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South East Hailed as Major Start-Up Hub

UK Government-backed programme lends £45m to fund South East microbusinesses

Small business is booming in the South East, according to new figures from the British Business Bank which shows that the Start Up Loans scheme has lent more than £45 million to microbusinesses in the region.

Latest data from the Government-backed programme reveals that since 2012 it has issued more than 5,543 loans, averaging £8,286 each, to aspiring business owners in the South East to kickstart new businesses.

Among the recipients is Alexandra McCabe, 34, the founder of FittaMamma, who used a fixed-term £10,000 loan to launch her own maternity fitness wear brand in 2013.

Alexandra launched the business after struggling to find maternity fitness wear for her pregnant sister-in-law who wanted to stay fit but was confused by contradictory advice about exercising while pregnant. She also felt self-conscious about working out in conventional sportswear.

Taking matters into her own hands, Alexandra, from Brighton, decided to create her own e-commerce business to empower women to keep exercising through their pregnancies.

Alexandra designed a range of sportswear that would give pregnant women the confidence, reassurance and support to exercise while pregnant.  She extended the concept by creating a website that provides a “one-stop shop” for information on health and well-being during pregnancy.

Since launch, the range has expanded and now supplies supportive fitnesswear to mums-to-be worldwide, including vests with motivational slogans to inspire their active pregnancies.

FittaMamma’s Instagram channel also aims to specifically address misinformation and campaigns for change using #pregnantnotpowerless.

Alexandra McCabe, founder of FittaMamma, said:

“We hear many stories of women not exercising because they’re worried about harming their baby. When my sister-in-law fell pregnant, I noticed how difficult it was to find sportswear that gave her the confidence to continue exercising. After researching the subject, I also discovered how much contradictory information there was out there.

“This inspired me to face the challenge directly and create my own maternity fitness brand to empower mothers-to-be to stay active. Start Up Loans provided me with a fixed-rate loan, as well as mentoring support to help me get started.

“Since then, there’s been a real positive shift in sentiment towards the subject and the trend for pregnant celebrities to post pictures on Instagram of their exercise routines has really helped. We’re really proud of all the progress we’ve made over the past four years and we look forward to seeing what’s in store for the rest of the year.”

Patrick Magee, British Business Bank Chief Commercial Officer, said:

“Reaching £45million of funding in the South East is a real achievement and is testament to the ambitious spirit of new business owners in the South-East such as Alexandra.

“We’re looking forward to seeing more new business owners take up funding to kickstart their own businesses.”

Kelly Tolhurst MP, Small Business Minister, said:

“The UK’s 5.7 million small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we’re dedicated to helping them thrive through our modern Industrial Strategy, ensuring we retain our status as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a small business.

“Reaching this important milestone reflects the success of UK Government-backed start-up loans in supporting entrepreneurs across the South East helping them form new businesses that grow local economies and are at the heart of our communities.”


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact:

Rosie Jones

0203 3128 8576

Notes to editors

About Start Up Loans

Start Up Loans, 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. British Business Bank plc 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:

Breakdown of loans by region

UK RegionLoans MadeAmount Lent (£)Average Loan Amount (£)
East Midlands3,53825,296,3547,150
East of England4,16931,420,6887,537
Isle of Man15,0005,000
North East3,61927,582,5197,622
North West7,66058,007,5137,573
Northern Ireland9897,119,4767,199
South East5,54345,929,0028,286
South West5,19839,737,3657,645
West Midlands5,31639,375,8447,407
Yorkshire and The Humber5,29443,326,7488,184
Grand Total62,643486,023,5937,759

Key statistics

* Since 2012, The Start Up Loans scheme has delivered nearly 61,000 loans, providing more than £468m of funding, helping to back 28 businesses a day, and contributing to the creation of more than 60,000 jobs. NB. that is jobs created or supported by a Start Up Loan including the individual recipient.

* In the financial year 2017/18, the scheme provided 8,539 loans with a total value exceeding £91.2m – helping to support around 27 businesses every day of the year

* 21% of loan recipients were formerly NEET (not in employment, education or training) and 37% were formerly unemployed or economically inactive.

* 17% of loan recipients were aged between 18 and 24

* The estimated net Gross Value Added (GVA) effects to 2017/2018 from the beneficiary survey cohort (of 327 individuals) is £3.1m, increasing to £4.6m if the benefits persist for a further two-years to 2019/20

* Loan recipients report estimated average turnover of £44,000 in the first year.

* 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 of 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 Qa Research.