Although the percentage of companies reporting improved exports shrunk, the number of firms expecting a growth in UK sales grew in the first three months of the year, according to Kent Invicta Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey.
“I feel quite positive,” said Drew Selman, director of design agency Lemon Creative, based near Canterbury.
He has operated as a one-man band since he was forced to make all his staff redundant when his primary client, Hornby, pulled the plug on contracts after its poor sales performance following the London 2012 Olympics.
Mr Selman now operates from a studio at his home in Bossingham, near Canterbury, and has seen his business flourish in its new streamlined form.
“I am getting a lot of interest from start ups,” he said. “I’m helping people who have been in business a year or two to develop and grow their companies.
“Lots of people are losing their full-time positions and are choosing to go it alone. They are taking that risk and developing their own ideas.
“Redundancy is an opportunity for people to do it for themselves. Also, there is more opportunity out there. Big businesses are more accepting of people working from home.
“I work from a studio at home which means my overheads are smaller and I can charge clients less but I give them the same service as a big agency.
“The home office scene is really growing. As long as you can offer clients the service you promise, people aren’t worried if you have a team of two or 200. It is all about service delivery.”
In the Quarterly Economic Survey, 63% of respondents said they expect turnover to increase in the next year, while 54% said they expect an increase in profits.
Claire Ashford, director at Lavender Blue Media, a video agency based in Sittingbourne, said: “We are confident about turnover. It has been quite steady for a while and we are seeing an upturn in interest in what we do. It’s a growing market and we are holding our own.”
She said the slow in companies hiring staff could have more to do with the changing way many small businesses operate today.
“For us, freelance staff is by far the most productive way to manage our business,” she said.
“Our industry is developing in so many different ways that we need to have the most talented person for a particular job and by using freelance we can bring together the best pool of people for each individual job.
“We are not struggling to find people. There’s a big pool.”
Anwen Cooper, director of Get Fruitful Marketing, based in Maidstone, set up her own business after becoming a mum.
She said: “I’m feeling very confident. I can see the work I put into my first year paying off.
“I’m working with people who have money to invest in marketing or are bringing in new staff. I’m looking for firms investing in training or looking to upskill. These are all signs of growth.”
More on the Quarterly Economic Survey