The UK has always been a hotbed of entrepreneurship, but in recent years the influence of the start-up economy is growing dramatically. In 2016, a phenomenal 80 new businesses were registered every hour.
This remarkable level of business creation is testament not only to a thriving entrepreneurial culture, but also the liberating impact of technology. Vonage is one of many tech-enabled businesses that are striving to ensure today’s entrepreneur can manage marketing, strategy, product and sales themselves, and to do so from almost anywhere.
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These all-in-one entrepreneurs are setting up across the country from the kitchen table and the bedroom office. They are CEOs, accountants, receptionists and cleaners all rolled into one, contributing vast sums to the national economy through their own creativity, ingenuity, and ambition.
However, at some point every ambitious entrepreneur will need to think about that next step, the level up for their business, the next chapter in their pursuit of growing commercial success. These businesses are the ‘Step Ups’. They will be hiring their first salesperson, opening up a dedicated office space, taking product development out of the kitchen and onto the factory floor; they are even looking abroad for their first international clients.
Stepping up unlocks significant opportunities to scale your business, but it can also mean stepping into areas that you are not used to. From looking to hire your first team members to preparing your business to export for the first time, there can be plenty of new experiences that lay ahead for founders that are stepping up.
Do not let this hold you back, though, as stepping up is vital to growth. Bringing in fresh minds can open up new ideas and new revenue streams for your business, while moving into new offices can offer a professional edge that is essential in chasing bigger clients and larger contracts. As Rikke Roselund, founder of Borrow my Doggy said in our Step Up Guide, “moving out made a big difference psychologically and practically,” citing the need for meeting space but also the benefits of being able to separate work and home lives.
These businesses can also make a tremendous contribution to the national economy. They will be creating jobs, increasing productivity, generating growth, and building Brand Britain on the global stage. With this world of opportunity on offer, how do we ensure that Step Ups get the support they need to unlock their full potential?
First, we must recognise and celebrate these businesses. This chapter of growth is not well understood and the challenges that it brings have tended not to be appreciated. Yet, ‘Step Ups’ are an economic engine room and the founders behind them are dynamic, ambitious entrepreneurs. The UK has become a genuine champion of its start-up success stories, so why not showcase our Step Ups?
However, recognition of the challenges and opportunities facing step up businesses is only half the problem. For entrepreneurs that are going through this vital moment in the growth of their business, a network of support and advice is essential. From business rates to legal advice, securing yourself a property and preparing your business with the correct insurance, there are plenty of practical details that Step Up founders may not have encountered before. Fortunately, the UK has doubled down on its effort to support small businesses, so help is out there: talk to your local Chambers of Commerce, take a look on government websites and hunt out local support networks.
The upshot for any Step Up business is that technology is ensuring that this process is getting a whole lot easier. From selling your products and services online to exporting your computing and communications to the cloud, technology means that you can be far more flexible and agile than ever before.
Technology has also meant that entrepreneurs can easily expand their horizons beyond the UK, with online sales fueling the rise of Brand Britain across the globe. The British Retail Consortium found earlier this year that mobile searches of British companies from overseas rose by 23 per cent in the last three months of 2016 alone. As the Government increases its support for exports and international trade, Step Ups will be at the heart of this growth.
By providing the right environment and a supportive ecosystem, I believe we could see the second stage of the growing burst in entrepreneurship we’ve witnessed over the last few years – the Step Ups are coming.