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Gloucestershire Business News

Startup loan scheme celebrates £1bn milestone

A government-funded loan scheme that aims to boost small business is celebrating the milestone of giving out £1bn – and points to a success story in Gloucestershire as proof of the scheme's success.

Now in its thirteenth year, The British Business Bank (BBB) is celebrating financing its Start Up Loans programme to UK small businesses to a total of £1bn.

Within that figure, £85m has been allotted to new business adventures in the South West – and more than £11m of that figure found its way to 1,222 businesses in Gloucestershire.

Key among these, says the BBB, whose startup loans are provided by the Department for Business and Trade, is the story of the Town Owl Taphouse in Stroud.

The business is set to open in the site of a former café in Stroud High Street later this month and has been the long-held ambition of husband-and-wife team Adam and Celia Pilmer.

Adam, a graphic designer, has always wanted to own his own bar and the couple realised there was a gap in the market in their Gloucestershire hometown.

Adam said: "We went up to Halifax to visit some friends and saw at least seven or eight taphouses. We thought – why doesn't Stroud have anything like that? There are so many great local microbreweries around the area, plus gin and whisky distilleries and local wines. We thought it would be a nice idea to create a place where people could come and drink them."

Celia Pilmer, who practises nearby as a GP, and her husband came across British Business Bank's Start Up Loan scheme after an online search. They were impressed with how straightforward the application process was and found the business plan templates useful for setting out the finer details of their project. A £25,000 loan the couple received will now be put towards the cost of a bar tap wall - one of the major focal points of the new venue, named after the poem the Town Owl by local poet and writer Laurie Lee.

Celia added: "We couldn't have done this without the Start Up Loan. It's been a massive help. We're doing it all on a bit of budget and trying to take on as much of the work to fit out the inside as we can. Having this money behind us has made a big difference. I would definitely recommend the scheme to other new businesses."

Steve Conibear, BBB UK Network Director said: "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."

He added that the South West, as the third highest region for loan allocation behind London and the South East "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 added: "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 like Town Owl Taphouse start and scale up their ventures and I urge even more to follow in their footsteps."

Nationally, £371m of loans (nearly 40%) have gone to female founders, while £201m (20%) have gone to people from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds. The average loan, at a rate of 6%, is £9,547 per business.

Just 4% of the UK's small businesses in 2021 were majority-led by people from an ethnic minority group and only 20% of new businesses had female founders according to The Rose Review.

The scheme also aims to back 18-24 year-old entepreneurs: their demographic received £106m (11%) of loans since the programme began.

● The Start Up Loans programme provides personal loans for business purposes of up to £25,000 at a 6% fixed interest rate per annum and offers free dedicated mentoring and support to each business. The primary aim of the Start Up Loans programme is to ensure that viable start-ups and early-stage businesses have access to the finance and support they need in order to thrive. A network of Business Support Partner organisations supports applicants in all regions and industries throughout the UK. The Start Up Loans programme, the BBB says, is "not designed to generate a commercial profit. Capital payments together with the interest are recycled to help meet borrowers' increasing demands for finance".

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