THE BLOG

Bank Financing Isn't the Be All and End All for Your Start Up

26/03/2014 10:30 GMT | Updated 25/05/2014 10:59 BST

Britain is renowned for its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. More businesses start up here than anywhere else in Europe and encouraging enterprise has long been a top priority for the UK government.

So you can see why myself and my brother and sister, Andrew and Laura, were tempted to come over here and try for ourselves!

It really is no surprise that small businesses are high on the Government's agenda. SMEs account for more than 99% of UK businesses and 49% of private sector turnover, so their contribution to the economy can't be understated.

Given how vital they are to the UK economy, it is crucial that SMEs are able to access the support they need, not just to sustain their businesses, but to grow.

However, since the financial crisis, the world and his dog have been complaining about the difficulty of obtaining finance for start-ups. Banks have been digging in their heels, making it harder for SMEs to secure funding - much to the dismay of government.

It can be really tough out there for entrepreneurs - really frustrating in fact, when you know you have a good idea but you just can't get it off the ground without the right funding.

But there are alternatives for those willing to think outside the box about how to fund new ventures - there's plenty of money if you've got the right idea and know who to ask.

My siblings and I started the Taylor St Baristas coffee shops in 2006 when we saw a gap in the London market to offer really high quality coffee, of which there was very little at the time. The problem was we had no money - which meant opening a large, standalone high street shop was always going to be near impossible. Instead we funded our first "shop" - a pop-up concession at the back of a local delicatessen - with a credit card that I had tucked away for a rainy day.

So what are these alternative methods? I've used a few different ones since starting up Taylor St Baristas.

Government-backed loans

Once we were up and running, we eventually managed to get bank loans to expand and develop the business. These loans were guaranteed by various government-backed enterprise lending schemes. These are fantastic initiatives that help smaller, credit-worthy companies secure funding for working capital or investment finance. As someone whose business depended on such loans, I've seen first-hand how beneficial they can be to young, growing companies.

Crowd-sourcing

Using other funding initiatives such as crowd-sourcing, where a large pool of backers is used to obtain enough seed money, is a fantastic financing channel for companies with an engaged and loyal customer base. The rise of alternative funding shows that where governments and dinosaur-like institutions fail, the innate creativity of the market will prevail.

There is a lot of money out there for businesses with new and innovative ideas. Entrepreneurs can flourish in today's market - but they have to be prepared to think creatively about how to find the money to get started.

Partnership

A couple of years ago we developed Harris+Hoole as a way to bring our great-tasting coffee to a bigger high-street audience. I was introduced to Tesco through a friend, and when we spoke to them it was clear that - unlike the banks - they looked at the long term benefits that could be gained by helping to build a successful brand and business.

A lot has been made of our backing by Tesco, but they are a very intuitive partner for a venture like Harris+Hoole. Tesco has great expertise on the high street and the resources to help us achieve our goals.

We've since celebrated Harris+Hoole's first birthday and everyone is incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far. We currently have 30 shops and employ more than 550 people. We plan to continue our growth but none of this would have been possible without Tesco's support.

SME's are a vital part of the UK economy and great ideas don't have to be stifled by a lack of bank finance. The onus still rests with entrepreneurs to think creatively and tap into other available funding sources. If you are prepared to do this, the money is out there for innovative and determined entrepreneurs to start building the businesses on which the UK's economic health depends.