Mark Sterritt: Access to finance is critical fuel for Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem
Mark Sterritt, UK network director - Scotland at the British Business Bank, talks about the success of the Start Up Loans programme in Scotland and the value that new business brings to the Scottish economy, particularly as we focus on recovery.
Scotland’s entrepreneurs may have faced multiple lockdowns and the enduring impact of a global pandemic, but Covid-19 has not dampened their entrepreneurial spirit.
The British Business Bank’s figures show that the government backed Start Up Loans programme delivered more than £8.5 million in funding to support more than 800 new small businesses in Scotland during the last financial year, while also providing a range of mentoring and support packages.
In fact, many entrepreneurs have used the pandemic as an opportunity to launch or scale up their business ideas. According to recent analysis by the University of Strathclyde’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, almost a quarter of a million Scots were setting up or running new businesses in 2020.
Among them were a record number of young people, and the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme has always been particularly keen to support this demographic since its launch in 2012. This year the programme passed the £15 million mark for start-up funding provided to under-30s in Scotland.
Leith-based independent wine shop, Mistral, is just one example of a Scottish business that sprung up during the pandemic. Opening their doors in December 2020, founders Julie Di Toro and Sam Barker decided to launch the business they’d always dreamed of after finding themselves unemployed and sought loan finance through Start Up Loans to kickstart their journey.
The programme aims to give people the chance to succeed as their own boss, whatever their circumstances, by providing loans of up to £25,000 through expert delivery partners. Importantly, it is designed to support people who may otherwise have struggled to access other means of finance and includes extra guidance that can be particularly useful to newer, less experienced entrepreneurs.
As well as loan funding, we can help with some of the practical steps needed to turn ideas into reality, from writing business plans to accounting and marketing, and access to resources through the likes of the Open University.
More than 5,500 Scottish businesses have received funding as part of the Start Up Loans initiative across a variety of sectors, from takeaways and bakeries to a silversmith and a powerboat tour company.
Common amongst all the business founders we have worked with is their entrepreneurial drive and ambition, and it is great to see this persevering despite the challenges of the last 18 months. We cannot underestimate the value that new business brings to the Scottish economy, particularly as we focus on recovery.
Entrepreneurial start-ups – especially those with the next generation of talent at the helm – have a vital role to play in building Scotland’s future. Establishing a supportive, nurturing ecosystem is crucial to their success, as well as providing access to the funding and support which remain key to helping them to prosper and thrive.