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New entrepreneurs emerge in the face of adversity

5 May 2020

A new survey has found that one in ten Brits have plans to start their own business because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK start-up competition The Pitch has surveyed 2,000 UK adults and has found that 11% say they want to start a business because of the coronavirus crisis. Around one-fifth want to start a business to give back to society.

Key reasons for starting a business include:

  • To earn extra money (47%);
  • To have something to do (26%);
  • Because I finally have the time to start a business (21%);
  • To give back to society (17%);
  • It's my only option (16%).

The number of people that want to start a business because of the crisis is highest in London, Sheffield and Newcastle. Of those that are interested in working for themselves, 16% have started on a plan, 11% have spoken to a financial adviser, 11% have spoken to potential customers and 10% have registered a company.

Just over 3% of those surveyed have already launched a business because of the crisis. The figures are even higher in Brighton (5.08%), Glasgow (6.02%) and Birmingham (4.95%).

The Pitch, which was launched in 2008, helps start-ups create a pitch and gives them the platform to use it. The competition is now open for applications and The Pitch will run five free, day-long business boot camps across the country to find the UK's most exciting new start-ups before the final in November. The Pitch is also offering every applicant free one-on-one sessions covering everything from marketing to cashflow.

"We know business is tougher than ever right now," said Chris Goodfellow, founder of Box 2 Media, which runs The Pitch. "We also know that amazing, world-changing businesses will be built during the crisis.

"Every year, we see The Pitch finalists trying to solve some of the biggest challenges we face, from mental health to tackling food waste. There's no doubt the UK's entrepreneurs are going to step up in the wake of the coronavirus crisis too."

Several of The Pitch judges founded their businesses during recessions and went on to build hugely successful companies, including equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and Moneypenny.

Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube, said: "I'm a strong believer that difficult economic times are a breeding ground for innovation; it's no coincidence to me that the likes of Funding Circle, Crowdcube and Ratesetter emerged from the banking crisis.

"Britain has a proud history of innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship and it's vital we continue to support our start-up community, who will be crucial in helping our economy emerge from this crisis."

Ed Reeves, co-founder of Moneypenny, said: "Moneypenny was born as we entered a tumultuous few years of recession. There wasn't a single person who felt it was a good time to start trading, including pretty much every potential investor … Out of adversity comes opportunity."

Research by the Institute of Directors (IoD) suggests that businesses are also adapting in the face of the pandemic. An IoD survey of business leaders has found that four in ten said their organisation had made changes - especially home working and a greater focus on digital services - that they intend to keep in place after lockdown.

In addition, almost one in six of those polled said they had launched a new product or service due to the circumstances. The majority of these were related to the country's medical response, from producing hand gel to procuring PPE.

Edwin Morgan, IoD director of policy, said: "Many companies are finding a way to innovate through the obstacles. The solutions they create might just end up becoming the new normal."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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