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When the UK’s lockdown restrictions were first introduced in March, life – and business – for many came to an abrupt halt. However, for wannabe entrepreneurs, it seems the break from ordinary life offered them the perfect opportunity to take the leap to launch the food or drink business they’d been dreaming of.
Five new online businesses were starting up every day in April, a 60% jump from the same month in 2019, according to data from the online start-up resource Startups.co.uk. Food and drink were at the forefront of the growth, with the website noting a 78% rise in traffic to its guide to selling alcohol online and an incredible 870% jump in traffic to its guide on how to start a takeaway business from home.
A spike in the creation of new online businesses between March and June was also noted by the website building service Web Eden, with most start-up activity concentrated in Bristol, Leicester and London. The most popular businesses launched? Independent food and drink delivery services.
Research by Virgin StartUp found that for many, lockdown gave a fresh opportunity to focus on their career, and 69% said it provided them the push they needed to start a business.
One likely reason was the amount of time available. “People were either stuck at home, furloughed or lost their jobs, so they had time to spend on researching, planning and experimenting in the kitchen,” explained Jason Gibb, founder of Bread & Jam, a business that supports budding food and drink brands. This led to an eruption of business after the lockdown restrictions were lifted. “I know several product developers whose business went dead at the start of lock-down, but then by July they had more work than they’ve ever had.”
Another reason for the rise in entrepreneurialism in the fine food sector stems from the light the pandemic shined on our health. Many fostered a “profound reconnection with nature, the planet, and our physical and emotional health” during lockdown, Jason said. “People started thinking more about what they put into their bodies, how food is prepared and where it comes from. It ignited the imagination for many new food and drink products and services.”
Plus, the pandemic has provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to recalibrate what’s most important to them. In fact, 73% of those Virgin StartUp spoke to said that lockdown had provided them with the “perfect opportunity to focus on what they really want from their career”, and 46% said their new business focused on a hobby or passion rather than specific work experience. A whopping 92% said they wanted to spend more time with their family and loved ones.
And despite the disruption and economic instability caused by the pandemic, there are a number of reasons why now is a good time to launch a new business. For instance, Jason says the boom in direct-to-consumer sales has opened up more opportunities for small producers bringing their products to market. “The retailers are no longer the gatekeepers.” At the same time, consumers’ loyalty to their regular supermarket is faltering, and the lockdown spurred a desire in many to shop local. “The willingness of consumers to buy from multiple, small producers is massive and means a re-democratisation of supply,” Jason said.
“For many people, lockdown has been a time to think about what really matters to them and to have the time to focus on it,” said Andy Fishburn, Managing Director of Virgin StartUp. “Whilst generating more income was the impetus for some, it is really encouraging to see that 73% of lockdown entrepreneurs are looking to balance profit with purpose and agree that it is important for businesses to do more than just make money. Lockdown has brought out the best in many founders and we’ve seen more people than ever being entrepreneurial and getting creative in a crisis. It has been great to work with so many people trying to make a difference at this time.”
Did you start a new business or pivot your existing one over lockdown? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
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