Almost 100,000 rural microbusiness have been started in the past 12 months, with female entrepreneurs at the heart of the booming countryside economy.
Data from Venture Forward, an annual international research initiative by GoDaddy that analyses data from more than British 2.3 million microbusinesses, shows that 25.9% of Britain’s microbusinesses are based rurally, up from 24.1% in 2022. This equates to 94,464 new start-ups over the past 12 months, suggesting that Britain’s countryside has become a hotbed for entrepreneurial talent.
GoDaddy’s figures also show that this trend is being driven predominantly by women. In 2022, 33.1% of rural entrepreneurs were female, which has jumped to 43.6% in 2023. Comparatively, 35% of urban microbusiness owners are women.
With three quarters (75%) of these businesses also employing at least one other person, they potentially can support almost 2.5 million jobs.
Venture Forward data shows that rural entrepreneurs are also older than their city-based counterparts. A quarter (26%) of urban microbusiness owners are over 50, which jumps to two fifths (39%) for those running rural businesses.
Retail and consumer businesses are at the forefront of the countryside economy, accounting for 14% of ventures. Entertainment and the arts is another major sector, accounting for 10%, with IT and technology (8%), professional and business services (7%) and education (6%) among other popular industries.
Reducing barriers to entry, facilitated by the increase in online tools and services, could also be playing a major role in the thriving countryside economy. Two in five (43%) of rural businesses were started for less than £1,000, with a further fifth (21%) of entrepreneurs requiring less than £5,000 of capital to start trading.
Despite the encouraging growth of rural microbusinesses over the past 12 months, they are not immune to the cost-of-living pressures faced by many others. More than three quarters (77%) have seen their energy bills increase over the past year, with transport (44%), raw materials (43%), production (24%) and staff (17%) among other fixed costs that have risen.
In spite of rising costs, the vast majority (80%) of rural entrepreneurs expect to grow in 2023, with just 9% predicting a fall in turnover.
The South of England dominates Britain’s countryside economy, with the South East and South West accounting for 24% and 15.8% of businesses respectively. The East of England is third with 9.3% followed by the West Midlands (8%), North West England (7.9%), Yorkshire and the Humber (6.8%) and Scotland (6.7%).
Andrew Gradon, Head of GoDaddy UK & Ireland, said: “This data demonstrates a sizeable shift we are seeing in Britain’s microbusiness community. While in the past commerce and enterprise was associated with major urban hubs, advancements in technology and online tools mean businesses can be easily started from anywhere.
“Venture Forward suggests that the countryside economy is in good health, generating billions for the economy and supporting millions of jobs. However, the cost-of-living crisis is an ongoing concern and rural businesses have been hit by rising costs just like their urban counterparts have. As a company committed to helping everyday entrepreneurs thrive, GoDaddy is determined to support small business owners in rural areas.”