A call for mental support for small businesses

The lack of mental support for small businesses is of increasing concern. To mitigate challenges faced by businesses, external physical and financial support measures are common, while mental has prior been neglected. Small enterprises encounter hardship that not only put livelihoods in jeopardy financially but inflict emotional strain on owners and staff.

Small Business Commissioner, Liz Barclay stated: “I’ve talked to thousands of small businesses and heard far too many harrowing stories. People who have a real passion for what they do and are living their dream through running a business can be incredibly vulnerable.” Barclay’s comment came when worries developed during the current pandemic over the mental health of small business owners. However, for many, these stresses go beyond the pandemic.

Emma Pinfold, owner of Bond Street to Your Street, has dealt with online bullying and store break-ins for years. Pinfold’s business sells pre-owned clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories from high-end brands. After her store branch in Tenterden was robbed in January 2020, she told KentOnline: “I have seven children and work very hard to make a living so I can feed and clothe them.” During the burglary, £20,000 worth of stock was stolen. During another robbery in June 2021, thieves left with £40,000 worth of items.

Data from IWOCA (short for “instant working capital”) shows that even prior to the pandemic, “more than six in ten SME leaders reported that cash flow concerns kept them awake at night”. As a start, IWOCA has partnered with Mental Health UK to develop the first mental health support programme geared specifically towards SMEs in the UK. The group is currently undergoing research to determine the key areas to address.

As business ownership is known to be emotionally taxing, it is vital more resources be devoted to mental support for small businesses, nationwide.