As the cost-of-living crisis continues to affect the UK and talks of a looming recession become more frequent, SME owners are rightly becoming concerned. A recent survey found that a quarter of UK SMEs expect their businesses to shrink this year and over 43% identify a recession as their top concern.
With banks holding a negative outlook on lending to small businesses and the UK’s economic situation changing consumer habits, SMEs are being forced to find new ways to keep afloat, and meanwhile spaces could be one solution to this problem.
Meanwhile spaces are temporary, flexible and creative uses of vacant buildings or land, providing a platform for social, cultural and economic activities and typically rented at a lower cost than standard rates. The Utilize Project currently manage and rent out properties of this type to over 80 SMEs, providing affordable and highly sought-after space to small businesses that cannot compete with London’s sky-high rental rates – which average at £39.54 per square foot.
London-based The Utilize Project’s £1 per square foot pricing model typically includes rental of the space plus utilities like electricity, water and gas, ensuring businesses can secure physical locations in prime areas, at a fraction of the usual costs. The model provides an average saving of £38.54 per square foot on space rental alone and, with over half of SMEs saying their energy costs have increased by over 20%, another huge saving on utilities.
Mahmud Shahnawaz, founder of The Utilize Project, says, “We have seen first-hand how high the demand for affordable spaces in London is and we expect to see this demand increase further, especially as day-to-day running costs continue to rise.”
“We work with many SMEs who are struggling more than ever to keep their businesses running and have seen how meanwhile spaces are becoming absolutely vital to their success. Without these affordable spaces, many SMEs would be forced to close their businesses as they’d simply have nowhere to go.”
Another possible aid for struggling SMEs is external finance. When it comes to sourcing this, two in five SMEs do not know where to find information, and London has the highest percentage (25%) of businesses who say they would not know how to obtain this.
Mahmud explains, “The Utilize Project isn’t just about providing space; we work as a business matchmaker, providing real strategic support to connect SMEs to our vast networks and help them succeed.
This can include putting businesses in touching distance of world-class thought-leaders, investors, marketing specialists, accountants, and entrepreneurs all which contribute to continued learning and networking opportunities, along with providing knowledge around seed funding, hand-vetted loans, grants and venture capital funds. We come together to identify the support you’d need and bring the expertise to suit.”
“For us, it’s this access to continued education and resources which we believe can be incredibly beneficial to SMEs, not only helping them through times of financial hardship, but also giving them the best chance possible to thrive going forwards.”