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Government's scheme reveals ambassadors to inspire young entrepreneurs


Linda Sharkey
Thursday 19 July 2012 18:59 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


It is no secret that Britain faces unemployment and that a deeper double-dip recession might be on its way.

It is also no secret that talented young people, who may have amazing business ideas, cannot access the finance they need to achieve their business dreams. Why? Because they are too young, inexperienced and have no money to invest yet.

Last May the Government announced a £80m loan scheme to remedy this problem and help young entrepreneurs to start up their own business. Aiming to tackle youth unemployment and trigger economic growth the Government teamed up with Dragon’s Den star James Caan, Lord Young of Graffham and a board of experienced and successful entrepreneurs to launch StartUp Loan. The scheme plans to kick-start 30,000 start-up companies by offering ‘affordable’ five-year loans of around £2,500 to young people between 18 and 24 to make their wonder business idea become a structured business plan supported not only by capital, but also by quality mentoring.

However, in order to make this initiative more attractive, StartUp Loan has just announced 12 ambassadors from across the UK as a motivational tool and provide case examples of young entrepreneurs that have started up their own businesses.

Some started as young as 14, some during their student life at University, and others right after graduation. With a wide range of backgrounds and businesses on dancing schools, jewellery, unlocking phones, online portals for students amongst others, these 12 ambassadors are the live example that hard work, perseverance, mentoring and of course a financial backing can lead to the ‘new wave’ of enterprise.

Duncan Cheatle, co-founder of StartUp Britain and director of this new scheme, says: “I have identified 12 Ambassadors who show exactly what is possible with a relatively small amount of start-up capital. Each of them started in their teens or early twenties and has gone on to build an exciting and growing business.

“Our Ambassadors will be key to inspiring not only those young people who have a business idea to consider applying for the scheme but also to other young entrepreneurs who have already made the leap to offer their time to mentor the next generation of success stories.”

Having such a strong back up from the Government might seem an initiative not to be missed. The scheme expects 10,000 applicants and plans to last three years, so looking at all its positives it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for youngsters and the country. David Cameron said: “I want this to be the year where people can think: yes, I can do it; that we can get as many viable businesses as possible off the ground.”

Ambassadors revealed

Carrie Green, 27 - Female Entrepreneur Association

Started her first online business unlocking mobile phones at the age of 20 during her second year of Law at the University of Birmingham. Within a few years the business went global and reached over 100,000 monthly visitors. She then founded Female Entrepreneur Association (FEA) as a network for like-minded women in the stat-up industry and has now over 13,000 women involved.

Her first business boomed thanks to Google Adwords, "so with a credit card and a daily spending of £30 on Adwords the business was officially up and running," she said.

"The development of social media really helped me to grow the business," she added.

James Eder, 28 - The Beans Group

Eder is the Founder and Director of The Beans Group who makes life better for young people with offering latest deals, discounts and advice to students; and, a graduate site focusing on life after university.

He said: "We wanted to create one place online where students could go and find out what’s hot, what’s not and what would help them save money too. At the same time brands would gain access to a large and engaged student audience."

They started in Birmingham by knocking doors with just a landing page saying ‘coming soon’ to gain access to brands to propose their plan and by the first year had 15,000 users. But the ambition spread and a year later they launched in 18 cities all over the UK.

They were first rejected by the bank and then received a low interest loan of £3,000 from The Prince’s Trust to start his new business.

James Boon, 23 - Elephant Branded

Deeply touched by his travelling experience to Africa and Asia, he decided to make a difference in education with a very simple idea: Elephant Branded. Making and selling handmade cooperatives bags out of recycled materials he could donate school supplies to vulnerable children. "Every sale would allow us to send a School Kit off and also invest in new stock."

Elephant Branded was initially set up with £600 and "a lot of good will from friends", and it started selling bags in seven UK universities while Boon was doing his Masters Degree in Architecture at the University of Bath. The idea had its breakthrough when winning Google International Competition of “Google Young Minds”. Following this they were asked to supply Google’s delegate bags for their world conferences, what let Boon expand Elephant Branded being able to set up new ventures in Uganda and Kenya.

Richard Hurtley, 27 - Rampant Sporting

After graduating from university Hurtley decided to start his own business by selling rugby socks.

With some savings and the sale of his 21st present (a watch) he collated £2,000, bought 400 pairs of socks in different colours, set up a website from his parents garage in Exeter and launched Rampant Sporting. It suddenly became a large sport lifestyle brand and a multi-channel retailer to wholesale accounts. It now sells to leading retailers such as ASOS and House of Fraser, and has opened two stores in Exeter and Aldeburgh, Suffolk. What started as a business selling socks ended up as a retailer of an entire line of sport clothes and accessories.

Hurtley admits it took over two years to receive his first ever salary.

Maria Allen, 23 – Marie Allen Jewellery

Marie is a graphic designer turned jewellery designer. From the early age of 15 she was already an ambitious girl selling her own handmade cards in retail outlets. Realising that her handmade talents can also help her set up a business she decided to make jewellery during her first year at Brighton University.

She began wearing the designs herself and friends interested in her work started ordering them. Following the growth in orders she used her graphic design skills to create a wholesale catalogue. Different awards and involvement in enterprise schemes helped with the funding and understanding of how to start up a business. During her three years at university her business turned over more than £100,000. She has now created exclusive collections for the Tate galleries and has stockists both in the UK and worldwide, plus has been featured in top fashion magazines such as Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.

Her funding came from her parents (up to £1,000) and she won £1000 prize from the innovation awards at Brighton University.

Ruben Kostucki, 23 –

On graduation day Ruben and his co-founder Seb launched, a digital marketing agency helping clients with their online presence and since then they have been managing clients with turnover exceeding £6m and projects valued up to £25,000.

As the food lovers they are, they went into the food business and Flavrbox became the tool that facilitates the direct trade between independent food producers and consumers by slashing the classic distribution chain. Starting with no money in the bank account or any form of funding things were complicated until "a client approached asking if we knew people who could help that we seized the opportunity to do it ourselves. That’s how we managed to pay our first bills, incorporate the company and launch a website to help us with our portfolio," says Ruben.

After long working hours and effort their business became stronger and bigger, but Kostucki affirms that it was not easy. He said: "Running a business isn’t straightforward and working in a team neither. But hell it’s worth it!"

Zoe Jackson, 23 – Living the Dream

With only 16 she decided to set up Living the Dream Performing Arts Company to subsidise her own performing arts training and education. Following that, she established The Dream Foundation to give young people free access to arts.

Living the Dream turned to be one of the few performing arts companies in the UK run by young people, for young people having a School of Performing Arts, Dance Company, Media Company, Foundation and a Dancewear Shop.

Its massive breakthrough was being selected by Virgin Media to produce the first interactive on-demand television Dance App on their revolutionary TiVo service which launched last month.

She counted with any other funding than few hundred pounds from family and friends to help the initial needs of Living the Dream. At University she produced a showcase every year, and luckily each show was funded by the local council, what enabled her to employ dancers, actors, technicians and a whole team to prepare the show.

"My determination to make the performing arts affordable and accessible meant that there was little profit to be made and for the first year, I struggled, but I was successful in setting up the School without any extra financial support."

Jodie Cole, 23 – JC Social Media

After graduating of business from the University of Sheffield, work experiences and six coaching sessions, Jodie started JC Social media, a creative and strategic social media company offering clients help with their social media presence.

She didn’t have any funding, so she decided to work as a waitress during her business coaching to save some money. She was able to invest £800 in her very first own business, spending it on the website and on a social media course.

Her first hand of advice is to "network, network, network!. I still take every opportunity I can to meet potential clients and collaborators."

Adam Hildreth, 27 – Crisp Thinking

You might think that a 14 year old could never start up a company. But that wasn’t the case with Adam, who at such a young age started his very first company together with seven friends called Dubit Limited, the first virtual world for kids and teens. It later became the most visited teen website in the UK, he dropped school and focused his life on the online experience and security.

He then founded Crisp Thinking, a global leader in Community Management Software, offering a platform to anyone that has an online community to manage their users.

Today he is a leading figure in the future of online security and social media analytics, has won different awards such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Young Entrepreneur of the Year accolade at the Growing Business Awards and British Telecom Business Essence Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Adam is a part of UK Council for Child Internet Safety and is a member of the Internet Watch Foundation.

Georgina Cooper, 27 -

Georgina finished her Fashion Design degree in Bournemouth University, but found herself jobless and doing work placements that didn’t fulfill her, so she started, an online fashion marketplace that turns trawling the Portobello market into a real business by selling clothes and accessories direct from Portobello Market, Spitalfields, Camden and Brick Lane. But at the same time gives the opportunity to haggle with the online market traders.

She collated £3,000 between her and her two sisters, created a website, did extensive research on the retail business and launched the company from their small 2 bed flat. She then won £1,000 for the Daily Mail Enterprising Young Brit award and kept funding her fashion business. Pret a Portobello is now a great online portal offering great garments from famously London fashion markets and counts with customers that come for more.

Emily Bendell, 31, Bluebella

Emily started Bluebella, a quality and affordable lingerie brand, with 24 years old after working in a lingerie shop and realising how successful the business was.

She had a small budget but believed that offering quality and affordable lingerie could be the new take. She quit her job as a journalist, went back to her parents, spent few hundreds and began the journey of Blubella by printing flyers, making a catalogue and going into shops to promote her brand new company.

She was extremely successful by turning into a fast growing business that grew by 120% in 2010 and 140% in 2011 after launching it in 2005. Her business attracted a top class management team and it now boats a multi-million pound turnover while counting with a bunch of investors.

Romy Lewis, 29 - LOLA's Kitchen

After finishing her BA Broadcast Journalism degree from Leeds University she realised she had a passion for the food industry. She found a business partner and at the age of 23 decided to start a bakery boutique focused on cupcakes that have a 'homely' taste.

Starting from scratch, taking advantage of her business partner's skills, who had a computer science background, and approximately £2,500 each they launch Lola's Kitchen, making fresh and beautifully decorated cupcakes. After proven they had a strong business model, an initial investment of £50,000 by each side at the end of their first year. They didn't spend any money on advertising until the third year, but did employ a baker and a decorator. The fun began and led to a successful bakery business selling in Selfridges, Harrods, Topshop and even opening a flagship store in Mayfair. Their success got spotted, an attractive offer came on their way last year and sold the business to a private company. Now, Romy is in the search of new start up business idea.

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