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 light of International Women’s Day, Richard reflects on the role the scheme has played in supporting female entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground.
The driving force behind the Start Up Loans programme has always been to support budding entrepreneurs from all walks of life to make their business dreams a reality. It is our job to ensure that under-represented groups, be they from minority ethnic backgrounds, unemployed or women, have the same opportunities as anyone else. Our offering of free ongoing support and guidance, in addition to our low-interest loans of between £5,000 and £25,000, make this possible and are what sets us apart from other finance options available.
As we approach International Women’s Day, I thought it pertinent that we reflect on the vital role that female small business owners play in our economy. Latest Start Up Loans figures show that two-fifths (40%) of the 79,776 Start Up Loans distributed since 2012 have gone to women, almost double the proportion of women-led businesses in the UK. I am passionate that this contribution be recognised, as well as celebrated, to encourage more women to start their own businesses.
Among the many successful female-owned businesses that began with a Start Up Loan are nine out of our 12 Start Up Loans 2020/2021 Ambassadors. Their inspirational stories of how they have continued to thrive during the pandemic, should give hope and confidence to any women in the UK thinking about branching out on their own endeavour:
Nicola Patalong, from Leamington, founder of PO’Sh Creative Ltd.
Nicola Patalong took out £19,000 in 2014 to launch PO’Sh ‘ an integrated creative agency that offers a broad spectrum of services including animation, branding, web, marketing and design. She used her loan to purchase the necessary new equipment and to be able to hire a new designer.
Since launching, we’ve not looked back once and I’m proud to have more than doubled the size of our team to now employ seven members of staff. The last year has been hectic to say the least, but we’ve not let the pandemic get in our way. We’ve reacted to the growing demand for virtual events by launching a new strand of the business to offer a dynamic and fully immersive virtual events platform for clients.
Vese Aghoghovbia, from Vauxhall, founder of Philly & Friends
Vese Aghoghovbia, worked with Start Up Loans in 2020 to launch Philly & Friends, a children’s lifestyle brand that aims to add a much-needed drop of colour in the sea of children’s products. They create beautifully illustrated books, wall art, and affirmation cards designed to instil self-love and confidence in the nation’s little ones.
As a mother, I struggled to find children’s books that represented my daughter, as at the time less than 1% of children’s books in the UK featured a black main character. I was determined to do something about it, and decided to create a children’s character that kids everywhere can identify with. It became my mission to produce not only books, but children’s toys and products that accurately reflect the diversity of the society we live in.
Susan Bonnar, from Lee-on-the-Solent, founder of The British Craft House
Susan Bonnar took out £12,000 in 2019 to pay for designing and developing The British Craft House ‘ an e-commerce site selling hand crafted artisan gifts. Since launching the business in 2019, she has helped 450 independent crafters sell online and has worked tirelessly throughout lockdown to meet the surge in online shopping as physical shops closed.
After 22 years as an air traffic controller in the Royal Navy I retired and ended up spending many evenings at home crafting. My business idea was actually borne out of frustration at not having a suitable platform to sell my own products, so I decided to solve the problem by creating a solution for craft sellers like myself!
Amid this period of economic uncertainty, where more people than ever may be thinking about starting their own business, I thought it would be helpful to remind all current and aspiring small business owners of the free tools available through the Start Up Loans scheme to help them through these challenging times.
We offer a pre-loan support and mentoring package to all our customers as they bring their business ideas to life, and have also created a series of guides on important areas of business including social media, marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The guides, which can be downloaded free of charge from the Start Up Loans website, are designed to ensure business owners of all stripes have the resources they need to build and grow a successful business. Further to this, we recently partnered with the Open University to provide a range of free business learning online courses that can be easily accessed by visiting our website.
Hear more from Richard Bearman on the role of Start Up Loans in supporting businesses through this uncertain period by tuning in to our live panel discussion Elite Business Live.