The advent of Brexit brought with it all sorts of confusion and uncertainty. For citizens of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but also for the businesses, large and small, whose existence will in many ways be impacted by this historic shift. Now there is no going back, businesses are trying to navigate the changing waters of import and export, regulations and prohibitions and these new requirements can easily feel daunting to any business owner, in particular to a small business owner. It’s also been suggested that given the economic flux that Brexit has caused, the idea of starting a new business would be ill advised. But on the contrary, it’s our suggestion that Brexit may in fact be a motivator for Northern Irish entrepreneurs to set up, launch, and scale their small businesses more than ever. Here’s why:
Whether Brexit was or was not, customer demand remains. End users throughout Northern Ireland did not stop looking for or buying items and using services regardless of the clock chiming on Brexit. Customer demand remains constant and in some areas, has increased considerably. In these early days of Brexit, NI customers are finding many of their ‘normal’ items are no longer available or at least not available in the same way and from the same suppliers they previously used. It’s here that the gap opens up for entrepreneurs who, by nature, will be looking for a demand to fill. Brexit provides fertile ground for just that. And while big businesses find new routes to the NI market and work around the laborious new paper work and administrative hurdles, small nimble start-ups can move into action. Finding new local ways to supply customers, creating new pathways to market from within Northern Ireland and capturing that customer demand while it exists before the big competitors find a way to do so.
Linking into customer demand is the argument of ‘opportunity’. Big machines take some time to manoeuvre and large multinationals in Northern Ireland are ‘manoeuvring’ around Brexit and what it means, opportunities start to open up for small companies to fill the supply space. Whether it’s local plant nurseries answering customer requests for garden supplies when larger companies can’t access their overseas deliveries, or small food purveyors, making locally and supplying locally when international imports have not yet reached stores, the gaps available for small companies to fill are plentiful. Entrepreneurs relish a creative opportunity, they respond to problems, they offer solutions and if Brexit presents a whole lot of problems then our NI entrepreneurs will be there to provide the solutions, on whatever level, in whatever industry is required.
Northern Ireland has long been a country of entrepreneurs. Dating back years ago when large multi nationals were hesitant to invest in the country, industries were built and grown on the backs of small start ups who launched and scaled to provide products and services that NI customers wanted but could not otherwise access. This combined with a stellar education system from Grammar Schools through to top level Universities, a history of excellence in science, technology and economics and NI has consistently turned out a highly educated and curious workforce of young people time after time.
Finally, the cost of starting a business remains lower in Northern Ireland than in most other areas in the UK. From rental to salaries, raw materials to regulatory costs, it continues to be a desirable places for entrepreneurs to start up their business on this basis. Tapping into government supported new business programmes, start-funds and drawing on the growing community of young entrepreneurs makes the step from idea to new business, all the more accessible. The dawn of Brexit will compound these NI instincts. Any increased barriers will only galvanise start ups, reinvigorate local innovation and produce a new generation of small and medium sized business built on the back of the long standing history of entrepreneurialism in NI.
Ultimately Brexit brings it’s challenges. But for Northern Ireland, a country that has experienced standing geographically alone and has thrived by digging into it’s entrepreneurial innovation, it may present even more opportunities than we may have realised. Opportunities for solutions oriented, creative small businesses that are the lifeblood of the country. Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help.
Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch . Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.