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Start-up boom sees rise in rural entrepreneurs

15 August 2023

More and more Brits are choosing to set up their own business, including 100,000 rural micro businesses that have been established in the past 12 months.

2023 has seen an increase in start-ups and in the numbers of self-employed workers; new research suggests there has also been a significant rise in the number of rural businesses.

Data from Venture Forward, an annual international research initiative by GoDaddy, shows that 26% of Britain's micro businesses are based rurally, up from 24% in 2022. This equates to 94,464 start-ups over the past 12 months. The findings also reveal that women now account for more than 44% of rural entrepreneurs, up from 33% in 2022. By comparison, 35% of urban micro business owners are women.

The data shows that rural entrepreneurs tend to be older than their city-based counterparts - 39% of those running rural businesses are over 50, compared with 26% of urban micro business owners. Retail and consumer businesses dominate in the countryside economy, accounting for 14% of ventures. Entertainment and the arts accounts for 10%, followed by IT and technology (8%), professional and business services (7%) and education (6%).

Starting a business on a shoestring

The increased availability of online tools and services could be playing a major role in the thriving countryside economy, according to the report. Two in five rural businesses (43%) were started for less than £1,000, with a further 21% of entrepreneurs requiring less than £5,000 of capital to start trading. Three-quarters (75%) of rural businesses employ at least one other person.

However, rural firms are not immune to the cost-of-living pressures faced by many others. More than three-quarters (77%) have seen their energy bills increase over the past year, with transport (44%), raw materials (43%), production (24%) and staff (17%) among other fixed costs that have risen. In spite of this, 80% of rural entrepreneurs expect to grow in 2023, with just 9% predicting a fall in turnover.

Andrew Gradon, head of GoDaddy UK & Ireland, said: "This data demonstrates a sizeable shift we are seeing in Britain's micro business community. While in the past commerce and enterprise was associated with major urban hubs, advancements in technology and online tools mean businesses can be easily started from anywhere."

Rise in UK start-ups continues

The latest figures from Companies House indicate that almost half a million UK start-ups launched in the first six months of 2023. According to analysis by Enterprise Nation, 431,060 businesses were registered in the first six months of 2023 to the end of June. The surge in start-ups reflects an ongoing trend - 784,762 businesses were registered at Companies House in 2022, compared to 670,575 in 2019.

Meanwhile, the self-employed population also continues to grow according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - there are 64,000 more self-employed than this time last year. This means that the self-employed population has undergone four consecutive quarters of growth; there are now 4.3 million self-employed people operating in the UK.

"We know that people choose self-employment for overwhelmingly positive reasons, whether it's to follow a passion or strike a better work-life balance; that more and more people are choosing to work in this way is something to applaud. But it also highlights the need to urgently tackle the biggest threats to self-employed businesses, such as a punitive tax system, late paying clients, and the soaring cost of living." Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at freelancer body IPSE.

Written by Rachel Miller......

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