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'Start Up' Tv Inspires Britain's Armchair Entrepreneurs

(12th July 2007)

Millions of Britons are hatching new business ideas and inventions, with popular reality TV business shows such as 'Dragon's Den' inspiring one in twelve wannabe entrepreneurs.

NatWest reveals that nearly 17 million Brits* harbour a business idea, with 30 per cent planning to turn their ambition into a reality – a quarter (26 per cent) within the next year. Of those wishing to set up in business, nearly half (43 per cent) view being their own boss as the ultimate reward.

Whilst some may resent reality TV dominating our screens, these 'start up' shows are already having a positive influence on UK plc by encouraging new business. One in five (19 per cent) young entrepreneurs (aged 18-34) who set up a company in the last five years was inspired by reality TV. However, how accurately such shows represent everyday working life is another matter, as those running their own businesses warn they make 'starting up' look glamorous (45 per cent) and easy (32 per cent).

Launching a new package to get small businesses off the ground, Steve Pateman, Chief Executive, Business Banking, NatWest said: "Whilst it's encouraging that TV programmes can inspire an army of armchair entrepreneurs into action, they only really scratch the surface of what it takes to run a successful business."

Motivations to go solo include the ability to work more flexibly (77 per cent), the feeling of freedom and independence (70 per cent) and frustrations with their current boss (37 per cent) - nearly a quarter (22 per cent) had their 'eureka' moment at their work desk.

Whilst famous entrepreneurs like Alan Sugar represent the massive financial rewards to be had, those dreaming of owning a business have more achievable financial goals. They expect to earn up to 40,000 annually from their business, just above the 28,000 that is actually earned by the average UK entrepreneur. In fact, making a fortune isn't why most get into business, of those already set up, only one in ten (11 per cent) small businesses stated a desire to make a fortune as the original motivation for deciding to go it alone.

The entrepreneurial spirit is at its strongest within the IT and telecoms sectors, of all those considering having their own business, over one in ten (11 per cent) originate from these industries. Whether they want to stay in these industries may be a different matter as over half of all business owners (58 per cent) set up in a completely different sector from their previous career.

Life-changing moments also play a part in fuelling a spirit of enterprise. Redundancy (30 per cent), illness (17 per cent), having children (10 per cent) and career breaks (10 per cent) provided a trigger for the three in ten entrepreneurs prompted to go it alone.

According to the NatWest findings reality can far outweigh ambition when it comes to going it alone. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of entrepreneurs starting out in the last five years were tempted to give up on their dream, with cash-flow problems, lack of finance and poor marketing knowledge the biggest practical hurdles to getting up and running. The fear of failure, stress and lack of confidence in their abilities were the greatest emotional challenges cited.

Pateman continues: "Although over half (52%) aren't confident they have the skills and financial know-how to get started straight away, with advice from an experienced local business manager offered by NatWest, plus useful money saving benefits, these initial hurdles needn't be a barrier to getting a good business idea off the ground."

Top 5 most popular businesses in the making

Business services 13 per cent
Internet enterprises 13 per cent
Shops retail business11 per cent
Restaurant, bar10 per cent
Household services e.g. landscaping,
interior design
9 per cent

Note to editors

* 37 per cent of Britons have dreamt up a business idea. GB adult population is 45,434,897 (ONS Census 2001) therefore 16,810,911 Britons have dreamt up a business idea (45,434,897 x 0.37).

  • NatWest is the only high street bank to offer small business start ups an unprecedented 2 years free banking, supported by free face to face advice from a network of over 1,700 locally based business managers
  • The new Start-Up offer is aimed at businesses that have started trading within the last 12 months, offering a wide range of practical benefits, not just financial
  • Free banking means no account charges for payments into and out of the account providing it remains in credit and does not pay out more than 1 million a year during the free period


Omnibus research was carried out online by YouGov between 13th-15th June 2007. YouGov Plc interviewed a sample of 2021 GB 18+ adults. Results are weighted to be representative of the GB adult population. Additionally, bespoke research amongst 1460 GB adults who set up their own business within the last five years was undertaken between 14th-19th June. 80% of this sample describe themselves as owner/founder/proprietor. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council.