Last week, I read with interest some new research from the Institute of Directors' start-up network (the IoD99) which revealed that UK entrepreneurs are feeling confident about growing and developing their businesses in 2018, despite challenges posed by Brexit and new regulatory requirements.
While uncertainty around our trading status with the EU topped the list of perceived challenges to growth, access to finance was identified as the second biggest hindrance. This isn't that surprising – we know that access to finance is a challenge faced by many businesses, which is what led us to start OakNorth in the first place. However, what did catch my eye was the fact that when provided with a list of government-backed schemes designed specifically to help SMEs get more access to finance – the Enterprise Investment Scheme, Start-Up Loans and the
British Business Bank's 'Help to Grow' loan programme – none of them were recognised by more than half of those surveyed. In fact, knowledge of the British Business Bank stood at just 17%, which is painfully low when I think about the important work they're doing to support UK businesses.
The British Business Bank's Help to Grow programme launched in May 2016 with the aim of plugging the £1bn gap in scale-up lending by providing debt finance of up to £2m to fast-growth businesses. The finance is available to businesses across all sectors, but is particularly focused on those that have strong growth ambitions or invest heavily in research and development – such as manufacturing, creative industries and the technology sector.
We joined the programme in January, recognising that it was a perfect fit for us given that we focus on lending to fast-growth businesses and provide debt finance of £500,000-£25m. We joined the scheme in January this year and closed the first deal under it two months later – a £600,000 loan to Notes, the London coffee chain and wine bar concept.
Launched in 2010, the business has managed to set itself apart from other coffee chains in the capital through its unique dual concept of being a café by day and wine bar by night. At the time, the business had six sites: Trafalgar Square, Moorgate, Kings Cross, Canary Wharf underground station, Canary Wharf Crossrail station and the Gherkin. It used the loan from us to open two new locations: one in Angel Court and one in Nova – the new commercial development in Victoria – and has since opened an additional site in Bond Street Station.
It also has its own roastery, which supplies over one tonne of coffee per month to independent coffee shops around the UK and Europe.
It is a brilliant example of a fast-growing and ambitious business that is coming up with new and innovative ways to stand-out in an increasingly competitive sector.
However, it is also a business that had it not been for the programme, may not have been able to secure the debt finance it needs to grow. This is why it is essential that more is done to raise awareness of these government-backed programmes and help scale-ups realise their growth potential.
SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER TO RECEIVE MORE NEWS LIKE THIS STORY
FP Show partners with Mortgage Sleep Out
The Finance Professional Show (FP Show) is lending its support to Mortgage Sleep Out, with the event hosting a number of initiatives to raise awareness and sponsorship for the charity fundraiser...
Gatehouse Bank strengthens specialist finance team
Gatehouse Bank has hired Zeenat Shaffi (pictured above) as a business development manager for its growing specialist finance team...
Close Brothers director to retire
Close Brothers Group PLC has announced that Elizabeth Lee, group head of legal and regulatory affairs, will retire from her executive director position at the end of the 2019 financial year...
Kent Reliance appoints two new senior BDMs
Kent Reliance – part of the OneSavings Bank Group – has appointed two new senior BDMs as it expands its nationwide offering...
Coutts partners with Mortgage Brain to offer products to intermediaries
Private bank Coutts has partnered with Mortgage Brain to make its products available – via the latter’s platforms – to UK intermediaries...
Charter Savings Bank launches two new accounts
Charter Savings Bank has introduced two new accounts: a 95-day notice account and a three-year fixed rate cash Isa...
FP Show reveals its largest and most diverse conference programme
The Finance Professional Show has confirmed its largest conference programme to date, hosting a selection of varied sessions throughout the event next month...
47% of SMEs prepared to move away from traditional banks
Almost half of SMEs in the UK (47%) would move to a challenger/digital bank or non-banking brand if they decided to switch, according to the latest research by Unisys Corporation...
Monese launches business account
Monese has launched a business account in the UK which will be bundled with its personal banking account...
Metro Bank provides £14m facility to support London office acquisition
Metro Bank has provided Kingsway Properties London with a £14m investment facility to support the acquisition of a five-storey office building in central London...
Tandem introduces new credit card blocking feature
Tandem has created a new card-blocking feature for its banking app which allows customers to react instantly to a misplaced card...