Limited access to business funds shouldn’t hinder entrepreneurs

According to the Office for National Statistics, productivity in the UK is rising with second quarter growth the highest it’s been for four years.

Output per hour between April and June rose 0.9 per cent, and although the country’s manufacturing sector is still struggling, there is a rising number of business start-ups.

The general rise in productivity is good news for UK Plc of course, but another story about the British economy caught my eye too. It was also reported recently that Britain has slipped down a place in the Global Competitiveness Index, a yearly league that assesses the competitive landscape of 140 economies, providing insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity.

It is now in tenth place, behind Sweden. Switzerland occupies top spot with, not surprisingly, Singapore, the USA, Germany and the Netherlands featuring in the top five.

Think tank the World Economic Forum conducts the annual research and it says other countries are apparently improving faster than us. The reasons being suggested for Britain’s slip are said to be twofold; firstly, uncertainty about the macro-economic situation ie the fragility of public finances and secondly, executives saying they have difficulty accessing loans and funding from the financiers.

The report does say that Britain’s institutions – its legal and political infrastructure – are strong and that it leads the way in research, ideas and digital-savvy entrepreneurs, which raises the question, why aren’t we nearer the top of the league rather than dropping into a double digit position? We have so many sharp minds starting their own businesses and they are not all relying on the banks to fund them.

According to a recent poll of 241 entrepreneurs, a quarter said they spent less than £1,000 in the first year after launching their business. Another quarter spent up to £5,000 and only one in 15 invested over £100,000.

Just one in 10 relied on a bank loan with three-quarters using savings and 30% asking friends and family for financial help when starting out. And according to information service Experian, a third of first-time business owners setting up last year did so with a household income of under £25k.

Good luck to those brave souls. Not all their businesses will survive but at least they will have tried, many without the help of our banks.

It’s similar to the situation I found myself in 14 years ago when I took the plunge and set up the first company in our group, de Poel. I was in my late twenties, I gave up my social life and engrossed myself in working seven days a week, determined that my ideas for new ways for companies to manage their temporary labour would eventually pay off. I sold my house and owed thousands on credit cards. Since then, I have been fortunate to have been able to set up another 13 companies that work together to form a complimentary offering.

Fourteen years – and 14 companies – later and I am lucky enough to have the freedom to travel and the flexibility to pursue my charitable interests, alongside growing the businesses.

So in my experience, with a sound business idea, a lot of hard work, a bit of luck and a sturdy credit card, it is possible to grow a business from scratch without having to beg the bankers for help.

Matthew Sanders, CEO of Brookfield Rose