The Great British Bounceback: How small businesses are recovering after the pandemic

The Great British Bounceback: How small businesses are recovering after the pandemic
Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial

Posted: Thu 25th Nov 2021

A new survey by Enterprise Nation and Starling Bank has found that many of the UKs small businesses are recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Forty-three per cent of the small businesses (43%) surveyed say their performance is back to how it was before COVID-19. At the same time, 30% claim they are doing better than they were in February 2020.

The research also reveals that while 40% of businesses are yet to bounce back, just 5% are concerned they won’t return to the performance levels they saw prior to the pandemic.

More new businesses are being created than ever before

Over 810,000 new businesses were founded in the UK between March 2020 and March 2021, the highest yearly numbers on record, according to data from Companies House.

Although the rate at which businesses were failing was also high during the same period, with 437,790 businesses having to shut their doors, this was by far outstripped by the number of businesses newly formed.

In the first quarter of 2021 alone, 211,368 new businesses were registered with Companies House.

The ‘Great British Bounceback’ has been driven by businesses’ continued entrepreneurialism:

  • 53% of businesses adapted their services and activities during the pandemic

  • 28% launched entirely new products and services in line with customers’ changing needs

  • 11% expanded into a new industry, while 5% decided to start a new business altogether

Launching a lockdown business

Starling Bank customer Ben Daly dealt with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic by pivoting from running a roofing company to starting a waste collection business.

His new business, BRD Waste Solutions, has been a huge success. “A Facebook post changed everything,” Ben says.

After hearing his wife Rose chatting to a friend about how to tackle the problem of collecting waste while the tips were closed due to the pandemic, Ben asked friends and neighbours on Facebook if they had any waste they’d like collected. Within an hour, he’d received 65 messages.

As a roofer, he already had a waste carrier licence, meaning he could still visit the tip while it was closed to members of the public. Ben makes more from collecting waste than he did from roofing and has doubled his monthly turnover, less than a year after launching the business.

“The most important thing I’ve learnt is to be quick with responding to potential customers and to try and bring your passion for your job to the customer. Most will return many times if you show you care.”

Read more about Ben’s story

Taking on 2022

Most of the businesses surveyed predict that 2022 will be a year of strong performance. With continuing labour shortages, supply chain issues and rising material costs creating a challenging business environment, only 3% of small businesses say they aren’t resilient.

In fact, two-thirds (65%) are optimistic for 2022, with the same percentage confident they’ll increase their turnover.

When asked about their strategy for the year ahead, small businesses indicated they’ll build on the valuable lessons of the pandemic:

  • 60% plan to develop new services in 2022

  • 45% will be investing in technology

  • 42% said that employee training will 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 while 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, resilient, and excited about the opportunities to thrive in a changing environment.

“Like them, Starling adapted its business to meet changing demands, and we’ll 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.”

Support for small businesses

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

In this set of business guides, you can find valuable information on everything from how to set up a business to going international and all the bits in between. Read the guides here

Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial
I'm one of Enterprise Nation's content managers, and spend most of my time working on all types of content for the small business programmes and campaigns we run with our corporate, government and local-authority partners.

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