The changes to our lifestyles and habits brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have thrown up unexpected opportunities for the most innovative and open-minded of Britain’s entrepreneurs.
From the vegan meal delivery service adding frozen veg boxes to its menus, to the office snack subscription service offering home delivery, savvy small business owners are doing everything they can to thrive during the crisis. Even businesses that have always relied on face-to-face meetings, including gyms, spas and pubs, have found ways to adapt.
And it’s not just existing businesses owners; the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme has also seen a significant rise in loans issued since the start of the pandemic, showing that, despite significant economic challenges and disrupted business plans, UK start ups continue to launch.
In fact, the programme’s government-backed low interest loans of up to £25,000 are being drawn down at a faster rate than ever before. From May to July this year, Start Up Loans issued £31.9 million in funding, compared to £22.9 million in the same period the previous year, an increase of more than 39%. As lockdown restrictions changed, July 2020 even saw the record month for drawdowns since 2014.
Among the entrepreneurs who launched a business during the pandemic is Greg Gardner, from Chichester, founder of FITSQD, a free app that allows people to upload and share their workouts in an effort to motivate and inspire others.
Initially gearing the app toward use in gyms, Greg transformed his business plan when he spotted the move to home workouts at the beginning of lockdown. The business saw impressive growth as a result and is now prepared for whatever restrictions Covid-19 brings.
Greg Gardner, founder of FITSQD, said: “With a business plan originally based on physical exercise in communal spaces, I never imagined that we could have so much success during a pandemic that forced everyone inside their own homes. I’ve learnt the importance of thinking on my feet, rather than sticking doggedly to your original idea.”
Another Start Up Loans recipient who quickly adapted to her customers’ new lifestyles is Emma Andralojc, from Harrogate, founder of The Nail and Beauty Nerd. Emma launched her salon just six months before lockdown began and had to re-think her business plan for an industry entirely based around proximity to others.
Realising her customers would be looking around for the same treatments online, Emma quickly ensured she was their first port of call by uploading step-by-step tutorials on how to do her treatments from home and creating ‘facials in a box’ to keep sales afloat.
Emma Andralojc, founder of The Nail and Beauty Nerd, said: “It’s incredible to think that I managed to keep my salon not just afloat, but with such a strong, loyal customer base that stuck around through six months of lockdown. It’s taught me that you’re always doing better than you think, and that if you’re passionate about a concept then you will do whatever it takes to see it through.”
Even well-established businesses have had to use their imagination, and none more so than Jon Sibley, from Newcastle, founder of Town Mouse Ale House, a micro pub that sources its stock from local breweries. Determined to maintain the community spirit he’d worked for years to establish, Jon chose to deliver cold pints straight to his customers’ doors.
Jon Sibley, founder of Town Mouse Ale House, said: “Shutting the doors due to Covid-19 was scary because we didn’t know when, or if, we’d open again. It was our responsibility to do the right thing and keep both our customers and our staff safe so home deliveries felt like the natural fit.”
Richard Bearman, the Managing Director of Start Up Loans, said: “I am in awe at the determination and creativity of small business owners across the UK, who have not only survived Covid-19 thus far, but have actively capitalised on the new trends it has created by always staying one step ahead of the curb. Now more than ever, the role of these start ups in supporting the British economy cannot be underestimated, and we will continue to support entrepreneurs to achieve their ambitions, whatever their background.”
In addition to its pre-loan support and mentoring package, Start Up Loans has published a series of guides on important areas of business including social media, marketing and SEO. The guides are designed to ensure business owners, existing and new, have all the resources they need to build and grow a successful business.