Startup Diary: Elena Mingas, First Recipient of the UK's 'Startup Loans' Initiative
Since beginning my fashion education at College level, I have always aspired to have my own business. Maybe it's arrogance, maybe it's ambition but I've never wanted to work for anyone else and my burning desire to leave my mark on the world forced me to have a shot.
Since returning from Dubai with tunnel vision and one goal on my mind, I worked hard at creating a business plan, taking business start up courses, drafting logos, creating designs and undertaking extensive market research. I also began the hellish task of sourcing funding. I had personal savings which were acquired from part time jobs whilst studying and my stint in Dubai, but it wasn't enough.
I had applied to numerous charities, organisations and funding bodies including the banks and the The Princes Trust Enterprise Programme, for which I was turned down as there was no money available for people in Blackpool. This postcode lottery frustrated me a lot as it's not the first time I've been snubbed for being from the struggling seaside town in the quest for a better life. Emails bounced back on a regualr basis from all sorts of funding bodies and the criteria was insanely specific. One word of advice is never pay to access a database of available loans/ grants no matter how they sell it to you. You can access them all with a google search.
Anyway, I refused to give up despite the disappointment and after a few months came accross an advert in The Sun newspaper about the Start Up Loans. Kerching! I HAD to be eligable for this one surely?
I applied in June via Facebook and was contacted in August by Business Finance Solutions in Manchester who are a delivery partner for the loans. I had a meeting with loan manager John Cannon who checked through my business plan and cash flow forecast and I explained to him the concept and charm of Tangle Dress Design.
John was incredibly supportive and seemed genuinely interested. It made a refreshing change and gave me back a confidence in myself that had begun to fade.
I was contacted only days later and told I had been accepted on the scheme. The money would go towards rent deposit and cash flow and put me in the position to begin trading, making all my hard work a very exciting and nerve-racking reality!
Since being accepted on the scheme it was revealed that I was in fact the first person in the country to receive this support, which also includes a business mentor and free virtual office space from Regus. After a tiring 6 months what an incredible position I was now in! The PR came in thick and fast and it was amazing for me to be a part of.
Not only was I meeting people such as Lord Young and serial entrepreneur James Caan, I had editorial in some of the best local and national newspapers.
The loan has given me business support I never thought I would find, as well as a job and the opportunity to follow my dreams. It has also enabled me to employ my dressmaker and hopefully in time create more jobs as the business grows.
Just as going to University was made available to everyone rich or poor, the help to begin your own business is now in place if you're between the ages of 18-24. I do not come from money, if it wasn't for a student loan I wouldn't have achieved my first class honours degree winning the Creative Focus Award (best in show) and if it wasn't for these loans I'd still be a dreamer, struggling to find an open door.
A lot can be achieved if it's put in the right hands.
Elena Mingas is the Owner and Designer at Tangle Dress Design in Manchester, UK, and is hoping to bring bespoke evening wear into the 21st Century. Elena is the first person in the UK to be accepted on the Start Up Loans initiative backed by Lord Young & James Caan. For more information about Elena, see her profile.
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