Side-project boom shows why we all want to be our own boss

Entrepreneur at laptop

Around two million people have started a side project during lockdown and a further one in four said that, although they don’t have a passion project, they would be interested in starting an additional business.

Wanting to be their own boss was found to be among the main motivations for becoming self-employed alongside a better work-life balance and a dislike of an existing job, according to a new report.

Others found it hard to be managed, or considered themselves more creative at home with one in five having launched their own business launched from their living room and a further one in seven setting up from their bedroom.

The Covid-19 economic reality seems to be accelerating entrepreneurialism, according to Virgin StartUp which released new research to celebrate funding its 4,000th founder. To find that one in three of us dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

As the UK entered lockdown in March 2020, the number of businesses set up almost halved. But confidence started to recover in May after the announcement that lockdown would lift from June.  The number of new businesses bounced back dramatically – from 9,989 to 14,525 within a week.

From May 2020 onwards, the average number of businesses set up per week was 30 per cent higher than the same period the year before, jumping from 12,446 in 2019 to 16,157 in 2020. And it seems as though the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit is now stronger than ever, with an average of 15,751 businesses set up in Q1 this year – an increase of 19 per cent on 2020.

The pandemic has allowed people to refocus on what’s important to them

In 2019, Virgin StartUp announced it’s 50/50 pledge to fund an equal number of women and men founders. In the last week before the first lockdown, this rose to a peak of 47 per cent of women founders receiving funding. When pandemic hit, the first six weeks of lockdown saw this drop to 23 per cent, demonstrating the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women.

Thankfully, the number of women founder applicants has risen again to 52 per cent as of April.

The study also reveals that 26 per cent of women were concerned that they don’t have the relevant skillset to start a business, compared with 19 per cent of men, something mirrored by our lead feature in this month’s print magazine.

Since it was founded, Virgin StartUp data shows that 41 per cent of its founders are women, compared with the national average of 20 per cent, so a huge number of women entrepreneurs have been seeking expertise and funding.

This includes their 4,000th founder Carley Read, founder of Y’earn, a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent children’s items from people and small businesses in the local community.

Andy Fishburn, Managing Director of Virgin StartUp, said: “The pandemic has allowed people to refocus on what’s important to them. It has also provided essential time and space to develop ideas, so it’s been amazing to see more and more founders getting creative in a crisis.

“It’s so encouraging to be working with so many people trying to make a difference at the moment by bringing innovative ideas to the table.”

More on Virgin StartUp here