We established A4e in 1991 and,as a graduate who opted to set up and grow a business rather than accept job offers from large companies, I suppose I am inherently on the optimistic side of entrepreneurship and enterprise out of the back of recession.

Over the last year, more than 2,000 people have set up their own business with support from the services of A4e and its partners. They include fantastic examples in some of the hardest hit areas of the UK. In South Wales, for example, over 800 people set up their own business and are still trading away 6, 12 and 18 months later - all of these individuals were previously on incapacity benefit.

From face painting to film production, gas fitting to consultancy and bicycle design to window blinds design overseas, people from all backgrounds and facing all sorts of personal challenges are taking the opportunity to set up their own business. Starting your own business is not for everyone but far too many people discount it on the basis of a lack of confidence or a lack of belief in their own business concept and prowess.

A4e's Enterprise Coaches assess customers' initial skills and provide tailored support based on individual requirements, throughout the whole journey. The Enterprise Coaches have access to a variety of workshops to develop people's skills and knowledge further and offer support on a range of issues: market research, applications for funding opportunities, marketing, legislation, benefit entitlement, completion of business plans, VAT guidelines and so on. In addition to the business support, the Enterprise Coach is there to provide a personal coaching service, tackling issues such as low confidence and self-belief. The aftercare support is also vital to ensure that newly self-employed customers stay on track with sustainable new ventures.

There is a significant opportunity in the UK for new business creation. New markets are emerging; technology allows lower entry and set up costs - increasingly people are keen to trade locally. In addition, with the changes in local services as councils and others reconfigure their spending, opportunities for new business will continue to emerge.

Over the last 20 years, we have also equipped lots of people with the skills required to set up their own business, who did not ultimately ‘take the plunge'.  However, when they went into work - often for a small company - their greater understanding of running a business led to faster career success and development.

We have much more to do in the UK to co-ordinate support for small business set up. In addition - and critically for me as I think it is a UK failing -we must improve support tohigh growth businesses to enable them to make that transition to mid-size and larger enterprises. Government policy is one aspect of this; there is some progress here but we need better integration amongst the many departments and agencies. Equally, there needs to be better financial and commercial support from banks, accountancies and others to dovetail with government-backed work to support the life cycle of growth for small businesses.

Mark Lovell

Executive Chairman, A4e