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British Business Bank reveals its 2020 Start up Loans ambassadors

  • Founders of 12 small businesses recognised as best-in-class examples of UK start-ups
  • Start Up Loans has delivered over 78,000 loans since 2012, providing more than £663 million of funding

A Newcastle based therapy centre where families and social bubbles throw wet paint at each other, and a Glaswegian aromatherapy company running workshops to cater to the increasing interest in at-home wellness, are among 12 small businesses to be selected as champions of UK start-ups by Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank.

Marking its fifth consecutive year the annual Start Up Loans Ambassadors programme celebrates exceptional business owners who have followed an ambition of becoming their own boss after receiving support from the Government-backed Start Up Loans programme.

Through a network of Delivery Partner organisations, the Start Up Loans programme provides pre-and-post loan support to help applicants to develop a business plan; a fixed-interest loan of up to £25,000 to start or develop their business; as well as mentoring support to help loan recipients with everything from cash flow to marketing.

Originating from communities throughout the UK, the 2020 selection of Ambassadors reflects the broad diversity and ambition of the nation’s SME sector at a grass roots level. A full summary of the businesses selected from Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England’s regions can be found further below.

The 2020 Start Up Loans Ambassadors will be honoured today at a virtual event (13:00-14:30) hosted by Start Up Loans and attended by Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business; Catherine Lewis Le Torre, CEO of British Business Bank; Lord Smith, Chair of the British Business Bank and Richard Bearman, Managing Director, Start Up Loans. Guests will also include a range of Start Up Loans’ Delivery Partners and historic Ambassadors that have taken part in the programme over the last five years.

Since 2012, the programme has delivered more than 78,000 loans to business owners across the UK amounting to more than £663 million. Of those who received a loan, 31,036 (40%) were women; more than 15,000 (20%) were people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities; and more than 20,600 (27%) were previously unemployed, reflecting the diversity of the UK start up community.

Richard Bearman, Managing Director, Start Up Loans, said: “Amid all the disruption and uncertainty of 2020, having strong business leaders at a grass roots level to demonstrate best practice operations and inspire others has never been so important.

“The idea of starting a business is exciting for most people, as well as daunting, particularly in the current environment. However, what our 2020 Ambassadors demonstrate is that with the right support and mentoring it’s possible to thrive and succeed in even the harshest conditions.

“I’m always very proud of the Ambassadors we carefully select, and this year’s candidates are as strong as any we’ve been lucky enough to have on board over the past five years. I congratulate them all for their hugely impressive achievements and wish them continued success in their ventures over the coming years.”

Breakdown of loans by region

UK RegionLoans MadeAmount Lent (£)Average Loan Amount (£)
East Midlands4,33534,711,6408,007
East of England5,32345,497,3318,547
Isle of Man210,0005,000
North East4,50337,798,2778,394
North West9,73280,593,1538,281
Northern Ireland1,2149,535,5267,855
South East7,23366,525,5899,198
South West6,58755,398,8928,410
West Midlands6,49653,700,5328,267
Yorkshire and The Humber6,66858,720,6448,806
Region not obtained83857,04610,326
Grand Total78,003663,270,1838,503

Start Up Loans ambassadors 2020/21

1. Margaret Morrison-Macleod – The Divine Hag

Glasgow, Scotland

Margaret, 58, worked in surveying for 25 years but suffered with migraines triggered by artificial smells, so eventually decided to take the leap and launch her own aromatherapy business – using exclusively natural ingredients. During Covid, Margaret launched new monthly subscription packages to capitalise on the growing trend in at-home wellness. She’s also launched a men’s range in response to demand.

Social: @the_divine_hag / @thedivinehag

2. Victoria Griffin – Goji Hair

Cardiff, Wales

Victoria took out a start-up loan in 2015 through Delivery Partner, Business in Focus, to launch Goji Hair – a hairdressing salon in the heart of Cardiff with her business partner, Greg James. The duo now offer a range of men’s grooming and beauty procedures alongside the hair salon and they recently launched their own brand of products selling organic candles and creams.

Social: @gojihair

3. Tracy McAllister – BTS CONCEPT STORE (By The Sea)

Coleraine, Northern Ireland

Tracy decided to take a leap into the unknown and start a business that allowed her to follow her passion after being made redundant from her job in corporate communications in 2013. Six years later, Tracy has not let Covid restrictions slow the store down. Having re-launched her website at the start of 2020, online sales have kept the store going, and July 2020 saw its busiest month since opening.

Social: @coast_lifestyle@btsconceptstore / / @btsconceptstore

4. Vese Aghoghovbia – Philly & Friends

Vauxhall, London

Vese is the founder of Philly & Friends, a children’s lifestyle brand that aims to add the much-needed drop of colour in the sea of children’s products. Inspired by her daughter whose nickname is Philly, she wanted to create a children’s character that kids everywhere can identify with. At the time, less than 1% of children’s books in the UK featured a Black main character. Vese set out on a mission to produce a series of children’s books, toys and products that accurately reflected the diversity of society.

Social: @phillynfriends

5. Anthony Quinn – The Pudding Pantry

Nottingham, East Midlands

Anthony, 33, having worked in hospitality since the age of 13 helping his parents at their family-run hotel, was always keen to one day pursue his own venture. He now runs The Pudding Pantry, a dessert inspired brunch restaurant in the heart of Nottingham. When lockdown was imposed on the nation, Anthony had to think outside the box, and launched a takeaway and delivery service as well as an at-home afternoon tea experience, to ensure customers were not left disappointed.

Social: @thepuddingpantry

6. Susan Bonnar – The British Craft House

Lee-on-the-Solent, South East

Susan, 52, was an air traffic controller in the Royal Navy for 22 years and when she retired, she spent many evenings at home crafting. Frustrated with not having a suitable platform to sell her own products, her idea for The British Craft House was born. Since launching the business in 2019, she has helped 450 independent crafters sell online.

Social: @britishcrafthouse

7. Emily Robertson – Roundwood Gin

Cambridgeshire, East of England

Emily, 28, a former software developer, decided to give up her desk job to launch Roundwood Gin with co-founder, Rupert Waters. She used a loan to transform an outbuilding into a fully functioning distillery with a hand-designed copper still. Emily didn’t let Covid stop her and when it was announced there was a national shortage of hand sanitiser, she launched her own range and sold individual bottles for customers and five litre bottles for key services in the local community.

Social: @roundwoodgin / @roundwoodgin

8. Jane Crane – Your Tribe

Newcastle, North East

Jane, 43, previously an IT Project Manager, retrained as a yoga teacher and therapist and wanted to use some of the skills she learnt and combine them with a creative form of stress relief and relaxation. Having always had an interest in the arts, she understood the calming qualities it can have and merged her hobbies to create Your Tribe. The company’s wet paint throwing space offers couples, families and groups the opportunity to make art, get messy and feel uplifted.

Social: @yourtribepaint / @yourtribepaint / @tribalpaint

9. Daniel Edwards – D&K Accounting

Bawtry, Yorkshire & The Humber

Daniel, 34, took out a loan in 2016 to launch D&K Accounting, a firm that specialises in helping small businesses. Having worked long hours in finance for a number of years, he and his wife Katherine, decided to launch their own firm in an effort to improve their work-life balance. Since launch, Daniel has almost doubled his clients and now advises more than 150 clients, with more in the pipeline as a result of Covid accelerating the need for people to revisit their finances.

Social: @dkaccs / @dkaccounting

10. Nicole Patalong – PO’Sh Creative

Leamington, West Midlands

Nicole, 38, launched PO’Sh in 2013/14 as an integrated creative agency that offers a broad spectrum of services including PR, marketing and design. She used the loan to purchase equipment and hire a new designer. Nicole and her business partner and husband, Jan, have doubled the size of their team, and now employ seven members of staff. During Covid, the company moved to a remote working model and have been able to thrive during the lockdown months.

Social: @poshcreativeltd / @poshcreativeltd

11. Kate Collins – My Outdoor Classroom CIC

Merseyside, North West

Kate, 37, set herself a goal of launching her own business that allowed her to continue supporting children who would otherwise have little access to outside space and nature, after being made redundant from her role at a charity. During Covid, Kate has been forced to put the physical activities on hold but continues sending activity ideas to families to keep them occupied during lockdown. She now provides activity sessions for children in line with government guidelines, and also offers parent and toddler groups so that parents can stay with their children during the sessions.

Social: @MyOutdoorClassroom

12. Andrew Denham – The Bicycle Academy

Somerset, South West

Andrew, 38, a trained engineer, wanted to pursue a career in something he was passionate about and that would allow him to help others. He saw a gap in the market to bring together the interest and skillset that people invest into cycling, and decided to open a workshop facility where people could put both into practice. His workshops have been recognised globally and 70% of Andrews customers are from outside of the UK, in Singapore, North America and Australia. He now employs five members of staff to keep up with demand.

Social: @thebicycleacademy@TheBicycleAcademy / @BicycleAcademy/ The Bicycle Academy


For more information, please contact:

Maria Goodall

Manager, Corporate Communications

t: +44 (0)203 871 0216

The British Business Bank team

MHP Communications

+44 20 3128 8589 /

Notes to editors

The Start-Up Loans Company, part of the British Business Bank, was formed in June 2012. The Start Up Loans scheme provides personal loans for business purposes of up to £25,000 at a 6% fixed interest rate per annum and offers free dedicated mentoring and support to each business.

The primary aim of the Start Up Loans scheme is to ensure that viable start-ups and early-stage businesses have access to the finance and support they need in order to thrive. A network of Delivery Partner organisations support applicants in all regions and industries throughout the UK. The Start Up Loans scheme is not designed to generate a commercial profit. Capital payments together with the interest are recycled to help meet our customers’ increasing demand for finance.

Free guides on a range of subjects related to starting a business are available on the Start Up Loans website: You can find recent media coverage and press releases in the Start Up Loans Media Centre here:

The funding for the Start Up Loans scheme is provided by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Start-Up Loans Company is a subsidiary of the British Business Bank plc. The bank is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government which is not authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). British Business Bank plc and its subsidiary entities are not banking institutions and do not operate as such.

The British Business Bank makes finance markets for smaller businesses work better, enabling the sector to prosper, grow and build economic activity. Their Business Finance Guide explores finance options and the journey from start-up to growth. Access the Business Finance Guide here:

Key Statistics

Figures in this release are drawn from data on delivery of loans up to the end of October 2020.

* Since 2012, the Start Up Loans scheme has delivered more than 78,000 loans, providing more than £663m of funding.

* In the financial year 2018/19, the scheme provided 7,869 loans with a total value of approximately £83m

* Since 2012, over one quarter (27%) of loans went to people formerly unemployed or economically inactive. Two fifths (40%) were women and one in five (20%) came from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME).

* Loan recipients report estimated average turnover of £42,000 in the first year after they have drawn their loan down.

* In the November Budget 2018, the Chancellor announced that the programme would be extended, with a target of 10,000 additional loans being issued in the year to April 2021.

For more information about Start Up Loans, please visit:

All these statistics are gross estimates, with the exception of the return on investment numbers, and are based upon Start Up Loans CRM and externally commissioned research undertaken by SQW Ltd, with support from BMG Research.