From chauffeurs to candle makers, the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t diminished entrepreneurial spirit in Wales with the new way of living having inspired record numbers to start their own lifestyle business in 2020.
Figures released by the Development Bank of Wales today, 5 March 2021, show that micro loans of up to £50,000 totalling nearly £1.8 million were awarded to business start-ups in 2020 compared to £1.1 million in 2019. Representing an increase of 60%, the average deal value was £23,000 across 77 investments seeing many entrepreneurs taking the opportunity to pursue long held dreams, take control or lead a different lifestyle.
With a significant uptake of businesses looking for start-up funding, the statistics from the Development Bank are consistent with broader reports across the UK. Figures released by the Centre for Entrepreneurs and Companies House have revealed an upsurge in the registration of new businesses of all sizes since 2014 with business formations having reached a new record of 772,002 in 2020, growing 13.25% since 2019.
Melanie Smith is one female entrepreneur that has turned her hobby of candle making into a business during Covid-19. Based in Blackwood, Melanie used a £6,000 micro loan from the Development Bank to start Boho Flame Candles Co which specialises in luxury crystal-infused and scented candles.
Owner and founder Melanie Smith said: “I’d been a stay-at-home mum for many years, more than anticipated after having a child with additional needs, and wanted to start back to work. However, returning to the jobs market was proving difficult after having so many years away, even though I had lots of skills and experience. I’d always wanted to be my own boss and paving my own way and so decided to turn a hobby that I loved into a business.
“The loan from the Development Bank made that dream a reality by helping me fit out my store and buy in essential stock. The process of applying was a dream too – a simple online form. I’d recommend anyone looking to make that jump of setting up their own business to talk to the Development Bank.”
Newport based Carl Harris started his own prestige private chauffeur business during the pandemic. Faced with redundancy, he used the opportunity to turn his experience and passion into his own business. Support from Business Wales, the Development Bank and Newport City Council meant that he was able to source finance and successfully set up Luxstar Limited in November 2020.
Carl Harris said: “From the age of 12, I have always worked for a living and Covid wasn’t going to change that! Having been made redundant in September 2020, I decided to take the opportunity to turn my passion for driving and customer service in to a business venture.
“The ethos behind Luxstar is that every journey is a memorable and a safe experience, delivered in a relaxed and professional manner. The help and support from Business Wales, Newport City Council and the Development Bank has made the biggest difference; from the initial business plan through to securing the correct operating licenses and setting up a new website. Starting a new business can be challenging but it is incredible how much support is out there. In fact, the backing from the Development Bank really has changed my life forever.”
In Anglesey, Royal Navy veteran Sion Riley is living his dream having launched Holyhead Shellfish in July 2020. With a start-up micro loan from the Development Bank and the support of Môn CF and Business Wales, the 30-year-old took charge of fishing boat the Pan Arctic.
Sion says that demand for local Welsh seafood has not abated, despite the pandemic: “Working on the sea, fishing, and in my local community has always been a dream of mine. Nothing, not even a pandemic would stop me. No challenge is big enough to stop my dreams. My ambition has been rewarded by huge demand from local restaurants and wholesalers. It’s been a phenomenal experience so far.”
Nicola Edwards, Micro Loan Fund Manager for the Development Bank of Wales said: “It has been an incredibly challenging 12 months but Covid hasn’t dampened the spirits of our entrepreneurs here in Wales. In fact, with ova 60% increase in the amount of micro loan funds having been awarded to start-ups, we’ve seen a surge of enquiries from new businesses with the food and beverage, online retail and construction sectors performing particularly well as people pursue their dreams and look to capitalise on a change in lifestyle.
“At the Development Bank, we are able to arrange start-up loans from as little as £1,000 which can be a huge help to someone looking to set-up a business for the first time. A micro loan really can go a long way but it is the combined efforts of our team, working alongside local authorities and partners like Business Wales that really make the biggest difference as together we can help to turn a business dream into reality.”
Professor Max Munday, Welsh Economy Research Unit, Cardiff Business School said: “While we have tended to focus on the economic threats resulting from Covid-19 it is really important to consider how the poor trading conditions have led to cases of new innovation among Welsh entrepreneurs. Having support directed on innovative new starts is critical and will be one of the mechanisms that will determine how strongly Wales comes out of the pandemic.”