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Rural entrepreneurship in Wales
Rural entrepreneurship in Wales

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2.5.1 Case study: STEEP factors

Case study: STEEP factors

Which of the STEEP factors predominantly impact Gwenllian’s business idea?

All of the STEEP factors will influence Gwenllian, and the most influential draw from the economic, social, technological and environmental.

The social factor of changing customer demographic profiles (increasing migration of people across Europe’s porous boundaries), means that the business community has to constantly adapt and adjust the way that it operates locally, regionally and globally. This means that the language skills needed to respond will also be constantly changing. A bespoke, flexible language service to meet the needs of the different business sectors is therefore likely to be an increasingly attractive commercial offer.

This is reinforced by the economic factor of globalisation meaning that products are sourced and traded internationally and within ever tighter timeframes. A language service that can offer quick, efficient, university-standard tuition, designed around the particular commercial needs of the client, may mean the difference between securing and losing overseas contracts. The economic factor is therefore key for Gwenllian. It will open up a significant business opportunity for her.

Technological factors have both up and downsides in relation to increased consumer sophistication, due to the widespread use of computers, the internet and new mobile and wireless communications applications. Fortunately, for Gwenllian, she has experience of delivering supported distance learning through her University work and of using Skype and telephone to support her students. She also has experience of using materials on CD and is able to design and deliver tailored learning programmes on multi-platforms.

Nevertheless, she will need to keep up with the latest pedagogical developments in online and supported distance learning if she is to remain competitive. However, a very real challenge to the future expansion of Gwenllian’s business may be the highly variable access to (reasonable speed) broadband which continues to be a particular challenge in rural Wales.

An increasing awareness of environmental issues means that Gwenllian’s ability to deliver learning through a variety of means (face-to-face tuition, via Skype and telephone contact, and by multi-platform programmes) makes her business offer particularly attractive as it offers a very flexible environmental footprint. This flexibility is especially impressive in a rural context where public transport is inadequate and travel-to-study times uneconomical for businesses to support.

From a political perspective, Gwenllian’s business benefits from its low environmental footprint, its support of the Welsh Government’s aspirations for the knowledge economy, and its contribution to the development of a stronger global reach for the Welsh economy.

Task 10: STEEP factors

  1. Review the list of STEEP factors [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   and consider which are most significant for your business idea.
  2. Conduct your own ‘mini-STEEP’ by looking at each of the five specified areas in your locality. Use the STEEP template.
  3. Share your STEEP list with other entrepreneurs in your local networks.


David had some thoughts about his business. 

Table 2
STEEP factorSignificance

The ageing population means more lifestyle migrants moving to the country who want to renovate old buildings or build from new. There is potential for business increase from that group.

Young people have fewer opportunities available in the area and might want work experience. I might be able to take on an apprentice as a cost effective way to grow the business.

links to ageing population and changes to customers’ needs and wants, changes to education systems

I could have a website to show my staircases and advertise my joinery workshops.

Clients now often expect to see 3D ‘mock ups’ on computer. I could learn how to use design software (the local college may have a course).

speed and capacity of communications, increased consumer sophistication due to internet and ICT penetration
EconomicAs the economic climate improves the potential for my products could grow. There are fewer local timber merchants and joiners working from scratch, which means similar businesses have centralised to the cities. People looking locally has led to more high end opportunities from those looking for something different.
EnvironmentalUsing sustainable products is always an issue, as well as using things made locally. My timber will come from the local area where there is a re-plantation programme. I could also look at using reclaimed materials. I would ensure that my production methods and workshop run on an eco-friendly basis.loose link to global warming
PoliticalI am not sure if there are any political influences, although there is a growing identification with our region within the UK.

David has considered the global STEEP and taken a local perspective. He has seen how some of these factors have influenced his local environment. He knows a lot of the local trades people, and has a ‘best guess’ at the market based on his experiences. The nature of David’s business means that he is unlikely to export his product. Selling to locals may work in David’s favour, as he is offering a local product and service that nobody else is. If you are considering retailing a product you may choose only to sell locally. However, living locally does not mean you have to sell your product or service locally, although you may choose to use your area as a trial market, at least while establishing your product.