The spirit of entrepreneurship has always been strong in the East of England with smaller businesses making a significant contribution to the region’s economy.

In fact, British Business Bank research found the East of England’s 564,000 smaller businesses account for more than half (54%) of the region’s private sector employment and generate 46% of private sector turnover.1

The success of the East of England’s smaller business has been fuelled by an exciting pipeline of innovative start ups that have been able to thrive in the region.

The latest statistics from the Bank’s Start Up Loans programme show that since its launch in 2012, it has delivered more than £35m of funding to people in the region to help them start or grow a new business.

In total, Start Up Loans has issued 4,556 loans, worth an average of £7,873 each.

Start Up Loans was established in 2012 by Lord Young to help people – wherever they are in the UK and whatever their background – to achieve their ambitions of starting their own business.

At the time, there was 4.5 million small business in the UK. Today, the number is close to six million, pointing to a real spirit of entrepreneurship in the UK.

Start Up Loans has helped to drive this growth by supporting aspiring business owners who might otherwise struggle to access funding from the traditional High Street Banks. These groups include the unemployed, people from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities and women who have historically found it more difficult to access finance.

I’m very proud to say that last year 40% of our loans went to women, 35% were unemployed when they applied for a loan; and 20% came from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.

Among those to receive a Start Up Loan is Emily Robertson, 28, who borrowed £25,000 in 2017 to set up a distillery in Cambridgeshire producing handcrafted gin.

A former software developer at a multi-national tech company, Emily decided to give up her desk job and the daily commute to Cambridge and launch Roundwood Gin with co-founder, Rupert Waters.

She used the start up loan to transform an outbuilding into a fully-functioning distillery with a hand-designed copper still.

Since its launch in 2017, the company has gone from strength to strength, launching two new products early this year – the Cask Aged Sloe Gin and the London Dry Gin Miniatures – which they sell and distribute through their website.

The business now employs four members of staff to help with the day-to-day running of the operation and with workshops which teach their customers about the process behind the distilling.

When I spoke to Emily recently, she told me that starting a business was the best thing she had ever done. But she also mentioned the challenges, describing her journey as “a complete rollercoaster” full of ups and downs.

Like so many Start Up Loans recipients, Emily benefited from the programme’s network of expert business advisors who are available to help applicants with all aspects of setting up a business, from writing a business plan through to managing cash flow.

All successful loan applicants are also offered 12-months of free mentoring to guide them through the early stages of their business journey.

We do this because we recognise that starting a business isn’t easy. Notwithstanding having a good idea, it takes courage, ambition and a lot of determination. Many people give up at the first hurdle, which is why we put as much emphasis on mentoring as on providing financial support.

The Start Up Loans programme provides fixed-interest loans of £500 to £25,000 to aspiring business owners. Since 2012, it has delivered 69,555 loans, providing more than £563 million in funding to help people from all walks of life start their own business.

If you’ve got an idea that you think fills a gap in the market, get in touch. We encourage you to read more on the free support and advice section of our website and the straightforward application process for a loan can be accessed at:

1.  BBB SBFM 2019 (East of England press release)