CEO of Launch22 welcomes appointment of Michelle Mone and supporting disadvantaged entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs need more support than is commonly realised, especially if they are from disadvantaged communities, which is why Launch22 welcomes the government’s new review and congratulates Michelle Mone OBE on her appointment as its chair.

In recent years, support for entrepreneurship has excessively focused on ‘businesses’ rather than on the people who risk setting them up. Those who create start-ups are often physically and socially isolated — which may eventually lead to their failure. This isolation is even worse in deprived and disadvantaged communities and if these potential entrepreneurs are working at home, amidst a chaotic homelife, in a hostile environment, with poor transport links, then they are really going to struggle to start a business, let alone make it successful. I hope that Ms. Mone’s review will help those who want to emulate her overcome these barriers.

This has the potential to be a major step forward in the UK’S entrepreneurship landscape. Most businesses are not and never will be “unicorns” like Facebook and most entrepreneurs are not wealthy children with Ivy League grades like Mark Zuckerberg. Yet the UK policy towards entrepreneurship has focused on trying to find and nurture more businesses of that nature. In most other walks of life, the hunt for unicorns stopped a long time ago and for an obvious reason.

I also hope that her review isn’t undertaken in isolation but rather in consultation with other stakeholders that are already active in the space, such as the Prince’s Trust, Start-Up Loans, and Launch22. Between us, and many other commendable organisations tackling the same problems, we provide support to entrepreneurs from all walks of life and have learned a lot about the challenges they face and how to overcome them. We have recently opened in Liverpool, the place with the lowest rates of Enterprise per capita in the UK, and plan to open further sites across the North and Scotland in the next 12 months.

I was also rather disappointed to read the contents of an open letter from Douglas Anderson of GAP Group in Glasgow to the Prime Minister criticising the appointment of Ms. Mone on the basis that her business interests are neither successful nor profitable enough to warrant her appointment to the role. Setting aside any issues surrounding Ms. Mone’s elevation to Peer, Mr Anderson seems to associate business support solely with increasing business profits. This is a sadly all too common and over simplified view of a very nuanced issue.

My experience is, that whilst profits are of course the fundamental, long term, end goal of business, the support that entrepreneurs need — and those from disadvantaged backgrounds need proportionately more — in the early days of their business is the ability to share experiences, tackle the challenges they face and to remain resilient in the face of adversity. They also need help overcoming practical barriers and I hope that MerseyRail’s recent generous offer of free transport to Launch22's scholars will be emulated by other transport providers around the country.

There are very few bad business ideas, even if they never become more than micro — businesses, but there are a lot of would-be entrepreneurs who are discouraged from pursuing them due to a lack of appropriate emotional and practical support.

As an entrepreneur based in a highly economically depressed area of the UK, Mr Anderson may like to consider the importance of bringing more support for Entrepreneurship to communities like his rather than see it continue to flourish in relatively more affluent places like London.

Indeed, perhaps Ms Mone will find that her upbringing in the area and her experiences in times of adversity are of much more worth in her new role that those of her success.

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