Two in five Brits want to start their own business, but lack of mentoring is stopping them in their tracks

27 November 2018


  • Two thirds have a business idea up their sleeve, but only four per cent managed to start own business
  • Eight in ten said having a mentor would make a difference to them being their own boss
  • But half said they didn’t have anyone they could turn to as a business mentor
  • Nationwide launches regional mentoring pilot to support new businesses

Two in five (45%) Brits want to run a business of their own, with a third (32%) keen to do this in the next two years, but lack of mentoring support is stopping them in their tracks, according to new research from Nationwide Building Society.

An overwhelming 86 per cent of respondents said that having a mentor would make a real difference to them when it came to deciding whether to go it alone or not. However, half (50%) said they don’t have anyone they could turn to for help and support.

While many Brits want to run their own business, only half (54%) who had a business idea in the past considered following this up and just four per cent have managed to start their own business as a result. Lack of support was the top reason for respondents abandoning their dreams of becoming their own boss, according to the survey, with key issues including not knowing where to start (29%), not having anybody to help them (27%) and not having any dedicated work space (19%). 

Michelle Simpson, Nationwide’s Head of Innovation, said: “Starting a new business can be extremely challenging and daunting and we recognise that there is a gap in support for new businesses in some regions across the UK. Nationwide’s new mentoring pilot, which launched in Swindon recently, will concentrate on these underserved areas and look to help innovative new businesses become established, focusing on those that will have a positive impact on their local communities. As a mutual we believe in bringing communities together and through this programme we aim to develop long-lasting support networks that bring benefits to the wider local area.”

Key areas where respondents would like support include assistance with their business plans (41%), help to know where to start (40%), help in general (38%) and help with the legal aspects of starting a business (38%).

This pilot draws on the Society’s mutual heritage of bringing communities together to unlock the power of the collective and will look to create lasting support networks. It will offer support to early stage business and will include a dedicated mentor, masterclasses in subjects such as legal support, and will draw on expertise from other local businesses. The pilot will support each new business for a six-month period and include free access to work space, it is being trialled in Swindon and the Society is actively exploring additional regions to support.

Nationwide recently announced its intention to support businesses by launching a business banking current account by the end of 2019.

Regional breakdown

The survey reveals regional differences when it comes to people wanting to start their own business, with those in the North East, London and the West Midlands more likely to want to become their own boss compared to those in Wales, Northern Ireland or the South West.


Top five areas wanting to start their own business Areas least likely to start their own business
North East 56% South West 36%
London 54% Scotland 36%
West Midlands 54% Northern Ireland 37%
East Midlands 51% Wales 37%
South East 48% North West 39%

Yorkshire and Humberside (26%), South East (30%) and South West (30%) are the areas least likely to have someone to turn to as a mentor.

The results also highlight the trend towards younger people wishing to become business entrepreneurs, with 69 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds saying they plan to become their own boss. By comparison, 64 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds, 56 per cent of 35 to 44 year olds, 42 per cent of 45 to 54 year olds and 20 per cent of over 55s say they want to start their own business.

The most common reasons for people wanting to be their own boss are independence (52%), to earn more money (50%), to have a better work life balance (43%) and to be able to fit work around family commitments (31%).

The research, surveyed over 2,000 working adults and 315 business owners1 to highlight the launch of Nationwide’s regional mentoring pilot, which aims to give support, guidance and office space to businesses who are just starting out.

Notes to Editors:

1 The research was conducted by Censuswide. The research surveyed 2,239 UK adults aged 16+ and 315 business owners who started their own business. Research was carried out between 17.10.2018 – 22.10.2018. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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