Yorkshire's small firms feel bullish despite Brexit uncertainty

Carolyn Lloyd Brown of Heritage AngelCarolyn Lloyd Brown of Heritage Angel
Carolyn Lloyd Brown of Heritage Angel
MANY bosses at Yorkshire's small businesses are feeling confident and recording rising sales, despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, according to a survey.

An international study from global insurer Hiscox found that almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of small firms in Yorkshire and the North East increased revenue in the past year, which is higher than the UK average of 61 per cent. Thirty five per cent of the survey’s respondents in Yorkshire said they were feeling better off than a year ago, which compared with a UK average of 31 per cent.

Globallyeconomic recovery is finally being translated into solid jobs growth in the small business sector, according to the Hiscox survey.

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One in six firms (16 per cent) has added staff and more than a quarter (27 per cent) plan to hire in the year ahead, the survey found.

Millennials - people in their 20s and 30s - are leading the upswing, according to Hiscox. They are significantly more likely to be optimistic about the year ahead and to report an improvement in their personal finances.

The ninth annual Hiscox DNA of an Entrepreneur Report is based on responses from 4,000 small business owners and senior managers in six countries, including 1,000 each from the UK and US and 500 each from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

It serves as a barometer for the financial health of the small business sector.

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Bronek Masojada, the chief executive at Hiscox, said today: “The report demonstrates that small businesses are now getting their share of growth in all the countries covered.

“It shows too there is a new generation of risk-takers coming through who are clearly prospering.

“And it reveals for the first time there is a dynamic core of entrepreneurs, engaged in more than one business, who are likely to be leading the way with exports and innovation. These are the wealth generators on whom our future growth depends, and policy-makers should take note.”

Many successful small businesses are run by women, including the York-based Heritage Angel, which was established by Carolyn Lloyd Brown.

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A trained archaeologist, Ms Lloyd Brown has extensive experience in the heritage attractions and museums sectors. She established Heritage Angel as a heritage consultant. She collaborates with clients and consultant teams on new museums and exhibitions, tourism projects, heritage-led regeneration and destination development, and helps to plan, fund, develop and deliver a wide range of projects. She specialises in Heritage Lottery Fund applications. However, she reported challenges in recent months.

She added: “Cuts in public spending have led to a very stagnant market.

“My own income is down, and most of my peers are finding it very hard to grow in the UK.”

This conclusion echoes some of the Hiscox report findings. She also described Brexit as “a total disaster.

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She added: “There was so much crucial European co-operation, so many pan-European projects and funding streams. I know people who had projects cancelled within one week of the vote.”

It has brought about what Ms Lloyd Brown terms a “seismic shift” in her own business. Over the past 30 years, almost 90 per cent of her turnover was UK-based.

Now it’s the other way round, with the bulk of her work in China, a country which is keen to invest in its heritage and develop tourist destinations.

Many small firms have been established with a broader, social purpose, according to the Hiscox report.

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Spark:York, is a new project led by 36-year- old Joe Gardham and two ‘millennials’, Sam Leach and Tom Mckenzie.

It offers affordable space for young and embryonic local businesses. Mr Gardham previously worked in a ‘boxpark’, or community project in south London. When he got back to York, he linked up with newly graduated Mr Leach and Mr Mckenzie. Spark:York occupies 1,000 sq. m., of which 250 sq. m. is a sensory garden. The remaining space is taken up by 23 recycled shipping containers, each comprising a number of units.