Start Up Loans celebrates the re-opening of small businesses across the UK

After a year of risk and unprecedented challenges, the easing of restrictions through March and April 2021 has provided small business owners across the UK with a light at the end of the tunnel.

Start Up Loans celebrates the re-opening of small businesses across the UK

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. As small businesses across the country, who have managed to weather the storm, welcome customers back to their physical premises for the first time in months, Richard reflects on the efforts entrepreneurs have gone to in preparation for this momentous occasion.  

After a year of risk and unprecedented challenges, the easing of restrictions through March and April 2021 has provided small business owners across the UK with a light at the end of the tunnel. Business owners that offered physical services were hit hard by the pandemic, and while we are by no means in the clear yet, I think it pertinent that we take the time to celebrate the victory of those that are able to re-opening and reflect on how entrepreneurs are preparing for this moment. 

Looking back, I am extremely proud of the tenacity shown by British small business owners over the past year, many have had to continually adapt their businesses to meld themselves to an ever-changing landscape. 

Our Start Up Loans offering of free ongoing support and guidance, in addition to our low-interest loans of between £500 and £25,000, set us apart from other finance options available during this time. Offerings such as our free online business courses via our partnership with The Open University meant business owners could use this quiet period to upskill in preparation for re-opening. 

Many of our Start Up Loans ambassadors operate businesses in the hospitality, personal care and childcare sectors, meaning their physical premises have remained shut for the best part of a year. As they now prepare to re-open, their business propositions have transformed.

From new locations, to upgraded trading platforms and product developments, our Ambassadors, like many entrepreneurs across the country, have used the last year to ensure their businesses remain Covid-secure whatever the summer months bring. Their stories reflect those of small businesses across the country and are emblematic of a small business landscape during a very challenging 12 months.

Victoria Griffin, from Wales, founder of Goji Hair 

Victoria and her business partner Greg each took out a loan of £3,700 in 2015 through delivery partner Business in Focus, to launch Goji Hair ‘ an organic hair salon in the heart of Cardiff. Victoria worked tirelessly to recruit, order stock and rebook clients in preparation for the time when Wales was able to re-open hairdressing and barbering salons on 15 March. 

We had to prepare everything to ensure we weren’t caught out as we only had three days’ notice to reopen our doors. Our team was on standby to return to work, and we made the time to give them a refresher training day before we welcomed our clients back in. Hopefully the vaccine has given reassurance to our more vulnerable clients and this, combined with our stringent health and safety policy, will continue to make them feel comfortable in our salon.

Anthony Quinn, from the East Midlands, founder of Pudding Pantry

Anthony, 33, took out a loan of £10,000 in 2013 through delivery partner First Enterprise, to launch Pudding Pantry ‘ a dessert-inspired brunch restaurant in the heart of Nottingham. With a successful Mothering Sunday delivering afternoon teas under his belt, his main challenge will now be equipping his outdoor spaces to face Britain’s elements in time for April.   

As we can’t control the weather, we’ve decided not to take bookings, to avoid disappointing customers. However, come April, we expect both our locations to be busy. At our Sherwood restaurant, we are planning to create a secret garden at the rear of the property with bamboo fencing, festoon lighting and planters. Watch this space!

Kate Collins, from the North West, founder of My Outdoor Classroom 

Kate Collins, 37, took out £3,000 in 2013 through delivery partner MSIF, to launch My Outdoor Classroom CIC ‘ a company that provides outdoor learning and play opportunities for children in Merseyside and Greater Manchester. She is brimming with new ideas for a business which lends itself to outdoor social distancing and is excited to welcome families back.  

We are lucky, our work takes place outdoors so we can run Covid-safe sessions easily. Lockdown gave us time to look at new and different trading ideas for the business and we are now planning our first forest school for adults in May! We are thrilled to be able to offer children some fun; they have been impacted hard by the restrictions and missed out on so many valuable childhood experiences. 

The pandemic has shown people the benefit of spending time in nature, so I feel really excited about the future for our business.

Margaret Morrison-Macleod, from Scotland, founder of The Divine Hag

Margaret, 58, took out £18,000 in 2018 through delivery partner DSL, to purchase a workshop space and equipment to launch The Divine Hag, an aromatherapy company producing products and running workshops. She is currently working to find a suitable location to accommodate her workshops while social distancing measures are still in place.

Like many people in Scotland, I look forward to the ending of restrictions with some trepidation. Because of the way the business has expanded online, I am looking for a new location that can cope with all the pallet deliveries! I have loads of new ideas for workshops, and my customers and I are excited to do them in person. I just need to find a location big enough to keep things socially distanced.

For anyone who is considering starting up a business now the end of restrictions are hopefully in sight, I wanted to remind you of the tools that Start Up Loans can offer you if you choose to partner with us. 

We offer a pre-loan support and mentoring package to all our customers as they bring their business ideas to life. We’ve 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 accessed by visiting our website. 

Richard Bearman
Richard Bearman

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