small business sector, because it means that we no longer need to be surrounded by paperwork – we can do everything online. In fact, working online means the cost of running a business can be tiny in comparison.

Alderson says that businesses can benefit from reduced overheads. But keeping ahead in the online space can be tough for smaller businesses, and he says many firms are looking for loans to help finance technology investment.

Some might argue that this rise in micro businesses is a sign of a stagnant economy, but it doesn’t have to be seen in this light.

The government has arguably realised how crucial this sector is to the economy – having backtracked on its decision to hike National Insurance tax for the self-employed earlier this year.

And while many might expect Brexit to prompt a decline the amount of small businesses in the UK, it seems to be doing the opposite, with data from LinkedIn pointing to a five per cent increase in the number of micro businesses since the Brexit vote.

This could be a sign of people being laid off by some of the larger businesses, who have shed staff over concerns about Brexit. But this is a positive outcome if more people are choosing to set up their own innovative companies.

“With the number of new businesses on the up, access to finance remains firmly on the agenda,” Alderson says. “Traditional, challenger and non-bank providers are having to evolve at pace to meet a changing set of needs from a broader set of industries.”

The impact of Brexit on these businesses is yet to be seen, but domestically focused firms are less affected by foreign trade agreements. So while some might be holding off on capital expenditure until they get a clearer picture, the majority have said that they have been undeterred by the Brexit result, according to a report on small businesses from Opus Energy.

In fact, 29 per cent of small businesses said they feel more confident now about their business than they did before the EU referendum.

So perhaps we should actually take pride in the entrepreneurial spirit of our nation – and nurture it.

Read more: Why alternative finance is now mainstream

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