StartUp Britain: so far so good?

By: Frances Johnson

Date: 28 November 2011

Eight months ago, StartUp Britain was launched with a fanfare in London, as leading figures from government and the world of business met to promote the launch of another initiative aimed at helping people nationwide to set up their own business.

Cameron & co were out in force to lend their backing to the scheme and encourage British people to consider self-employment in this time of economic downturn. So, has StartUp Britain been a success so far? Has this initiative helped to persuade British people to start their own enterprise? And which areas still need some improvement?

Points for consideration

Global Entrepreneurship Week

November’s GEW was supported throughout the UK with a number of leading figures from British industries getting involved in events and conferences about entrepreneurship and enterprise. Enterprise Nation’s Emma Jones and Tenner’s Oli Barrett – two of the eight entrepreneurs who set up StartUpBritain – were visible during the week, helping to promote the conferences and events taking place. GEW also helped to match up those who required advice on Twitter with those offering advice, using the hash-tags #GEWUK, #GEWask and #GEWoffer. It was fantastic to see how many people were keeping track of the hash-tags and lending support wherever possible.

National press coverage of the week was a little disappointing, suggesting that entrepreneurship still hasn’t caught our national imagination. And, despite GEW’s best attempts to get its hash-tags trending, none trended nationwide. The lack of public awareness of GEW illustrates that more could be done to help boost its profile in future years.

Entrepreneurship in the media

Television programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den have given the general public greater insight into the world of business. Experts from these programmes have become celebrities in their own right, ensuring that business in the UK has a face. Programmes such as Peter Jones’ How I Made My Millions are encouraging people to blow their own trumpet once in a while and celebrate their success!

What these programmes still lack, though, is a link back through to initiatives such as StartUpBritain and the Start Up Donut, which are there throughout the year to support budding entrepreneurs. As it stands there is still a gulf between the annual televised quests for the next great British entrepreneurs and those who endeavour to help people start up all year round.

Government initiatives

Recently, the government announced new steps it will be taking to assist entrepreneurs, including the introduction of an Enterprise Champions Programme, encouraging schools in the UK to develop businesses, and the creation of an online tool where people can submit money-saving suggestions to aid the government in their aim to reduce the deficit.

What the government didn’t do was announce any significant investment in these schemes. Whilst George Osborne said that they might consider the expansion of its Enterprise Investment Scheme, there was little other financial offering. Surely, greater government spending on these initiatives would gain greater national press coverage, helping to kill two birds with one stone?

In conclusion…

In my view StartUp Britain has been a success so far in terms of raising awareness of alternatives to conventional employment. The StartUp Britain website has received hundreds of thousands of hits since its launch and the term ‘start-up’ was frequently searched for on internet search engines after its initial launch and during GEW. More could be done however, if the government provided a little financial assistance to help raise awareness of the fantastic resources that are readily available to small and medium enterprises across the UK. It is a case of ‘so far so good’ for StartUp Britain, but if the initiative is truly going to revolutionise business in the UK and help boost the British economy, it will almost certainly need some contribution from the government coffers.  Meanwhile, we await the next budget with interest.