Lancashire toy firm hailed an Ambassador by business support programme

Hellion pocket explorer compass

A Lancashire toy company has been selected as a UK start-up champion by Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank.

Clitheroe-based Hellion Toys makes and sells hand crafted wooden toys for children. It is one of 12 small businesses hailed by the programme which celebrates its 10-year anniversary, having delivered more than 12,000 loans worth more than £108m to new business owners in the North West since 2012.

Selina Ellis-Gray, founder of Hellion Toys, took out her loan in 2018 to set up her workshop on the outskirts of the Forest of Bowland.

Selina Ellis-Gray

She used the loan to set up a workshop with a self-build CNC kit, and since launching she has been able to move into a bigger workshop and purchased two additional pieces of equipment after taking out a second loan in 2021.

In addition to producing toys, she undertakes illustrations, design commissions and now partners with companies to create interactive signage for wildlife parks and looks to expand into interiors.

Selina said: “After spending years in academia as a digital designer, I decided to use the knowledge I had gained to set up a designer-maker space. The origins of Hellion Toys lies in the research I undertook during my PhD and weaving together a passion for playful, educational, and sustainably focused design.”

She added: “Hellion designs are rooted in a reimagining of the places I wander with my little boy, local history, folklore and legendary fables.”

The annual Start Up Loans Ambassadors programme, now in its seventh year, celebrates exceptional business owners, like Selina, who have followed their ambition of becoming their own boss after receiving support from the Government-backed Start Up Loans programme.

Start Up Loans was established as a £10m pilot scheme by Lord Young in 2012, in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis. His vision was to enable more young people to achieve their dream of setting up their own business, by offering affordable loans and expert support to those who might otherwise struggle to access funding.

Since then, the programme has delivered more than 97,000 loans to business owners across the UK, amounting to more than £900m of funding, while expanding to support entrepreneurs of all ages – 40% of loan recipients have been women and 21% people from minority ethnic backgrounds, while 40% of recipients have been aged 18-30, reflecting the scheme’s continued support for the next generation of UK business owners.

Sophie Dale-Black, UK network director, North of England and the Midlands, said: “Given the current challenges facing business owners across the North West, it’s never been more important to celebrate those using creativity, tenacity and grit to make a success of their enterprises. It’s my pleasure to welcome Selina and congratulate her on her role as ambassador.”

Through a network of delivery partner organisations, the Start Up Loans programme provides access to pre-and-post-loan support to help applicants develop a business plan, fixed interest first and second loans of up to £25,000 to start or grow their business, as well as mentoring support to help loan recipients with everything from cash flow to marketing.

In 2022, the programme was expanded to make first loans available to businesses that have been trading for up to three years, and second loans to businesses up to five years. The programme previously provided finance to start-ups which had been trading for up to two years.

The North West has received the most support from the programme since its inception, other than the London region, with a grand total of 12,022 loans, worth £108.476m.