New British Business Bank Start Up Loans initiative set to ‘unlock potential’ of young Scottish entrepreneurs



A new Start Up Loans initiative launched by the British Business Bank is set to unlock the talent of young entrepreneurs in Scotland after the pandemic.

Julie Di Toro and Sam Barker

The disruptive impact of Coronavirus on the UK’s economy and traditional working patterns has catalysed many to reconsider their careers, whether because of additional time to reflect during lockdown, furlough or a change in employment status.

Since 2012, Start Up Loans has delivered over 2,290 loans to unemployed people in Scotland, worth over £10.2m. Since 2012, 43% of people to have received Government-backed funding in the country were unemployed.

Of the 80,000+ Start Up Loans recipients across the UK since 2012, a third (31%) were unemployed at the time of application. Start Up Loans data also indicates that the scheme is particularly effective in enabling young entrepreneurs to start up a business, with millennials representing more than half (54%) of all previously unemployed loan recipients since 2012.

The Start Up Loans scheme has also seen this trend continue with the youngest generation of entrepreneurs, with double the number of Gen Z (18-24-year-old) applicants using the scheme as a route out of unemployment in 2020 compared to 2019.

The Start Up Loans scheme was initially set up as the UK economy was recovering from the 2008 credit crisis, with a mission to make business ownership a viable career for individuals who would struggle to raise finance.

Building on a nine-year track record of success, the scheme is set to play a vital role as our economy starts to rebuild after the impact of Covid-19, providing both funding and wider support for people starting up their own business for the first time.

Richard Bearman, managing director, Start Up Loans, said: “Start Up Loans is uniquely positioned to drive the nation’s investment in creative, entrepreneurial talent of any age, thanks to our extensive network of delivery partners and support services. As well as a loan, we support individuals with the practical steps they need to take to begin their own enterprise from writing business plans, accounting and marketing, as well as access to learning with partners such as The Open University.

“It is paramount that we do everything to empower the next generation of young working talent, who have an important part to play in unlocking the UK’s economic recovery, by giving them every chance to succeed, whatever their circumstances. Unemployment can have a catastrophic impact on an individual’s financial security, self-confidence and ability to apply for finance from lenders, and the support provided by Start Up Loans can be of particular use to younger, less experienced business owners.”

Julie Di Toro and her partner, Sam Barker, took out a Start Up Loan in two parts in August and September 2020 to launch Mistral, an independent wine shop. After the pandemic left them both unemployed, the pair decided to make the most of the opportunity and use their experience in the hospitality industry to launch the business they’d always dreamed of.

With experience working in the industry in London, New Zealand and Australia, they were confident that when they moved to Sam’s hometown, Edinburgh, that Leith would be the perfect location to open shop.

Julie Di Toro, founder of Mistral, commented: “We’ve always known that we wanted to open up our own place, but when the pandemic hit and both of us were left unemployed, we decided that now was as good a time as any to turn our dream of owning our own bar into a reality.

“Starting a business in the pandemic meant we quickly learned how to think on our feet. Our initial intention was to set up a wine bar, but due to restrictions we instead had to branch out into the retail space. This was an unknown territory for us but, thankfully, the mentoring we received from Start Up Loans helped guide us through any hurdles.

“Being your own boss is a tricky thing to get used to; you have yourself to thank for the good decisions, but the mistakes are your responsibility too. Patience and having an open mindset have been key and helped us realise that, despite being full of passion and motivation, some things do take longer than you’d expect!”



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