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Brighton and Hove whiz kids go solo to turn the tide
Thousands of entrepreneurs are striking out on their own in a bid to beat the downturn.
New figures show Brighton and Hove now is the microbusiness capital of the UK, with more than two thousand new mini-firms founded last year.
Experts said the rise was due to a surge in freelancers going solo and firms hiring part-time staff to help out.
But some business leaders warned the numbers showed the city was a tough place to find full-time employment.
The nationwide survey of 300,000 businesses was carried out by Freelancer.co.uk, which claims to be the world’s largest small business marketplace.
It found the number of Brighton and Hove microbusinesses – firms employing fewer than 10 people – surged 24% between August 2012 and August 2013 – from 9,140 to 11,370.
The figures placed the city at the top of the list for microbusinesses, joint with Newcastle.
Trevor Freeman, chair of the Brighton and Hove branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the figures were “mixed” news, adding: “Economically speaking this is good because it means the economy is not stagnant, it’s moving fast.
“We’ve got a vibrant new media and arts sector where freelancers and small firms are very important. You might get a high failure rate here, but our economy is still growing.”
However Mr Freeman warned the surge in freelancers revealed a “frustration” among those finding it difficult to find work.
He said: “The danger is that some people not being able to get a job so people take the self-employed route.
“My fear is that they’re being encouraged to take that route when it’s perhaps not right for them.”
Fred Hasson, Brighton-based chairman of the European Games Developers Federation, said small independent firms were the ‘backbone’ of Brighton and Hove’s booming digital industry.
But he said some firms were being run as ‘lifestyle’ businesses, and urged business leaders in the city to ‘think bigger’.
He said: “There’s room for a lot more hunger.
“When I ran a firm here we wanted to dominate the world, be the best. That’s a good thing to go for.
“Maybe we need a little bit more of that in Brighton – then firms could go to the next level.”
Bill Little, European director for Freelancer.co.uk, said: “Starting a microbusinesses is easier than ever and is less risky with small start up costs.
“Many of the people in this study set up businesses alongside their own jobs hiring in freelancers for short projects to help get the business off the ground before leaving their job to run the business full time.”
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