According to statistics released in January of this year by The Office of National Statistics, or ONS, many small businesses across the UK are struggling to stay afloat. In fact,
close to 15 percent, or one-in-seven small businesses in the country are at a high risk of imminent closure, and the businesses with fewer than ten employees - also known as ‘microbusinesses’ - are particularly vulnerable.
Although the standard business challenges - reduced demand from customers, difficulty recruiting staff, and inflation - are all underlying causes around this current small business landscape, the after-effects of COVID-19 are the lingering culprit. Despite
widespread vaccination, many people are still preferring the relative safety and convenience of online shopping, which means reduced patronage for smaller businesses who rely on foot traffic. Additionally, many small business owners have reservations about
investing hard-earned capital in advertising and other promotional methods due to fears around possible future lockdowns due to variants of the COVID-19 virus like the newest Omicron strain.
Despite this bleak tone of adversity, almost half of all small business owners surveyed across the country state they have plans not only to continue operating, but to grow their businesses in the next twelve months. Out of the 1000 small business owners
surveyed, the majority said
access to financing was both the main barrier to their growth, and if solved, the factor they believe could truly jolt the economy back into action.
This financing barrier is one aspect of running a small business the
Mayor’s International Business Programme, an initiative run by
London and Partners, a business and growth agency for London, aims to solve. With resources and guidance available from a number of recently emerged industry leaders, Monzo, Revolut, and Crowdz, among others, the programme aims to help UK small businesses
recover and grow both in the UK and internationally.
Eligible participants of the free programme will receive access to one-on-one mentoring sessions from entrepreneurs and business leaders, focused workshops and events on multiple aspects of running a business, including how to use alternative financing to
access funding when traditional institutions won’t approve a loan; connections to top corporates in London and internationally; live leads for specific business opportunities in North America, Europe, China, and India; and the opportunity to join high-profile,
targeted trade missions led by a team of international business experts.
Additional opportunities in the UK for small businesses with a focus on sustainability and the development of new solutions aimed at addressing current unique challenges are also emerging. One such problem is climate change, a well-known and highly politicized
issue, which experts agree has been fuelled by human activity. The funding of close to £10 billion was announced by Prime Minister, Boris Johnston, at the Global Investment Summit on October 19, and is set to create over
30,000 jobs across the UK through investments in key strategic areas.
The package, which consists of 18 seperate deals with a number of private entities, is set to support growth in vital sectors such as wind and hydrogen energy, sustainable homes, and carbon capture and storage and is intended to cement the UK’s climate leadership
for COP26 and beyond. Although this funding is not available for small businesses to access in the form of grants, the initiative is set to boost the economy and create new industrial niches ripe to nurture supporting small businesses - solar power system
servicing businesses, for example - necessary for the function and maintenance of these groundbreaking innovations.
While COVID-19 has impacted small businesses on an unprecedented scale, the future is not dystopian. Initiatives like the Mayor’s International Business Programme, along with a boost in funding and fresh focus on modern issues mean that current and future
small businesses across the country have access to the support, resources, and opportunities necessary for not only survival, but also sustained long-term growth.