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Since its introduction in early May the government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has provided a lifeline for many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) up and down the land that have been hit hard by the current crisis. So far, Starling, which started its BBLS lending on 11th May, has lent in excess of £500 million to more than 19,000 SMEs, including 3,200 sole traders. We are immensely proud of this achievement and are continuing to lend to entrepreneurs in need. Here, we share the stories of entrepreneurial couple Lisa and Shaun Hogg and how they plan to use their BBLS loans.


Natural beauty products: Made Bare

When chemistry teacher Lisa Hogg (pictured above in the blog header image) isn’t preparing students for exams, she makes and sells lip balms, lip scrubs and body scrubs through her business Made Bare. "I’ve suffered with eczema in the past and struggled to find products that I can use. With my chemistry teacher hat on, I started researching and making my own products." It didn’t take her long to realise that others would also benefit from natural, cruelty-free products. In January 2020, she launched Made Bare. Both she and Shaun work from their home in County Durham.

Like many small businesses, her sales dipped at the beginning of lockdown. Yet she also saw increased support from customers through emails and social media. She makes everything to order, using ancient combinations of fragrances such as Tea Tree and Peppermint, Lavender and Rosemary and Sweet Orange and Clove. Each product aims to have a maximum of five ingredients.

When it came to financial support, she wasn’t entitled to any self-employment grants as she had only recently launched her limited company. Last month, she applied for a £50,000 Bounce Back Loan with Starling to sustain and grow Made Bare. "It was so simple. I put in an application, had a response within three or four hours and the money was in the bank by the next day," she says. "Initially, I was getting my labels printed (by another company). With the loan, I’ve been able to buy my own printer. I’ve also put money into creating new products and digital marketing."

Lisa does everything herself, from sourcing ethical ingredients to designing digital advertisements. "My advice generally for one-woman bands is to absolutely go for it. Women are amazing and we can juggle so much. If you think you’ve got an idea, share it and take the plunge."

Digital Strategy: Shaun Hogg

As a computer scientist, marketer and digital strategist, Shaun Hogg has a granular understanding of how technology can streamline and grow a business. "When I’m meeting someone new, I often say that working with me is like hiring a Digital Director."

Initially, he worked with a team of people. But in the last three years, he’s restructured the business and now does everything himself. He’s been a Starling business customer since March 2019. "Most clients stay with me for a long period of time and I work with them intensively from the ground up," he says. "With coronavirus, it wasn’t that the business was on the edge of a cliff, but it potentially could have been after a few months."

Shaun stands in front of a wall, smiling
Shaun will use the loan to help develop new digital products

For Shaun, his Bounce Back Loan acts as a safety net. "I put the numbers in to apply at 8am, first thing after breakfast, and had the funds in my account by close of play. It felt too good to be true." He’s also looking into using the loan to develop new digital products that could grow his business. "It takes away the financial pinch for not being paid for a project in the short term that if developed could bring real rewards."

When it comes to the digital world, his advice is to pause and take stock before jumping into spending money on marketing or technology. "Is it a knee jerk reaction because of what’s happened with lockdown? Or is your business serious about how digital fits in with growth plans going forward?" For online advertising, he urges everyone to start small, track everything and take advantage of all the free resources available to guide you through.

These are lessons that Lisa has learned from Shaun and applied to her business. "Don’t be afraid to spend money on advertising and don’t give up after just a few days," she says. "Let it settle, let the analytics do its thing and wait for the orders to come in."

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