The government has been incredibly generous, paying out billions upon billions in furlough support to those who have not been able to do their jobs properly during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve also given billions more to the self-employed, many of whom were also given permission to keep working in order to keep their businesses afloat.
Sadly, however, 3 million of us got left behind. We are the ‘Forgotten Ltd’. We are the self-employed directors of a limited company who have been offered zero meaningful financial support during the last year. All we’ve been offered is a bounce-back loan. The 3 million of us who are trying to build businesses and be the backbone of the economy are responsible for 10 million jobs, yet we are struggling to generate an income, battling business and personal costs, and for keeping our employees paid, multiplying our burden. In many cases, this is putting us in a position where we either create unemployment or take on massive personal debt.
Forgotten Ltd is a campaign designed to lobby the government to support business owners during the pandemic. Rishi Sunak doesn’t want to do it, he’s turning a blind eye, and yet at the same time, he keeps calling entrepreneurs the backbone of the recovery.
I’ve survived. I was nearly forced to shut down and leave my beloved business and clients behind. But, I survived by the skin of my teeth, though it has been a bitter pill to swallow. I can’t afford to pay myself a full salary, only dividends when it’s there. I also pay more tax than most, VAT, corporation tax, income tax, and national insurance, and it works out to be about 45% of my earnings.
The government offered me the chance to furlough myself, but it would have meant I had to stop operations completely – no marketing, no sales, and no communications with customers.
All of these setbacks have made me stamp my foot down and become increasingly determined in my entrepreneurial journey. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
I know I’m not alone, as this incredible piece by the North East times shows. Interestingly, however, the circumstances of the pandemic have pushed many people into entrepreneurial realms, once the comfortable rugs of their careers and day jobs were pulled out from beneath them. Many women, in particular, have used this time to start the projects that in the past, they weren’t ready to.
Sequential, not simultaneous
In a world where career goals have to be completely reevaluated, social interaction is forbidden, and we have ample time at home to embrace our creative endeavours, it’s no surprise to me to read stories like this one from Katja Staple, found in the Financial Times. Sadly, their copyright team won’t let me share an extract, but to summarise:
- Covid pushed Katja to quit her job as an Operations Manager in Tech
- She dreamed of pursuing a career in freelance journalism
- She felt that the corporate world had failed both men and women
- The stress of balancing career and family was an impossible task
- What she noticed was that previously, most female entrepreneurs have a family, then a career, or a career, then a family, sequential, not simultaneous. During Covid, this trend was broken, nobody returned to the stove
- Katja saw the female entrepreneurs around her launching businesses, consultancies, fitness studios, making assured decisions about what they want to do and not trying to climb a ladder to get there
I’d say getting published in the Financial Times would suggest her freelance journalism career has started well.
Barclay’s bank, boosting female entrepreneurship
“Everybody has a great idea for a business, but they don’t know how to go about setting that up into a viable business that can actually be sustainable” – Baroness Karren Brady CBE.
Karen Brady is right, isn’t she? We’ve all had an idea at some point, but turning that idea into a sustainable reality means overcoming many challenges. How long can you survive without making a profit? How far can you bootstrap without investors? How do you make a convincing business plan when you’ve been working in alternate industries for years? How do you thrive in an economic downturn?
There’s one impact programme that I want to mention, and it comes from Barclay’s bank. Now, instead of offering real-time support to female entrepreneurs right now, they are working in schools to prepare future generations:
Barclays LifeSkills, a programme that helps people build the skills and confidence they need to advance their careers, is engaging the next generation of founders by connecting with secondary schools and all-girls schools across the UK. The scheme will offer useful content on starting a business, as well as helping students develop core, transferable skills.
This page is a great inspirational resource for any female entrepreneurs who want to read about the UK’s most successful women; what they think, what they read, and what their experience of female entrepreneurship has been.
The greater the opportunity, the greater the risk
I found this incredible article from Nawreen Sobhan and Dr Abeer Hassan from University of the West of Scotland, and it’s the closing insight that I want to share with you, as it does so impressively well to illustrate the compounding effects of covid restrictions on entrepreneurship.
Once the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the coronavirus pandemic, governments were forced to implement quarantines and stay-at-home orders which have negative consequences for all businesses, including small businesses and those who are working in the formal sectors. For example, female entrepreneurs making handicraft items will not be able to sell their products as people are tending to buy only essential items in the pandemic period. Another factor also is the shortage or the delay of getting the raw material from suppliers which might increase the costs of some goods.
Due to the Covid 19, many private sector companies made their employees redundant. As a result, after losing their job, many of the people, especially females, will transfer to the informal sector for their survival. Generally, people are using common online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, e-bay, Amazon for selling or buying general items including furniture, car, household. However, during the pandemic the role of business in online platforms has been changed dramatically as people start to advertise essentials only. This includes, selling fresh fruits and vegetables, home baking delivery, home schooling, etc,.,
Online business platforms will play a very crucial role in the near future due to the current pandemic. As it requires no formal regulation, anyone can reach potential customers by working virtually from anywhere to support their family financially.
This pandemic situation might be the era that will force businesses to look for alternate solutions. If you’re convinced that online business is the way to go, this is the time to take this sector seriously, to make sure that the appropriate structures are put in place for its recognition and full integration into the wider economy.
I am fully inclined to agree. In fact, that’s exactly the point I would like to end with.