The business Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) is designed to help small businesses affected by coronavirus get back on their feet as quickly as possible. On Monday 11 May, we opened BBLS applications with our first loans going out within hours. Here, we speak to four Starling business customers about why they applied and how they plan to use the loan to maintain and boost their business.

Candles of hope: Osmology

Elizabeth Drew is the founder of online candle retailer Osmology. "I started with a small men’s lifestyle shop in Bristol. Soon, I began to notice that the guys coming in were buying a lot of scented candles which really surprised me. The more I looked into candles and fell in love with brands from across the world, the more it became obvious that there wasn’t anywhere I could easily get my hands on them in the UK." Osmology, founded in 2017, curates a range of independent home fragrance brands and sells a selection of scented candles and gift sets, as well as a monthly subscription box.

"I was just at the point of needing to take someone on to help me with the business when coronavirus hit," she says. "It’s been a balancing act doing everything myself. But being busy is a good problem to have." She’s found that lots of customers have been buying candles as gifts, or as a treat for themselves while spending more time at home.

Elizabeth has used Starling for her business banking for the last year, when she opened up a business account for her limited company. "Starling has been absolutely fantastic from day one," she says. "Applying for the loan was an amazingly quick experience."

Her primary reason for applying for the loan was so that she could make sure she could pay her existing suppliers quickly and bring on new brands to overcome issues in the supply chain.

"Some of the smaller brands I work with rely on boutique shops that have had to close. So the vast majority of their customer base has dried up. I feel a huge responsibility to keep selling and keep paying them as quickly as possible."

She also wanted to pay off expensive business credit card debt and set aside an emergency fund. "I’ve created a Starling Goal for future stuff - I don’t know what’s going to happen but it’s comforting to have that put aside."

Elementary Sciences: Kits for kids

Michelle Williams, 47, was a teacher until about four years ago when she noticed a gap in the way kids learn about science. She noticed that many basic science kits for kids were not well built, and generally seemed designed for boys. She says, "Science is so important. If you don’t get a love of it early on you drop it, which is a shame."

Michelle decided to open her own business, a limited company, to design, create and sell science kits for kids that could be used time and again, and that would encourage both girls and boys into science. She started a limited company and about a year ago, became a Starling business customer.

"From September last year we started selling to schools that were really interested in hands-on science. But of course when the schools closed in March, the demand fell off.

"Now, I’m trying to pivot the business into homeschooling. In order to do that, we’ve got to market and let people know we are out there." And that’s why Michelle applied for a Bounce Back Loan with Starling.

"When it went live, I applied at 11am and then by 8 in the evening I had the funds in my account. It was unbelievable. Compared to other banks that seems to be unique."

Hana Glover: Changing business focus

"From the moment the pandemic hit, I felt the effects on my business," says entrepreneur Hana Glover, who founded her own property company 7 Market Street in 2017. Hana’s letting firm which rents two stylish apartments located in the heart of Nottingham saw all future bookings cancelled as the lockdown kicked in the UK came to a standstill.

"I actually run three businesses, a craft company called The Bead Shop and the other is as a retail mentoring service that helps independent retailers flourish. The speed at which the funds landed in my account and the communication throughout the process made me feel confident that financial help was on the way," she says.

Hana opened her Starling business account about a year and a half ago. The money that she borrowed through BBLS will cover bills and enable her to employ a cleaner for her rental business, freeing up her time to work on growing her craft business, which is booming in lockdown as people look to entertain themselves at home.

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