The entrepreneur founded Small Business UK to support and nurture entrepreneurs across the UK, showing that small business revenue and growth are trending up while their mental health has plummeted. In an economy where small businesses had little to no power, they were offered the opportunity to outstrip their larger competitors as consumers rethink their spending habits due to the lockdown.
Ms. Ovens recalled the prospects for entrepreneurs at the end of 2019: âIt’s hard to put yourself in a place where Brexit was the biggest topic of the day. It’s a problem, and we’re now seeing the results of some of it, but we thought, “This is the worst thing there can be,” but then COVID came and we didn’t know anything.
âAt the end of 2019 there was a lot of uncertainty, there was a feeling of the beginning of a new decade. Entrepreneurs are generally positive people, but there really was a feeling of “Best Foot Forward”
âIn general, in the UK, some small businesses fell short of where they needed to be digital. That is bizarre, because as consumers we are very digital. “
That feeling of âgoing digitalâ was a great opportunity or a major obstacle depending on the prospects of each individual entrepreneur, but all companies were in a forced relocation to the virtual marketplace during the lockdown.
Ms. Ovens continued, âThere were opportunities for growth, to invest in their business, to develop new strategies, and it was just so busy that a lot of people bowed their heads and decided to focus on their business.
“It took two months.”
While all industries and companies suffered to varying degrees in 2020, entrepreneurs were undoubtedly among the hardest hit, as Ms. Ovens explained: âIt’s hard to say what a disaster Covid has been for small businesses. The first thing was the drop in visitor numbers, especially for stores and retail. It fell off a cliff in a week in mid-March 2020.
âThis was long before any financial aid packages were announced, so there was a real knee-jerk reaction. Nobody knew what the effects would be, everyone just paused in a moment of shock.
âCompanies forecast a 70 percent drop in sales in 2020, people said they couldn’t go on. We have intensified our work, especially the support services. We would have entrepreneurs and business owners contacting us and saying that they are suicidal and just don’t know what to do. “
These shocking revelations lasted about eight weeks, during which companies either called everyone on deck or had to write off staff and costs everywhere.
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âMany small businesses, especially those that are most resilient, have relocated from day one. They saw the pandemic hit and they just changed, made new plans, and most importantly, did not stick to new plans in case everything should change again.
âIt took the majority of businesses about eight weeks to change and get a really forensic look at how businesses are run, what money is spent on, and line-by-line bank accounts. Many companies, on the other hand, are in a better place for future shocks.
âIt has created many challenges in the small business world, many mental health challenges. We have also seen a great entrepreneurial boom. Nature is always a vacuum: where there is a problem, there is also an opportunity. “
This was particularly relevant during the initial lockdown: âThere were some obvious things: online gifts, things for your garden and home, exercise equipment. They still have a shortage of bicycles because people were crazy about them.
âLocal businesses really came into their own and got really creative. Our local pub started selling flour because you couldn’t get it in the supermarket. “
Ms Ovens stated that after the disappointment with the pandemic ended, savvy entrepreneurs were able to seize the opportunities presented to them and continue to do so.
âToday, many of them have two operating models that both work, which means that they have two marketing paths and move on as best they can. One of the things that the pandemic really exposed was the lack of backup plans. I think we inadvertently created much more robust companies. “
She added that the rise of a whole new way of looking at the world of work is likely to continue, which could benefit workers, consumers and entrepreneurs alike: âI think many of the trends will remain like remote work, not to the extent of the lockdown but it won’t go back to what it was meant to be. There are too many benefits apart from everything else.
âPeople have changed their spending habits too, they will be going back to local businesses because they now realize they are there.
âThere is a large part of the population who are struggling and a large part who saved money during the lockdown and are therefore willing to spend, especially on companies that share their values.
âThese things are valued more today than they were two years ago, we have changed the way we deal with the world because of COVID, and it’s not all bad. It has made us stop and think and reevaluate what we value in life. People value people.
âI think the key is to remember that the great thing about small businesses is that you can build a relationship with your customers because they don’t have 20 levels between them and the big CEO and they know who you are . “
Many consumers have shown that this is why they prefer local, small businesses to larger chains, even when prices are not always in their favor.
âWhen they buy from a small business, we buy from people, we’ve pulled out of the consumer race in terms of both our time and our priorities.
âThis changing dynamic between big and small companies was a good thing because it was a bit one-sided. Small businesses used to have no power in this relationship, but now there is a lot of data on the main road that says small businesses are growing and there is a lot of data that big chains are dying, âshe concluded.