At the time of writing, it has only been a couple of days since the UK unlocked on 19 July. Some people are understandably nervous about the future
Richard Bearman is Managing Director of Start Up Loans, a government-backed programme launched in 2012 to provide loans to early stage businesses throughout the UK who might otherwise have struggled to secure backing from high street lenders. In July 2021, the scheme celebrated a major funding milestone in having achieved the delivery of more than £750m to small businesses in the UK.
At the time of writing, it has only been a couple of days since the UK unlocked on 19 July. Some people are understandably nervous about the future – whether that’s because of the potential of rising infection levels disrupting work and personal lives, the ‘pingdemic’, or the possibility of having a much-needed summer holiday de-railed. As has been the case over the past year, it’s impossible to know with absolute certainty what the nation’s future operating environment will be like for small businesses, even within the short timeframe between writing and publication.
The UK business landscape’s shapeshifting and vast array of challenges shows no sign of slowing any time soon. Small business owners in particular, who we know are often more vulnerable to disruption than larger entities, still need to rely on being agile in their response.
However, as the Start Up Loans scheme passes its milestone of three quarters of a billion pounds in funding to small businesses through more than 85,500 loans since 2012, it’s clear that the optimism of UK entrepreneurs is stronger than ever. A core characteristic of the Start Up Loans scheme is its ability to help ambitious people from all over the UK take a business from idea through to reality, despite the economic disruption taking place around them.
As well as its fixed interest loans of up to £25k, the support and mentoring available from Start Up Loans and its Delivery Partners is also a major factor for many in building the confidence to pursue their business ambitions. One such business is the recipient of the 750 millionth pound issued by the scheme, Aaron Mo.
After leaving his role as a Policy Analyst for the London Assembly, Aaron, 39, from Bermondsey in London, used a £25,000 Start Up Loan to launch a pop-up Chinese bakery called Ong Ong Buns at 122 Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch. He explains here how and why the business came to be:
“Lockdown made me re-evaluate what was important to me and gave me the opportunity to become my own boss, which has always been a dream of mine. My wife is a Chinese Malaysian and moved to London last year. We’re both big foodies, but since moving here my wife has craved sweet Chinese snacks and avoids eating Western sandwiches and baked goods.
“This made me realise there is a gap in the market for convenience food for typical Chinese tastebuds. That’s when my wife and I decided to launch Ong Ong Buns to bring our passion for Chinese food to the heart of London.
“Start Up Loans was the right place for me to apply for a loan, mainly because of the wider support available through the scheme, as well as the fact that it’s a trusted government-backed entity. I’d encourage any aspiring enterprise owner to take a look and see if it could help them in their journey towards becoming their own boss.”
As well as being a fantastic enterprise to demonstrate the value of the Start Up Loans scheme and its achievement of providing more than £750 million in funding, Ong Ong Buns is also a great case study of why, amid possible disruption throughout the remainder of 2021, we ought to have continued optimism in the UK’s entrepreneurs and their go-getter attitude that will help .
There are people like Aaron all over the UK who have brilliant ideas waiting to be turned into successful businesses. Over the last year alone (April 2020 – April 2021) we issued £173.2m of loans to more than 11,000 of these people across the country, representing a significant year on year increase of 33% against the same period in 2019/20.
Undoubtedly, we need to be prepared for any further temporary disruptions caused by Covid-19 over the coming months and years. However, as myself and my colleagues look forward to the next £250m of funding that will take us to our £1 billion milestone goal, I am already excited and inspired that a vast wealth of resilient, optimistic UK talent is just waiting to be tapped into.