Small businesses are poised for a year of prosperity in 2024, according to new research from Startups.co.uk, the UK’s leading news and advice website for small businesses.
In a survey of 546 UK small businesses, Startups.co.uk finds that 92% of respondents feel optimistic about their growth prospects for 2024, with 59% reporting high levels of optimism.
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) battled numerous challenges in 2023, from soaring inflation to labour shortages. The survey found that firms are more likely to have survived (51%) than thrived (42%) last year. Now, with a high percentage of SMEs now expressing optimism about the future, their new-found confidence signals a compelling turning point.
Testifying to the resilience and ingenuity of UK startups, it’s the newest businesses that feel the most positive about the future. 74% of those founded in the past year are optimistic about 2024, versus just 47% of companies that launched in the difficult pre-COVID year of 2019.
Greater London remains the best area to start a business. Of the respondents based in the capital, 73% fall into the “Highly Optimistic” category, the largest percentage of any area and is an indication of a strong confidence in growth prospects.
Conversely, the areas with the highest percentage of pessimistic businesses are Northern Ireland (20%), the South West (18%), and the North East (16%).
Levels of optimism also shift between sectors. 68% of firms in the London-dominant industry of finance and tech are highly optimistic. Those in leisure, hospitality, and retail display the most pessimism (20%) as they’ve been plagued by labour shortages and energy bill chaos for years.
New year, new government?
Buoyed by a lower inflation rate and technological advancements like AI, businesses are preparing for a prosperous 2024. Despite their confidence, SMEs are clearly hungry for change.
The survey shows 58% of firms surveyed say a change in government in 2024 would have a positive impact on their business. 9% say it would have a negative impact.
The findings follow a slim Autumn Statement last November, which left many business leaders calling for increased support of SMEs. With prime minister Rishi Sunak expected to call an election this year, most business owners would welcome a change in government.
Top 10 start-ups to watch in 2024:
Riding the wave of business optimism, Startups.co.uk identified the 100 UK startups that are set to soar in 2024, demonstrating huge market opportunity and the funding to back them up.
The Startups 100 – now in its 16th year – is the UK’s longest-running list of new businesses to watch. Having collectively raised £186m, despite a funding drought in 2023, the top 10 UK startups for 2024 are:
- Unitary – AI safeguarding tool that filters out harmful content that’s unfit for human eyes
- Lottie – Care home search engine that makes it easy to find specialist care for loved ones
- Maeving – Britain’s first EV motorcycle that can be charged as easily as a smartphone
- KatKin – Premium cat food company making the world’s first diagnostic kitty litter
- Peppy – Digital platform supporting employees with under-resourced health challenges
- Zero Gravity – Helping low opportunity students into higher education and job roles
- Better Dairy – Hackney-based ‘brewer’ of dairy products that are 100% animal-free
- UNDO Carbon – Carbon removal process using an enhanced rock weathering solution
- THIS™ – Market-leading meat alternatives with hyper-realistic flavour
- Packfleet – The “Anti-Amazon” carbon-neutral courier that puts its employees first
Poised to tackle some of the biggest issues currently facing the UK, these dynamic companies are forging new paths in fields such as artificial intelligence, workplace transformation, and climate action, demonstrating their commitment to shaping a brighter future in 2024.
Commenting on this year’s Startups 100 Index, UK Small Business Commissioner and guest judge, Liz Barclay, said, “We need to encourage enterprise, entrepreneurship, and people with purpose. Awards like the Startups 100 help showcase businesses to give other people ideas and motivate them to ‘go for it’. We need to see the risk takers and innovators in action.”
Richard Parris, Editor of Startups.co.uk added, “After some gruelling years of back-to-back crises, a resurgence of optimism among SMEs is just the tonic the UK economy needs, and it feels like the roaring twenties are finally upon us.
“Despite this prevailing mood, there’s also a hunger for change, and the current government mustn’t mistake business optimism for confidence in its leadership. It’s going to be a crucial election year ahead, and the startup and small business communities will be watching election manifestos closely for policies that can foster the next decade of innovation and growth.”