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Role models are key to inspiring future business founders

New research from American Express and The Entrepreneurs Network shows that 71% of aspiring British founders had an entrepreneurial role model growing up, compared to 48% of the wider public. This highlights the importance of role models in fostering entrepreneurship and the potential impact of their lack on minority groups in the UK.

New research* reveals the power of role models in business, with aspiring founders more likely to start their own business if they had an entrepreneur to look up to while they were growing up.

The study1, which questioned over 1,500 UK adults and 250 UK business owners, reveals about seven in 10 (71%) of the entrepreneurs surveyed knew either a friend or family member who owned a business while they were growing up, compared to under half (48%) of the wider public. Of those who have started their own business, 85% say this exposure positively impacted their views on entrepreneurship.

Similarly, around two-fifths (39%) of current business owners say they thought of successful businesspeople as role models while they were at school, more so than sportspeople, musicians, teachers and actors. In comparison, around one in 10 (11%) of the public said they looked up to entrepreneurs at school age.

Stacey Sterbenz, SVP International Marketing & Sales, American Express, said: “Britain is at heart an entrepreneurial nation, and our research highlights how powerful role models can be in encouraging people from all backgrounds to start their own business. Entrepreneurs and the businesses they create contribute hugely to our economy, that’s why we’re committed to backing them throughout their journey and rewarding them for their hard work.”

 Eamonn Ives, Head of Research, The Entrepreneurs Network added: “Exposure to existing founders is an underrated factor in the bid to achieve a more entrepreneurial society. Ensuring people can see, meet with and learn from business creators – especially at a young age – should be regarded as a pivotal plank of a strategy to deliver a more innovative, more dynamic economy.”

The research also reinforces the important role that representation plays in encouraging individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue entrepreneurship. According to the research, the vast majority (81%) of entrepreneurs surveyed believe the economy benefits from having business owners from a range of backgrounds.

Erika Brodnock MBE is the CEO and Co-founder of Kinhub, an AI-driven enterprise peak performance and coaching platform. Speaking of her experience starting a business, she said: “Growing up, I had plenty of ambitious and entrepreneurial adults who were a huge inspiration to me – but very few existed in the white-collar business world. Now, as a Black female CEO and founder, the absence of people who look like me has made the road considerably harder.”


*From American Express and think tank, The Entrepreneurs Network

The research informs a new report Entrepreneurs Unwrapped, published by The Entrepreneurs Network, in collaboration with American Express, which uncovers what Britain really thinks about entrepreneurship.

METHODOLOGY

[1] American Express and The Entrepreneurs Network commissioned Opinium Research to survey 250 UK business owners and 1,541 UK adults who have never owned a business. The business owner research was conducted 2 – 9 November 2023. The research among UK adults was conducted between 3 – 7 November 2023.

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