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FSB Northern Ireland and Ulster University Business School have today launched the ‘Back to the Start-up’ report, which reviews existing support for business creation in Northern Ireland. The report finds that while existing start-up support programmes are comprehensive, they have not meaningfully increased our rate of business start-up, the so-called business birth rate, which has consistently lagged behind other parts of the UK.

The report concludes that a step-change is required to create a cultural shift and stimulate more people to consider the option of starting a business, in particular to encourage and reduce barriers for more female entrepreneurs to become the business leaders of tomorrow.

Commenting, FSB NI Policy Chair, Tina McKenzie, said:

“The end of the transition period and the Covid-19 pandemic have presented significant challenges for businesses, but they also provide an impetus for change as people seek to do things differently.

“It is often said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. In order to cultivate change and reverse the long tail of underperformance in business creation we need to take a different approach to business start-up. We must reach beyond those who typically come forward to start a business and begin to stimulate the desire for business creation amongst other parts of society.

“Top of the agenda must be to reduce barriers, and to encourage a greater number of female entrepreneurs to come forward to take that first step. While we have many successful female business owners, the statistics show us that they are underrepresented. If we empower more women to start a business, then everyone in society can benefit from the increased prosperity that that growth creates.”

Commenting, Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School, Professor Mark Durkin, said:

“This report provides a thorough examination of the current support landscape for business start-up in Northern Ireland and, while recognising that existing support is fairly comprehensive, there is work to be done to make business start-up a societal norm, in the same way we think of looking for a job.

“It is likely that, through no fault of business owners, we see businesses fail because of the economic fallout of the pandemic. If we are to have a strong economic recovery, it is vital that we re-engage the talents and spirit of these entrepreneurs. In some of the world’s most successful economies business failure is not perceived negatively but, rather, those who have had the courage to bring ideas forward are celebrated. To encourage more people to come forward in the future we need to change the mindset around start-up, so that fear of failure does not act as brake on economic growth.

“We hope that this report can be the start of a conversation which encourages people to think differently - to promote and champion entrepreneurship and the wider benefits it brings.”

To read the full report visit the Back to the start-up website.