A JOURNAL-BACKED campaign to provide cash to help young entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground has so far gifted more than £200,000 to budding Bransons across the region.
Interest in Virgin Money’s start-up loans scheme has been mounting month on month since it was launched in November last year.
To February 11 this year, 31 applicants with loans totaling £202,000 have been approved, while 16 applicants with loans amounting to £151,528 are still being assessed.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money has partnered with Virgin Unite, the Northern Rock Foundation and Project North East in the delivery of start-up loans for aspiring young business people.
The Government, through the department for Business, Innovation and Science, has provided funding of £1m over the next 12 months, to be offered in the form of small business start-up loans in the North East and Cumbria.
The initiative is aimed at young entrepreneurs aged 18-24. The loan size is between £250 and £25,000, with an average of around £5,000.
Project North East (PNE) is regulated under the Consumer Credit Act and is responsible for making the loans and administering the full lending process.
It has nearly 30 years of successfully undertaking this type of work in the region, partnering organisations such as the Sainsbury family charitable trusts and Royal Dutch Shell.
Richard Clark, director of workspace at PNE, said: “Performance progress has been improving month on month with the volume of applications received increasing steadily.
“We’ve so far received 49 applications from young entrepreneurs across the North East and Cumbria with a total loan value of £383,528.
“Since the new year we have seen very strong demand and some really exciting ideas.”
The successful start-up loan applicants include Daniel Middlewood and Conor Lowson who have been awarded £25,000 to set up a theatre company which aims to make the world of acting accessible to all.
The 20-year-old students, who met at Newcastle College, will use the loan to develop Overcoming Theatre, which they will initially promote with a 50-day nationwide tour.
The theatre company will also employ out-of-work actors to create workshops and is developing an educational drama website.
The duo recently won the Business and Enterprise Challenge at Newcastle College, which provided £3,600 cash to launch their project.
Middlewood said: “We’re both ecstatic about the opportunity given to us by the PNE Group and start-up loans. We understand the chance that we have been given and can now look forward to the future.
“Now we need to ensure we use it wisely in order to revolutionise theatre and acting in education.”
Other applicants include Jodi and Stella Kean, of Choclateas in Newcastle, which makes natural and organic chocolate teas, with flavoured extracts such as chilli and vanilla.
Andrew Emmerson is starting up Montagu DIY & Hardware, a new DIY and hardware store in Newcastle, focussing on selling items for general repairs in the home.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Michael Hughes, from Washington, has just been awarded £5,000 to build up his music tuition company, Music Tutor Direct.
More information about the start-up loans can be found at the website www.startuploansnortheast.co.uk