Nature-based enterprises (NBEs) have recently emerged as important actors in the delivery of nature-based solutions (NbS) to societal challenges, but little is known about the context in which they operate and the factors influencing their development. The empirical research undertaken in this study provides a first insight into the most significant barriers and enablers nature-based enterprises face in their external environment. Findings were drawn from a review of literature triangulated with a survey of 148 nature-based enterprises and interviews with the founders/CEOs of 22 NBEs. Political factors were identified as the most significant external influence, with increased awareness and incorporation of NbS into relevant policies and economic instruments seen to play a significant role in market development. Conversely, policy inconsistencies and poorly designed public procurement approaches present significant challenges. Other key influencing factors relate to financing (both public and private), lack of industry standards and impact measurement. Industry networking and access to education, training and skill development emerged as key enablers, with university collaborations highly regarded. Further in-depth research is recommended to explore indications of disparities in the levels of awareness, financing, and skills gaps across different regions of Europe and different nature-based economic activities.