61% of Brits aspire to be their own boss

New research reveals that greater financial support, regulatory change and government-led initiatives that make it easier to start a business are seen as the most important changes needed to grow UK entrepreneurship. Doing so could help untap the potential of an estimated 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs.

Shopify’s Aspiring Entrepreneurship 2024 Report shows a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit in the UK:

  • 3 in 5 Brits (61%) express a desire to own their own business if all other factors were equal.
    • This interest spans across age groups, with younger demographics showing the highest entrepreneurial enthusiasm – a substantial 73% of 16-24s and 80% of 24-34s have entrepreneurial ambitions.
  • Nearly one in five Brits (18%) already own their own business, and a similar proportion (20%) have seriously considered starting one.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of aspiring entrepreneurs in the UK say they have wanted to start their own business for three or more years.

Entrepreneurial motivations are diverse

Among British aspiring entrepreneurs, the top reason cited for starting their own business is the desire to be their own boss. Other motivations include earning more money (33%) and pursuing a passion project (31%). Alongside the pull of independence, some factors push Brits into entrepreneurship: 12% of those seriously considering owning a business are driven by concerns about perceived job obsolescence due to technological advancements.

The data reflects the heightened economic pressures and impact of the growing digital economy as 13% of business owners in the UK started their venture after being made redundant from their previous job.

Financial constraints and government support are the biggest blockers to entrepreneurship

The appetite for entrepreneurship is prevalent but the barriers to entry remain strong. Even amongst those who aren’t seriously planning to start a business, over a third (35%) cited financial obstacles as a key issue, followed by a lack of confidence (26%), knowledge (27%) and skills set (20%) as hurdles. Addressing some of these obstacles holding back the potential next generation of entrepreneurs could be a key to securing growth for the UK.

The majority want to be their own boss, but the financial commitment they’re prepared to make could be limiting. While 66% would be prepared to invest their own money, the UK was willing to invest the least – alongside France – with just £5,000 out of their own pocket. The international average was more than double at £12,501 showing a level of conservatism amongst prospective British entrepreneurs.

While nearly a third (32%) lacked the money needed to start a business, there is a strong call for more government support as 27% of respondents pointed to access to business loans and high interest rates as a key challenge. There is an international consensus on the need for better government intervention suggesting that systemic issues are damaging not only the UK but also international entrepreneurship.

When asked the number one thing that could increase the number of entrepreneurs, 28% internationally said government-led initiatives or regulatory changes. In the UK, nearly a fifth (19%) of respondents also cited a decrease in the cost of living as the top change factor that would encourage entrepreneurship.

The path to entrepreneurship isn’t linear

You don’t have to jump in head first, successful entrepreneurs often take measured steps. While 25% of UK business owners went full-time into their company from the offset, a notable 39% started their businesses as side hustles (the third highest internationally), with 19% ultimately turning them into full-time ventures. 16% are “grey entrepreneurs,” having started their business after leaving the workforce (i.e. retirement).

Resilience, persistence and learning is crucial. Over half (54%) of UK business owners have faced setbacks and have started a business that was ultimately unsuccessful, with the average entrepreneur having started two businesses before achieving success. Equally, support networks are a strong enabler . Of those who own their own business, 31% had encouragement from people they knew, while aspiring entrepreneurs believe friends and family could help them start a business (31%), as well as personal and community networks (19%).

Deann Evans, Managing Director, EMEA comments: “The UK’s appetite for entrepreneurship is evident, particularly among the younger generations. Addressing the financial and regulatory obstacles is essential to unlocking a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem and unearthing the potential of Britain’s 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs to make positive change. By providing better access to funding, reducing financial risks, and implementing supportive government policies, we can help reduce barriers to entry for prospective business owners and in doing so drive economic growth, innovation and employment for all.”