In partnership with Coventry University, Prosper has produced Business Support and the Cultural and Creative Sector in England and Scotland: A Review.
This in-depth review of business support activities in England and Scotland is part of Prosper’s vision to build a creative economy making arts accessible for all. It has been shared to help increase awareness and understanding of business support for the cultural and creative sector.
“…the cultural and creative sectors are increasingly aware of the need for business support and engaging substantially – and more so than other sectors – where appropriate support exists and has capacity.”
Business support and the cultural and creative sector
The current supply of business support to the cultural and creative sector needs to be set within the context of devolution. In England, the national offer includes the National Business Support Helpline and GOV.UK website, sat alongside a set of 39 Local Growth Hubs. In Scotland, the national Business Gateway sits alongside 57 local Business Gateway offices. Scotland also has a national targeted business support offer to the cultural and creative sector, the Cultural Enterprise Office.
In early 2017, a Compendium process was undertaken to identify specialist business support targeted at the cultural and creative sector, and which identified around 80 programmes, projects and schemes across the UK, including advice and consultancy but also grants and loans.
The Review draws on three forms of evidence to assess the business support experience of the cultural and creative sector: sectoral reporting within the Longitudinal Small Business Survey; an analysis of new data derived from the cultural and creative applicants to the Prosper programme; and, documentary evidence including that generated from a Call for Evidence.
Evidence from the Longitudinal Small Business Survey 2016 shows that Arts and Entertainment SMEs are more likely than the average to have sought business support in the last 12 months – including potentially increasing usage in comparison to virtually all other sectors. The sector reports no greater unmet demand than for any other sector, and which remains low across the board. Usage characteristics are that this support is more likely than average to be sourced from accountants, advisors, and consultants although less likely to be intensive.
The cultural and creative applicants to Prosper provide further insight, although account needs to be taken of the diversity of business/organisational population represented. The database has much greater numbers of arts organisations than IT/software, greater regional distribution than the usually mapped creative economy, and one third are charities. Numbers of sole traders is lower than sector norms, but reflects economy-wide patterns, as does the representation of social enterprises.
In total, 35% of Prosper applicants reported previous use of business support in the last two years (mirroring the higher than average usage for the sector in the past year in national statistics). The cohort was most likely to be 6 to 25 employees, turnover greater than £101k, established for a few years, received Arts Council funding, and ‘not-for-profit’ or a social enterprise. The least likely organisational type to have used business support were recently-established ‘for profit’ organisations (which were often ‘micros’).
Prosper applicants were most confident about their skills concerning ‘artistic, creative or cultural offer’ and ‘learning and participation’ and least confident about ‘raising finance’. Relatedly, they were most confident about their strengths in ‘articulating their vision and mission’ and ‘being open to ideas/innovations in business development’ and least confident about understanding ‘the steps to being investment ready’.
Not-for-profits were statistically significant in consistently reporting higher confidence concerning their organisations’ strengths and skills across a large range of business functions.
Overall, concerning business support needs the following needs were rated most highly by applicants (69% and above): financial sustainability; business plan writing; scaling up growth; awareness of funding/finance/investment. The following needs were rated lowest (34% and lower): new products and services; investment readiness.
Where applicants had previously received business support in the last two years, they reported statistically significant greater confidence in the following skills sets – business planning skills; data monitoring and reporting; finance and operations; and fundraising – and the following business development functions – understanding their business model; and sources of business and organisational support.
Download the review to read on:
Business Support and the Cultural and Creative Sector in England and Scotland: A Review