The Micro Shall Inherit The Earth – Small Businesses & the UK Economy

Micro businesses are big business these days (see what I did there?), and yet your average punter seems to know little or nothing of their existence. Instead, we are bombarded on a daily basis with bright and shiny adverts, featuring impossibly beautiful creatures with impossibly white teeth and impossibly pert chests. Adverts selling everything from insurance to loo roll, while music that resembles a headache with a bassline blares away in the background, forcing you to submit to their consumerist wiles. BUY OUR STUFF! IT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY AND BEAUTIFUL AND CONTENT AND YOU WILL HAVE IMPOSSIBLY WHITE TEETH! BUY IT! BUY IT NOW! ETC! All paid for by people who wear suits which cost more than the GDP of a small South American country. People who don’t care about you, or the environment, or your paltry local economy.

However, you may be interested/outraged (delete as applicable) to know that these massive corporate douchebags represent only a fraction of total businesses in the UK and yet take the lions’ share of the money. However, all is not lost. The rise of the small, micro, and micro-micro business is growing at a unprecedented rate, and this here collection of words is an attempt to drop some serious knowledge bombs onto your beautiful heads.

 

WHAT THE DICKENS IS A MICRO BUSINESS ANYWAY?

The European Commission defines a micro business as one which has fewer than 10 employees and a turnover or balance sheet of less than €2 million. According to the BIS (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills), there were approximately 5 million micro businesses in the UK in 2014, accounting for a staggering 96% of all businesses in the UK.

Don’t believe me? Check out this deeply penetrative visual aid and see for yourself:

Standard Note

THE RECESSION AND MICRO BUSINESSES

Since the banking collapse of 2008 and subsequent recession that the UK is slowly crawling its way out of, people have become extremely distrustful of large faceless corporations. These days, nearly every advert for a bank has them describing themselves as “homely”, “local”, and “friendly”. Why? Because no-one likes the term, “global” anymore. Last time they heard the word “GLOBAL”, it was usually followed by the words, “FINANCIAL” and “CRISIS”, in massive shouty capitals.

Also, the very public revelations in recent years of certain multinationals becoming extremely adept at paying little or no tax has the average hardworking TAXPAYING punter feeling somewhat miffed, and understandably so. As a result, many sole traders and micro businesses have actually benefitted from the recession. With youth unemployment reaching soaring heights and businesses not able to afford design and marketing from established agencies, it seemed like a no-brainer for creative types to turn this rather murky situation to their advantage. They have gauged the temperature of public opinion and recognised the desire for a more “grass roots” approach to consumerism.

MICRO BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY

While micro businesses may not generate as much money as large corporations, they are a critical component of and major contributor to the strength of local economies. Micro businesses present new employment opportunities, and are responsible for approximately 50% of job creation in the UK.

A significant factor found within the world of the micro business is the feeling of community and shared responsibility, especially those within the creative sector. Micro businesses are more inclined to support local economies by using local venues for events, local suppliers for materials and produce, and utilising the skills other up-and-coming entrepreneurs to facilitate their visual identities and public profiles. This then creates a network of independent retailers, artists, and the likes of plumbers, sparkies, and the rest of the unsung heroes who keep the country from drowning while being electrocuted. In turn, this keeps the money out of the hands of the non-tax paying companies who should be viewed with suspicion and who don’t need the money anyway. Taxes and business rates are paid by the small companies, the employees feel good about what they’re doing, the customer has learned to love again, and an overall sense of wellbeing prevails.

And then there’s the MICRO-micro businesses – the part-time record labels, jewellery designers, writers et al, who operate from  spare rooms for a couple of hours after the day job. These are more than just hobbies. They are true passions and creative outlets, and thanks to online shops such as Etsy, Folksy, Bandcamp and the like, these teeny tiny business ventures are more attainable than ever.

It has been estimated that micro and small businesses represent around 50% of the GDP of the UK and this is in no small part due to this community spirit and the urge to help one another out.

 

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

Limited access to finance and support forces a micro business owner to really focus on what is important and, as a result, can teach them how to become more innovative. Making something great out of the bare minimum is the cornerstone of all successful businesses, and is a skill that was becoming perilously close to being lost in the wake of the cheap mass-production consumerist culture that we as a society have found ourselves entrenched in. It is this fast-‘n’-easy culture that has taken the oxygen out of the independent high street retailers and creative industries, and led to the highly unfair distribution of money.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – quite the opposite, in fact. Micro businesses provide a nation with employment, wealth, innovation and development.  They fund culture and provide a redistribution of money into an economy to help those who need it more, ie: the small business owner and local communities. And the great thing is, there are always going to be like-minded souls who are willing to put in the leg work to make something great happen. Who are making the effort to pursue their ambitions, and to add to the ever-growing legions of super-talented spare-room entrepreneurs who are sick of the capitalist injustices meted out on us every single day. Plus, there’s the added (albeit childish) bonus that earning a living honestly, ethically, and through hard work and sheer bloody-mindedness is the business equivalent of flicking the V’s at the massive douchebags in ridiculous suits.

And that can only be a good thing, right?

By Dan Layton

Assistant Co-ordinator & Chief Design Geek for Bees Make Honey

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