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The Great British Bounceback: 2021 performance boosts small business confidence

25th November 2021

  • Two-thirds of small businesses are confident of increased turnover in 2022

  • Nine in ten demonstrate resilience

  • New services and tech investment top New Year priorities

London, 25 November 2021: Two-fifths of small businesses (43%) report that their performance is back to pre-pandemic levels, with nearly a third (30%) stating they are performing better than they were in February 2020*.

The research from Enterprise Nation and Starling Bank reveals that while 40% of businesses are yet to bounce back, more (43%) say they are recovering and just 5% are concerned they won’t reach pre-pandemic performance.

More than 810,000 new businesses were founded in the UK between March 2020 and March 2021, the biggest year for creation on record, according to data from Companies House. 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. In Q1 2021 alone, 211,368 new businesses were registered with Companies House.

‘The Great British Bounceback’ has been driven by businesses’ continued entrepreneurialism; more than half (53%) adapted their company’s services and activities during the pandemic and more than a quarter (28%) launched entirely new products and services in line with changing customer needs. One in 10 small businesses (11%) expanded into a new industry, while 5% even decided to start a new business altogether.

Taking on 2022

The majority (65%) of those surveyed predict that 2022 will be a year of strong performance. Amid continued labour shortages, supply chain issues and rising material costs creating a challenging business environment, only 3% of small businesses report that they aren’t resilient. In fact, two thirds (65%) are optimistic for 2022, with the same amount confident they’ll increase their turnover.

When asked about their strategy for the year ahead, small businesses indicated that they will build on the valuable lessons of the pandemic. Some 60% said they planned to develop new services in 2022, while 45% said they would be investing in technology and 42% said that employee training would be a top priority.

Keshia Sakarah, owner of Caribe restaurant in London and a Starling Bank business customer said: “I started Caribe just before the pandemic began - it really tested my business. By engaging with my local community on social channels, and pivoting to digital ordering and delivery, we’ve had more customers than ever before. I’m excited for 2022 and whilst I know I’ll still face challenges, I’m confident that with creative and entrepreneurial thinking, Caribe will continue to thrive.”

Symmie Swil, Head of SME Banking at Starling Bank, said: “Our customers are innovating at speed, they’re resilient, and are excited about the opportunities to thrive in a changing environment. Like our customers, Starling adapted our business to meet changing demands, and we will continue innovating to support the evolving needs of our entrepreneurial customers.”

Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “Small businesses haven’t just bounced back this year - they’ve bounced forward. As we enter the new year with continued uncertainty, it’s encouraging to see so many businesses confident about what’s in store.”

To help small businesses take flight in 2022, Starling Bank partnered with business expert Della Hudson for a series of Flying Lessons.

Notes to editors

Enterprise Nation surveyed its membership of limited company owners and sole trader business leaders, between 1 October and 1 November 2021, securing 514 online responses. The respondents to the survey were drawn from the owners and senior leadership of businesses, based in every region of the UK. 39.1% of respondents were male. 58.2% were female. The remaining respondents either preferred not to say or identified differently. 53.5% of respondents had zero employees. 34.2% had between 1-5 employees. 5.8% had between 6-10 employees. 3.1% had between 10-20 employees. 2.7% had between 20-50 employees. 0.4% had over 50 employees.

*The business leaders surveyed represent SMEs that were still active as of 1 October - 1 November 2021.

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 business, personal, joint, euro and dollar current accounts alongside a child card. 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.

About Enterprise Nation

Enterprise Nation is the UK’s leading small business network and business support provider delivering support to more than 50,000 small businesses every month. Its aim is to help people turn their good ideas into great businesses – through expert advice (including a comprehensive resources library), events, acceleration support and networking.

Enterprise Nation was founded in 2005 by British entrepreneur Emma Jones CBE, also co-founder of national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain. She is author of best-selling business books including Spare Room Startup, Working 5 to 9, Go Global, Start a Business for £99 and the StartUp Kit, Going for Growth. She is a frequently called-on and regular media commentator on a range of issues which affect the UK’s growing number of SMEs.

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