The Start Up Loans Company is celebrating the achievements of British start up businesses with the launch of our Start Up Loans Ambassador Programme.
Six stand out businesses have been selected as Ambassadors and the programme will showcase some of our top success stories. At a dedicated reception on 8th June 2016 at the Houses of Parliament in London, Lord Young and Richard Fuller MP introduced the Ambassadors to journalists and politicians.
For the next six months our Ambassadors will be working with the Start Up Loans team to help encourage other would-be business owners to take the step towards starting a business. They’ll be speaking to local residents in their respective areas, as well as working on national campaigns to help encourage the growth of businesses across the country.
Meet the Start Up Loans Ambassadors
Claudi & Fin
Meriel and Lucy launched their frozen yoghurt lolly business, Claudi & Finn, with the help of Start Up Loans. The pair met when their children became friends at a local playgroup. They discovered a mutual love for great tasting and healthy food, and struggled to find any natural ice lollies for their children. So, Meriel and Lucy joined forces and developed their own brand of healthy lollies, and Claudi & Finn was born.
After receiving their Start Up Loan, the pair managed to secure a contract from Sainsburys to supply 250 stores after successfully defeating 400 food start up hopefuls in a competition called ‘Pitchup with Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s increased the number of stores from 250 to 431 in just nine months. Meriel and Lucy secured new listings in 2015 including Ocado, Waitrose and Budgens, as well as SuperValu and Dunnes in Ireland, making Claudi & Finn available in nearly 700 stores across the UK and Ireland. In March 2016 they launched a new range of ‘mini lollies’ in Tesco.
The company currently has a turnover of around £750,000 and Meriel and Lucy have hired one employee and also work with freelancers.
Having previously worked as a brand and innovation consultant, Sara Roberts spent eight years in Africa where roadside stalls sell an abundance of fresh fruit and other healthy snacks. Upon returning to the UK she was shocked at how hard it was to find good, fresh food easily. For Sara the last straw was when she was visiting a hospital. Hungry, she found a vending machine which contained the usual items of junk food. Next to it was a sign warning against the risks of diabetes, an awful juxtaposition that Sara was becoming increasingly familiar with following her return to the UK.
Sara decided to set up her own company, Healthy Nibbles, with the support of a £20,000 loan from the Start Up Loans Company. Healthy Nibbles is an innovative subscription based snack delivery service. The company uses SMART vending machines which are stocked with healthy sustainable products. As well as vending machines the business also offers healthy snack boxes. Healthy Nibbles is committed to using only healthy products in their vending machines and snack boxes. They use at least 40% artisan products with a preference towards locally sourced products.
The Healthy Nibbles vending machines offer multiple payment options including contactless, card, cash and ApplePay. The machines provide full nutritional and allergen information before customers make a purchase. The machines also provide detailed information to head office which allows Sara and the team to analyse each and every purchase and stock their machines accordingly. SMART vending machines are also sustainable with 78% of them being recyclable at the end of their life.
Healthy Nibbles is also conscious of people with dietary requirements and consequently cater for the needs of vegans, those with wheat intolerance and low GI (Glycemic Index). The business is also expanding its snack box range to cater for a range of allergies as well as linking up with well-known TV nutritionist Amanda Hamilton to produce a Detox box.
Lauren Taylor was inspired by her baby to start her business, Kokoso Baby. When Lauren’s daughter had dry skin and cradle cap, she wanted to find something natural and organic to treat it. Lauren was blown away by how coconut oil made her daughter’s skin feel and it cleared up her cradle cap too.
Kokoso Baby uses organic coconut oil specially selected for baby skincare. Packed full of natural nutrients, it gently nourishes, moisturises and protects the delicate skin of babies. Dermatologically tested and suitable for sensitive skin, Kokoso Baby can be used for everything from baby massage to body butter to bottom balm.
Kokoso Baby Coconut Oil is a Boots ‘Inspired by Baby’ winner. This is a programme run by the retailer for parents with ideas for baby products that make life easier for other mums and dads. Lauren’s £10,000 Start Up Loan enabled her to cover cash flow and rapidly expand her business which is now available in 200 Boots stores nationwide.
Monks & Co Clothing
With years of experience in the menswear fashion industry Amy decided that it was time to fulfil her ambition and set up her own clothing business establishing Monks & Co – an online menswear fashion retailer and shop based in West Malling.
Amy and her business partner conducted months of market research. Once they were satisfied that they knew what their target audience desired in terms of men’s fashion, Monks & Co needed an injection of funds to get off the ground. Having heard about Start Up Loans, Amy applied and, after working on her business and cash flow forecasts, she was approved for an £8,000 loan and assigned a mentor. She was able to spend her loan monies on investing in stock and developing her website.
Currently the business is experiencing 70% growth year on year and has recently won Best New Business at the prestigious Drapers Awards.
Monks & Co has several repeat customers and an excellent customer database having become a destination shop, with people travelling up to 30 miles to visit the store. Currently Amy has two part time workers, with one training to be a store manager.
Shortcuts Children’s Salon
David launched his salon Shortcuts with the help of a £15,000 Start Up Loan. He has two young sons who used to get bored and impatient while getting their hair cut. David eventually started cutting their hair at home and would give them iPads and computer games to keep them occupied. He even bought a kids car chair to keep them entertained. It was his experience with his own little boys that gave David the initial idea to start a children’s hairdressing salon with entertainment and toys to make visiting a hairdresser a fun experience for kids.
Shortcuts opened in June 2014 in Milton Keynes. As well as the hair salon there is the ‘Hollywood Room’ for makeover parties where little girls can get their nails done and other beauty treatments. David employs three stylists, a part-time work experience student and also a party planner. In the first two weeks of trading the salon doubled its first months projected income, with some clients driving for over an hour to get their children’s hair cut. David has since opened two further salons in Northampton and London.
Stewart Hilton and his partner Rob White set up Zeal Creative, a promotional marketing company, after becoming frustrated with opportunities while working as part of a larger marketing agency.
Since then they have not looked back and Zeal Creative has gone from strength to strength. They provide services for major companies such as ASDA, Bacardi, John West and Weetabix. Using their existing contacts within the industry, having had a combined 40 years’ experience marketing major brands, they saw a doubling of revenue from year one to year two and now employ 10 full time staff with the search for more ongoing. Among those workers they are providing careers for four University Graduates.
Zeal Creative specialises in promotional shopping for major companies, the majority of their partners being located in the North of England. Their Manchester location allows them to be ‘creatively connected’ in the heart of Media City surrounded by the BBC, ITV, app developers and other technical businesses. They also have local partnerships with Manchester Met University and Edge Hill University to get input into briefs from young undergraduates.
Zeal Creative have worked with Amanda Holden for Alpen, sampled Quorn at Queens Club and even met with George Osbourne.
Zeal Creative work on a project by project basis with major brands with the understanding that a successful job is rewarded with further work. Going forward they plan to have 15-20 employees by the end of 2016. Stewart and Rob saw turnover in excess of £750,000 in one year of trading and in year two are on target to deliver over £1.5m. Zeal Creative also won the 2014 North West Start Up Business of the Year from the Start Up Loans Company and in November 2015 they won ‘Best Young Business of the Year’ at the Manchester Evening News Business Awards.
On top of being able to showcase six fantastic ambassador businesses that got going with the help of Start Up Loans, we were also able to hire High Six Media to do all of the filming of our ambassadors. Nick and Luke Ogden, the twins behind the business, also got started with backing from Start Up Loans and we have been lucky enough to join the ranks of clients such as Boxfresh, Nike and Red Bull that High Six Media have provided video services to.
Each of our ambassadors has filmed a case study video, which you can watch on their individual pages, showcasing not only those businesses but also the brilliant video work of High Six Media.