Whole generation of local small businesses could disappear, warns local entrepreneur

Hakeem Duckworth-Porter
Hakeem Duckworth-Porter

Gaps in government support schemes risks “sinking” the next generation of local entrepreneurs, a Brixton business consultant has warned on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Money Box programme

His warning was backed by local MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

Hakeem Duckworth-Porter set up HDP Consulting Ltd a year ago to provide business growth and debt management advice to small and medium sized businesses.

He grew up on the Clapham Park Estate in Brixton Hill and currently runs his consultancy from his rented flat in Streatham.

He explained to Money Box how he, as a small, home-based business, falls through the cracks of current support schemes for businesses affected by coronavirus.

Hakeem said: “There is a real problem that the current government support packages simply don’t help very small businesses or entrepreneurs in Lambeth.

“If you run a home-based business, you don’t qualify for the Small Business Grant, even though you pay Corporation Tax, National Insurance contributions and raise VAT revenue for the taxman.

“If you’re a start-up, established in the 2019 to 2020 tax year, you can’t access the Self Employment Income Support Scheme due to arbitrary cut-off dates.”

As Hakeem explained to listeners, he has looked to innovate by setting up new services, including one to help other small businesses struggling with debt.

But, he says, as the Bank of England has warned, the country is facing its worst economic crisis since 1709, a lot of similar businesses are going to struggle to remain afloat.

“I come from a small family of African-Caribbean descent without any cash to put behind me, and I have had to work long hours to build up a small outfit that looks to help other small businesses so I can put something back into the community.

“My Mum and Dad always taught me the value of honest, hard work, which is partly why I set up my business in the first place.

“I know a lot of young people in the same boat who believe that one more wave will capsize their whole company, whether that’s in the form of an unpaid invoice or their next rent bill from their landlord.

“That’s how perilous it is for a lot of hard-working people out there at the moment.

“I’m asking the government to take another look at our sector and provide short-term support.

“Without it, we could see a generation of Lambeth small businesses disappear, depriving our local economy of jobs, investment and that entrepreneurial spirit that has always made Lambeth so vibrant.”

Bell Ribeiro-Addy
Bell Ribeiro-Addy
Picture: Wikimedia/David Woolfall

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, said: “The unfortunate truth about coronavirus business measures so far is that the smaller you are, the smaller your support from the government.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and our communities and the cost of bankrupt businesses, unemployed workers and lost tax revenue far outweighs the cost of acting.

“We need a second wave of economic measures to support small businesses like Hakeem’s that are falling through existing gaps.

“The uneven impact of coronavirus on small business is also an important reminder of the need for a more level playing field as we rebuild our economy.”

Listen to this week’s Money Box here, with the 12-minute discussion on small businesses starting at 23.40 minutes in.