Maria Bichl is a director at beyond.View Author Profile
The pandemic's business boom will foster a host of entrepreneurial success stories.
Many people aspire to start their own company. But for those who do, knowing quite when, where and why to take this leap can be difficult.
To some extent, however, Covid-19 did much to provide the answers for aspiring (and accidental) entrepreneurs. For one, the pandemic gave birth to new opportunities for startups, with gaps opening up in all industries as a result of the huge changes the virus caused to our day-to-day lives.
Add to that, there was a sharp rise in job losses and insecurity. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, around 1 million people in the UK were made redundant between April 2020 and June 2021, while more than 11.7 million jobs were furloughed.
These push and pull factors go a long way to explaining when and why someone would start a new venture in the midst of a pandemic. Indeed, it is estimated that some 150,000 new companies were formed in the UK in 2020 and 2021 – a record number, demonstrating that the country’s entrepreneurial spirit is healthier than ever.
But that leaves us with the question of where to start a new business. Again, the pandemic forced startup founders’ hands, with the rise of the ‘bedroom business’; for many entrepreneurs, there was no choice but to set up and run their new venture out of their own homes.
Now, as a sense of normality returns to society, people are equipped with far greater choice as to where they work from. So, startup founders will likely be considering whether to continue running their ventures from their bedroom or kitchen table, or if now is the time to take the next step and find a proper workspace to call home.
Ultimately, they must consider what will best enable their startup to scale. After all, data analysis shows that around 32% of new businesses fail within their first two years, while only half survive to five years. On the one hand they may wish to stay lean, keep costs as low as possible; on the other, they may recognise that investments into their operations, infrastructure and employer credibility could provide an important competitive advantage.
Building a base
Startups and small businesses are driving demand for flexible workspace across the UK, particularly in entrepreneurial hubs like London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Cambridge. Why?
For some entrepreneurs, being able to distinguish between their work life and private life is crucial if they are to look after their mental wellbeing and avoid burnout. As many of us will have experienced, working exclusively from one’s home blurs the lines between our professional and private lives, making it harder to step away from the laptop and fully unwind. Having a designated workspace helps prevent this problem.
Having access to business-critical facilities, services and technologies is also important. Poor business infrastructure is commonly cited as a reason for startup failures; conversely, having a workspace with high-speed WiFi, meeting facilities, and even things like printers, scanners and photocopies can make the day-to-day running of a scaling business easier.
Attracting and retaining talent is even more crucial still. Startups globally are fighting a ‘war for talent’ and fully embracing flexible working is seen as an important weapon in this battle – having a flexible, creative and inspiring space that employees can use on the days they want to head into “the office” is hugely valuable when looking to support hybrid working patterns.
One of the other key benefits of start-ups using a physical workspace is the networking opportunities it presents. Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs and scaling businesses can provide useful connections, insights and collaboration, helping an early-stage company to learn and grow in ways that would be very difficult if it was an entirely remote operation.
At beyond, we believe strongly that workspace providers, too, must recognise the need to support startups at this critical juncture. In the UK, small businesses account for 99% of all private companies – they are the lifeblood of the economy and ensuring their success in the years to come will go a long way to boost the national and, even, global economy. Offering true flexibility – not just in the make-up and fit-out of the workspace, but also in the terms and leases – will provide startups with the opportunities they need to scale from bedroom businesses to fully-fledged SMEs.
It is going to be extremely exciting to look back on the entrepreneurial boom during the pandemic and celebrate the success stories to have emerged from such a challenging period. But those success stories will be truly established in the next 12 to 24 months as we transition into the actual “new normal”.
Maria Bichl, director, beyond.
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