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The year of the ‘necessity entrepreneur’

2009 could be remembered as the year of the so-called ‘necessity entrepreneur’, defined as those who were ‘pushed’ by circumstance into forming their own businesses.

“I was made redundant from Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander in October 2008, and decided to just move away from the banking sector altogether,” says Robin Campbell, who set up her own wedding and celebration cake business, Cakes by Robin, last year.

Campbell got the idea for her business after seeing how much one of her friends paid for her wedding cake.

“I had always been interested in food and cooking, and saw that I could bake better cakes for half the price. Whilst it was scary to set up my own business, I didn’t have a choice – by that point, the decision was just taken away from me and I went with it,” says Campbell, who is now an ambassador for Enterprise UK, which aims to inspire confidence, skills and ambition to be enterprising.

This seems to be a common theme amongst necessity entrepreneurs – they have to sink or swim.

Maxine Wells, who launched Maxine’s of London – a high-end lingerie label – last summer, couldn’t find a job in the fashion sector after completing her fashion degree at DeMontford University, so she started making small lingerie pieces which she sold to independent boutiques.

“It started to escalate, and I realised that I wanted my own business,” Wells says. “It progressed slowly, so it wasn’t too scary. If you’re passionate enough about something and believe you can do it, then you always have that faith to push you forward.”

Wells worked closely with Business Link to set up her business, which she says helped enormously.

“Working one-to-one with an advisor gave me the right advice as to what I should expect and whether it really was right for me,” she explains. “It also helped me meet like-minded entrepreneurs, who gave me invaluable advice.”

Danby, who set up his own business, Kaffe Automat – an independent café – at the end of last year, adds that now is a good time for young entrepreneurs to open up their own business.

“The recession is a time for opportunity. Especially if you don’t require credit, it’s the perfect time to create your own job that fits your own needs perfectly.”

Danby was able to open Kaffe Automat in the heart of Soho, London, thanks to a quirky subletting arrangement with a cocktail bar. The café uses the cocktail bar’s space during the day, and Danby packs up his business when the bar opens in the evening.

“Opening a concession within an existing business allowed us to pay a fraction of what it would cost commercially,” he explains. “We’ve designed the business so it can be moved – nothing is fixed to the fabric of the building.”

Danby has also been able to keep staffing costs down thanks to friends who help him to run the business. “It’s been a really interesting experience – we’ve definitely benefited from people’s reaction to the recession.”

Wells adds: “You have to remember that you’re not alone – there are many organisations and people willing to help you set up your business.”

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