UK Etsy Sellers Discuss Female Entrepreneurship with Minister Scully
This month, UK Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully, kindly hosted a roundtable discussion with Etsy and five Etsy sellers to highlight the unique challenges and opportunities of being a female entrepreneur in the UK.
As our recently released 2020 Global Seller Census demonstrates, the vast majority of UK Etsy sellers are women (79%), businesses of one (89%), and operate their shop from home (96%). While the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs are common among independent workers and the self-employed, they often differ from a traditional small business of ten or twenty employees. Etsy believes these nuances should be thoughtfully considered, not only in the context of post-COVID recovery, but in hopes that understanding and addressing the realities of self-employed microbusinesses will be a core priority for policymakers in the future.
Helping these businesses now will provide continued gains for the economy, since historically, the smallest businesses drive economic recovery. We need to ensure that our most vulnerable businesses not only survive the pandemic, but have the support and resources they need to thrive in the long term.
“As a one-woman business, I often feel forgotten,” says roundtable participant Sophie Wordsworth of Pembrokeshire, Wales-based accessories shop Swag and Tassel. “It was wonderful to share my opinions and be listened to.”
“It was such an honour to be part of this roundtable and advocate for women-owned small businesses that are usually run by just one or two people,” says Natalie Manima of London-based home goods shop Bespoke Binny. “When people think of start ups they usually think of a small team, not the young women or the mothers juggling running a household and small businesses. It’s so important that our voices are part of the conversation”.
Helping small businesses navigate the regulatory landscape
During the roundtable, the UK Etsy seller representatives and Minister Scully discussed many aspects of entrepreneurship. One of the underlying challenges that sellers shared was understanding complex regulatory and compliance requirements. Participants shared that they’re facing difficult choices about whether to sell their goods internationally, or develop new products potentially subject to complex compliance requirements. These decisions have implications not only for sellers, but also consumers and broader economic recovery.
In the wake of Brexit, many UK sellers are grappling with increased paperwork and customs forms in order to trade with the EU. Time is an entrepreneur’s scarcest resource, and sellers were eager for government support through simplified forms, guidance and processes tailored for self-employed microbusinesses.
Encouraging entrepreneurship across the UK
While most Etsy sellers don’t have a background in business, they are sometimes expected to understand and create business plans as if they do. During the roundtable, sellers also shared an interest in more accessible resources and support to guide them in growing their businesses.
“Most of us haven’t studied business—we’re creatives who want to make beautiful items for amazing people”, says Preston, UK-based clothing and accessory designer Laura Jeffers of Asikara. Participants discussed the value of mentorship support, and an interest in working with more established businesses to better understand the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.
Many sellers also felt that the UK’s current maternity allowance forced female entrepreneurs to choose between growing a business or raising a family. Sellers called for a more flexible approach to maternity pay, where they could work a few days a week while still receiving partial maternity benefits.
“Even though my business is technically a one-woman band, I’m part of the wider UK economy and its ecosystem. My work supports hundreds of other jobs and visa versa,” says London-based artist Cecily Vessey. “Every factory I use, every time I post a parcel, every time I buy ink for my drawing pens, I’m circulating money within the economy. And I feel as though it’s taken Covid-19 for the government to wake up and realise that the self-employed deserve the same help and benefits as employees at larger companies.”
“It was such a wonderful experience to talk about the issues faced as a small woman-led business,” says Vicky Wade of Tori Lo Leather, an accessories shop based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. “I often find that one-person businesses are overlooked, and to be able to share those challenges with the Minister along with a group of like-minded people was amazing.”
“Supporting people of all backgrounds in starting and developing their own business is a top priority for this government,” said Minister for Small Business Paul Scully. “It was great to hear first-hand from women entrepreneurs using Etsy as part of their wider efforts to grow their own brilliant businesses.”
We’re grateful to Minister Scully and our seller participants for taking part in this fruitful discussion, and look forward to continuing the conversation as we work towards increased support and resources for microbusinesses and entrepreneurs.