Lockdown hasn't dampened entrepreneurial spirit as almost 200,000 new companies launch

  • Entrepreneurs rushed to form more than 2,500 hairdressing companies since March 24th as the nation prepared to get a haircut
  • Manchester is Britain’s entrepreneur capital, according to analysis of Companies House data
  • O2 Business reveals increasing demand for tech expertise as the nation gets back to business

A massive 190,155 companies have started up since the UK went into lockdown on March 24th, an O2 Business analysis of Companies House data has revealed.

Despite much of the country’s industry and services shutting down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the figures (analysed up to the end of June) suggest that the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t been quashed.

Indeed, entrepreneurs have been gaining in confidence: only 42,254 companies were formed in April at the height of the pandemic, compared to 58,892 in May. Last month, the June figure was 77,575, an increase of 84% from just two months prior.

The analysis was undertaken by O2 Business, which has seen an increase in small and medium-sized businesses upgrading their tech during lockdown, with increasing demand for security and cloud software solutions.

Among the companies starting up during this period were more than 8,000 construction companies, while 2,646 hairdressing and beauty companies were incorporated as clever entrepreneurs seek to take advantage of Britons eager for their first haircut after three months without access to a hairdresser.

As the nation found itself without any restaurants and cafes to go to, the takeaway sector boomed, with 3,448 take away food shops and mobile food stands incorporated.

According to the records, London is the nation’s start-up capital by volume alone, with 51,937 businesses incorporated. However, when taking population into account, it was beaten by its Northern rival Manchester, where 4,014 new companies were registered – meaning one per 143 people (versus one per 172 in London).*

Leeds (4,539), Glasgow (2,243) and Bristol (2,076) also saw new companies springing up in their thousands.

Businesses may not have been able to find and view retail or office units during lockdown, but digital technology meant there were other ways to set up without needing to leave your home. O2 Business offers tools for both remote working and mixed-location offices, a range of devices to stay connected to customers, suppliers and employees, as well as 24-hour access to tech expertise and digital solutions.

An O2 Business spokesperson said: “This has been an extremely challenging time for businesses across the UK. Companies are faced with the toughest trading conditions they’ve seen in a lifetime.

“Despite the difficulties of launching a new business at this moment, it’s encouraging to see so many entrepreneurs ready to get the nation back on its feet. The number of businesses adapting to continue serving their local communities is inspiring, and technology has proven to be a significant enabler in helping entrepreneurs to continue innovating.

“As we try and adjust to this new normal, it’s important that all businesses – new and established – work on their plans for futureproofing, upskilling their staff when it comes to technology and ensuring they’re not left behind when it comes to digital expertise as we start rebuilding Britain again.”

To learn more about becoming an O2 Business, visit https://www.o2.co.uk/business.

Case Study: The ‘boulangerie flottante’ that offers fresh pastries from a boat, with orders via social media

Jeremy Huguet, 31, and Lindsay Morel-Huguet, 30, are among the thousands of people in the UK who have started their own business during lockdown. Jeremy, who used to work 16-hour days as a chef at Covent Garden’s Clos Maggiore, taught himself patisserie skills through online tutorials and now sells handmade pastries with wife Lindsay from their ‘Floating Boulangerie’, a houseboat that serves as a bakery offering delicious pastries to passers-by.

Before the lockdown, Jeremy and Lindsay had dreamt of opening their own business, but their long working hours meant they barely saw each other, let alone having the time to plan an entrepreneurial venture.

Now, thanks to technology and network connectivity making creating a business easier than ever – with the ability to market effectively, take orders and keep in touch with customers online – they’ve been delighting Londoners with delicious freshly baked pastries.

The idea was sparked when Jeremy was furloughed and began watching online tutorials to learn how to make pastries and bread while supermarkets were low on supplies.

They started by supplying their neighbours on London’s canals with fresh bread and pastries, but as word spread and the queue outside their houseboat grew larger, they started a delivery service. They now have four drivers who deliver all across London on their motorbikes.

“While Jeremy mastered his art, we offered our neighbours the bread for free,” said Lindsay, “but after a while they insisted on paying us! News of our authentic French goods travelled quickly and soon we had people knocking on the boat at 1am in the mornings looking for baguettes!”

The floating bakery has a simple menu consisting of classic French pastries, baguettes, focaccia, sourdough, and rye breads. The duo advertise and take orders via social media and deliver the fresh, hand-made products straight to Londoners at their homes.

Opening mid-lockdown certainly wasn’t without its challenges: the main one being a lack of flour. The pair have also taken all the appropriate measures to ensure the bakery is COVID-19 compliant – from issuing masks and gloves to drivers, to serving clients through their hatch window to limit face-to-face interactions.

Both Jeremy and Lindsay recognise the importance of technology and reliable network connectivity in making their dream a profitable business. All their marketing is done through social media – via Facebook and Instagram, with orders placed via direct message – and Jeremy himself is a self-taught pastry chef, accrediting online tutorials to his success.

“Having the right tech and being able to communicate with our customers, especially at a time where face-to-face contact was so limited, has been invaluable,” said Lindsay.

The pair said they can see why so many people have come to form their own businesses during lockdown.

“Like us, people have had more time to think about what they want to do in life and have the opportunity to do it,” said Jeremy. “The lockdown gave us the opportunity to pursue our passion.”

Post-lockdown, Lindsay and Jeremy plan on continuing their floating business, and hope to buy a second boat that will be used purely as a bakery.

Find the Floating Boulangerie on Instagram or Facebook

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Notes to Editors

Data sourced from Companies House.

*London Population figures sourced from Office for National statistics, Manchester figures sourced from Manchester City Council