By Daniel Hunter

Sir Richard Branson is still the UK's favourite business mentor, according to digital lender for small businesses, Everline.

The survey of 500 small business owners saw 40% pick the entrepreneur as their preferred business mentor. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg came second with just 13% of the votes, but his popularity with the younger generation was evident with 25% of 18-34 year olds choosing him.

Despite his global success, Simon Cowell struggled to show that he has the X-Factor for businesses with just 6 per cent of small business owners selecting him as their preferred business mentor.

Politicians also failed to resonate as potential business mentors. Prime Minister David Cameron was selected by just 5% of small business owners, with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg trailing him on 2% and just 1% respectively.

Everline noted a distinct lack of women chosen as preferred business mentors. Author J.K. Rowling was the preferred by just 6% of small business owners and was the highest ranking female businessperson in the survey.

Russell Gould, managing director of Everline, said: “When it comes to aspirational business leaders, it’s hard to see anyone knocking Richard Branson off the top spot anytime soon.

"It’s worrying though that there is a lack of people in the pipeline that small business owners can aspire to or would want as their mentor. We need Government and business partners to do more to help small businesses get off the ground and ensure they get the support they need to keep growing.

Access to the right finance, advice, and opportunities is just part of the solution though. We also need to ensure that successful businesses get their fair share of the limelight in order to encourage and inspire the next generation of small business owners.”

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