It can take a great deal of time and courage to make the leap into starting your own business. Questions such as “Can I really earn a living doing what I love?” “Is the competition too tough” or even simply “Will this work?” are all common among budding entrepreneurs, so how do you know when it’s the right time to say ‘Yes’?
The timing of that crucial decision point, and the journey to get there, is different for everyone. It can be a moment when they decide to apply for funding, to create a website, or draft up a business plan. For budding entrepreneurs looking to take their first step into the world of business ownership, however big or small, that vital ‘Yes’ moment can be life-changing.
Here, business owners from across the UK who took out a government-backed Start Up Loan share what that ‘Yes’ moment looked like for them, how they got to that point, and how it felt. Their inspiring stories show the reality of starting a business is always daunting, and give their tips on how to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Eleanor Howie secured finance of £6,500 through Start Up Loans delivery partner Virgin StartUp in Spring 2020. Her business provides empowering lingerie for women who have been impacted by breast cancer or risk-reducing mastectomies.
Her mother had breast cancer when Eleanor was very small and following surgery struggled to find lingerie that wasn’t frumpy, beige, and clinical. Eleanor had a risk-reducing mastectomy when she was just 24 years old and found that nothing had improved over time in terms of the availability of contemporary post-surgery underwear. This had a real impact on her self-esteem, so a few years later she decided to do something herself.
Eleanor is very conscious of the fashion industry being problematic in contributing to the climate crisis and does not want to be a part of the problem. Valiant Lingerie’s collection is made using yarn from recycled fishing nets. The fabric is soft and functional, but also sustainable and recyclable. All products in the line are produced by a small UK-based partner, cutting down on their carbon footprint.
Eleanor Howie, Founder of Valiant Lingerie, said:
“I think looking back, the advice I’d give to myself is to believe in myself. I’m the kind of person that likes to be really prepared so, I went through all the stages that I would recommend anyone does: I did my research, I looked at my competitors and I really thought about what made my product special.”
“But I think it’s really easy to become paralysed by that and to want to hold back getting started until everything is perfect. The reality is it’s never going to be perfect. It’s never going to be the perfect time. Believe in yourself and get going.”
Rahma Ahmed Ali and Nura Nur secured a Start Up Loan of £10,000 in July 2021 through Sharia Enterprise to start their alternative dairy brand Tribal Milk. Tribal Milk drinks use camel milk, which is a staple product in Africa and has many health benefits including less lactose, higher protein and less saturated fat compared to cow’s milk. Rahma and Nura plan to launch their products in early 2022 and to continue to develop innovative products with a dairy twist.
Rahma Ahmed Ali, Co-Founder of Tribal Milk, said:
“Deciding to say ‘Yes’ to starting my own business was a very daunting and nerve-wrecking decision. However, looking back at it now, it was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made, and it makes me very hopeful for the future knowing that this brand that we have worked hard to build is growing and will hopefully continue to grow.
“For individuals deciding whether to say ‘Yes’ to starting a business, we recommend looking at the absolute minimum you need to get started, whether that be finding a mentor or applying for funding, and just doing it. You need to get going and build to succeed.”
21st Century Repairs
Lamar Griffith and Reece Walker, both 22, set up 21st Century Repairs, a van-based phone repair service based in Nottingham in January 2019. They wanted to make a business that did something unique and so, with Reece’s background in phone repair, and Lamar’s skills in marketing and content creation, they decided to bring convenience to the mobile services market. They used their loan to purchase their van and van branding.
Lamar Griffith and Reece Walker, Co-Founders of 21st Century Repairs, said:
“We said ‘Yes’ to starting our own business because we didn’t like the idea of working for someone else. We wanted to work to better ourselves and make our own luck our own way. Once we made that decision, we were excited and ready to go, but knew there would be a long road ahead.”
“Our advice to any new business owner would be to avoid overdoing things at the beginning. Pace yourself: make a list, complete everything on it, and then take a break. It’s best to take things step by step.”
Since the Start Up Loans programme began in 2012, the programme has delivered more than 90,552 loans of up to £25,000 to business owners across the UK who said “yes”, amounting to more than £819 million. Of those who have since received a loan, 40% were women; more than 20% were people from Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority communities (excluding White minorities); and over 30% were previously unemployed.