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Record investment and strong growth planned by small businesses, but loneliness and innovation are a challenge

8th December 2021

  • Small businesses owners confident for 2022, with record investment planned

  • Loneliness, creativity and ideation cited as critical business challenges

  • Experienced entrepreneurs share the advice they wish they’d known

London, 8 December 2021 - Two-thirds of small business leaders (63%) feel lonely in their role, which could prevent their company from reaching its full potential. Of 1,046 business leaders surveyed by Starling Bank, seven in ten (70%) say they find it hard to come up with new and innovative ideas on their own, and a similar number (68%) said they want more advice from their peers when it comes to running their business.

Despite these concerns, Britain’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have a positive outlook for 2022. More than two-thirds of those surveyed are confident for the year ahead (68%), with the average small business planning revenue growth of 11% next year.

Their ambitions are pinned on hard graft and new investment; more than three quarters (76%) are planning record financial investment in their companies, and a similar amount (73%) will devote more time to their business than ever before.1

With small businesses being the UK’s economic powerhouse - accounting for 61% of employment and more than half of turnover in the UK (52%) at £2.5 trillion - it’s important their leaders feel supported for the year ahead. With this in mind, Starling Bank has launched a new initiative to help small businesses reach their full potential.

Take Flight - a support package complete with expert business guidance for all and a bursary for ten companies of £5,000 each - is backed by four experienced entrepreneurs including pilot and serial entrepreneur Carol Vorderman. Each one will be involved in judging Take Flight competition entries, where applicants simply have to state how they’d use the bursary for their business.

To celebrate the launch, Starling Bank’s panel of expert entrepreneurs have also shared their most critical advice to ensure businesses keep flying high.

Experienced entrepreneurs share their flying lessons

Carol Vorderman, pilot, TV personality and founder of The Maths Factor, says business leaders should take a considered approach when hiring talent:

“It’s very easy to grow and think, ‘I’m going to take on more people.’ But you really have to have the income to do that... Make an initial budget and then think about it. Then go through it again and ask yourself: Where can I save a little bit of money? Where can I make a little bit of money? That’s how successful businesses operate. It’s about the details.”

Chika Russell, founder and CEO of Chika’s Snacks urges business leaders not to ignore their own intuition when working with others:

“Sometimes people will look to one person - one investor, one shareholder, one employee - to make the difference to them and for them. And I’ve learned and I see it time and time again that it’s a formula that doesn’t work. Don’t believe that any one person can make the difference to you, it’s got to be a collective effort.”

Belinda Kirk, rower and founder of Explorers Connect, encourages business leaders to get outside of their comfort zone, and draws from her mountaineering experience when it comes to daunting challenges:

“Choosing to go outside your comfort zone in one area of your life can also empower you to go outside of your comfort zone in other areas of your life. It’s not always comfortable - that’s the point - but it is how we make memories and achieve our potential. When taking on a business challenge, don’t look at the whole thing in front of you. You don’t look to the summit, you look to camp one. You don’t look to the finish line, you look just a little way ahead.”

Claud Williams, executive coach and founder of Dream Nation, believes that businesses can build on their potential by appealing to more diverse perspectives and experiences:

“The more human you can make your product or service, the better it will sell. Think about who you want your customers to be. What are all the different parts of identity? Gender, age, height, sexuality, race. Then try to represent that across your website in terms of your imagery and language.”

Anne Boden, CEO and founder at Starling Bank said: “As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve experienced the pressures of spinning multiple plates - it’s a lot to take on when you’re also trying to drive your business forward. I was flying solo when I first started Starling Bank, so asking others for advice and learning from them was invaluable.”

Symmie Swil, Head of SME Banking at Starling Bank said: “What’s been interesting about the pandemic is how much investment has gone into small businesses - and how many have been created. We want to help keep that momentum going.”

Notes to editors

1 76% of respondents said they would invest a record amount in 2022 more than any previous year.

According to the latest data from Companies House, more than 810,000 new businesses were founded in the UK between March 2020 and March 2021, the biggest year for creation on record. Although the rate of business failure was high during the period, with 437,790 businesses having to shut their doors, this was by far outstripped by new business formation.

Research methodology

Research carried out by DeltaPoll, questioning a representative sample of 1,046 small business senior decision makers. Research carried out online between the 13th and 22nd of November 2021. All quoted regions and cities have a sub-sample of at least 50 respondents.

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is an award-winning, fully-licensed and regulated bank built to give people a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past. It offers personal, child, business, joint, euro and dollar current accounts alongside a range of lending products. Starling also provides B2B banking and payments services through its Banking-as-a-Service model based on the proprietary technology platform that it uses to power its own bank. The Starling Marketplace offers customers in-app access to a selection of third party financial services. Headquartered in London, it has offices in Southampton, Cardiff and Dublin.


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