Inspiring start-ups from across the UK

Where your business launches can play a pivotal role in its future success. While traditionally many people have headed to London to get their business off the ground, the reality is start-ups are booming – and proving highly successful – across the UK and throughout the four nations.

Start-up growth across the UK

Figures from Companies House show that the total register of business incorporations increased in all parts of the UK, with new incorporations between March 2020 and March 2021 up 8.6% in England and Wales, up 5.6% in Scotland and up 7.4% in Northern Ireland.

Set against the backdrop of regions levelling up, the UK recorded 810,316 company incorporations, a 21.8% increase on the previous year.

We’ve taken a tour of the four nations to discover how start-up business owners have fared.


Case study: The Divine Hag

Backed with an £18,000 loan from Start Up Loans delivery partner DSL, Margaret Morrison-Macleod bought workshop space and equipment to launch her aromatherapy product business, The Divine Hag.

Her business idea was born from a personal desire to tackle her migraines which are sparked by artificial scents.

By experimenting with alternatives to commercial made scented products, Margaret conceived a range of aromatherapy products that use all-natural ingredients inspired by Scottish nature.

“I had these migraines, and scents triggered them,” says Margaret.

“I was working as a surveyor and going into people’s houses with different scents became untenable. I started working with essential oils as a bit of a hobby and became serious about it. Shops started stocking the products, people started buying them, and I even won a Cosmopolitan Award. That was an amazing boost to the business.”

The Covid-19 pandemic saw Margaret move her business online, launching an e-commerce store and selling monthly subscription packages that tap into the rise in interest in wellness and natural wellbeing.

She has also branched out to offer wellness and candle-making courses and has collaborated with a local barbershop in Glasgow to launch a men’s range of wellness products.


Case study: Goji Hair

Launched by Victoria Griffin, Goji Hair is an exclusive, organic hair salon in the heart of Cardiff.

Backed by a combined loan of just over £7,000 from Business in Focus, Victoria and her business partner Greg James invested in stock, fitting and branding.

Since their initial, early success in 2015, the business has rapidly grown and moved to premises over twice the size of the original salon.

While Covid-19 meant Victoria had to temporarily close the salon doors, she quickly launched an online store to sell natural, organic hair care products directly to the public.

With restrictions eased, the Cardiff salon now includes a men’s barbers, beauty services and a range of Goji candles and lotions.

“You’ve got to be ridiculously optimistic and resilient,” says Victoria.

“The number one thing is resilience. I’ve had businesses before where the end of the month is coming, you’ve got staff to pay and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, God, I hope we have a good day on Saturday in the shop’. That’s uncomfortable. Be resilient and be optimistic.”

Northern Ireland

Case study: By The Sea

Located on the Causeway Coast in Coleraine, By The Sea is a concept store launched by Tracy McAllister that brings interiors and lifestyle products to the local community.

Initially funded by a £6,000 loan from Enterprise Northern Ireland, Tracy tested the concept as a pop-up shop featuring products with a Nordic influence.

Since launch, turnover has grown to £120,000 and, thanks to a newly launched online store, the business has expanded.

By The Sea now offers a kids concept store, with toys and clothing, and Tracy has taken on additional staff to help meet demand.


Case study: The British Craft House

With crafting seeing a surge in interest during the pandemic, the 2019 launch of The British Craft House seems timely.

Founded by Susan Bonnar with a £12,000 loan from Virgin StartUp, the Etsy-like online store brings together the handcrafted works of over 450 crafters specialising in artisan gifts.

Susan launched the business after being frustrated at not being able to easily sell her handcrafted wares, and the venture is underpinned by a vibrant community of sellers who actively support and encourage each other.

“You need to really care about your business,” says Susan.

“There needs to be this emotional connection and wanting to solve a genuine need. You need to be immersed in the issue and helping other people who have the same problem, rather than simply selling a product.”

Learn with Start Up Loans and help get your business off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:

Plus free courses on climate and sustainability, teamwork, entrepreneurship, mental health and wellbeing.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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