The latest research carried out by Populus for NatWest has shown that 26% of people in the South West would prefer to be self-employed – as entrepreneurs, starting up their own business or freelance venture, for example. Yet just 2% are actually living the dream.

The main reason given by 57% of respondents who haven’t pursued their desire to start a business of their own is the fear of failure. The research also showed that 20% of those who’d like to start a business are being held back by the current economic climate.

Although the latter may appear a large percentage, it’s actually down from 46% when this survey was first carried out in 2012.

“With hard work, the right go-do attitude and the proper support you can achieve great things”


Fortunately, the South West region is also home to a whole host of business incubators, startup-friendly investors, co-working hubs and people-powered communities for the self-employed, which have almost certainly contributed to the decrease in these fears as a barrier to going solo.

Have you got the spark?

NatWest-and-Entrepreneurial-Spark-BristolOne of these startup supporters is NatWest’s Bristol-based Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator hub which, in the first six months alone, has created 127 new jobs in the region.

Run in partnership with KPMG, the hub provides support, mentoring, networking and office accommodation for around 80 local start-up businesses. Access includes physical office space with superfast internet, a start-up ‘bootcamp’, dedicated mentoring and regular events, workshops and training – all free of charge.

Jim Duffy, founder of Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “We are delighted to be working with NatWest and KPMG to help start-up businesses grow and succeed. With an 88% survival rate of businesses who have gone through our expert Enablement programme, it’s clear that with hard work, the right #GoDo attitude, and the proper support you can achieve great things.”

South West support for entrepreneurs

bath-innovation-centre-record-investment-setsquared-entrepreneursEntrepreneurial Spark is not the only hub to see the potential of the South West’s aspiring entrepreneurs. Bristol and Bath is also home to the world’s number 1 university business incubator, SETsquared (pictured left), leading internet incubator WebStart Bristol and Bath-based tech consultancy and startup incubator Rocketmakers.

“We need to attract talent and not let companies soak it up… we need to fund more startups”


Other businesses in the South West are also sharing their own success and knowledge. Bristol-based web-developers Simpleweb, for example, has adopted a collaborative culture ‘without bosses’ that has supported growing Bristol-based apps such as Ordable and OLIO Exchange.

In a TechSPARK profile with Simpleweb’s founder Mark Panay, he tells us: “I think the start-up scene in Bristol is going through a weird little evolution at the moment, but it’s good. A lot of London companies are moving to Bristol at the moment to soak up talent. We need to attract talent and not let companies soak it up… we need to fund more startups.”

Freelancer fortunes

For some of the 1 in 4 aspiring entrepreneurs based in the South West, it might not be that they’re not ready to start up a whole business but perhaps just want to take their skills and go freelance. Luckily, the South West is a great supporter of freelance-working as well.

There are plenty of top-notch tech and digital co-working spaces in Bristol and tech and digital co-working spaces in Bath. In addition, there are plenty of great coffee shops for remote-working in Bristol and Bath.

So, despite fears of failure and economic pressures, things are looking up for the thousands in the South West with high hopes for solo business ventures both large and small. Not only is the South West bursting at the seams with big ideas but also with the potential to guide many to success.

The figures in the research described in this article are based on online-interviews with 2,229 UK adults in January 2016 in the latest wave of the NatWest Enterprise Tracker. You can stay up-to-date with NatWest’s Entrepreneurial Spark hubs by following them on Twitter: @ESparkGlobal.