Richard Bearman is the 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 who may have struggled to access finance (up to £25k) elsewhere.
I have no doubt that this year will, like the rest of the early 2020’s, offer its own unique opportunities and unforeseen challenges to small business owners.
Our financial year runs through to the end of March and at Start Up Loans, like any business, it is a period to reflect on the previous year’s challenges and achievements. At the time of writing (mid-March) we’re on track to have issued around £100m in loans to small businesses this financial year.
11% of these loans went to people aged 50 years and over – more than went to 18 to 24 year olds (10%) – which some people might find surprising given the profile of business owners featured on the likes of The Apprentice. 41% went to women and more than 20% went to people from ethnic minority backgrounds. When comparing these figures to the market more generally, it’s clear that Start Up Loans’ is one of the most progressive and diverse providers of its size in the UK market.
The great thing about coming to the end of a financial year is that not only do you look back, but you plan for what is to come – and, despite these encouraging figures, there is still more we want to do, ground we want to make up and challenges to be navigated.
The purpose of Start Up Loans is to enable anyone, regardless of their location, age (18yrs+), economic or social background to be able to start their own business. For me, a goal for the coming year is to see that ratio of female to male loan recipients, as well the number of loan recipients who are from ethnic minority backgrounds, continue to grow. It is also to see continued growth in the huge variety of business owner backgrounds, ages and geographical locations.
Fundamental to our achieving these aims is our network of Business Support Partners. They work to deliver our programme across the country. We have just announced three new national and a number of regional BSPs as we look to encourage uptake and support available through Start Up Loans in FY2023/24 and beyond. Our new national BSPs are:
- GC Business Finance: A trading name of The Enterprise Fund Ltd, with a proven track record in providing alternative finance products to support growing businesses achieve their goals. To date it has loaned in excess of £150m and supported over 30,000 growing businesses throughout the UK.
- X-Forces Enterprise: A specialist organisation that helps members of the Armed Forces and Emergency Service communities, including their family members, nurture their entrepreneurial ambition, secure funding and make their business plans a reality.
- The Prince’s Trust: A youth charity that helps young people aged 13 to 30 turn their big ideas into fully fledged businesses. The organisation has already helped over 90,000 young people to start their own business.
These national BSPs and our dedicated BSPs operating in each of the devolved nations and English regions have all been selected for their impressive reach into communities and demographics across the UK. They also share our determination to boost wider representation among the business owning community. We expect to announce further BSPs in the coming months.
In many ways, the announcement of our new Business Support Partners comes at the perfect time. It throws fresh energy into the new financial year which is infectious to the people who work on the scheme. We look forward to working alongside them to make sure our goals turn into a reality, our start up landscape continues to thrive and that economic growth is felt everywhere across the UK as a result.