Tenth anniversary for loans programme

Thatch and Stone, an interior accessories company in Walsall, is among 12 small businesses to be selected as champions of UK start-ups by Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank.

Nirmla Warwood of Thatch and Stone
Nirmla Warwood of Thatch and Stone

The announcement comes as the programme celebrates its 10-year anniversary, having delivered more than 8,000 loans worth more than £73 million to new business owners in the West Midlands since 2012.

Nirmla Warwood, founder of Thatch and Stone, took out her loan of £25,000 in 2020 to start the business. The success of her business has been down to getting funding support, understanding the products, marketing, a good team and long hours.

Nirmla said “The loan application was dealt with by the same person from beginning to end with mentoring offered on completion. It’s very busy, but it’s also great fun. I would encourage anyone who’s thinking of setting up their own business and becoming their own boss to explore the possibilities the Start Up Loans scheme has to offer. The support you receive makes a real difference.”

The annual Start Up Loans Ambassadors programme, now in its seventh year, celebrates exceptional business owners, like Nirmla, who have followed their ambition of becoming their own boss after receiving support from the government-backed Start Up Loans programme.

Drawn from each of the UK’s 12 Nations and regions, the 2022 Start Up Loans Ambassadors reflect the broad diversity and ambition of the nation’s smaller business sector at a grass roots level. More details of the businesses selected from Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England’s regions can be found further below.

Start Up Loans was established as a £10m pilot scheme by Lord Young in 2012, in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis. His vision was to enable more young people to achieve their dream of setting up their own business, by offering affordable loans and expert suppot to those who might otherwise struggle to access funding.

Since then, the programme has delivered more than 97,000 loans to business owners across the UK, amounting to more than £900m of funding, while expanding to support entrepreneurs of all ages. 40 per cent of loan recipients have been women and 21 per cent people from minority ethnic backgrounds. 40 per cent of recipients have been aged 18-30, reflecting the scheme’s continued support for the next generation of UK business owners.

Sophie Dale-Black, UK network director for the North of England and the Midlands said: “Given the current challenges facing business owners across the West Midlands, it’s never been more important to celebrate those using creativity, tenacity and grit to make a success of their enterprises. It’s my pleasure to welcome Nirmla and congratulate her on her role as Ambassador, and I look forward to working with her over the coming year to inspire others thinking of becoming their own boss.”

Tina McKenzie, policy and advocacy chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This is great news from the British Business Bank, marking 10 years of improving the small business ‘birth rate’, and at the same time powering the levelling up agenda by supporting small business creation in all the UK nations and regions.”

Through a network of delivery partner organisations, the Start Up Loans programme provides access to pre-and-post loan support to help applicants to develop a business plan; fixed-interest first and second loans of up to £25,000 to start or grow their business; as well as mentoring support to help loan recipients with everything from cash flow to marketing.

In 2022, the programme was expanded to make first loans available to businesses that have been trading for up to three years, and second loans to businesses up to five years. The programme previously provided finance to start-ups which had been trading for up to two years.

In the West Midlands there have been 8,031 loans, totalling £73.6 million with the average £9,173

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