Running a successful business is about more than just money. In the current climate, showing resilience and being prepared for future challenges is crucial. Richard Bearman, managing director of Start Up Loans, explains what kind of support and guidance business owners might need when seeking finance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of the UK’s small businesses to find new ways to survive during what was – and continues to be – a time of huge financial upheaval.
Showing admirable innovation and resilience, these businesses have worked tirelessly to adapt to the sudden challenge of enforced closures, dwindling cashflows, and little certainty as to what the future holds for them and the staff they employ.
But while thousands of enterprises toil away at staying afloat during taxing periods of lockdowns and lost revenues, it’s also true that great numbers of people are making the decision to launch new ventures, and seeking the finance with which to do so.
This is where my organisation, Start Up Loans, comes in. Part of the British Business Bank, we’ve been providing loans for aspiring and existing business owners since 2012. In 2020, we reached the milestone of having given 75,000 loans to entrepreneurs, many of whom have gone on to realise their ambitions of running a successful business.
Once the COVID-19 crisis took hold, we saw immediately that we had a critical role to play in ensuring money was available to people who sought to make a viable career out of owning a business but who struggled to access finance from traditional lenders.
Indeed, since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of loans we approve, and experienced record months for drawdowns even while lockdown restrictions remained in place.
Yet as any entrepreneur knows, operating a business takes more than just finance. Particularly now, in this time of adversity, building resilience and demonstrating preparedness is paramount.
Back in November 2020, Start Up Loans joined forces with The Open University to curate a set of free online courses designed to help business owners learn more about the fundamentals of running a business from day to day.
Our partnership, Learn with Start Up Loans, aims to give businesses the confidence and skills they need to not only get their ventures off the ground, but achieve real long-term success. The courses offer three levels of study – introductory, intermediate and advanced – to cater for all abilities, and cover the following key areas:
- Entrepreneurship, which includes courses on entrepreneurial behaviour and an introduction to innovation.
- Career and leadership, which covers decision-making and developing career resilience.
- Finance and accounting:, which looks at investment risk, an introduction to bookkeeping and accounting, and quantitative and qualitative research in finance.
- Marketing and commercial awareness, which features courses on operations management and the value of marketing.
Amid the deep uncertainty that owners of small businesses currently face, getting the proper help and advice is more important than ever. Offering this kind of support has always been the guiding principle within Start Up Loans, as we know it can really make the difference when it comes to building a lasting business.
For many people who apply for a Start Up Loan, it’s their first venture into the world of business finance, and naturally their lack of experience means they tread with some trepidation. By stepping in with ‘pre-loan support’ in the form of information guides and document templates, we can ensure our customers fully understand the finance they’re seeking, and what resources they need to bolster their application.
As the application proceeds, we pair the customer with one of our business advisers, who can offer support and assistance at every stage of the process. And once the customer receives their loan, they have the option of taking up 12 months of free one-to-one mentoring with an experienced business professional, who’s there to listen, advise, provide direction, and facilitate access to new connections and resources.
So while we’re proud to say we’ve helped many entrepreneurs with the funds they needed to get their businesses off the ground, we’re also doing everything we can to make sure those businesses that began with Start Up Loans go on to be successful.
Starting your own business takes more than just money. Much of it is about resilience and preparation. To learn what you need to succeed, visit us at www.startuploans.co.uk.