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A Complete Guide to Financing Start-ups in the UK – Start-up Loans, Governments Grants & More

Financing a start-up can be challenging. In this post, we explore the various ways – from start-up loans to crowdfunding – in which you can go about overcoming this challenge.

The world has seen unprecedented innovation in the last 30 years. By many estimates, these years account for more path-breaking, paradigm-shift-inducing inventions, innovations and ideas than the rest of the human history combined.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that this culture of innovation has impacted the economy just as definitively as it has our everyday lives. The smartphones we use, the smart payments we make and the big data we routinely stand in awe of – these innovations have left few aspects of modern life untouched. Much the reason why, there has also been a remarkably noticeable upsurge in the number of people answering their entrepreneurial ‘calling’.

The numbers are telling in this regard. In the last five years, the business registration rate has steadily increased despite all the uncertainties around the impending Brexit. If your start-up is among these, it’s quite likely that you are looking for better ways than putting your life savings at stake to raise enough capital.

The Importance of Financing a Start-up Correctly

Choosing a right set of financing options is of utmost importance for any commercial activity.

For start-ups, however, this becomes an even more sensitive proposition. Unfortunately, many promising start-ups pay the price for indecisiveness, inaction and incorrect decision-making. We have seen that the start-up culture is booming in the UK – but there’s always a downside to every argument. The statistics released by the ONS suggest that 48% of new businesses do not survive their first four years of trading. In 40% of such cases, financing problems is the major reason.

By weighing the start-up financing options discussed below, you can avoid your start-up from meeting this grim fate.

1. Start-up Loans

When it comes to funding start-ups in the UK, start-up loans should be the first option you explore.

In the last few years, start-ups have managed to instil a good deal of confidence among lenders. More and more private lenders and banks have started looking at start-ups as huge opportunities, and not mindless, risk-filled adventures. This pattern means that getting a start-up loan is the most affordable and convenient funding option for start-ups across industries.

What is a Start-up Loan?

Start-up loans, even though granted exclusively to start-up businesses, are more like personal loans than commercial loans. This is primarily due to the fact that start-ups don’t have any history of trading to refer to. In most cases, start-ups are founded by a small group of partners and have no history of business credit for the lenders to go by, either.

In essence, a start-up loan is a small, unsecured loan that hinges entirely on the viability of the business model and the personal credit history of the proprietor or the partners.

With one or more start-up loans, you can expect to raise capital up to £25,000.

Why Choose Start-up Loans?

Start-ups, unlike established businesses, have very specific needs, and start-up loans address these needs better than any other financing alternative.

  • Easy to Secure

Start-up loans are much easier to secure when have a good-enough business plan and a blemish-free credit report.

  • Fast Processing

Start-up loans are processed just as quickly as personal loans. This saves you precious time and resources that can be directed towards a successful launch.

  • Little to No Collateral Required

Most lenders offer unsecured start-up loans, once they are convinced of your repayment potential. For higher loan amounts, some collateral may be required to offset the risk taken by the lender.

  • Industry Expertise

This is one feature few other start-up financing options can offer.

If you receive a start-up loan offer from an experienced lender specialising in your industry of operation, it can add immense passive value to your business.

How to Get a Start-up a Loan?

Although most mainstream lenders offer start-up loans, the eligibility criteria and repayment schedules differ wildly from one lender to another. The easiest and fastest way of securing a start-up loan that is tailored to meet your needs is to have a reputed broker like Commercial Finance Broker on your side. Whole of market brokers can approach UK-wide lenders on your behalf, increasing your chances of getting affordable and customised start-up loan quotes.

2. Government Grants for Start-ups

If you are familiar with the start-up culture in the UK, you’ve probably heard of government grants. Even though relying solely on government grants to finance your start-up is impractical, it’s equally unwise to dismiss this option altogether.

What is a Government Grant?

A government grant is essentially a reward granted to various businesses and charitable organisations under various schemes and from various public funds. The primary motive behind the establishment and distribution of government grants is to incentivise innovation, foster entrepreneurship and, in turn, create more employment in various business sectors.

Depending upon the objectives of the grant, your start-up can receive upfront cash rewards, tax incentives, equipment support, technical support and no-interest/low-interest loans. UK start-ups can receive grants from the local authorities, the UK Government and the European Union.

Government Grants for Start-ups: Types and Features

  • Direct Grant (Direct Finance)

This is the most popular type of government grant available for start-ups and young businesses. When you apply for a direct grant, most schemes and trusts will require you to match the grant reward 1:1. In other words, you can expect to raise up to 50% of the required capital using the grant, while the rest will need to be raised through private funding.

  • Available for start-ups
  • Grant size varies from £500 to £500,000 (subject to available schemes)
  • Non-repayable
  • No interest
  • Soft Loans (Subsidised Loans)

Soft loans or subsidised loans aim to strike a balance between direct grants and private or peer-to-peer start-up loans. These loans, available as government grants, are subsidised with public funds so that cash-strapped start-ups can afford them.

  • Loans up to £25,000 are available for start-ups
  • The interest rates (4 to 6% p.a.) are much lower than other loan alternatives.
  • The repayment terms are lenient and generous.
  • Equity Finance (Tax Incentives)

This is a lesser-used but extremely powerful government grant. Through such schemes, the government promotes investments in start-ups by offering up to 50% rebates in the income tax for the investors. The rebate percentage depends upon the size of the business and the business sector.

  • Income tax rebate up to £100,000 can be claimed.
  • Available for start-ups and young businesses with fewer than 25 employees

Government Grants: What Start-ups Should Know

  • Applying for and winning a government grant is often a time-consuming process. If your start-up requires an urgent finance package, grants may not always be useful.
  • The competition is fierce. In recent years, it has become nearly impossible to win government grants in business sectors that do not have a direct impact on the socio-economic policies of the government.
  • Even if you manage to win a government grant, you will still be required to secure an external loan to raise enough capital.

How to Apply for Government Grants

The application process is, in itself, a bottleneck. The slow processing times and ambiguous terms mean that you will need to prepare an extremely thoughtful grant application to qualify.

If you want to win a government grant for your start-up, a proven and systematic approach must be adopted.

  • Know What the Grant is Trying to Achieve

Many start-ups choose to send applications to any and every grant scheme that comes up. This approach usually results into a great deal of wasted time and resources. Instead, you should aim to apply for grants that have specific objectives relating to your business sector.

  • Communicate with the Grant Body/Organisation

It’s always advisable to have a clear communication with the grant body if any of its objectives or terms are unclear. This will help you understand whether you should invest your resources into preparing a grant application.

  • Prepare a Grant Application That Stands Out

Remember – dozens, if not hundreds, of businesses will be competing against you to win the grant in question. Preparing an outstanding grant application will improve your chances significantly. Your grant application should be able to convey how your start-up aligns well with the grant objectives.

  • Supplement Your Grant Application with a Business Plan

You will need a great business plan to bolster your grant application. In the business plan, emphasise the aspects of your business that directly concern the grant objectives. Additionally, you will be required to furnish any external funding commitments you may have received – especially if you are applying for a direct grant.

  • Keep Checking for New Grants

Dozens of new start-up grants are introduced each month. It’s widely believed that the early-bird applications have a higher chance of winning government grants. The definitive list of available grants can be found at the Business Finance Support Portal launched by the UK Government.

3. Investments

If there’s one thing that has added an extra touch of glamour to the very idea of entrepreneurship, it’s the awe-inspiring risk appetite shown by external investors. The stories of start-ups receiving outlandish investment deals regularly make the rounds in start-up circles – and not without their reasons.

Having an external investor on board can be the most cost-effective way of financing your start-up. There are many ways in which your start-up can bring in external investments. Some of these are:

  • Equity investments (selling a share of your equity in the business)
  • Capital investments (mortgaging a share of your equity in the business)
  • Credit lines (flexible credit lines on an as-needed basis in exchange for a fixed percentage of revenue/profits)
  • Custom investments (fully customised investment plans)

4. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is an effective way of raising small sums of money, especially for consumer-facing start-ups. It’s all about letting numerous people contribute in their personal capacities in exchange for a stake in your business.

Crowdfunding is a good way to raise money in order to address specific business objectives such as:  fuelling research, manufacturing prototypes, financing marketing campaigns and entering new markets.

Is Your Start-up the Next Big Thing? We’d Love to Hear from You!

There’s something innately attractive about dreaming of an idea, working hard to bring its seed to life and watching it grow into something significant. The unfortunate reality is that many such dreams are routinely cut short for the want of more funding.

At Commercial Finance Network, we’ve been living the entrepreneurial dream – with all its highs and lows – for over a decade. With the help of our UK-wide panel of specialist lenders, we’ve helped numerous start-ups overcome their financing problems. Customised to the highest degree, the start-up loans we broker are more than just loans – they are what the ambitious start-ups of today need to turn the corner and scale newer, higher peaks of success.

Don’t let the funding shortfall stifle your start-up even before it takes off. Call us on 03303 112 646 or fill in our contact form to request a free start-up loan quote.

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Women-led startups are more fundable but men receive most of the cash

A study by Access Commercial Finance found that only 16% of applications received since July 2016 were submitted by women.

The firm handled 833 applications in total during that time period, but only 135 of those applications came from women. Men made 698 applications for funding during the same period.

However, the research showed that the women who did apply for funding had a success rate 18% higher than men. 13% of applications from women were successful, compared to 11% from men.

Overall though, due to men making 84% of the funding applications, they received the vast majority of funding awarded, £4,051,052 in total. Women received £332,437.

Not only are women less likely to apply for funding than men, they also ask for less money on average when they are do apply.

Based on applications where the full amount applied for was awarded, women received £22,162 each, £28,476 less than men, who received £50,638 each on average

Matt Haycox, consultant at Access Commercial Finance, hopes the findings encourage more women to think about applying for business funding.

“This data shows us that women are on average either better at putting together a funding proposal for their small businesses, or they just have more fundable businesses. Either way, it’s potentially good news for women-owned businesses and startups.

“But given the low application rate and low funding request amount for women, men are still getting most of the cash due to sheer volume of applications.

“We hope our data gives any woman considering applying for business funding the confidence to do so.”

Source: London Loves Business

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Are business loans still viable with Brexit?

Most start-ups need third-party investment to get off the ground. Sometimes, even established companies take out a loan to use as working capital. Whatever the reasoning behind them, business loans are an essential investment type for all manner of businesses, small and large, who wish to borrow. This has been the case for hundreds of years, and British banks and building societies have been happy to show faith.

Is Brexit a spanner in the works?

A spanner has been thrown into the works recently, however. Its name is Brexit, and it has lenders stifled. Some would say worried. There are several reasons for this. Many lenders are worried that Brexit could invalidate their long-term loan contracts with businesses in Europe. Some lenders are worried that a hard Brexit could go as far as to stop them from seeking new business in Europe.

These worries are tangible, and understandable, from both a lender’s point of view and the borrower’s. But do they translate into lenders tightening up their loan applications, and reducing their faith in small business?

The answer is no. Or at least, not yet.

It must be said that banks are reducing lending. It is now harder for people to get a mortgage, for example. However, businesses are still being funded right now, by major banks operating out of London and smaller banks alike. Independent lenders too are mopping up business tidily, committing several million through business finance and asset-backed lending. This is excellent news for small business.

Additional challenges of Brexit for business loans

SMEs do face another challenge with Brexit and lending, though. It is not just unique to them, but it affects them more than large enterprises. That challenge is currency volatility, or the unpredictable movement of exchange rates. If Britain has an unstable economy, then that could cause lenders to shift towards lending to larger businesses over SMEs, because big business is less affected by an instable economy overall. Unfortunately, this does mean inconsistencies with lending procedure month-to-month.

It’s fair to say that the result of the Brexit referendum took most lenders by surprise. Since the result was announced, lenders have attempted to determine what the result means for them. Thankfully, the following months showed that the leave result was not the catastrophe that some economists would have had us believe. Banks have not moved their headquarters from London. Small businesses are still thriving.

The bottom line with lending and Brexit…

Business loans are still viable with Brexit. Start-ups can expect funding as can larger enterprises. However, the need for a sound application is more important than ever before.

The viability of business loans with Brexit is simple – lenders are still lending during the Brexit negotiations. And they will continue lending after them. Specialist corporate finance companies will be the big winners, however, as traditional banks show uncertainty. Expect to see a lot more from finance specialists who offer start-up loans, business finance and equipment refinance solutions to British business.

Source: London Loves Business

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Personal savings keeping two in five UK start-ups in business

Two in five (39%) small business start-ups say they have raided personal savings to keep their business afloat in the past year, according to new research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance.

As the start of 2018 marks a decade since the banking crisis and a prolonged period of cautious high street lending to small businesses, the new research suggests many UK small businesses are not turning to high street lenders to support their business – fuelled perhaps by the broadening issues around trust. Start-ups (businesses that are less than 5 years old) are almost twice as likely to use personal money as businesses that have been trading for 10 years or more (22%). In addition, the number of start-ups that have also turned to family members for a loan has increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent over the last 18 months.

The findings suggest that even with the plethora of alternative finance options readily available today, many small business owners are not looking beyond their high street lender at the wide range of finance options available to them.

The reliance on personal finance over specialist finance is put into sharp focus given start-up businesses have ambitious plans for growth and expansion in the next three months. Compared to older businesses (that have been trading for a decade or more), start-ups are four times more likely to predict significant business growth in the next three months (14% Vs. 3%). Furthermore, to power this growth they are also more likely to be looking to expand into new markets (21% Vs. 16%); to invest in new equipment (17% Vs. 9%); to hire staff (16% Vs. 13%), and to move to a larger location (9% Vs. 3%).

Forms of finance used by small businesses over the last 12 months.

Start up (trading less than 5 years) Small business average
Own money/ cash 39% 28%
Money from family members  (i.e. either gifts or loan) 15% 9%
Overdraft 11% 15%
Government support (i.e. grants, finance loans, business support) 5% 3%
Standard business bank loan 5% 8%
Invoice finance 4% 4%
Finance lease 3% 4%
Peer to peer lending 3% 3%
Hire purchase 3% 3%
Borrowing from the business 3% 2%
Operating lease 2% 2%

In addition, owners of start-up businesses are far more likely to say that worrying about cash flow management keeps them awake at night (29 per cent compared to 19 per cent of owners of older businesses). This is probably explained by the combination of having bold expansion plans but not seeking external help on finding the right kind of funding.

Gavin Wraith-Carter, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance commented: “It seems hard to believe that the banking crisis was a decade ago but the knock on effect of high street lenders being very cautious with lending to SMEs shows itself in this new study. The issue is not one of small businesses being turned down for finance, it is the fact too many start-ups do not trust institutions to, therefore are not tuning to them for financial help. Ten years on, my concern is there may be a widely held view by small businesses that high street lenders will just say ‘no’.”

Source: London Loves Business

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£6 million in start-up loans for 1,000 Black Country businesses in the last six years

Almost £6 million in Government-backed start-up loans has been pumped into the Black Country over the past six years, helping around a thousand people get their own businesses off the ground.

Another £603,380 was lent to 88 business owners in South Staffordshire by the Start Up Loans Company (SULCo)

Since launching in 2012, the Government-backed scheme has provided a total of £1.6 million in low-interest funding to more than 300 loan recipients across Wolverhampton, helping kick-start local start-up businesses. In total, more than £375million has been provided by The Start Up Loans Company to over 50,000 loan recipients across the country.

The programme has helped 2,115 in the West Midlands who were formerly unemployed or economically inactive, as well as helping an additional 21,151 people across the UK into employment nationwide.

Across the Black Country, £1,275,725 has been lent to 190 business owners in Dudley, £1,668,300 lent to 256 start-ups and new businesses in Sandwell and in Walsall £1,390,354 has been lent to 249 budding entrepreneurs.

Chris Smith, aged 34, is one loan recipient in Wolverhampton who received a proportion of the funding to launch his own business in 2014. Evo Fit, based in Willenhall, is a start-up gym that offers cardio and resistance training, with classes ranging from core blast to HIIT and boxercise.

A former personal trainer in a health and fitness club, Chris felt inspired to take his teaching to the next level by starting a gym of his own.

He approached The Start Up Loans Company for a loan to kick-start his venture, and successfully secured £22,000 of low-interest funding. The loan went towards paying rental premises, as well as purchasing equipment used in the studio.

The business employs five members of staff and services more than 600 customers across the Wolverhampton area.

In 2015, Chris worked with with renowned fitness expert Joe Wicks and his future plans include launching new fitness and cycling programmes at Evo Fit. The business also has its sights on opening another gym in Birmingham city centre in the next year.

Chris Smith, CEO and founder of Evo Fit, said: “As a personal trainer, the best thing about my job is helping people reach their goals and transform their lifestyle in a positive way. But while I’ve always enjoyed that aspect, I realised that I could use my experience to create my own business and do it myself.

“Although I was confident I had a concept that would work, I lacked the right financial support to start-up on my own. The Start Up Loans Company provided me with a loan to help me put my plans into place, meaning I was fortunate enough to avoid any financial stumbling blocks in the early stages. Since launching Evo Fit, I’ve been able to help more people pursue their fitness goalsand continue doing what I love, which is fantastic.”

Joanna Hill, interim CEO at The Start Up Loans Company, said: “It’s fantastic to see how Chris has used his experience to help others become fitter and healthier through launching Evo Fit. Since securing financial backing, the business has gone from strength to strength, and by collaborating with fitness experts, Chris has been able to extend his offering even further.

“Reaching £1.6million of funding for new business ventures in Wolverhampton is a great milestone for us, and highlights the entrepreneurial appetite for new business growth in the area. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s in store for budding business owners as we enter into 2018.”

Backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS, the Start Up Loans Company (SULCo) was formed in June 2012 as an arm of the British Business Bank. SULCo provides personal loans for business purposes of up to £25,000 at a six per cent fixed interest rate per annum, and offers free dedicated mentoring and support to each business.

Nearly half of loan recipients nationwide have been NEETs – not in employment, education or training – but figures show the overall return on investment for the scheme is at least £3 for every £1 invested. Those receiving a loan report estimated average turnover for their new busineses of £44,000 in the first year.

Source: Express and Star