Supporting the UK’s growing talent base of young entrepreneurs 

Louise McCoy is the Commercial Managing Director of Start Up Loans, a government-backed programme that launched in 2012 to provide loans to new and early-stage businesses throughout the UK that may have struggled to access finance (up to £25k) elsewhere

Supporting the UK’s growing talent base of young entrepreneurs

In today’s fast-paced and competitive world, large numbers of young adults aged 18-24 are choosing to take the leap into entrepreneurship. As well as those who start a business instead of, during or after higher education, with the rise of side-hustle culture, many even start businesses alongside full-time employment, learning vital skills along the way. 

This appetite for business amongst young people is highlighted by recent data from the Centre for Entrepreneurs, which finds that they are starting twice as many businesses as the baby boomer generation.

Furthermore, research by GoDaddy and the University of Kent suggests that almost half (45%) of students studying for their GCSEs, AS-levels and A-levels are thinking about going into business ownership instead of going to university. The main reasons were expense, the growing cost of student debt and a desire for financial independence. It also found that more than a third (37%) of respondents had already started their own businesses or planned to imminently, whether full-time or as a side hustle. 

This desire to be self-employed among young people is evident in the success of the Start Up Loans programme, which has provided over £100 million in funding to under 25s since its launch in 2012. Regions such as London, the North West and the West Midlands have emerged as hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity, receiving the highest number of loans to 18-24 year-olds since the programme’s inception.

The importance of this milestone should not be underestimated, as it highlights the thriving entrepreneurial mindset of young people and the growing trend among them to explore alternative paths to success and financial independence.

There are many reasons why being self-employed carries great appeal as an alternative to traditional employment and career journeys. When successful, being your own boss not only offers the potential of significant financial reward, but it also enables many to pursue their passions and have a more direct, positive impact in local communities and economies. 

Starting a business is not without challenges, however, and the above research also outlines what students said were the key barriers to starting their own enterprise. Lack of experience (89%) was high on the list, as was lack of capital or funding to launch a business (43%). 

We are committed to helping young people with good business ideas to overcome these barriers and turn those ideas into reality. Through Start Up Loans, aspiring young entrepreneurs gain access to government backed funding at a competitive rate, as well as invaluable mentoring and support, helping them to develop skills and knowledge, marketing strategies, supply chains and much more.

I am proud to witness the achievements of Start Up Loans’ many thousands of young loan recipients. They embody the ‘can-do’ attitude and motivation that define their generation. They also understand that starting and running a successful business requires a diverse set of skills and knowledge.

The £100 million funding milestone to business owners under 25 is further proof that we are willing to support higher risk start-ups, enabling them to access funding, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or professional experience, where others might not. We take our responsibility to have a social impact very seriously, shown by our higher proportion of lending to women and entrepreneurs from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

The rise of young entrepreneurs considering business ownership signifies a mentality shift in what the UK sees as aspirational in working life. 

As a nation, we should embrace and celebrate the achievements of these young entrepreneurs – regardless of whether or not they go on to become the next Richard Branson or Alan Sugar – with all the benefits business creation has in terms of job and wealth creation. 

We should encourage and support young people to have the confidence to forgo traditional careers if they have a great business idea and the passion to make it happen. In parallel we must ensure that we provide the necessary support and development of skills, empowering the next generation of founders and innovators to shape a prosperous future for themselves and our economy on their own terms.


Louise McCoy
Louise McCoy

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