Start Up Direct provide funding, mentoring and support for people who want to start their own business. This service is available for anyone who has a business idea to those that have been trading up to twelve months. Start Up Direct is part of the Start Up Loans scheme, and has been in operation since the summer of 2012. Since then they have lent over £2,000,000 to over 300 startups in the UK.
Start Up Loans is a government scheme started in 2012 and Start Up Direct is an official partner of to this scheme, the two organisations have been working together since a very early stage. Now Start Up Direct is working on developing the successful startups it has worked with to grow their businesses further, with the aid of crowdfunding, angel investment and educating them around venture funding.
They have found that in a short space of time, startups, especially in the tech industry can raise funding very quickly. For example several of the startups they work with have gone on to raise over £100,000 and one has recently raised over €3,000,000.
The team at startup direct is relatively small, they are currently a team of four, soon to be a team of five, growing their business advice team.
James’s inspiration for Start Up Direct came from his time in investment banking, over ten years he quit his job three different times to start his own business. Unfortunately his attempts did not succeed, however from those failures he learnt a lot of valuable lessons. Over the past few years James has been working as a freelancer at startups, helping them raise funding, build their business plans, and kickstarting their business. When this opportunity with Start Up Direct came along it felt like the “perfect opportunity”, to fulfill his passion of helping startups.
The biggest challenge James believes he has faced was to get the word out on Start Up Direct and the fantastic program of Start Up Loans. Making sure everyone in startups across the United kingdom is aware of this program and the support available to them. This is a challenge that they still face day to day as they are always looking to raise their profile.
The greatest success of Start Up Direct is that they have managed to help 300 individuals, start their own company in a short space of time. Further to this, seeing one of their businesses look to hire 25 members of staff as part of a growth phase, also feels like a great achievement. This shows that their startups are not only helping the economy, but also generating employment are fantastic achievements.
Start up direct help the business and individuals they work with by developing their business plan, even if the person comes to them only with an idea. Once the plan is developed, with sound cash flow, then they introduce the company to a business mentor. This is all before the startups applies for funding. This is because Start Up Direct want to make sure the enterprises it works with have the best opportunities to succeed. Start Up Direct provide ongoing support to make sure those startups grow into successful businesses.
In the coming year James is aiming for Start Up Direct to support over 500 startups. They also want to create more of a community with all the startups they have worked with, so the entrepreneurs who are getting funding and support are meeting eachother, and finding value in that. This can be entrepreneurs becoming each others clients, or just exchanging business advice and experience. Currently Start Up Direct run quarterly networking nights, and group mentoring sessions, as well as drop in table tennis sessions to get time to speak to the business mentors face to face.
A common problem James finds that young startup and entrepreneurs face, is not knowing where to go, in terms of receiving funding, and finding business mentors. Start Up Direct can provide them with funding and mentoring, which is a massive boost to those companies. On a smaller scale, many startups struggle with cash flow, and with managing their finances, once it is in the bank to keep the business running. James and his team make sure that these startups receive the training on how to manage cash flow, both pre and post loan with dedicated mentors and financial advisors.