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Mastercard launches program to support UK MSEs

Today, Mastercard launches Strive UK, an initiative that will empower 650,000 British micro and small enterprises (MSEs) to thrive in the digital economy over the next three years and beyond.

Strive UK is an initiative of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, which advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. The programme aims to empower micro and small businesses around the country to succeed in the digital economy through free guidance, helpful tools, and personalised, one-to-one mentoring. For example, this will include a data science powered ‘One Stop Shop’ for entrepreneurs with curated recommendations on support, resources and tools available to help them grow their business, as well as 1:1 support for businesses to identify and  adopt the right digital tools for them.

Small businesses play a critical role in the UK economy, accounting for around 36% of  turnover in the UK private sector and making up 48% of the labour force. Despite this,  they have been hit hard by the pandemic, with nearly two thirds of small businesses seeing revenue decrease.

Kelly Devine, President, UK & Ireland, Mastercard, comments: “Small businesses are the beating heart of the British economy. The past 18 months have proved almost unendurably tough for many, and data shows that small businesses are in urgent need of support if they are to survive and grow post-pandemic. Strive UK has been set up to act as a free resource for small business owners across the country, helping them to navigate the digital economy, build relationships and communities, and ultimately realise their growth ambitions.”

To highlight the issues these businesses face, Mastercard commissioned a new report – ‘Striving to Thrive: The state of play for UK micro and small businesses’ from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), which exposes a significant risk that the UK’s small and micro businesses will miss out on an estimated £827 billion growth opportunity over the next five years if they are not supported to digitise.

It shows technology has already played a critical role in supporting small businesses through the pandemic, with 41% of small business owners saying their company would not have survived without digital tools. As we emerge from the worst of the economic impact, and the nation’s small businesses consider growth prospects in the post pandemic economy, support using digital tools is cited by business owners as the most important factor in achieving their growth aspirations following funding and government support packages.

A further 47% believe technology will become more important to their company’s success over the next five years, while 45% note that use of technology has already helped them to expand their customer base, and around a third say technological adoption has led to increased turnover and increased profit.

Despite this, data shows that challenges remain for small businesses looking to integrate digital tools, with 39% of small businesses feeling overwhelmed by the amount of choice when it comes to digital tools, and 32% wanting to use more digital tools but unsure which ones would be best for their business. This uncertainty rises to 49% in the case of businesses that are owned or run by individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds, highlighting a need for highly-tailored, focused support.

Payal Dalal, Senior Vice President, Social Impact, International Markets at the
Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, comments: “Small businesses are going to be the catalyst for an accelerated and inclusive economic recovery in the UK, but they need tools and resources to fulfil this role. With an emphasis on making things simple, quick and easy, Strive UK will equip small businesses with the support and skills they need to succeed in the digital economy.”

In partnership with Be the Business, Digital Boost and Enterprise Nation, Strive UK will support 650,000 British micro and small businesses, with a particular focus on female led businesses. There will also be a specific  programme to support MSEs from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Emma Jones CBE, Founder of Enterprise Nation, comments: “Millions of people are currently starting or growing a business in the UK, and they know that access to support will help their business ambitions. But founders can be put off from getting help due to the volume of support programmes in the market and not knowing the part of the business that needs help. The solution we are building as part of Strive UK will address this by taking the business owner through a basic diagnostic and then connecting them, in one simple journey, to all the support programmes and resource on offer. In short, it
will make the business support market much more efficient.”

Anthony Impey MBE, CEO, Be the Business, comments: “Strive UK will help unlock the tremendous potential and entrepreneurial drive of ethnic minority owned businesses. Enabling ethnic minority business leaders to embrace technology and succeed in the digital economy will be transformational – both for the businesses and for their communities. We believe Strive UK can help inspire a new generation of digitally empowered ethnic minority business leaders.”

Karen Licurse, Managing Director, Digital Boost, comments: “Micro and small
businesses have told us that the support they value most is highly personalised and in the moment. They want specific, tangible things they can do differently right now, not just generic advice. That’s why we created Digital Boost and are thrilled to be part of Strive. Through Digital Boost, any small business can have unlimited 1:1 conversations with digital and business experts for free. Guidance is available on a wide range of topics, when the business needs it, no matter where they are on their journey.”

Strive UK is launching as part of a wider Strive global initiative which also includes Strive Community, a partnership-led programme focussed on supporting the resilience and growth of more than five million micro and small businesses across the world. With philanthropic funding from the Mastercard Impact Fund, the programme will support small businesses globally as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.