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Millennial entrepreneurs are more than twice as likely as their older counterparts to be optimistic about their growth prospects in 2019, a survey suggests.

The research, conducted by eBay, found that 75% of those aged 18 to 34 are feeling good about their business this year, compared with just 37% of those above the age of 35.

Overall, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that feel optimistic about the future outnumber pessimists by two to one. Some 43% of the businesses surveyed said they are positive about growth in 2019, compared to just 22% who say they are not.

Investing in online retail

Given the tough trading environment, especially on the High Street, eBay’s Small Business Barometer found that most SMEs expect growth to come chiefly through online sales and an increase in product lines, with over six in ten (62%) businesses planning to increase investment during the year.

eBay continues to help businesses in Wolverhampton achieve online growth through its Retail Revival programme, a partnership with the city council to help small retailers online. The scheme is designed to help both bricks and mortar retailers and online players make the most of digital retail. In January, the 64 participating businesses had grown revenues by 41% and collectively reached £1 million in sales, just three months after the programme’s launch.

For young entrepreneurs like Tom Schott, founder of Schott Packaging, which sells packaging products, the time to invest for growth is now: “The best thing about running your own business is that every decision, every change you make impacts the business in some way, but ultimately the buck stops with you. Being a small business and being able to make decisions and changes quickly gives me confidence that we can adapt to a changing environment.

“While there is some uncertainty that comes with Brexit, I’m excited about our prospects for the year ahead and I’m confident that we can weather the storm and mitigate any short-term hiccups. The business has been going from strength to strength on eBay and we’re currently on track to surpass our target of £1.1 million turnover for the next year. Every month we’re looking to grow our product range and we’re also looking to bring on more staff, as well as expand our warehouse space to cope with increasing demand.”

Rob Hattrell, vice president of eBay in the UK, said: “The fact that so many small to medium-sized businesses are optimistic about the future, despite tough trading conditions, is testament to the skills of agile and innovative UK entrepreneurs. 200,000 SMEs trade on eBay in the UK, selling to over 170 million consumers worldwide, and they are quick to spot opportunities and adapt to challenges.

“Clearly there are economic risks in 2019, with Brexit and consumer confidence chief among the concerns, but we see that small retailers have the flexibility to adapt and thrive. The businesses we are working with in Wolverhampton grew revenues by 41% in the first three months of our Retail Revival partnership, showing how offline and online retail can work together.”

Five risks to growth

Despite the show of confidence, businesses in the eBay Small Business Barometer identified five risks that could limit their growth this year. Unsurprisingly, Brexit was the leading factor (32%), followed by a reduction in consumer spending (26%). These were closely followed by business worries about an unpredictable political or economic incident (24%), being undercut by big businesses offering similar products (16%) and concerns relating to a weak pound making imports more expensive (15%).