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eBay reports small business surge as UK entrepreneurs opt for flexibility and freedom

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Online marketplace eBay has seen a huge surge in UK seller sign-ups over the past year, with almost 37,000 new sellers joining in 2018. This represents the biggest year of growth on the marketplace since 2015.

A desire for greater flexibility, independence and empowerment is fuelling the small business boom, according to eBay’s research. eBay’s Small Business Barometer reveals that the power to choose working hours (33%) and make their own decisions (30%) are the top motivations for UK entrepreneurs.

Right time, right market place

The future feels bright for start-ups who take the plunge, according to eBay’s research: 43% of UK small businesses feel positive about their growth prospects in 2019, compared to just 22% who are pessimistic, a margin of two to one.

In fact, against a context of uncertainty, nearly two thirds of UK small business owners (62%) plan to increase their investments in 2019, according to eBay’s Barometer.

Let’s get digital, digital

eBay’s Small Business Barometer suggests that digital retail will play a key role in small business success in 2019. Small business owners surveyed expected most of their growth to come from online sales (22%) and increased product lines (14%) in the coming year.

eBay’s Retail Revival programme in Wolverhampton proves the power of online sales for UK small businesses. Through a partnership with the city council, the scheme is supporting local bricks and mortar retailers and online players to make the most of digital retail.

In January 2019, just three months after the programme’s launch, the 64 participating businesses had grown revenues by 41% and collectively reached £1m in sales.

Rob Hattrell, Vice President of eBay in the UK said, “Britain’s small business scene is booming, fuelled by a desire for greater flexibility, independence and empowerment. It’s this attitude, coupled with an agile approach to decision-making, that means our sellers have what it takes to keep British business ahead of the pack. I see plenty of entrepreneurs on eBay, like The Print House, moving quickly to capitalise on opportunities that larger firms often struggle to see.”

For young entrepreneurs like Ed Snelson, Co-founder of The Print House, short-term sacrifice paved the way for greater freedom and independence

Snelson said, “When I started my business, I was working full-time in the aircraft manufacturing industry and my business partner Hannah was an estate agent. We’d never wanted a nine-to-five lifestyle, so decided to set up a store on eBay to create our own success.

“Working round-the-clock to begin with was difficult, but it gave us both the freedom to walk away from our traditional jobs just a year later. Today, eBay makes up over 50% of our revenue growth, and this year we are aiming to turnover £1.6m in sales.”

Myles Shaw, managing director of Carpet Runners, which sells made-to-measure carpet runners, was able to realise his ambitions and provide for his family. Shaw said, “I learnt a lot from working at my father’s flooring business, but I always had a fire in me to find my own niche in the market. After months of research, I came up with the idea for selling made-to-measure carpet runners on eBay, it turned out to be a gap in the market.

“I’d always had the desire to be my own boss and eBay was the platform that gave me the opportunity I needed to get my business started. I haven’t looked back, it’s given me a sense of freedom that can only come from running your own business, and allowed me to earn extra money alongside my day-job to support my family.”

Case studies

The Print House

Ed Snelson and his business partner Hannah started The Print House from a bedroom in Ed’s parents’ house. Developing a product line to include personalised gifts and seasonal items, Ed and Hannah held down full-time careers alongside their growing business, until they decided to take the leap from employees to entrepreneurs a year later.

Five years later, Ed and Hannah operate from two production units with their team of 15 staff and forecast to turnover more than £1 million revenue growth in 2019.




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