Analysis: How Scots and women across the UK are embracing entrepreneurship

Amid the uncertainty, upheaval and stress of the pandemic, green shoots of entrepreneurial growth have been springing up nonetheless.

New research has found that more women than men plan to be their own boss in 2021. Picture: Getty Images.

Scotland has, in fact, been found to be home to the highest number in the UK of budding entrepreneurs as a result of Covid-19.

One in ten people surveyed declared that although they hadn’t previously planned on starting a business, the impact of the pandemic had made them want to go freelance or become the boss of their own company.

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The research from FreeAgent also revealed 31 per cent of Scottish adults have plans to start their own business or strike out as a freelancer at some point. Some 7.4 per cent wish to get their own firm off the ground in 2021.

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As for the factors motivating Scottish entrepreneurship, the top choice was having more control over their work, followed by seeking out a better work/life balance, a bid to earn more, and improve their job satisfaction. Another report last year found Scotland saw nearly 24,000 companies created between January and August – with Glasgow leading the pack.

One entrepreneur to have started a business during the pandemic is Louise Hamill, founder of Glasgow-based contact tracing platform SAFE2GO.

As for how the firm came about, she says: “In March, it became clear that if businesses were to reopen safely and meet government guidelines they would have to implement a stringent process for contact tracing. It was unchartered territory for many businesses, which made it both confusing and scary.

“That’s why we developed a web app which would enable visitors to any venue to provide contact details quickly, easily and securely … everyone from Scottish courts to gyms, aesthetics clinics and restaurants are using our product to reassure visitors that their venue is pro-active about contact tracing and responsible with personal data.”

In terms of the personal impact, she explains that as a former doctor, starting a business was a major change, but definitely the right decision for her.

"There are, of course, elements I miss about being part of the NHS, but I feel I can make a wider impact as a business-owner,” she said.

“It’s exciting to be able to spot an opportunity and within minutes, work towards making your vision a reality. Being an entrepreneur is stressful, but it’s incredibly exciting. Having the autonomy and freedom to do what you believe in at all times is something I wouldn’t change.”

Also highlighting the buzz of being your own boss is Norma Jane of Edinburgh Kombucha, which supplies the likes of Boda Bar Group. "I thought that the city deserved to have its own beautiful kombucha and I wanted to be part of something exciting and interesting,” she explains of the firm’s roots.

“I wanted to create something where we as a family could share ideas, excitement and joy of seeing our created product on the market.”

While she was able to bring some transferable skills from her previous career, she had no experience of working within food and drink – and found the highly technical aspect of kombucha production a “huge” learning curve.

"I have spent many years working in the health service and as an expert witness in the medical legal field, so a product-based business is very different,” she said.

Appreciate

Additionally, working all weekend “isn’t a chore as the kids appreciate that this means that there are orders to prepare for customers and of course they can help with some things”.

She has been highly encouraged by having friends and family excited about being involved in a product she has created, although the firm has had its share of red tape – including waiting six months for delivery of a tank from Italy. Indeed the FreeAgent survey found Brexit was the top deterrent for Scots starting their own business.

Additionally, the research for the first time discovered that more women than men plan to be their own boss in 2021. This was also true for the long term, with more women saying they want to start their own business at some point – 52.1 per cent as opposed to 50.2 per cent of men.

Carolyn Currie, chief executive of Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES), said it was not surprising that more women were considering entrepreneurship as a career choice.

“It offers more flexibility and control over work/life balance and after the uncertainties which the pandemic has brought to every aspect of our lives, business ownership allows women to have more direction and choice over the work they do,” she said.

Ms Currie also highlights how the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate gendered impact, citing data from McKinsey finding that women make up 39 per cent of global employment, but accounting for 54 per cent of overall job losses.

“One reason for this is that women shoulder the burden of unpaid care and many have had to juggle their working responsibilities alongside picking up the lion’s share of domestic and caring duties such as home-schooling,” she said.

"Many of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, such as retail, beauty, hospitality and travel, are also heavily dominated by women.”

Mrs Currie said the 2019 Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship revealed that flexibility around family care is the number one reason for women with children to start up in business, with females nearly five times more likely to mention family reasons for becoming self-employed than men.

She adds that WES knows women benefit from needs-based support, so it has harnessed its knowledge to create a range of digital resources via its Women’s Business Centre offering, “ensuring these new businesses get off to a strong start and women can play a leading role in regenerating the economy”.

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