Silver start-ups lead the way as UK shows its entrepreneurial spirit

  • Three per cent increase in UK start-ups in 2011
  • 19 per cent rise in businesses started by retirement age entrepreneurs
  • Entrepreneurship no longer confined to London with strong regional growth reported

Start-up businesses enjoyed a resurgence in 2011, according to the annual Simply Business Start-up Index, which shows the first rise in annual growth since the start of the recession in 2008.

Last year, new businesses represented 46.9 per cent of Simply Business applications - an annual growth rate of three per cent. This compares with a decline of 3.7 per cent in 2009 and 0.1 per cent in 2010 as the effects of recession continued to bite.

“Our results suggest that Government initiatives such as Start-up Britain have inspired would-be entrepreneurs to make their business dreams a reality,” commented Jason Stockwood, CEO of Simply Business. “It’s now crucial that this support and encouragement continues into 2012 so these fledgling businesses can fulfil their potential.”

The data is based on 350,551 individual insurance quotes requests made to Simply Business, the UK’s largest insurance broker. It reveals key trends in the landscape of UK business start-ups during 2011, including a rise in post-retirement entrepreneurs and increasing levels of regional enterprise.


Simply Business Startup Index Source: Simply Business

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Retirement nests feed growth in start-ups

The number of people making the most of their retirement to set up a business soared in 2011, with a 19 per cent increase in people aged over 65 taking the plunge and an 11 per cent increase in entrepreneurs between 55 and 64. Over 55s now account for six per cent of all businesses start-ups. However the most entrepreneurial age by far is 25-34, with people in this age bracket generating 35 per cent of Britain’s start-up businesses, up by 2 per cent since 2010.

London loses its edge as regions take up the entrepreneurial mantra

The data shows a picture of entrepreneurial devolution in 2011, as the number of new businesses shot up in the provinces, suggesting that London may be losing its edge as the UK’s start-up incubator.

The only UK region to show strong start-up growth in 2010, Greater London was over-taken in 2011 by the Midlands, South East and South West where the number of start-ups was up by around four per cent, compared to a three per cent rise in the capital. In fact, London’s Westminster borough features in the index’s 10 worst performing towns for 2011 start-ups.

Professional services growing but advertising, property and construction declining

Amongst industry sectors, professional services proved to be a key growth area, with an increasing number of medical, legal and finance practitioners setting up independent businesses. However there was a surprising decline in advertising and creative consultancy start-ups; one of the few industries to show strong growth the previous year. Construction and property businesses also declined sharply in 2011, while there was an increase in the number of general tradesmen.

Stockwood continues: “With ever increasing life expectancy and more flexibility around retirement, it’s interesting that those in the 60 plus age bracket are considering a second career as an entrepreneur. Starting a business can be hugely rewarding at any age and those with so much experience behind them are in a fantastic position to make it a success.

“It is also encouraging to see London is no longer monopolising entrepreneurism and other regions are giving the capital a run for its money. This trend will hopefully continue as aspiring business owners see success stories springing up around them.”

Case Study

After retiring from his marketing consultancy business, Gordon Douglas, 70, set up a translation agency called Douglas & Antonetti, which specialises in translating Italian websites into English.

Talking about the decision to start up a new business during his retirement Gordon said; “I started Douglas & Antonetti just as I was retiring, motivated by the desire to do something different with my time. I’ve always loved languages and, while still working as a marketing consultant, I had taken adult education classes in Italian with Roberto Antonetti, who is now my business partner.

“I see my translation business as a retirement hobby, but it also provides me with the extra income and flexibility that allows me to now spend half my time living in Switzerland. After retirement it was important for me to do something I enjoyed, without being restricted to working in the same place each day. I can now work from anywhere and most of my translations have been done high up in the Alps. I plan to continue in the translation business as long as possible.”

Notes to editors

Regional start-up hotspots: Regional start-up not-spots:
10 UK towns/boroughs where the start-up rate has increased most significantly in 2011 % increase compared to 2010 10 UK towns/boroughs where the start-up rate has declined most significantly in 2011 % increase compared to 2010
Lincoln 13.6% Kirkwall -20.0%
Dartford 13.3% Llandrindod -17.1%
Blackpool 13.1% Harrogate -11.6%
Kirkaldy 12.7% Sunderland -9.7%
Wolverhampton 12.5% London WC -6.9%
Luton 12.4% Watford -5.9%
Ipswich 12.3% Paisley -5.4%
Aberdeen 10.1% Glasgow -5.3%
Taunton 10.0% Huddersfield -4.7%
Canterbury 9.8% Worcester -4.2%
Exeter 9.6% St. Albans -4.1%
Start-up success: Start-up strugglers:
Sectors in which the start-up rate has grown most strongly in 2011 % increase on 2010 Sectors in which the start-up rate has dropped most significantly in 2011 % increase on 2010
Medical 10.51% Advertising/Design -5.53%
Health/Beauty 9.06% Heavy Construction/Tradesman -3.76%
Architects/Surveyors 6.15% Property -3.29%
Financial/Legal/Insurance 4.69% Computer/IT -3.01%
General Tradesmen 4.42% Transport -1.19%

For further information, please contact:

Sophie Howard or Elisabeth Middlemas
020 7009 3128/3116
[email protected]

About Simply Business

Simply Business is one of the UK’s biggest business insurance providers, specialising in public liability insurance for SMEs and insuring over 600,000 small businesses and landlords across Britain.

Launched in 2005, Simply Business provides an online brokerage service, delivering policies tailored to individual business requirements. Using the power of tech and data to create the best possible customer experiences, Simply Business employs over 600 people across offices in London, Northampton, and Boston in the US.

Owing to its internal underwriting capability, Simply Business can cover over 1,000 trade types – ranging from plumbers to accountants to dog walkers. An accredited B Corp for their positive social impact, Simply Business has also been voted the Sunday Times Best Company To Work For twice in a row.