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This year has been a struggle for many small businesses and entrepreneurs across the UK and as 2020 draws to a close, it would seem the hardship is set to continue. Despite this adversity, confidence ahead of the coming year amongst young entrepreneurs remains high, with over three quarters (77%) optimistic going into 2021.

Astonishingly, this is higher than the beginning of 2020, when only half (51%) of young entrepreneurs were optimistic about the year ahead.

New polling conducted by One Poll on behalf of the Tata group and supported by the National Association of Colleges and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), reveals the majority (87%) of young entrepreneurs think the UK remains a good place to be an entrepreneur right now, compared to just 60% in January.

In fact, the 18-30-year-old entrepreneurs that employ between 1-250 people, as a cohort, have high aspirations for the next three to five years, with 59% keen to grow their team, half (47%) looking to increase their revenue and 47% hoping to improve their equipment and machinery.

Also inspiring, is the fact that young entrepreneurs are not solely focused on their bottom line, their aspirations lie in seeking better training for themselves and their staff (51%), looking to grow their networking contacts (37%) and 1 in 10 (10%) will be encouraging others to start a business.

The challenges and priorities have shifted since before the pandemic when Brexit was front and centre for many young entrepreneurs, with a third (33%) considering it the main obstacle to their business’ success. Unsurprisingly, 32% now consider Covid-19 to be the main obstacle, followed by other related factors including, lack of profit (36%), staff turnover (30%) and the state of the economy (19%).

Not immune from the impacts of the recession, young entrepreneurs have been affected on all fronts, with 43% reporting decreased turnover, 50% saying they have seen a reduction in headcount and a further 14% seeing salary and hours cuts.

As entrepreneurs and small businesses navigate this changing landscape, they are looking to the government to continue its ongoing support. 

Two thirds (66%) of young entrepreneurs believe that they will need more access to government grants and assistance post-pandemic. Three quarters (78%) think they’ll need more training, 63% need funding for equipment and over a third (38%) want more mentoring support.

Tim Jones CBE, Executive Director, Tata Limited, said: 

“2020 has been a very tough year for us all, including for young entrepreneurs battling to build their businesses.

“The resilience of this group is clear, and as our research shows optimism and aspirations for the future remain high, despite the challenges.

“Now is the time to invest and capitalise on the start-up momentum. It is therefore important that going into 2021 the entrepreneurship and business communities go even further, so young entrepreneurs can continue to build their businesses and we can nurture this talent.

“At Tata, entrepreneurialism is part of our DNA. This is why we support the Tata Varsity Pitch competition powered by NACUE, a national early stage business pitching competition that celebrates the best businesses coming out of colleges and universities across the UK. We believe exposure to experiences like this that showcase entrepreneurship are vital in understanding and supporting this unique cohort.”

Lauren Bell, Founder, Cosi Care, and Tata Varsity Pitch 2019 winner, said:

“I began my journey back in 2018, after spotting a gap in the market. Winning the Tata Varsity pitch has really helped propel my business into success.

“However, like so many others, 2020 has been very difficult. As a new business we have gone through a lot of change in this uncertain period, but have also made some amazing new connections and partners that we are excited to work with. Being agile and working hard to overcome unforeseen challenges (like a global pandemic!) really tests your resilience and allows you to become stronger and a more confident entrepreneur.

“It is really important for those who need support to ask for it, seek out government initiatives and talk to your network.”

National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) is the UK’s leading registered charity supporting the development of the next generation of entrepreneurs in colleges and universities. Formed over ten years ago, NACUE runs an annual programme of activity that includes the National Student Enterprise Conference and the Tata National Varsity Pitch competition. 

Working with student entrepreneurs and over 200 enterprise societies throughout the year, we are proud to have worked with over 30,000 young people as they look to understand what it takes to start a business and develop the skills needed to turn their dream into reality and become part of the Enterprise Generation. 

Methodology: Survey conducted by One Poll between the 16th – 22nd November 2020

Sample: 400 Young entrepreneurs (age 18-30, self-employed, 1-250  employee)

Survey conducted by One Poll between the 9th – 27th January 2020

Sample: 90 Young entrepreneurs (age 16-30, self-employed, 1+ employee)

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