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South West emerges as hotspot for over 50 entrepreneurship

12 March 2024
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Simon from Lyme Bay Seafood - picture contributed
Simon from Lyme Bay Seafood - picture contributed

The South West has emerged as a hotspot for entrepreneurs over 50 in the UK, according to the British Business Bank and its Start Up Loans programme.

The bank says it has delivered loans worth more than £140 million to those over 50 wanting to start a business across the country since the scheme started in 2012.

READ MORE: British Business Bank launches £200 million fund to support South West's small businesses

Of that, more than £14.78 million has gone to that demographic in the South West.

By region, the South West has had the second highest number of loans by value outside London and the South East, while Devon, Somerset and Cornwall have emerged as the top three counties for over 50 entrepreneurship in the region.

And notably, in the South West, over £7 million (out of the £14.78 million above) has been delivered since the first Covid-19 lockdown - or 532 loans.

In this period, the average loan value per business was £13,246 - an increase of more than £3,000 compared to the four-year period before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Steve Conibear, the UK Network Director South West at the British Business Bank, said it was "interesting" to note the high proportion of the funding during and after the pandemic, which suggested that many people aged over 50 had "re-evaluated and took action to pursue their business ambitions".

One such entrepreneur from the region is 62-year-old Jilly Russell who opened her own ceramics studio in 2023 on Dartmoor with the help of a £15,000 Start Up Loan after 30 years' of teaching.

Jilly credits British Business Bank's Start Up Loans programme with helping her ambition come together.

The loan acted as a safety net, ensuring she had enough capital to cope with any unexpected costs when she was setting up the studio. 

"I really wanted the loan as a buffer and I'm glad it came through when it did," she said, describing how the money was used towards the costs of renovating the studio, as well as a new kiln.

Vessel Ceramics also has six pottery wheels, plus all of the necessary tools for hand building and throwing. 

Elsewhere, Simon Baker, 51, left his management job to pursue a childhood passion and retrained as a fishmonger, He launched his Lyme Bay Seafood business in Colyton, east Devon in 2021. He recently applied for a £15,000 Start Up Loan.

Despite growing up in north-west London miles from the sea, he developed a keen interest in fish and seafood from an early age.

His company now processes fresh fish and shellfish, bought directly from either the local fishermen and suppliers or from the two regional markets in Brixham and Plymouth.

Simon, along with his wife Monica, then prepare the fish at their processing unit in a variety of ways.
The seafood can then be bought directly from the unit or delivered to local customers.

"That’s the bit I enjoy a lot – the interaction with customers," he said.

"Both my wife and I have worked for multinational companies or family-run businesses but now we’re in control of what we do. I would encourage other people at my stage in life who are thinking about starting a business to at least look into it."

The Start Up Loans programme is part of the government-owned British Business Bank’s remit to make finance markets work better for smaller businesses.

Borrowers can take up to £25,000 at a fixed interest rate of 6% per year and repay the loan over one to five years.

The scheme also provides 12 months of free business mentoring.

Conibear added: "As Jilly and Simon demonstrate, you can further your business ambitions at any age.

"It’s why we encourage anyone with a good business idea to get in touch and learn more about how the Start Up Loans programme might be able to help turn it into reality."

To find out more, click HERE.


Giles Gwinnett is a writer at The Business Magazine. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and covered a vast array of topics at a range of media settings - in print and online. After his NCTJ newspaper training, he became a reporter in Hampshire before moving to a news agency in Gloucestershire. In recent years, he has been covering the financial markets along with company news for an investor-focused web portal. His many interests include politics, energy and the environment. He lives in Dorset.

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