Accidental entrepreneurs: Challenges, successes, and tips from business owners

There are plenty of things in life that come about with little to no pre-planning – and according to our recent survey, starting your own company could be one of them!

We surveyed business owners to find out what it’s like to make the leap from employee to employer. It seems the UK is full of accidental entrepreneurs: 1/3 of full-time business owners didn’t always know they wanted to start their own company – and yet only 1% of people regret making the decision.

So, who are the country’s business owners? And how did they end up at the helm of their own operation?

Read on to find out about the challenges they’ve faced and the successes they’ve achieved, and gain exclusive tips on what it takes to run a business. After all – you could be next!

Who are the UK’s business owners?

Starting a business can happen at any stage, but according to our survey you’re most likely to be between age 25 and 34 if you’re going to take the plunge – 45% of full-time business owners started their company at this point in their lives.

Nearly one third were a little bit older (between 35-44 years old) when they started their business. The younger generation doesn’t seem to be afraid to make a go if it either – 1 in 10 business owners launched before they turned 24. However, for many of these entrepreneurs, owning a business wasn’t always part of their future plan.

99% of business owners have no regrets about starting a business

Almost 1/3 of full time business owners didn’t think they’d be running their own enterprise one day, while 40% of side business owners didn’t count on it being part of their career path. So – how did it happen?

From employee to employer: How does it happen?

The route to starting your own business isn’t always straightforward – for some, it can grow naturally out of an existing career. For others – as one of our respondents put it – starting a business can “just happen.”

1/3 of full time business owners launched their company in a different industry to their previous career. In terms of how quickly they took the plunge, the split is nearly down the middle – 49% started with a side business and grew from there.

Sometimes, it’s external circumstances that prompt business owners to make a go of it – 37% said being made redundant or losing their job was part of the reason they started a company, while 1 in 10 say their friends and family convinced them to go for it. Flexibility is also a motivating factor – 1/4 of business owners simply wanted more control over their workload.

Where does the money come from?

Our recent research revealed that many of us fall into the bracket of start-up wannabes – and lack of capital is the main thing stopping us from chasing the dream.

So, we wanted to find out the secret to success – how did our respondents fund the launch of their business?

An impressive 1 in 10 managed to start their business with no funding at all. But for the rest, it seems to be a combination of things: 1/3 of people relied on bank loans and personal funds, while 23% borrowed from friends and family.

Grants or lending schemes were also a useful source, with 20% tapping into some form of government funding.

The freedom of being your own boss: Is it worth it?

1/4 of people said the desire for greater flexibility in their working life was one of the reasons they decided to launch a business – but was it really everything they thought it would be?

The answer is almost exclusively yes – only 6% of people were happier when they were working for someone else. According to our respondents, the top perks of owning a business include having more freedom, doing something they enjoy every day, and making more money.

But, with freedom comes responsibility. 1 in 10 business owners worry about supporting themselves financially, and 9% work more than they did previously.

However, just 1% say they regret starting their business, suggesting that, for most, the perks still outweigh any drawbacks.

Business challenges: It’s not always smooth sailing

While the majority of business owners are clearly happy with their decision to go it alone, the process isn’t always easy. From the bank to the clock, there are plenty of obstacles that entrepreneurs had to navigate in the early days.

As expected, money is one of the main pain-points for business owners – 37% said raising capital was a challenge they experienced during the setup of their company, and 1 in 4 admitted that they suffered due to lack of personal income, as they didn’t have a salary when they started out.

Other typical start-up struggles included service-related challenges, such as deciding which product to offer (24% had an issue with this) and finding customers (26% said this was a challenge).

But it’s not just professional adjustments that need to be solved – people’s personal lives were also affected. According to our survey, 15% of new business owners battled with the long hours while 1 in 10 found it hard to balance their work lives with family obligations.

Of those we spoke to, the majority said their biggest worries are behind them. However, maintaining cash flow and generating enough sales are the two biggest concerns for business owners, while some are also nervous about Brexit and changes to legislation.

Tips and advice from those who made it happen

Hindsight is often full of revelations, and the business owners we spoke to were full of tips and advice for anyone looking to take the leap.

When asked if they wish they’d done anything differently when they started out, some common things that came to mind included regrets about:

  • Not raising more money
  • Not having a better business plan
  • Not researching enough
  • Not checking their spending

They also said they wish they had believed in themselves more! But the main piece of advice that came up again and again when asked what business owners would say to their former selves?

“Do it sooner.”

So, what are you waiting for? Starting a business may seem like a distant dream, but there’s plenty of support available if you’re one of the accidental entrepreneurs who is ready to stumble into something brand new – find out how we can help.


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