Small businesses in the UK are more likely to seek investment and have significantly higher growth expectations when they export, compared to those who don’t.

Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that export also feel more confident and introduce new products, according to a new report by Enterprise Nation.

However, the Small Business Barometer also suggested SME exporters are more exposed to the effects of Brexit than those that did not and need 'significant help' to reduce impacts

While 68% of the smallest firms polled said they expected to grow in the next six months, the figure rose to 74% amongst long-term exporters and a dramatic 91% among those that had started to export in the last six months.

Although only 15% of all firms polled said they had felt a negative financial impact post-Brexit, the number doubles to around 30% among those that export. The longer they have been exporting, the higher the impact, the survey found.

The research found one in five of the smallest firms are exporting products or services at some level.

In response to Liam Fox's statements earlier this month, Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “Small businesses are far from being fat and lazy. They don’t get the opportunities or the trade deals that big businesses benefit from and they still find a way to export, but the frustrating thing is that they would dearly like to do it much more.

“These figures show even the smallest firms are busy exporting, in fact to a larger extent than has hitherto been found in Government statistics. It also shows that exporting brings confidence, ambition and strength – but with that comes more challenges from the external forces including the economy and Brexit.

“The export potential amongst the smallest firms is huge, but they need some significant help and subsidy to get them to where they need to be.'

The firm has just announced a subsidised trade mission to China and Hong Kong, Britain’s second biggest export market outside Europe. It will focus on these smaller companies that need the extra help.

The trip is being supported by private sector sponsors including global delivery firm UPS, HSBC, KPMG, Invest HK, Alibaba, Gatwick Airport and international airline Cathay Pacific.

Kiel Harkness, marketing director UK, Ireland and Nordic Countries said: “UPS is committed to helping SMEs navigate the changes that may come in a post-Brexit reality. As we await a formal start to the exiting process from the EU, UPS is talking and collaborating with small businesses to help them navigate this unprecedented moment, and to continue to take advantage of global markets.

“British SMEs have much to gain from China and we are excited to be collaborating with Enterprise Nation once again, to help aspiring businesses capitalise on the export potential within this market.”

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick CEO, said: “Gatwick makes it easier for small businesses to export around the world. Keeping export costs down is key and our low cost long haul revolution helps SMEs reach destinations across North America – the UK’s biggest export market outside Europe – at prices they can afford.

“Our three new Chinese routes are also connecting small businesses to the UK’s second biggest export market outside Europe. These are vital services and, alongside our latest airline Cathay Pacific, we are delighted to be sponsoring a trade mission into the heart of the Chinese economy.”

The five-day November mission will help British-based firms both source manufacturers and sell to consumers. It is particularly relevant to those retailing consumer-facing products including food and drink, luxury fashion, children’s toys and homewares, with the trip coinciding with Singles' Day – the world's largest selling day.

The trip is the fifth the support group has arranged this year for the smallest companies as part of its on-going Go Global campaign, which has helped more than 250 small companies explore overseas trade opportunities since it launched two years ago. Other missions have taken firms to Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, and New York.