A growing number of Teessiders are fighting back against recent job losses by taking the plunge into self-employment.
The Regeneration Fund, set up by UK Steel Enterprise specifically to support start-up and small businesses, has seen nearly five times the number of loans approved in 2016 than the equivalent first five months of last year.
The businesses backed include an occupational health company set up by former SSI employees, a mini golf course at Skelton, a print and design agency, recruitment consultancy and companies selling power motors, creating illuminated artworks, hand-made collectable bears and training HGV drivers. The support will help to create more than 30 new jobs initially.
With more than 40 years of experience in supporting businesses in steel areas, UK Steel Enterprise is best known for providing equity and loan packages of up to £1m and purpose-built managed business premises.
The Regeneration Fund was set up to provide the relatively small amounts of funding that can, nevertheless, be vital to a new or small business with loans of up to £3,500 that can be doubled in exceptional circumstances.
A major aim is to make the process as easy and speedy as possible to help reduce the many demands and pressures placed on new businesses.
“It certainly looks as though Teessiders are showing their usual entrepreneurial spirit in the wake of recent events,” said regional executive Sarah Thorpe (pictured above).
“They are coming forward with business ideas that make use of the skills they have built up in their working lives, or from a hobby, and are investing in their future.
“We have been making more effort to get the word out to start-ups and small businesses that our Regeneration Fund is here to help and we are very pleased with the increase in interest.
“These may be small amounts of money compared to the investments of up to £1m we can make in larger companies but we know that they can often make a real difference at this early stage.
“Sometimes people just cannot access the few thousand pounds they need to buy vital equipment or transport for the business, rent premises or just to tide them over those early weeks,” she added.