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Start Up Loans from British Business Bank hit £1 billion

£1 billion has been lent to start ups in the UK since the Start Up Loans scheme from the British Business Bank was launched by the government in 2012, according to new figures released today (Wednesday).

Of the £1 billion, almost £85 million has gone to start up businesses in the South West making it one of the top three regions outside London and the South East. South East businesses received £110 million.

The Start Up Loans programme provides a means of reaching under-represented groups who are excluded from mainstream finance by helping them start businesses.

The data shows:

  • Start Up Loans has delivered finance to 105,000 businesses across the UK
  • Nearly 40 per cent (£371 million) has gone to female founders
  • Twenty per cent (£201 million) has gone to people from Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority backgrounds

Across the South West region, 9,057 loans have been granted. This includes £6.9 million to 943 start-ups in Bristol, 11 million to 1,327 firms in Somerset, and 9.5 million to 938 companies in Wiltshire. In the South East region, 10,639 were granted, including £11.5 million to 978 companies in Berkshire.

Steve Conibear, UK network director South West at the British Business Bank said: “We’re delighted that the Start Up Loans programme has supported so many business owners across the South West.

“It’s clear that the region has a thriving entrepreneurial culture based on how many loans we’ve made to start up businesses stretching from the Isles of Scilly to Bristol and beyond.

“The South West seems to punch above its weight in the national picture with more finance supporting businesses than in all of Scotland or Wales or the West Midlands.

“Each business owner supported with Start Up Loans finance and mentoring is someone who is pursuing their dream and that’s great to see.”

Small Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “Across the UK, thousands of small businesses have now been supported by over a billion pounds in Start Up Loans.

“This crucial support is enabling enterprising companies  start and scale up their ventures and I urge even more to follow in their footsteps.”

Stevie Mitchell

One local business that has already benefitted from Start Up Loans finance is Bristol-based Collective Designs UK.

While walking through College Green in Bristol, entrepreneur Stevie Mitchell stumbled upon an idea for his start-up business. He spotted a sign on a park bench that read “98 people are sleeping on the streets tonight – that seems like a solvable problem” and was inspired to make a real difference.

“This simple message really resonated with me, and I thought why can’t I use my business to do more to help my community,” says Stevie, “And that sparked the idea behind Collective Decisions UK, to create a brand that could produce affordable, sustainable clothing where some of the profits could be ploughed into a training programme and then employment for homeless people.”

CDUK was established by Stevie around two years ago, but he found he needed a cash injection to expand his social enterprise and turned to the British Business Bank programme for support. He took a loan through the South West Investment Group (SWIG) in March last year and a second in January 2023.

“We used some of the funding for training and we wanted to bring as much of the production in-house as possible. Increasingly we were supplying sustainable uniforms, as well as promotional garments for companies, so we needed to buy heat presses and printers.

“We also produce MIBS (Made In Bristol Shorts) so needed an industrial sewing machine and materials so that’s why we took the loans,” Stevie explains.

“When I was looking at accessing finance, the British Business Bank programme came highly recommended when I did my research into funding for small businesses. They were also referred to me by the Federation of Small Businesses,” he adds.

CDUK works with sustainable suppliers, based in the UK, who are committed to supporting the Living Wage. Stevie’s company sells t-shirts, shorts, hoodies, pullovers, tote bags as well as branded uniforms and clothing for other businesses.

Stevie, who has a background in marketing, has been living in Bristol for the last seven years. He now works out of a printing studio in Knowle and a base at The Island – a shared studio complex and arts facility in the Old Bridewell Police Station in Bristol city centre.

Stevie says it’s tough starting a new business, “The support I’ve received from SWIG and the British Business Bank programme has been great. I really felt they wanted to support me and push my business to the next level.

“For someone who’s not been through the process before, who was new to financing a business, that handholding was really helpful.”

Working with other partners in Bristol, CDUK’s goal is to establish a programme to train and employ 98 people from the homeless community over the next ten years, to get them off the street and back onto their feet.

“There’s been a lot of planning over the last two years and now we’re starting to pitch for new business, so I’m really excited about the future,” says Stevie, “Growing a business and being competitive as a small business can be difficult and without the funding we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s been really valuable and I’m really thankful for all the support.”

Danielle Clark

The Start Up Loans programme also helped Swindon-based Dial A Dog Wash.

With an agricultural background, Danielle Clark from Swindon has worked with animals all her life. So, when the opportunity to run her own business as a professional dog groomer came along, Danielle jumped at the chance.

“My last job was working in horticulture, and before that I was a goat farmer!” laughs Danielle. “I’ve been farming since I was at college 10 years ago. I needed a change and thought I can do this.”

In June this year, Danielle set about taking on a franchise with Dial A Dog Wash when she spotted that a local business was up for sale.

Danielle says, “I’ve always wanted to be a dog groomer but with other commitments, the opportunity just never came around. I absolutely love dogs and they’re just so amazing for their emotional and physical support. I have such a strong bond with dogs.

“I needed a job that was a little less intensive, that was still working with animals but something I really enjoyed doing. This has literally changed my life.”

She needed a loan for her set-up costs and to get her new business on the road. That’s when she applied for funding from Start Up Loans, a programme of the British Business Bank

“It’s been brilliant, and the money enabled me to buy out the franchise and invest in my van. It came fully kitted out with all the top of the range equipment and everything I need inside. It also went towards paying for fuel, insurance, tax and all the things I needed to get going,” Danielle says.

She says the process of taking the loan was straightforward, “I’m really not technically or business-minded, but everyone was so supportive and helpful. They were there if I had any questions or needed more information to support my application. Step-by-step, it was very easy and simple to do.”

Danielle has several regular customers, working across Swindon and part of Oxford and relies on social media and word-of-mouth to secure her ‘doggy’ clients.

“Without the loan, I wouldn’t have been able to do it at all,” Danielle says. “That money has literally given me a dream job. It’s taken me out of farming, given me more freedom and the thing I’ve always wanted. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Danielle currently grooms around five dogs a week but is hoping to grow her business over the coming months.

She says, “I would love to expand what I’m doing and eventually get another van on the road. I want to have lots of clients, a regular income so that I can buy a house.”

Danielle thinks the new South West Investment Fund will make a real difference, “For people like me who can’t just save up thousands of pounds, it’s such an amazing idea, the help and support for other people who want to start their own business. It’s massive.”

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