People are choosing startups and SMEs over larger corporations, and it’s not just because over 400,000 are created every year.
Startups are on the rise
The UK has over 7,000 food and drinks businesses, but only a handful of these are your well-known, blue-chip corporations. In fact, 97% of these companies are Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), due to the fact that the UK startup space is absolutely booming.
It only makes sense that this would trigger a similar increase in the number of people employed in startups, and indeed, over 3 million people now work in startups across a wide range of industries in the UK.
Our People & Recruitment Team spend all day, every day speaking to people looking to make the move from big business to small, and get into a food and drink startup career. And what’s clear is that people aren’t just following the vacancies – they are actively choosing startups and small businesses as their employers, in preference to more established companies.
You might have already considered making the move yourself. Perhaps you already have! We turned to our own team here at Young Foodies to get some insight into why startups are, for many people, the future of employment.
“I have a real impact on the business”
Ask people why they joined a startup, and this is definitely the answer that you’ll hear the most. But what does this mean?
Becky (Marketing) — “I wanted to work somewhere I had a genuine and visible impact on the business. Being in a small environment means you get to input on all areas of the business so you learn more than if you were sat with a bunch of people doing the same thing.”
Krystal (Business Operations) — “I wanted to work with like-minded people to make big and meaning impacts fast.”
Compared to the labyrinthine, multi-storey offices housing larger companies, startups often operate out of one smaller office. Rather than a small cog in a big machine, you become a big cog in a small machine, and can really see the impact of your hard work. In a marketing role for example, you may quickly find yourself contributing to, or even in charge of, the company’s marketing plan — something that could take far longer in a larger company.
“I’m given real responsibility”
With great impact comes great responsibility…
Caspar (Supply Chain & Logistics) — “I was given a considerable amount of responsibility and autonomy working in a startup up from the get-go. I can effect genuine change as opposed to being a small cog in a massive corporate machine.”
Most employers advertise roles with “real responsibility from day one”, but there are few cases for which this is as true as working in a startup. I gave a marketing example above, but this would be the case in pretty much any department. Join the operations team, and you’ll probably find yourself managing large numbers of orders before long.
“I get to see all the magic happen”
Rudi (People & Recruitment)— “ Working in a startup has given me the chance to learn more about all aspects of the business, being so close to all the decisions that are made.”
In a larger company, it’s likely that each department will have separate floors, or even whole buildings. Working in a startup, however, could see you sat with the sales team on one side, and brushing shoulders with operations on the other. To continue Caspar’s lovely metaphor, rather than the company seeming like a giant invisible machine, you will be able to see it’s inner workings and processes every day, and know that you help them to keep turning.
Where can this get you?
Thea (Co-founder)— “I wanted to work at a start-up because I dreamt of owning my own business one day — I wanted to understand the ins and outs of how businesses run so, when the time’s right, I’ll smash it!”
“I’ve learnt so much about myself”
Catherine (People & Recruitment) — “I wasn’t exactly set on what I wanted to do for my next career move. Through exposure to many different areas of a business and greater responsibility right from the word go, I have learnt more about myself and my strengths than I ever would have in a larger company.”
How easy is it to forget to take a step back and reflect on how far you’ve come? Given how fast-paced life in a startup can be, it can be especially easy to do this. But when you take the time, it’s really worth it, because that fast-paced, high-responsibility work has taught you a great deal. You may never have thought you could accomplish so much!
“I love working in a fast-paced environment”
This means far more than just being busy at work…
Jake (Growth Manager) — “I chose to move to a startup because I wanted to have a bigger impact. There is a lot to be said for working for a big corporate but the speed and agility small businesses move with makes every day so exciting!”
Challenger brands are well-known for having the upper hand in innovation, and it’s for this reason that they are driving almost 60% of the category growth in the FMCG market. More and more we can see larger companies like Sainsbury’s and Pepsico following the lead of smaller brands to help them adapt to a rapidly changing market.
This agility is now being openly recognised within the industry:
Reuters (2017) — “It’s difficult for companies to have the persistence and to replicate the energy and the passion that these early-stage entrepreneurs have,” said John Haugen, head of General Mills’ venture capital arm 301 Inc, adding innovation was extremely tough because of how quickly market trends were changing.”
There are no doubt risks inherent in working within a startup. Larger, more established companies are associated with greater reliability and security. Over 400,000 startups are created each year, but many of these do not make it. The truth is, it’s difficult to make it as a startup, and the playing field is far from equal. Startups face obstacles and challenges that larger companies just don’t need to worry about.
But the FMCG industry as a whole is currently facing great challenges, from a rapidly changing consumer market to economic uncertainty. With large businesses undermining category growth by -6%, it’s startups that are driving the industry. And with more recognition slowly being given to the importance and value of small businesses, it should start to get easier to be an SME. That’s our ultimate mission here at Young Foodies — to make small brands mighty!
With this in mind, a startup might seem like a wise investment for your future career. Finding the perfect startup and role for you might seem like quite a daunting prospect, but that what our Talent team are here for, so get in touch to see if there’s an opportunity for you.
Thank you to the Young Foodies team for sharing their thoughts — here’s a photo of them having far too much fun: