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Comment: Retail in a recession – is working for oneself the solution?


Along with the rest of the world I have been glued to the Olympics. Jessica Ennis is awe-inspiring and personifies a strong, determined, independent woman. She, like all of the Olympians, is essentially working for herself, striving for success and pouring everything she has into her passion which is also her career.

The likeness between athletes and entrepreneurs is easy to draw. The focus, time and effort that is required to excel in your field is the same that is required to succeed in the retail world.

All the pressure Team GB is under playing at home leads me to thinking about how, when things get tough, it makes us step it up a gear. My favourite home-grown entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, believes business should also be “bold and be brave in times when things are tough.”

Recent ONS figures suggest that not only are there are more self-employed people in the UK since records began 20 years ago, this year saw a huge increase of 89,000 in the first quarter. This suggests that despite the relentless recession, people are not shying away from taking the plunge into self-employment and perhaps with less to lose they are more willing to go it alone.

An Ipsos Mori survey of 1,000 self-employed women and those who owned businesses found that confidence remains high with 84 per cent expecting growth or stability for the next three years. Nearly half of the women surveyed were the main bread-winners in their household and were so-called “kitchen table” entrepreneurs who run a successful business from home.

The figure that really caught my attention earlier this year was that women accounted for 80 per cent of the 28,000 rise in the number of unemployed Britons in the three months to January 2012. This is a staggering amount of ladies, however these figures on closer inspection suggest that women are choosing to identify themselves as unemployed which suggests being in search of employment. Day-to-day I speak with women from all walks of life with the common drive of working for themselves. Whether the impetus to earn stems from a financial need or a social change, surely this is a positive effect of the recession. Women are more empowered than ever and are earning their way out debt from their kitchen tables.

The advancement of social media has played a significant role in the increase in entrepreneurs. This interconnection enables people to work from home, grow networks, make contacts and build a brand. Also e-commerce and social-commerce are essential tools within the retail sector. From a Digital Marketing agency’s survey, 30 per cent of respondents claimed they are planning on spending more in 2012 than they did in 2011, due to increasing levels of good service and confidence purchasing online. The growing trust internet users have in purchasing online creates a great advantage for the home based start-up, avoiding costly physical shop fronts and unnecessary overheads. With a computer, knowledge of your market and a high-speed connection, business starts at home.

The part that stayed with me after watching the opening ceremony for the Games was Tim Berners-Lee’s presence. He is a great example of someone whose belief in his ability, hard work and determination created something incredible. Amongst the countless doors the internet has opened, it has enabled people the world over to work for themselves and make their dreams reality.

Published on Thursday 16 August by Editorial Assistant

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