Barclays launches nationwide drive to boost small businesses, as over a quarter of SMEs say their mental wellbeing has declined during the pandemic

02 February 2022
  • New research shows that whilst almost 80 per cent of businesses are optimistic about the future of their business, over a quarter feel worried or anxious after taking on debt for the first time1
  • The bank has launched 600 new business health masterclasses and more than doubled staff numbers in their support teams
  • Barclays partners with Nisha Katona MBE, owner of Mowgli Street Food restaurants, to raise awareness of new support package

Barclays has today launched a package of support aimed at boosting small businesses, with the bank set to host 50 masterclasses a month this year, which will focus on managing cash flow, business growth and support for wellbeing. The classes are open to all small business owners, with national events focused on the hospitality and care home sectors.

The nationwide drive is in response to new research conducted by Barclays, which has highlighted the impact of the pandemic on small business owners, with over a quarter revealing that their mental health has declined.

Over the last two years, almost 80 per cent of small businesses that took on debt did so for the first time, the majority through Government lending schemes. Barclays facilitated over £13 billion through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme to small businesses.

And whilst almost 80 per cent of small businesses surveyed are optimistic about the future of their business and are confident they will repay, over a quarter say that taking on debt for the first time made them feel anxious or worried. Three fifths (58 per cent) of businesses are also owed money from late payments, with unpaid invoices constraining cash flow.2

Barclays is teaming up with Nisha Katona MBE, owner of Mowgli Street Food restaurants, to raise awareness of their new support package for small businesses.

Nisha Katona MBE, CEO of Mowgli Street Food restaurants and founder of the Mowgli Trust charity, said: “Hospitality businesses have had a really rough time throughout the pandemic. My team are like family and our number one priority during lockdown when we mothballed the company was to phone them regularly to check if they were ok, and ask what more we could do to support their emotional needs. We encouraged people to try to enjoy their time off and told them their jobs would be waiting.

“The first thing to do if you’re worried about your finances is to go and get help. One of the things about this pandemic is that it’s made many more people understand what it’s like to be in debt. Business owners are part of a great fraternity and there is no shame on calling upon support, whether that be from friends or family, or your bank.”

Hannah Bernard, Head of Business Banking at Barclays, said: “Everyone at Barclays is incredibly passionate about supporting small businesses the length and breadth of the UK. Our number one priority is to help businesses to not just recover from the pandemic, but to make a solid growth plan for the future.

“There is no one size fits all solution to the challenge, but we hope the steps we’ve taken to provide hundreds of expert masterclasses and hire additional colleagues will make a real difference.

“We’re here to help, and we want any business owner who might be worried about the future of their business to reach out to us early.”

To find out more about Barclays support for businesses visit: www.barclays.co.uk/business-banking/
To sign up for one of the masterclasses, visit: https://labs.barclays/business-health-hub


Notes to Editor:
1 Research conducted by Censuswide of 1,001 UK SME Decision Makers with a turnover no greater than £25 million from 20th December 2021 to 29th December 2021.

2 Research conducted by Opinium of 500 small business owners / MDs / CEOs in companies of 0-249 employees with a turnover of less than £6.5 million from 22nd to 29th September 2021.

Barclays’ Business Health Pledge
Our Pledge outlines our commitments to our customers and local business communities with their post-pandemic recovery. The Pledge includes a package of support:

  1. Hosting 50 small business masterclasses every month to support recovery. The classes will focus on managing cash flow, business growth, and support for wellbeing
  2. A commitment to have 20,000 conversations with customers a month to support business resilience and growth
  3. A new digital Business Health Hub with resources to help businesses grow
  4. More than doubling the size of teams that support businesses in financial difficulty

Key statistics
80 per cent of businesses are optimistic about the future of their business
76 per cent of those who have taken on external finance during the pandemic are confident they will repay their loan
26 per cent feel anxious or worried about the external finance they’ve taken on during the pandemic
27 per cent of respondents said their mental health has declined because of running a business during the pandemic
58 per cent are owed money from late payments

Nisha’s top recovery tips for business owners:
1. Ask for help if you need it – your wellbeing is a priority: The first thing to do if you’re worried about your finances is to go and get help. Speak to friends, family, and your bank may also have advice. Look for a bank and a relationship manager that has a passion for business and entrepreneurialism. It’s so important to have a sounding board, and you need someone who can give you a realistic assessment of your business model whilst really listening to you and nurturing your business and ideas.
2. There’s no shame in having debt: Most businesses have debt, whether that be to help with unexpected events (like the pandemic!) or to facilitate growth. There's no indignity in having debt as you start to grow. You are growing because you want to employ more people, pay more taxes and support your community, so as long as you take on a very serviceable amount of debt responsibly, don't feel this is an indignity.
3. Employees are family: Any organisation is only as good as its people. Everything should come back to ensuring they feel purposeful, nourished and fulfilled - just as you would want this for your family. Having an ambition like this is useless without actually diagnosing if you are achieving it, so surveying your staff regularly is critical. Ask them simply if they are happy and if not, why not. Common themes for us have been greater flexibility and for sustainability to move to the heart of the business.
4. Product or service is key: Constantly look at your product and what you’re presenting to the High Street with fresh, dispassionate eyes, and always think, is it still relevant? If you’re truly passionate about your product, and you want it out there in the market, you also need to build it in a way that means it will have a legacy once you’re no longer in charge.
5. Define your purpose: The mission at Mowgli is simply to enrich the lives and cities we are in. Each of our restaurants supports local and international charities to ensure we are making a positive impact in our communities. The best institutions have a compassionate clarity of purpose that is simple enough to be understood and embraced by all your employees. Focus on the higher goal of a life enhancing purpose and the bottom line will come.