Lisa McCance is part of a consultancy company specialising in shared intelligence, working on economic development policy and strategy. As an expert in her field, Lisa is able to provide insights into the way in which the country is coping with the pandemic and how we will all need to adapt in its aftermath.
In my role as a trustee at StartUp Croydon, I pay close attention to the opportunities and challenges facing entrepreneurs and small business owners. Croydon is in the top 20 list of local authority areas with the highest proportion of micro businesses (up to 9 employees). Of particular concern is some recent analysis provided by the Office for National Statistics. This analysis has highlighted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, a greater proportion of micro, small and medium-sized businesses temporarily or permanently ceased trading compared with larger businesses. The Federation of Small Business also predicts that a quarter of a million small businesses will close in 2021.
This concerns me in three ways. Firstly, the support available for smaller businesses is limited and does not reflect the needs faced. Most of the support on offer is pitched at larger businesses and businesses with a track record. Secondly, there are points in a business lifecycle which require careful planning in order to ensure the business survives and thrives. Taking on the first member of staff, pursuing investment to scale up and seeking accommodation represent some of these pivotal points. Finally, with 99% of businesses nationally employing 0-249 people, business closures could have a significant impact on our economy and levels of unemployment.
However, we need to look to the positives at these times! Collaboration is essential between companies to generate ideas; and investment is required to develop new products. Innovation is also said to be at its highest during a recession and must be encouraged. Enabling the right conditions for entrepreneurs locally to explore new routes to market and to seek out the support required is vital. These must all be a priority to allow our economy to recover.
The Borough of Croydon is fortunate to have StartUp Croydon. Running for nearly 40-years, the charity is proud to have supported 8,000 businesses to take that first step. We offer help in the form of training, mentoring and through the provision of accommodation and have won awards for our work with local entrepreneurs. We engage with our clients regularly to make sure we understand their needs and the needs of the market. In doing so, we continue to identify opportunities for new programmes of support, funding to encourage new ideas and keep working with our partners across the borough.