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Start Up Loans selects new ambassadors to champion UK small business

  • Founders of 10 small businesses recognised as examples of standout start up success
  • Start Up Loans has delivered over 67,000 loans since 2012, providing £534m of funding

A former soldier who used his service experience to set up a telecoms company for the construction industry and the founder of a sportswear brand designed specifically for pregnant women are among 10 small business founders who have been selected to champion UK start-ups by Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank.

Now in its fourth year, the annual Start Up Loans Ambassadors programme celebrates exceptional business owners who have realised their ambition of becoming their own boss after receiving support from the Government-backed Start Up Loans programme.

Hailing from across the UK, this year’s Ambassadors reflect the wide range of businesses that make up the UK’s thriving SME sector, from a marine biologist in Newcastle who turned his fascination with the sea into a business manufacturing products made from seaweed, to the educational football club in Manchester founded by a fan of the sport when he was aged just 21.

The Start Up Loans Ambassadors will be honoured at a dedicated reception today (Tuesday, October 22), at the Houses of Parliament in London. Guests will include Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chair of the British Business Bank, Kelly Tolhurst MP, Minister for Small Business and Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

The Westminster launch will kick-start a year-long programme which will see the Ambassadors take part in a series of local and national activities, where they will offer advice to other aspiring business owners about becoming their own boss.

Through a network of Delivery Partner organisations, the Start Up Loans programme provides pre-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.

Since 2012, the programme has delivered more than 67,000 loans to business owners across the UK amounting to more than £534 million. Of those who received a loan, four in 10 (40%) were women; more than one in five (22%) were people from black and minority ethnic communities; and more than a third (35%) were previously unemployed, reflecting the diversity of the UK start up community.

Richard Bearman, Managing Director, Start Up Loans, said: “All of our Ambassadors’ stories demonstrate the passion and grit it takes to set up a successful business. We’re incredibly proud of everything they have achieved and wish them even greater success in the future.

“Starting a business isn’t easy and many people give up at the first hurdle; however, these Ambassadors show if you have a good idea and access to the right support, funding and advice, anything is possible.”

Start Up Loans ambassadors 2019/20


  1. Niall Greenan – The Smart Bunker

Northern Ireland

Niall, 45, came up with the idea for his business after watching his arthritic mother struggle to fill a coal bucket from her coal storage bunker. The Smart Bunker is an easy-to-use dispensing system which releases coal, wood pellets, grit salt and animal feed with a simple pull of a lever.

  1. Victoria Nicol – My Language Connection

Victoria, 28, loved using her sales and marketing skills to help clients at the translation agency where she worked for several years. Her experience helped her identify a gap in the market for a more specialised form of translation to help businesses navigate more technical vocabulary. She decided to make the leap and set up her own business specialising in this area. In 2017, she took out a £10,000 Start Up Loan to grow the business by paying for new software that saved her time to invest in more business development and helped her win new client contracts.

  1. James Dawson – T Plus Drinks

Yorkshire & The Humber

James, 35, quit his job in the Middle East only a few weeks after getting a promotion, to follow his dream of becoming his own boss. He returned to the UK and started looking for gaps in the market. Having kept a close eye on consumer trends throughout his career, he identified a space for a challenger product in the traditional tea market and decided to launch his own brand. The result was T Plus Drinks, a range of vitamin-infused healthy teas.

  1. Craig Rose – Seaweed and Co.

North East

Craig, 40, a marine biologist, had always been fascinated by the sea and wanted to share his passion by creating a business that was environmentally, commercially and socially sustainable. Seaweed and Co. supplies food and nutrition manufacturers with a range of seaweed products sourced exclusively from the Outer Hebrides, which are sold to global distributors that work with major multinational companies.

  1. Christopher Hughes – Little Legends

North West

Christopher, 25, had always wanted to make a living from teaching children football. At the age of just 21, Christopher used a £5,000 Start Up Loan to launch Little Legends, a football programme for children under four which incorporates learning with football training for classes in nurseries, pre-schools and weekend clubs.

  1. Amanjot Johal – 40 St Paul’s

West Midlands

Amanjot, 33, was inspired to create his own intimate and exclusive bar when he found that those in Birmingham didn’t quite provide what he and his friends were looking for. He spotted a gap in the market in Birmingham for a bar that specialised in gin and combined mixology knowledge with table service and a relaxed atmosphere. With a £25,000 Start Up Loan, he cleared out an existing building, soundproofed the ceiling and built a seating area to create what has recently been awarded 2019 Bar of the Year by Gin Magazine.

  1. Jacqueline Hall – DALE Coaching

East of England

Jacqueline, 50, decided to set up her own online mentoring company after being made redundant and then turned down from various job interviews. Using a £2,500 Start Up Loan she set up a business offering development and career coaching, which has now grown to include a consortium with other female entrepreneurs that hosts workshops and encourages women into STEM related careers.

  1. Alexandra McCabe – FittaMamma

South East

Alexandra, 34, launched FittaMamma in 2013 after struggling to find maternity fitness wear for her pregnant sister-in-law. The mum-to-be wanted to stay fit but was confused by contradictory advice about exercising while pregnant and felt self-conscious in conventional sportswear. Taking matters into her own hands, Alexandra decided to create her own e-commerce business to empower women to keep exercising through their pregnancies. She set up a one-stop-shop for information on health and well-being during pregnancy and designed a range of sportswear that would give pregnant women the confidence and reassurance to exercise while pregnant.

  1. PJ Farr – UK Connect

South East

PJ, 31, was serving in the Falkland Islands and couldn’t understand why he got clear mobile phone signal in remote environments with the Army but found it difficult to get a connection back home in Guildford. With the help of an £18,000 loan and business advice from the mentor he received through the Start Up Loans programme, he set up UK Connect, a communications provider for the construction industry specialising in rapid day one connectivity, which now has an annual turnover in the millions.

South West

Rosie Letts, 31, developed an interest in nutrition whilst researching ways to tackle her own health problems, which included IBS and fatigue. She used a £10,000 Start Up Loan to set up her own nutrition consultancy in Bristol specialising in weight management, digestive health, fertility and sports nutrition. The clinic develops nutrition and supplement plans tailored to people’s individual needs. Rosie also lectures on nutrition and is looking to expand her clinic to the US and Dubai.

For more information, please contact:

Isobel Knight

020 3128 8728

Notes to editors

About Start Up Loans

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 end September 2019.

* Since 2012, the Start Up Loans scheme has delivered more than 67,000 loans, providing more than £534m of funding.

* In the financial year 2018/19, the scheme provided 7,869 loans with a total value of approximately £83m – helping to support around 22 businesses every day of the year.

* Since 2012, 35% of loan recipients were formerly unemployed or economically inactive.

* Since 2012, 16% of loan recipients were aged between 18 and 24.

* the 2014 cohort (of 11,000 loans drawn down over November 2013-December 2014) will generate a net Gross Value Add (GVA) of £169m by 2019/20, and some of the 2016 cohort (the approximately 3,450 loans drawn down over January-June 2016) will generate a net GVA of £85m by 2021/22.

* 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 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 SQW Ltd, with support from BMG Research.