171,000 members of Generation Z – those currently aged between 18 and 25 – are already directors of businesses in the UK, shows new research by Hazlewoods, Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers.

Hazlewoods analysis of 5.9 million company directors currently registered in the UK shows that Gen Z are now starting to become entrepreneurs. The firm says that the businesses run by Gen Z directors in the UK include. 

  • 14,800 online retailers
  • 12,400 bricks-and-mortar shops
  • 4,100 property investment businesses
  • 3,400 food stands and mobile food trucks
  • 1,300 restaurants
  • 1,100 recruitment agencies
  • 900 estate agencies
  • 700 pubs and bars

Hazlewoods associate partner, Ryan Hancock, says that the pandemic may have had the effect of turning more young people into entrepreneurs.

With many young people working in industries that were heavily affected by lockdowns, redundancies and furlough, some who were out of work over the last two years chose to start their own businesses.

Gen Z gets business experience from ‘side hustles’

The ease with which people can now open retail businesses using social media platforms meant that numerous Gen Z members turned to ‘side hustles’ in online sales of goods like clothing over recent years. Some went a step further and opened bricks-and-mortar stores as the growing amount of empty retail space in the UK saw rents tumble in some areas.

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Says Hancock: “Just as the credit crunch in 2007/8 turned a lot of Millennials into entrepreneurs, the COVID-19 crash may well end up doing the same for Gen Z.”

“The barriers to entry in a sector like online retail are lower than they have ever been. Setting up a store to sell through a platform like Instagram is now extremely easy. Building a business purely through its social media presence is now a viable model for some.”

“The availability of commercial space on high streets at low or even zero rents means there are opportunities for young entrepreneurs to be successful in sectors like retail and hospitality.”

Generation X now make up the biggest share of company directors

While the number of Generation Z directors is growing quickly, they so far make up only 3% of company directors in the UK overall. This places this youngest group a long way behind leaders Generation X – currently aged between 42 and 57 – who make up 41% of all directors in the UK.

This group is now likely to be approaching its peak in terms of running UK businesses, with the oldest members of the generation only now beginning to consider early retirement.

Baby Boomers – now aged between 58 and 76 – now only make up 25% of all company directors as they get closer to retirement.  Millennials (now aged 26 to 41) have overtaken them as a percentage of the UK’s company directors in recent years, making up 29% of the total director population.

Adds Hancock: “Generation X is the generation that dominates the boards of British businesses. Baby Boomers have retired in very large numbers and a substantial generational shift has taken place over the last decade.”

Businesses run by UK Generation Z entrepreneurs 

  • Online estate agency Doorsteps, founded by Akshay Ruparelia, age 24
  • Workplace community building app Tahora, founded by Ben Towers (23) who previously founded, built and sold design agency Towers Design
  • Clothing supply chain risk monitoring app KNO Global, founded by Marianne Caroline Hughes, age 24