The Start Up Loans programme was set up to kick-start entrepreneurship in the UK by providing funding to aspiring small business owners who might otherwise have struggled to access support. Its founders were determined that the programme would truly make a difference to entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, not only financially, through its low-interest loans of up to £25,000, but also by ensuring every recipient was supported by a free expert business mentor.
Of the people who have received a loan since 2012, two fifths (40%) were women. One in five (20%) of recipients came from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME), of which 48% were from Black ethnic groups, 23% from Asian ethnic and 29% from mixed ethnic groups. One third (33%) of all Start Up Loans applicants were unemployed when they applied for the loan.
Michaela Alexander, from Bow, Tower Hamlets, is among the Start Up Loan recipients who used the loan to set up her company. She took out a £10,000 loan in 2016 to write and launch her own children’s book series, Miles & Mia, named after her own two children, after she noticed a lack of ethnic diversity in children’s story books.
Following the success of Michaela’s first book, Miles & Mia A-Z, which won two gold awards for Best Children’s Book at the Junior Design Award and the Mumii Family Awards, Michaela has focused her time on championing diversity in literature and will launch a second book next year.
Michaela Alexander, Founder of Miles & Mia, said: I feel very lucky that I have been able to harness two very important passions in my life, my children and the need for more diversity in children’s books, to make my dream of writing my own books come true.
I was completely new to running a small business and self-publishing a book. It has been a demanding but brilliant journey, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the initial funding and support from Start Up Loans.
Covid has posed additional challenges on top of the normal trials of running your own business. However, my book is now available as an ebook on Amazon, so that people can access it at the touch of a button, which was particularly helpful when shops were closed. I’m also launching a brand new book, Miles & Mia 1 to 10, so watch this space!
Supporting business owners from every region in the UK
Crucial to helping people from all backgrounds is ensuring our loans and mentoring support reach aspiring business owners in every region of the United Kingdom. The impact of our loans has been particularly noticeable in areas of deprivation, where we believe Government support for small businesses is essential for driving investment into the regions.
Of the 75,000 loans we have delivered since 2012, the North West received the highest number of loans outside of London with a volume of 9,219 (12%) worth £74 million. The South East received 6,752 loans (9%) worth £60 million, followed by the West Midlands where a total of 6,198 loans (8%) were provided for a value of £50 million.
The 75,00th Start Up Loans recipient was Helen Conway, from Blackwood, South Wales. She’s a brilliant example of an entrepreneur who successfully used lockdown to make their pipe-dream a reality.
In March 2020 as the UK went into lockdown, Helen alongside her daughter, Angharad, and son-in-law Lance, launched an online bakery delivery service, Ty Melin Bakery (Mill House). Between April and August 2020, the trio has generated a turnover of over £30,000, despite having to limit the number of items baked per day due to lack of space.
Helen Conway, co-founder of Ty Melin Bakery, said: The three of us have been discussing the possibility of starting a family venture for several years and we drafted our initial business plan over two and a half years ago.
Lockdown gave us the perfect opportunity to launch, as the nation became increasingly reliant on delivery services to help make their time at home more bearable.
When our online shop opens at 9am on Saturday we usually sell out by 10am. We also introduced national delivery for one of our most popular products, the Croissant Bomb, and they sold out within 90 seconds.
We are delighted to have taken out our loan and the advice and guidance we received from Start Up Loans, through our loan provider, Business In Focus, was spot on.
The role of small businesses in the Covid-19 era
The impact of lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions has posed significant challenges for small businesses across the UK, which means government-backed finance is more important than ever, for people looking to start their own business. Small businesses will be crucial to the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic and at Start Up Loans, we have continued to support business owners through our network of delivery partners.
The scheme’s offering of pre-loan support to help applicants develop a business plan, as well as a year of mentoring to help with everything from cash flow to marketing, will be crucial for many entrepreneurs navigating an increasingly challenging business environment.
In addition to this formal support, we have also published a series of guides on important areas of business including social media, marketing and SEO. The guides are designed to ensure business owners, existing and new, have all the resources they need to build and grow a successful business.
Start Up Loans is now part of the British Business Bank, the government’s economic development bank, and is widely seen as a driver of economic growth across communities in the UK.