A new report released today suggests a ‘can-do’ generation of young entrepreneurs is emerging from the credit crunch.  This new breed of UK entrepreneur is resilient, optimistic and despite popular belief, does not blame broader economic challenges for business failure.

The DEMOS research, launched to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Shell LiveWIRE - an independent and free online service for young entrepreneurs - found that 4 in 5 (83%) UK entrepreneurs do not believe macro-economic factors will decide the future success or otherwise of their business.  In fact, it is estimated that up to 253,000 new companies have joined the ranks of the UK’s 4.6million private sector businesses despite less than ideal economic circumstances over the course of the past year.*

The ’Everyone’s Business’ research, which canvassed opinion from almost 1,000 aspiring entrepreneurs, including members of the Shell LiveWIRE online community, highlights how business innovators are shouldering complete responsibility for their business failures - 82% of entrepreneurs believe that if their business fails it is because their idea was insufficiently strong or has been undermined by factors aside from the economy, such as not being determined enough. 

Surprisingly, for these ‘can do’ individuals, money is not a motivator, only 15% say they are spurred to enterprise as a result of money, instead they are driven by a desire to work for themselves and by a passion to turn ideas and concepts into a reality.  The research also highlights the support most valued by this new generation of evolutionary entrepreneurs, 47% find advice lent by existing businesspeople more useful than traditional or institutional models, such as advice from JobcentrePlus (2%), banks (2%) and University careers services (18%).

Deconstructing the British entrepreneur stereotype further, the report identifies that rather than being ‘revolutionaries’ – driven by a light-bulb moment, most young entrepreneurs are ‘evolutionaries.’  Over 70% of those surveyed describe their business as evolutionary, stating that their business idea either replicates or improves upon existing business models within their sector – countering the common perception that successful entrepreneurs have to be cutting-edge inventors.

Graham van’t Hoff, Chairman, Shell UK, said: “After three decades of supporting UK enterprise through LiveWIRE, it’s no surprise to us at Shell that a new ‘can do’ generation of entrepreneurs is emerging from the economic gloom.  Their energy, resilience and innovation are critical to delivering the jobs and economic growth the country needs.

“Shell LiveWIRE has been running in the UK since 1982 and has helped thousands of young people in the UK by offering an independent and free online service and awards programme for young entrepreneurs.  Innovation is central to meeting society’s challenges and it’s why at Shell, we champion innovation both in young entrepreneurs and our own business.”

Duncan O’Leary, Deputy Director of Demos and co-author of the report said: “This reveals a picture of entrepreneurship that is far more realistic than the stereotype of mad cap inventor appearing on Dragons’ Den.  The message from the report is not all about revolutionary ideas and ‘light bulb moments’. Aspiring entrepreneurs believe that a can-do attitude, some start-up capital and a dose of luck can go a long way to creating a successful business.”

Read the report ’Everyone’s Business’

Notes to editors:

The report, ‘Everyone’s Business’, by Duncan O’Leary and Max Wind-Cowie is published by Demos on Thursday 15 November 2012.

The polling within the report was carried out by Demos. The 919 participants in the online poll were those who self identified as aspiring entrepreneurs including members from the Shell LiveWIRE online community. The poll took place in October 2012. 

This research was supported by Shell as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of their enterprise development programme, Shell LiveWIRE.

Shell seeks to initiate, establish and support Social Investment programmes that are aligned with its business. Social investment activities are themed around science education, enterprise development and innovation.

  • Shell LiveWIRE has been running in the UK since 1982, when it was launched in the Strathclyde region of Scotland to combat the high level of youth unemployment. Since then it has helped thousands of young people in the UK to explore starting their own business and has spread to 17 countries around the world. Shell LiveWIRE offers an independent and free online service and awards programme for young entrepreneurs.

    Up to four Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas awards of £1,000 are given to start-up businesses every month. The Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Award of £10,000 has been running since 1982 and continues to recognise and celebrate outstanding young entrepreneurs in the UK. Shell LiveWIRE has awarded a total of £5 million to young entrepreneurs since launching 30 years ago.
  • Shell Education Service provides a series of unique, interactive science workshops to approximately 60,000 young children a year.  Workshops are designed to support the National Curriculum in over 600 primary schools, benefitting both the pupils and teachers. The Shell Education Service also organises science days for local communities and trainee teachers, building their confidence and skills in teaching science.  Shell has run this programme for over 50 years.
  • Shell Springboard is fully funded and managed by Shell. It provides a financial boost to UK based, small to medium sized enterprises with innovative, low carbon business ideas.  Since being set up in 2005, Shell Springboard has provided awards totalling over £2.25 million to 62 companies with no strings attached.

To find out more about Shell Social Investment, please visit:



Royal Dutch Shell plc

Royal Dutch Shell plc is incorporated in England and Wales, has its headquarters in The Hague and is listed on the London, Amsterdam and New York stock exchanges. Shell companies have operations in more than 80 countries and territories with businesses including oil and gas exploration and production; production and marketing of liquefied natural gas and gas to liquids; manufacturing, marketing and shipping of oil products and chemicals and renewable energy projects. For further information, visit www.shell.com - Opens on Shell.com


Demos is a think-tank focused on power and politics. Our unique approach challenges the traditional, 'ivory tower' model of policymaking by giving a voice to people and communities. We work together with the groups and individuals who are the focus of our research, including them in citizens’ juries, deliberative workshops, focus groups and ethnographic research.

Through our high quality and socially responsible research, Demos has established itself as the leading independent think tank in British politics. Our work is driven by the goal of a society populated by free, capable, secure and powerful citizens.

*BIS, Business Population Estimates for the UK and the Regions, statistical release, Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2012, www.bis.gov.uk/assets/BISCore/statistics/docs/B/12-92-bpe-2012-stats-release.pdf


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