‘Small businesses will lead us out of a Covid-induced slump’

Even in tough times there are opportunities for entrepreneurs, because of the need for change. In the final Power of Us podcast, Rachel Riley hears from the innovators and discusses how we can all help It may not seem like a time for small business owners to be particularly cheerful, […]

Even in tough times there are opportunities for entrepreneurs, because of the need for change. In the final Power of Us podcast, Rachel Riley hears from the innovators and discusses how we can all help

It may not seem like a time for small business owners to be particularly cheerful, but there are opportunities for entrepreneurs in times of great change – not least the chance to foster innovative solutions to the biggest problems facing society, and paving the way out of recession. The final episode in a six-part series of podcasts – created by Telegraph Spark and Legal & General – explores this and more, seeking solutions from both experts and the general public.

Mathematician and presenter Rachel Riley talks to independent business owner Gemma Lewis of Wattle and Daub Homewares Store, Philip Salter, founder of the Entrepreneurs Network and Kerry McGowan, managing director of The HR Specialists.

Small businesses will be those who lead us out of a Covid-induced slump – this was the uplifting conclusion from our panel. When the first lockdown struck, entrepreneur Gemma Lewis’s homeware shop Wattle and Daub had just a skeleton website. She worked all hours to get her online business up and running. 

Lewis has since found new customers and diversified her offering – her creative and photography workshops help other businesses make their products look good online, so she is contributing to her local network, too.

Younger companies such as Lewis’s will be better poised to pick up the pieces after the pandemic, says Philip Salter, founder of the Entrepreneurs Network, who joined Lewis to discuss how to encourage entrepreneurs. New companies created jobs after the financial crash more than a decade ago, and they can do it again, he believes. “I definitely don’t think it’s a bad time to start a business now,” he says.

Small teams are also more likely to come up with innovative answers to the world’s thorniest problems, such as climate change and education, says Salter. “They’re the kind of people who are … taking an even bigger step back. Without that mindset, we wouldn’t be as wealthy humans as we are now.”

These new businesses need education and training – to understand cash flow, online trading, strategy, finance and more, says Kerry McGowan, managing director of the HR Specialists. “There are so many small businesses with great ideas. Most of them will survive. You can adapt your circumstances and use technology. It’s not all doom and gloom.”

But schoolchildren don’t learn enough about entrepreneurship and finance, says Salter, and panellists agree that start-ups could do with more encouragement – peer networks, local business leadership schemes and targeted government support. “And seek advice on the financials,” says McGowan – use accountants, HR and IT advisers who are rich sources of specific advice, and learn as you go. “We’ve got to have tenacity,” says Lewis. “We’ve just got to keep going and ride this wave.”

Listen to more episodes in the Power of Us podcast series »

The Power of Us

Building greater, more sustainable economic growth can improve the lives of everyone in the UK.

This is the goal of inclusive capitalism: using money and investment as a force for good, to create real jobs and better infrastructure to transform the UK’s cities and towns and tackle the biggest issues of our times such as housing, climate change and ageing demographics.

It’s something businesses, communities and individuals can all get behind and work together to achieve – and it’s why Telegraph Spark has teamed up with Legal & General for The Power of Us, a campaign that aims to identify the challenges facing society, then use some of the UK’s brightest, most innovative thinkers to help solve them.

The Power of Us: the future is in your hands.

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