Self-made millionaire Baroness Michelle Mone OBE has conducted and delivered an independent review entitled ‘Be the boss’ on how the number of business start-ups within Britain’s most deprived communities can be bolstered.
Today, one in ten people of working age is self-employed, with this figure expected to rise in coming years. However, the number drops dramatically in poorer postcodes where individuals are almost 50% less likely to be working for themselves. Six months ago, the government commissioned Baroness Michelle Mone OBE to investigate why this is the case and how the situation can be turned around. Best known as the woman who established the Ultimo underwear brand in her twenties, Michelle herself famously comes from a humble background in Glasgow’s east end, giving her a good perspective from which to start her enquiries.
The reasons why fewer people from deprived communities find the inspiration and / or the momentum to start and to grow their own businesses are relatively well understood. They include a fear of income insecurity, a lack of confidence and a void of people willing or able to share advice or guidance. Baroness Mone said:
“People living in the most deprived communities still face barriers to starting up their own businesses. It is vital we take steps to overcome these by boosting their confidence, offering more income security and building better business networks.”
But how can these issues be overcome? In order to find out, Baroness Mone consulted with business leaders as well as start-ups, speaking to 75 organisations and 120 individuals along the way. She also worked closely with a number of high profile stakeholder organisations including both the IOEE and SFEDI, sharing the value of their expertise, experience and knowledge, before presenting her findings.
One of the review’s most significant recommendations is that access to start-up loans should be improved. Baroness Mone also suggests that we should be looking to the opportunities afforded to those potential entrepreneurs from deprived areas who are still in education. Her review puts forward the idea of asking schools, local authorities and central government to explore how business skills can be taught to pupils. The New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) was highlighted by the review, which recommended that the support provided by the initiative should be strengthened in quality in order to create stronger businesses with greater long-term viability. Enterprise mentoring was placed firmly in the spotlight by the review’s findings, which recommended that existing entrepreneurs should be encouraged to pass on their valuable insight to those just beginning their enterprise journey. Baroness Mone said:
“By improving access to loans and mentors, and boosting existing government support to aspiring business leaders, we can help foster a more entrepreneurial Britain and improve the lives of families and communities across the country.”
Sarah Trouten, CEO of the IOEE, was pleased to see that taking steps to improve and assess the standard of enterprise mentoring available to start-ups was a key recommendation of Baroness Mone’s review. She said:
“We have witnessed first-hand where high quality mentoring has helped to strengthen the chances of success for those looking to start or grow a new business. We fully support the recommendation for quality assessment of both mentors and business advisers as part of the NEA structure, as our research proves that high quality business support increases success rates, particularly for those who are just starting.”
In fact, enterprise mentoring holds a place very close to Baroness Mone’s heart as she herself was encouraged on her entrepreneurial journey by dedicated guides and advisors. Alluding to this past experience, the fashion tycoon even went as far as to insert a personal message into her review’s introduction, imploring readers to consider mentoring. She wrote:
“If you are self-employed and reading this, I make a plea: I know how valuable your time is but equally I know from my own mentoring how rewarding it can be to help out the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
Ruth Lowbridge MBE is Executive Chair of the SFEDI Group. She felt that Baroness Mone’s review offered an illuminating perspective on the reasons for the disparity in start up numbers across different types of community. Ruth said:
“A thoroughly refreshing approach to reviewing the challenges faced by those disadvantaged by either where they live or the accessibility of adequate support networks. Michelle, in her own inimitable style, has fired straight to the core of the challenges faced with practical recommendations which are sure to have far-reaching effects on the whole of the small business community, not just those looking to start-up businesses in disadvantaged areas.”