98% of our economy (E17) is MICRO enterprise ImageVaultHandler.aspx Full view

98% of our economy (E17) is MICRO enterprise

98% of businesses in the London Borough of Waltham Forest are MICRO enterprises – ten or fewer people making a business and its many facets work. There is much discussion at the minute of getting women on the boards of FTSE companies – but frankly I think this is a red herring conversation initiated by big business – distracting from the huge influence of women and potential influence of micro enterprise on POLITICAL conversations. I say this because its clear to me that, while I don’t have numbers to hand (help from the twitterati please!) a huge proportion of micro enterprises are led by female entrepreneurs, which again, form 98% of the local economy in my neck of the woods.

The power of small business is enormous, but very tricky to harness, because small business is exceptionally hard work. Tiny teams and even one “man” (or woman) bands do everything their business requires – well everything, with the support of a network of other small business collaborators.

As a founder and director of a small business, I am frustrated by:

  1. the relative lack of engagement by politicians with micro enterprise (In my mind a natural and expanding outcome of our increasingly digital economy!)
  2. “small” business networking and/or training events that feel inappropriate to my needs and frankly, feel insulting to my intelligence and unappreciative of my time
  3. the scarcity of incubation grants and/or microbusiness loans
  4. an undervaluation of the social good of microbusiness (and often the positive social impact of particular micro business entrepreneurs – do you have a corner shop with staff you are friendly with?)

So, I feel very lucky to live in Walthamstow, Waltham Forest where several really quite fabulous small business support networks, micro businesses themselves, work hard to connect and support our ENORMOUS sector of the economy – and where conversations we at Significant Seams initiated with our council, local politicians, and even our MP, The dynamo Stella Creasy have led to action.

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Last night, in the aptly selected Atlee Suite in Portcullis House in Parliament, Stella Creasy MP, and Cllr Mark Rusling, our council cabinet member for economic growth, helped us begin, or perhaps better-put,  reinvigorate a conversation about the power, importance, and support needs of micro enterprise. The dynamic and effective Waltham Forest Women in Business Network, the UKCMS network, the intimate and mutually supportive New Direction Partnership Network, and our own fabulous Mark, (a management consultant by day) all facilitated introductions and conversations between micro business owners of our area. Creasy and Rusling reported back on actions they’ve taken to improve support provisions to help us survive, develop and grow. In particular, the council has just quadrupled the size of the business support team at the council and Creasy asked business owners to give a week of work experience – and maybe even mentorship – to young people from the area.

To me however the most meaningful outcome of the evening was a sense that micro-enterprise is valued – but still not enough. So much airtime is spent on discussion of the banks, ‘the economy,’ and sales figures at places like Westfields – all driven by big business interests, that the majority of the economy, and in places like E17, the vast majority of the economy, is driven by people like me. So it’s critical, vital, and pressing that I and my fellow entrepreneurs talk, collaborate and press our politicians to ensure we can help our economy – and community thrive.

Written by significantseams

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