The Esme SME Study 2017

Esme’s SME Study 2017 has found that over a third of small and medium enterprise (SME) owners believe Brexit will have a negative impact on their business. Find out all the insights below.

We’ve crunched the data from 1,250 respondents from across the UK and we’ve found some fascinating insights about small and medium size enterprises. From how they funded their launch, to how the political landscape will impact their businesses, we’ve got the key stats.

A negative outlook over Brexit

Despite only 21% of business owners believing that the UK’s exit from the EU will have a positive impact on their business, a meagre 27% of SME business owners have made preparations for the potential impact of Brexit.

% of SME owners positive over Brexit


% of SME owners that have prepared for Brexit

21% { max-width: 100px; }

Only 2/10

think Brexit will have
a positive impact

Source: The Esme SME Study 2017 – Results based on 1,250 respondents

svg.minus-1 { max-width: 100px; }

Over 6/10

estimate Brexit will have either a negative effect of no impact at all

The split between male and female
business owners

Male business owners have a more optimistic outlook about the current economic climate, with 23% believing it’ll have a positive impact on business, compared to just 16% of female business owners. This carries through to politics too, with male business owners 44% more likely to believe the current political landscape will have a positive impact on their business.

21% of male business owners are optimistic

svg { max-width: 100px; }

16% of female business owners are optimistic

svg { max-width: 100px; }

Sentiment of UK business owners
towards the current economic climate

85% women

77% men

said it will not have
a positive impact on
their business

Source: The Esme SME Study 2017 - Results based on 1,250 respondents

What  agree on though, are the top 3 factors that could have a negative impact on their business

50% Value of the pound

48% Brexit

39% Decrease in
demand of interest

Regional differences across the nation

Business owners in the East Midlands are making the most frequent use of business loans to fund the launch of their business, with 29% using them as the main source of funding. This compares with just 12% in the East of England, where over half get the majority of their funding from their personal savings.

Business owners in the North East have a more pessimistic attitude towards their chances of being approved for a business loan, with 60% fearing rejection when applying. This is compared to the national average of 25%.

Using responses to the 26 questions in our survey, we’ve mapped out the landscape of SME business owner opinion. These results will be invaluable to budding entrepreneurs, existing business owners, and anyone with an interest in the economy.

Use of business loans

East Midlands

East of England

Fear of rejection

East Midlands

National Average

More insights from UK
SME business owners

11 months

The average time it took for respondents from profitable businesses to start making a profit.


The percentage of respondents who thought the best way to attract and retain staff is through offering a competitive salary.


54% said that an entrepreneur needs determination and ambition in order to grow a business.


Of SME owners who used a business loan to raise additional funds said they used it for expansion.


Of owners who took out a business loan were fearful of rejection at the application stage.

“Word of mouth”

Referrals ranked top in the list of factors that helped respondents to take their business to the next level.


Of the respondents said retaining customers was one of their top three biggest business priorities.

“Work hard, be patient, go for it”

Read the comments and advice from 1,250 respondents running real businesses in the UK today.

The political landscape

Just over a third of respondents (35%) feel that the political landscape could have a negative impact on their business.


The number of SME owners who said tax, laws, rules or regulations presented one of their biggest challenges.

Apply now

>Back to top