North West second only to London in start-up loans

Robin Valley's Wanchong Chen and Liang Zhang

The British Business Bank has delivered almost £122 million to the North West through its Start Up Loans programme to 13,020 across the North West at an average of £9,341.

The Start Up Loans programme was designed to provide under-represented groups who are excluded from mainstream finance by helping them start a business.

Of the £1bn loans, nearly 40% have been lent to female business owners, with a total value of £371m, and 20% have been lent to people from Black, Asian and Other Ethnic Minority backgrounds (not including White Minorities), with a value of £201m.

Just 4% of the UK’s small businesses in 2021 were majority-led by people from an ethnic minority group and only 20% of new businesses had female founders according to The Rose Review. The fund has also sought to support young people aged between 18-24.

Though the figures released this week show that 70% of lending to be outside London & the South East, the capital is still the highest recipient with 21,614 loans worth over £201m.

The top three regions receiving Start Up Loans outside of London and the South East are the North West (£121.6m), Yorkshire and the Humber (almost £90m) and the South West (almost £85m).

The North West local authority areas with the largest number of loans made were Manchester with £11, 683, 631 across 1,195 separate deals, and Liverpool with £9, 031, 285 to 1,091 different businesses.

One recent recipient of the Start Up Loans scheme is Liverpool-based Robin Valley, who took out their loan of £15,000 in June 2023.

Robin Valley, co-founded by husband and wife entrepreneurs Wanchong Chen and Liang Zhang, is a wooden jewellery brand. 

The business serves as a wholesale supplier to prominent organisations and gift shops including the London and Marwell Zoos, Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden and the Fitzwilliam Museum. They took out a loan to purchase machinery and pay for staff wages which allowed them to expand production in difficult times.  

Wanchong Chen, co-founder of Robin Valley, said: “Our journey has taken us from a modest Etsy shop to a thriving online business and respected wholesaler. The StartUp Loan we secured in June 2023, was crucial to overcoming challenges associated with running a business during a pandemic and ultimately, enabled us to expand our production capabilities, which has made a big difference to where we are today.” 

Dr Sophie Dale-Black, UK Network Director for the North of England, British Business Bank said: “Robin Valley’s vision and unique product offering will ensure that the business continues to prosper with the right support. The Start Up Loan came at the right time for this business, propelling it into national growth, and we’re pleased to have supported this crucial stage of its development. The British Business Bank is committed to investing in local businesses that support their local economies and help power future economic growth across the region.”

Small Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “Across the UK, thousands of small businesses have now been supported by over a billion pounds in Start Up Loans.

“This crucial support is enabling enterprising companies like Robin Valley start and scale up their ventures and I urge even more to follow in their footsteps.”