Entrepreneurs: It's all about the money

Coins Entrepreneurs have been looking at different ways of financing their businesses

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Finance - whether it is available or not - can prove to be crucial in helping a business grow or even get off the ground.

The issue of funding can be particularly acute when businesses are starting out.

When BBC Scotland first visited a group of entrepreneurs last year, we met them in a large office in the Gorbals in Glasgow where they were taking part in the Entrepreneurial Spark business start-up accelerator programme.

It is designed to help businesses get up and running successfully and, as its website puts it, "to drive entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviours".

The whole office is known as the hatchery and the businesses as chicklets - and its aim is to help them fly the coop.

Some of them have now done that, and we have revisited a number of them to ask how they are managing to finance their businesses.

Victoria Bisland and Anne Widdop

Anne Widdop, founding director of both Fuze Ceremonies and Essential Funerals, says the business is at a "pivotal stage".

It provides humanist ceremonies for different stages in life.

"We've proved the concept works, I think we've done tremendously well with a very small team of people," she says.

"We are at a vulnerable stage from an investor coming in and trying to just take over your idea by offering you desperately needed investment or you just can't grow."

Victoria Bisland and Anne Widdop Victoria Bisland and Anne Widdop are providing humanist ceremonies

The company has progressed over the last few months.

According to operations and training director Victoria Bisland, last year the business conducted 120 weddings, about 100 funerals and 20 baby namings.

But there are frustrations too. Seed funding for the business has come from Ms Widdop herself and she feels she is "pretty much at my limit of what I can personally invest in this business".

What they make is ploughed back into it, but they now need investment, particularly in their website.

"There are a number of options," muses Ms Widdop.

"You either try to raise finance through investors, which is really challenging because they want equity in return.

"If you wanted to get £20,000 from an investor, you'd be giving away 60% or more of your company. Why would you do that as a start-up - you just wouldn't."

They have not had success so far in getting money from a bank and are exploring other routes like loan funds, competitions and awards.

Ms Widdop adds: "If we can't get at least £10,000 investment now we'll probably achieve, I'm hoping, at least 10-20% on what we've done last year. But I'd like to achieve 100% on last year."

Paul Bain and Claire McArthur

Contemporary country duo Raintown are looking at a rather different source for funding their musical ambitions.

One half of the group, Paul Bain, says with all the changes in the music industry, you "need to come from a business foundation" as well as be creative.

Claire McArthur and Paul Bain Country band Raintown are looking at crowd funding

They have been investigating the idea of crowd funding. The model they are looking at involves putting their project online, explaining how much they are looking for and persuading people to invest by giving away rewards.

"For the music industry it tends to be a bit more sexy - is that the word?" says Claire McArthur, the other half of Raintown.

"So if someone pledges £20 towards the funding of your next album, you can give them an album, maybe a signed CD, maybe a signed DVD, a poster.

"As the pledges get bigger, if someone pledges £100 they could maybe get to star in your next music video or maybe get to go out for dinner with Raintown."

Mr Bain says they have been told that a decade ago the group might well have been on their second album by now and already touring, but things have now changed as far as funding is concerned.

He adds: "We need to be more inventive - because it's not easily accessible is not a good enough reason not to find another way to do it."

Marie Rogers

"Things have gone really well," says Marie Rogers of Total Sales Solution Ltd, which provides sales support and training specifically to start-ups and small businesses.

Marie Rodgers Marie Rodgers says she wants to stay "in control" of her business.

She says her business is financing itself.

"As I acquire new clients, that allows me to then grow the business and take on extra employees etc, so I've never had any investment apart from the business constantly producing its own sales," she tells me.

She says part of her would like some investment but only as long as she stayed "in control" of her business.

She would like to have more access to funding but as a sales company, she feels she "falls through the cracks a little bit".

She adds: "What I've produced is a company that from day one has been able to pay its own bills and actually grow as a company, and in this kind of economy it's proven the value of what I do."

Steve Broadfoot

Ear protection developer Steve Broadfoot is also looking for money to back up his business.

He explains: "In my naive state I used to think I didn't actually need finance because there wasn't any major research and development required, but I've since been educated that in order to take something to market there's a gap between your costs and actually getting income - so yeah, I do need finance."

Steve Broadfoot Steve Broadfoot is making ear protection for the music industry

His product, LugPlugs, is a personal hearing protection system mainly for the music industry and specifically for audiences, but they could also be used in other loud noise environments such as construction sites.

He says last year was about protecting intellectual property rights, costing manufacturing and getting samples made up, while this year will be about actually taking the product to market.

The finance he needs is to back up patents and legal fees "because if you don't protect your intellectual property rights, you don't have a business".

"The frustrating thing," he explains, "is that you're either up for investor sharks, who are basically trying to get as much of your business, get their money back and then sell it on, or you feel that you just have to put yourself into endless competitions.

"So you feel as if you need to actually set up a business and become an expert in entering competitions, as opposed to just getting your business up and running."

He says help from his mother has been crucial and that in the search for finance he is looking for advice and mentoring as well as simply money.

The start-up companies have been given advice on financing as part of BBC Radio Scotland's Business Scotland programme. Hear what angel investor Ian Ritchie and corporate lawyer Andy Ley of HBJ Gateley have to say on the subject at 6:05 on Saturday and again at 10:05 on Sunday.

The programme will also be available by free download.

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