Entrepreneurs make a massive but often overlooked contribution to the UK economy. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, the UK has an impressive 5.82 million small businesses (those with less than 50 employees), accounting for 99.3% of all the businesses in the UK. Three-fifths of everyone with a job in the UK – that’s 16.6 million people – works for a small business.
Between them, the UK’s small businesses have a turnover of an estimated £2.2 trillion – an amount of money so vast it is hard to get your head around. If you had a big enough pile of pound coins and could count one coin per second, it would take you 69,761 years and six months to count up to £2.2 trillion. It’s a lot of money.
So, entrepreneurs matter.
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week #GEW2019 – a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit – and you might be surprised to know that, as one of the UK’s largest further education college groups, entrepreneurs are important to us too. Every year, dozens of people leave our colleges – City & Islington, Westminster Kingsway and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) to be entrepreneurs. Armed with the skills they learned with us, they set-up their own businesses – be they consultancies, photography studios, hair and beauty salons or even as personal trainers.
And that’s not all. We’ve set-up our own incubator – Visionnaires – a social enterprise co-founded with the Capital City College Group that provides mentoring and practical support, advice and access to funding, for people who want to pursue their dream. I started Visionnaires because I saw that new or budding entrepreneurs often struggled to make that huge first leap from having a great idea to turning that idea into a tangible and viable business.
I’ve drawn heavily on my own experience of working for and running start-ups, to make sure that Visionnaires is valuable. My first experience of a start-up was 20 years ago, when I joined a new business that used early web technology to teach maths and English. It was exciting, unpredictable and very hard work. Eventually we grew to become the largest further education provider in the UK, and over 1 million people achieved qualifications using new technology. I loved the fact we were breaking new ground in education and giving a lot of people practical help. That’s when I became a social entrepreneur and went on to start three more successful businesses, which in turn led me to start Visionnaires.
Over my years in business, I have seen many people start businesses and many fail. Here are my four tips for start-ups – which we expand on in the Visionnaires programme:
1. Build a vision – it’s not just about the money, your purpose is to make a positive difference to your customers, your team, your communities and the planet.
- Love your business – if you don’t love it, your customers won’t either, do something you care about and do whatever it takes to make it happen.
- Get curious – listen to your customers, team, competitors and your own creative spark, build a bank of crazy ideas, one of them will be your next move.
- Ask for help – don’t be alone, work out what you’re good at and build a network which helps you with everything else, find a mentor and business partners you trust.
Maybe Global Entrepreneurs Week will be the spark that starts you on your journey? You can find out more about Visionnaires on our website www.visionnaires.ac.uk
Pablo Lloyd OBE
CEO and Co-Founder, Visionnaires