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Press Room

Serial Entrepreneurs take on Small Business Market
(20 September 2005)

Nearly half of Britain's small businesses are serial entrepreneurs who own or have owned more than one business, according to the latest NatWest/SERTeam Quarterly Survey of Small Business.

Size really does matter when it comes to serial entrepreneurs as those who currently own larger businesses are most likely to have a stake in another business. A third of those who employ 20 or more people in their main business also own or part own another business, compared with only 13% who work alone. Currently 16% of small businesses have two companies on the go, 6% have three and a further 2% own four or five.

Most of Britain's serial entrepreneurs are the original founders of their business, although those running larger firms are more likely to have inherited a family business (16%) or invested in an existing business (13%).

Almost two thirds of the small business owners surveyed financed their current business from their own savings or the sale of other assets. That said, 35% used a bank overdraft or loan and 12% borrowed from family and friends.

The majority of small firms had experienced some kind of difficulty since their inception, predominately due to external economic conditions (37%) or insufficient cashflow (31%).

These issues continue to thwart the success of small businesses, as this quarter more firms than ever before reported Government Regulations and Paperwork as the single biggest problem facing their business. Concern about the economic condition is now at the highest level for 18 months.

Sole traders however, regard demand for their products and services as the biggest problem facing their business, followed closely by government regulations and the general economic climate.

Pete Ferns, Director of NatWest Business Banking, said: "Starting up in business can be challenging but it is clear from this research that Britain's entrepreneurs are reaping the rewards, both financial and personal, of being their own boss."

"Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy and with so many serial entrepreneurs, the future for the small business market looks bright."


  • The NatWest SERTeam Quarterly Survey of Small Business in Britain is carried out by the Small Enterprise Research Team, an independent charity based at the Open University Business School.
  • Copies of this and previous surveys are available at a cost of 40 each or 120 for one year's subscription from Small Enterprise Research Team (SERT), Open University Business School, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA. Tel: 01908 655831.
  • Small businesses wishing to participate in this survey, should telephone 01908 655831 or complete the survey online on There is a free copy of a summary of the survey findings for those completing the questionnaire.