Female and black and racial minority entrepreneurs are the unsung heroes of post-pandemic recovery, report reveals.

Women and black and racial minority (BRM) owned and led start-ups can largely be attributed for the entrepreneurial resilience of the UK post-pandemic, suggests a new report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM).

GEM carries out survey-based research on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship ecosystems around the world. It is the only global research source that collects data on entrepreneurship directly from individual entrepreneurs.

The report, published annually since 2019, compares entrepreneurial activity, attitudes and aspirations across the four home nations of the UK, as well as comparing results with France, Germany and the United States.

Women are the ones to watch

The latest report from GEM published in September highlights that early start-up activity, known as total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA), for women had risen to 9.3%, from 6.3% in 2020.

And there were more female-led businesses launched in 2021 than ever before, emphasising the resilience of female early-stage entrepreneurial activity in the aftermath of what the report calls the most severe economic crisis in 300 years.

The report also confirms that, despite challenges presented by the pandemic, the UK remains to be entrepreneurially robust – with one in three adults now either running a business or considering it.

Breaking down barriers

The number of individuals in the early stages of starting a business is at the highest level since the report was first published in 1999 and in the last 12 months entrepreneurial activity in the UK grew by 4% – from 7.5% in 2020 to 11.5% in 2021.

Interestingly though, immigrants and BRM people are starting businesses at much faster rates than white people and UK-born lifelong residents. Early-stage entrepreneurial activity for the white ethnic population in the UK in 2021 was significantly lower than that of the non-white population, at 10.1% compared to 20.4% respectively. 

And, whilst individuals aged 25-34 remain to be most likely to be involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity, there has been a marked increase in the involvement of 55–64-year-olds. It is suggested that this could be down to the effect of the pandemic on the UK labour market, leaving many people in the older age bracket to question or re-evaluate their future position.

Digitisation is key

Another key finding from the report was a positive trend in digital adoption by start-ups.

More than 50% of early-stage entrepreneurs agreed that in response to the pandemic they have adopted or invested in new digital technologies or enhanced digitisation plans to futureproof their business.

Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive at Liverpool-based The Women’s Organisation, says digitisation must be a key priority for start-up businesses and that more specialist support should be made available for business owners and entrepreneurs to ensure continued growth.

She says: “The report from GEM highlights a positive perception that the pandemic has brought in new opportunities across all entrepreneurial activity stages.

“But I feel it is imperative now that we harness that, by providing the right support, training and access to finance that entrepreneurs desperately need.

“Those start-up businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy and more must be done to ensure that they grow and thrive, particularly as the cost-of-living crisis continues.

“I believe we need to provide more targeted training and improved access to finance for women and BRM entrepreneurs as a matter of priority.”

Let us take action now

Maggie continues: “What we need is action, and we need it now.

“Political uncertainty and economic instability only intensify the need for additional support for entrepreneurs. We must do more to motivate and drive new business start-ups during turbulent times, when conditions might not seem optimal.

“And the media have a role to play here too. Let us shine the spotlight on the thousands of thriving UK businesses. Let us give salient examples of successful entrepreneurs – and furthermore, let us focus on their failures.  

“In order to overcome or limit the fear of failure that constrains levels of new business activity we must look at the concept of failure through a new lens. As Confucius says, our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.

“Training and re-training for the older population and specialist support for businesses looking to digitise must also be high up on the agenda if the Government is serious about accelerating growth and the fast, full and fair recovery of our economy.”

You can read the full report from GEM here, which details the findings on female and black and racial minority entrepreneurs.