Catherine Fallon: Driving Instructor
“I had a very viable and profitable business before the coronavirus. But I can’t teach at the moment,” says Catherine Fallon. Current guidelines state that driving lessons can only be given to key workers with a test booked, meaning that she can’t teach any of the 22 pupils she has lined up for lessons. “I don’t know what would have happened if Starling hadn’t supported me.” Due to her husband’s income and the nature of her business, she wasn’t eligible for Universal Credit or a government grant.
She applied for a Bounce Back Loan with Starling the same day that applications for sole traders opened. “My application was received at 4pm on Tuesday 12th May. Starling confirmed that I’d been successful by 5.15pm on Wednesday 13th and the money was in my account by 9.15pm.” The loan will cover ongoing business expenses such as car insurance, business phone contract and accountancy software from FreeAgent.
Catherine always had a passion for driving and considered becoming an instructor back in 1996, after leaving university. “At the last minute, I had a change of heart and made the decision to get some experience as an employee first.” She worked as a marketing manager in the motoring industry up until 2018, when she decided to train as a driving instructor. She set up her Starling Bank sole trader account then in preparation for launching her business. Since then, she’s helped many pupils learn to drive; one pupil (pictured above) passed first time with zero faults after just 18 hours of lessons.
“You have your moments when you’re heading for brick walls with a 17-year-old but overall it’s a very good business. It’s the best counselling session - you name it, I’ve probably heard it. It’s a fascinating industry to be in.”
Ian Else: 4 Financial Planning
As an ex-sailor, navigating choppy waters isn’t new for Ian Else. But the coronavirus was something he never could have anticipated when he set up his business, 4 Financial Planning, six months before lockdown. "I went into Financial Services when I stopped sailing in 2006 and set up my business last October," he says. "I was taking on a client a month, which was ahead of what I’d budgeted. It was going so well. But with the coronavirus, people prioritise health over wealth."
Financial planning usually involves a face-to-face meeting with an initial set-up fee to outline a plan, followed by a subscription to keep the plan on track. New clients are key. "The coronavirus couldn’t have come at a more difficult and crucial time," he says. Yet financial support for the newly self-employed is limited. Government grants depend on filing accounts for April 2019, before Ian started his business.
"That’s where Starling has been a lifesaver," he says. He’s been a Starling personal customer for several years and a business customer since becoming self-employed. "The process for the Bounce Back Loans couldn’t have been simpler. I had my answer start to finish within 25 hours, which was absolutely brilliant." Ian’s loan will enable him to keep working with current clients until business picks up again.
When it comes to money management in a crisis, his advice is to look at cutting expenses to boost profits. "Watch your costs like a hawk. Go back to the drawing board and ask yourself: Is that cost essential to achieve my goals?"
Jonathan Sharpe: WebFlair
"When you offer services to other small businesses and that’s your business, there’s a domino effect," says web designer and SEO specialist Jonathan Sharpe. He set up his business WebFlair seven years ago and has been banking with Starling for the last two. "The Bounce Back Loan has been a godsend. We would have survived without it, but barely. And it would have taken maybe three or four years to get back to where we were before lockdown," he says.
"We will be using our Bounce Back Loan to build new features into our business and provide continued essential support to our clients, even if it means we have to charge less to meet diminishing budgets. Our theory is that if we look after our clients during this time, we will bounce back faster and stronger when it’s all over. We also feel that everyone should be doing their bit to help each other at the moment."
WebFlair helps small to medium size businesses with their online presence, including website, digital marketing and SEO. "We recently took on the Samaritans shop as a client. We also work closely with Make it British, an organisation that promotes British brands and manufacturing."
During lockdown, Jonathan has been helping small businesses diversify their services and adapt to a new normal. So far he’s helped David Law, a Hatton Garden bespoke jeweller, move his workshop-based consultation service to an online model, and Sussex based cleaning company, Greenstar Cleaners, communicate their launch of coronavirus deep cleaning services. "I want to thank Starling Bank for helping us. Although our loan was fairly small, the difference it will make to us and our clients is huge."