Three successful founders helped by Virgin StartUp have been selected to be this year’s ambassadors of the national Start Up Loans scheme.
James Dawson, Craig Rose and Rosie Letts all launched their businesses with the help of a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp and are now among ten founders selected to champion the programme during 2019/20.
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.
This year’s ambassadors reflect the wide range of businesses that make up the UK’s thriving SME sector.
James, 35, from Yorkshire, 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.
Marine biologist Craig, 40, from the North East, has always been fascinated by the sea and wanted to share his passion by creating a business that was environmentally, commercially and socially sustainable. His new business 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.
Rosie Letts, 31, from the South West, developed an interest in nutrition while 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, Rosie Letts Nutrition, 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.
All of the ambassadors were honoured at a dedicated reception at the Houses of Parliament. The Westminster launch kick-starts 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.
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.
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.”