Michelle Mone, the multimillionaire entrepreneur who
went from being a 15-year-old school dropout to building a £50 million ($70 million) lingerie empire and being made a Baroness, released her “Be the boss” review on Tuesday.
It’s an in-depth look into startup culture in Britain, with a particular focus on getting people from poorer communities to be more entrepreneurial and enterprising.
Mone has been working with the British government on an investigation into how to get more of Britain’s poor into self-employment, and the first part of the review, called “Boosting enterprise in more deprived communities” was published on Tuesday.
The report points out that while the national average for the amount of people who are self-employed is around 10%, that number falls to just 5% in the most deprived 10% of the UK. Mone wants to change that, hence the review.
To conduct her research Mone, who entered the House of Lords in October 2015, undertook a six-month tour of Britain, visiting startups, charities, and NGOs from Cornwall in southern England to Glasgow in Scotland, looking for ideas about how to encourage entrepreneurship in the poorer parts of the UK.
It’s pretty dense, 64 pages of charts, case studies, and recommendations on how to increase entrepreneurship across the deprived communities of Britain, but there’s a big problem with the report. It barely contains any new ideas on entrepreneurship at all.
“Michelle Mone’s report highlights many of the issues that are already known and which this Government has not done nearly enough to tackle.”
The government backed review stands on five key legs:
- Asking already self-employed people to mentor those looking to start their own businesses.
- Improving the already existing New Enterprise Allowance.
- Giving startups better access to loans.
- Getting schools and local authorities to look into ways of teaching kids more business skills.
- Banks should lend more to small businesses.
In isolation all of these recommendations are clearly useful. Hardly anyone would argue that getting more money into the startup community, giving people better advice on starting businesses, and teaching kids more about business are bad ideas, but they have all already been done.
First, mentoring. Admittedly, a mentor is an incredibly useful thing to have when looking to improve any skill, particularly in business, but the government already has several mentoring schemes in place for businesses.
In 2011, the Tory and Lib Dem coalition government launched a major initiative to increase the number of mentors for business people, including the website mentorsme.co.uk. The site is still running, and offers small business owners access to mentoring and advice on everything from HR issues to financing.
Next, funding. The report makes three recommendations when it comes to funding. First, expanding the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) — a scheme introduced by the government in 2013 to give people access to funds when looking to start a business. That scheme has already been incredibly successful, providing, as Mone tells us, funding for 70,000 people to become self employed. All the report does is suggest a series of small tweaks to the scheme.
It also recommends giving startups loans backed by the government, as well as encouraging retail banks to fund more startups to “support high quality, intensive enterprise support.” Again, it seems pretty obvious that giving money to startups can help them flourish and, once again, the government already has a “Startup Loans” programme, which has been in place since May 2012.
Finally, Mone recommends educating kids more about businesses to “ensure the skills and drive of all workers,” citing a 2014 report from Lord Young. The very fact that the “Boosting enterprise in more deprived communities” report cites a two year-old investigation, shows that suggesting education as a key pillar of encouraging enterprise is not a new idea.
So there we have it, Mone spent six months and travelled hundreds of miles just to tell us what we already know — for entrepreneurs to bloom they need good access to funding, children need to be educated about how to run businesses, and that mentors are vital — and to recommend several ideas in areas where the government already has schemes. Hardly groundbreaking stuff.