Finance · 5 April 2018

Seven million wannabe entrepreneurs held back by a lack of opportunity

A new study shows there are seven million budding entrepreneurs across the UK.

Seven million people in the UK want to become entrepreneurs but are held back by lack of investment, knowledge and training.

A new survey from AXA Business Insurance revealed that this vast army of wannabe entrepreneurs, making up 13 per cent of the population, all had advanced plans for a business.

If their ambitions were realised it would massively boost the UK’s private sector economy which currently numbers 4.8m businesses.

Most of the seven million are aged under 25, where 27 per cent had a business idea and wished to start it.

The survey said the biggest factor holding them back was not concern about getting funding or lack of qualifications, but rather a feeling that business and finance skills had been “missed out”

during their education.

Among all demographics, six in ten of budding entrepreneurs said they needed to acquire crucial skills or training before they could set up. Only half of them said the courses and training they need are available and accessible.

Over half, 57 per cent, said they would try and gain skills online including YouTube tutorials. The most sought after, but least available courses were business management, marketing, finance and digital skills.

Just one in ten said they felt there was good startup support available to them. When asked who they would turn to for knowledge and advice on starting a business, just 15 per cent named a governmental, local authority, bank or other institutional source.

Instead, 19 per cent said they didn’t expect anyone to help them. Most said they would turn to family members, particularly mum and dad.

AXA said budding entrepreneurs are also failing to take advantage of government schemes like the British Business Bank and the Start Up Loans Company to finance their business plans. Many will rely on their existing salary or savings instead.

A number of entrepreneurs also cited their own appearance as a barrier believing they were not of the right class, weight, gender, age or even ethnicity to be taken seriously.

“The UK population has an enormous pool of latent entrepreneurship, and it will be a tragedy if it goes to waste. It’s a personal tragedy for individuals who don’t realise their potential, and a national issue as the economy misses out on talent and revenue,” said Gareth Howell, managing director of AXA Insurance.

“This isn’t just about dreams, it’s also about economic survival. With such a rapidly changing workplace and impending challenges like automation, self-employment will become a rite of passage for future generations. Lifelong learning opportunities will be crucial if this population is going to be adaptable, competitive and capable of surviving what the future will throw at us.

“Our study shows that at present the opportunities out there are scarce, under-funded, under-promoted and tend to involve debt.”

The most popular region for budding entrepreneurs was London, followed by Wales and the North West. The top locations for startup support were Swansea, Edinburgh, Southampton and Birmingham.

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Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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