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Why eBay thinks entrepreneurial grit in the face of gloom should inspire us all

Dieter Newell, senior director at eBay, explains why recent conversations with business owners have shown him why entrepreneurial grit will triumph over any statistical doom-mongering.
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The next few years will be unpredictable for the British economy. That statement shouldn’t come as a surprise – the headwinds and uncertainties we face have been well documented and discussed. But what is surprising, and hugely inspiring, is the way that small businesses are facing this uncertainty with steely optimism and defiant entrepreneurial grit.

I’m fortunate enough to work with over 200,000 such businesses in my job at eBay, leading a team whose mission is to provide support, guidance and resources to the entrepreneurs that form the backbone of our economy.

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We regularly speak to our sellers to understand their ambitions, hopes and concerns, allowing my team to focus on what matters most to them. In our most recent reading of small business sentiment, the eBay for Business Index, I was struck by the optimism that shone through.

Despite well documented headwinds and expert predictions of economic disaster, small business owners tell us they optimistic about their growth prospects this year, by a margin of two to one.

Not only are these small businesses optimistically shrugging off uncertainty and continuing to invest, many are actively fatigued with the persistent negative commentary on issues that often seem outside of any of our control. Indeed, over half (52 per cent) of those we spoke to as part of the eBay for Business Index told us they were tired with “experts” predicting “doom and gloom” that ultimately didn’t affect their business.

Entrepreneurial grit in practice

One such business is Wiltshire-based Furniture Box, set up by young entrepreneur Monty George – who was aged just 19 at the time and decided to pursue a career in business rather than attend university. George runs the business from an office and warehouse space in Mere, Wiltshire with fellow young entrepreneur Dan Beckles.

Together, the two have led Furniture Box to rapid growth within just a year, turning over more than £1m in 2016. They are eyeing further expansion this year.

George believes that to be an entrepreneur you need to have faith in your abilities, in your product or in your idea. And this is echoed by the vast majority (72 per cent) of the small business leaders we spoke to as part of the index, who are confident that they are the masters of their own destiny when it comes to the success of their business.

It’s this attitude and entrepreneurial grit that inspires me. It’s an attitude that needs to be nurtured for our economy to realise its potential, whatever the economic weather. We all have a part to play in this, from where government invests, to how bigger brands support startups, to where consumers spend the pound in their pocket.

The lesson for me is clear: small business owners believe they are the masters of their own destiny and the rest of us should back them in that, giving them the tools they need to succeed. Whatever the economic weather, their entrepreneurial grit should inspire us all.

Dieter Newell is senior director of seller growth at eBay in the UK.

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