Covid-19 has brought many challenges to all kinds of industries and professions. Many were concerned about the effect on young entrepreneurs across the nation – what would happen to the UK’s thriving start-up scene in the likes of Manchester, London, Exeter and Bristol?
As Paul Beach, Head of Executives and Entrepreneurs, Private Banking at Arbuthnot Latham explains a mandated ‘remote’ working style, rapidly changing consumer habits and tightened purse strings created a new and unknown business landscape. These shifts began in Lockdown 1.0 and will only become more entrenched as we move through 2.0. Would young entrepreneurs be squeezed out of the industry? We hoped not.
I’ve seen first-hand that the entrepreneurial spirit is still very much alive and kicking from my work with start-ups from The Business School (formerly Cass Business School) and City, University of London. Every November, we celebrate young entrepreneurs at the Inspiring Innovator awards and this year’s entries are as innovative as ever! But I’ve seen new trends emerge, with this year’s finalists quickly adapting. And it’s not just new businesses, established start-ups connected to The Business School such as Twipes and Mash Paddle Brewery have continued to evolve to compete on the world stage. The UK’s home-grown entrepreneurial talent is more motivated than ever.
Entrepreneurs are adapting quicker than ever
Entrepreneurs can spend years strategising before executing a business plan. The outbreak of Covid-19 caused dramatic and unexpected disruption. But the UK’s new homegrown entrepreneurs are resilient by nature. Faced with cancelled exams, postponed lessons, virtual university courses and suspended internships, the route for young people looking to start a business has never been less certain. Vital networking opportunities were moved online, with many young people missing out on those critical ‘watercooler’ moments.
It is a testament to the resilience and strength of the UK’s young people, that our Gen Z entrepreneurs are continuing to build and grow. One example is EMenuNow which is a start-up offering a ‘plug & play’ contactless ordering and payments service. By quickly taking stock of the new ‘post Covid-19’ world, entrepreneurs like EMenuNow have been able to quickly innovate to solve new problems.
DeepReel is another business that has risen to the challenge of COVID, leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to automate the process of voice dubbing. With a huge increase in virtual and online interactions due to COVID, DeepReel taps into a key trend that is only set to increase. For an entrepreneur, there are always new opportunities ready to be grasped with both hands.
Sustainability and social wellbeing are top of the agenda
In challenging times, concerns around sustainability and social wellbeing can often fall by the wayside. But throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen these issues rise to the top of the agenda and have been ready to assist where we can. Many have accelerated plans and social entrepreneurship is thriving. One great example is a start-up called Leiho, a social enterprise focused on improving the quality of life of the UK’s homeless population.
We’ve also seen an influx of wellbeing apps. The lines between work and personal life have blurred; many entrepreneurs are now acutely aware of the challenges and importance of personal wellbeing. This is mirrored in the mission of many entrepreneurs – gone are the days of ‘get rich quick’ strategies. Start-ups want sustainable and long-term value to be proud of.
Camaraderie across the entrepreneur eco-system is strong
There is a strong sense of camaraderie amongst young entrepreneurs and a willingness to help mentor and encourage. This collaborative eco-system is rapidly developing across ‘Gen Z’ and will continue to grow. Working from home has broken down boundaries between the workplace and personal life. In many cases, this has led to the creation of stronger relationships between colleagues and business partners.
Businesses such as WealthAware, a platform that brings transparency to retail investing, have continued to engage with virtual networking forums. These forums create a vital space for entrepreneurs to share expertise and learnings.
Post Covid-19 entrepreneurs are physically agile
Remote working and social distancing restrictions challenged the well-worn business model of many companies. Pubs, bars and restaurants that were viable and popular pre-Covid-19 have had to adapt. Start-up Mash Paddle Brewery, whose founders attended The Business School, had a strategy built around a physical location. Rather than accept defeat, the business pivoted and looked to find opportunities. The Mash Paddle Brewery found that rents in prime locations were now lower due to a decline in footfall, managing to secure an in demand location that would have been previously out of reach.
Many businesses are now buying locally and engaging with artisans at a scale not seen for years. Companies such as Inspiring Innovator alumni Twipes, the disposable wet wipes brand, successfully localised their supply chain in response to manufacturing disruption from COVID-19. Start-ups are also encouraging workforce agility. With the closure of borders many businesses had to quickly adapt to a globally dispersed workforce. Physical office space is no longer a priority, with entrepreneurs instead looking to hybrid workplace ‘hubs.’ This mobility is empowering the global start-up community to truly collaborate, but also increases the need for a strong network and counsel.
The UK’s young entrepreneurs are innovative and dynamic. We’ve seen and helped start-ups quickly pivot and adapt to the ‘new normal.’ Despite huge obstacles, and the recent introduction of a national lockdown, young people are more focused than ever on sustainability and wellbeing. This translates to how entrepreneurs are engaging with each other, as we see and facilitate deep collaboration and knowledge sharing. There is no longer a need to be ‘physically’ together and businesses are being agile in their approach to branch locations and office space. In the face of uncertainty and challenges, the resilience factor is stronger than ever.
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