Here, we talk to Starling business customers and learn about how the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has helped them thrive. At time of publication, Starling is still inviting eligible business owners to apply for a Bounce Back Loan (BBL) and is also offering top-ups to eligible customers who previously received a BBL from us.

Joycelyn Mate and Rachael Corson: Afrocenchix

Joycelyn Mate and Rachael Corson founded their hair product business Afrocenchix in 2010 and became Starling customers when we launched our business accounts in 2018. “We signed up as soon as business accounts were available,” says Joyceyln, 31.

She first heard about Starling when she attended an event where Anne Boden, our founder and CEO, was speaking. “I really liked Anne’s story. I think she’s a great businesswoman and her sheer determination really inspired me - I wanted to be part of what she had created.”

Like many entrepreneurs, she and Rachael, 30, entered the world of business to solve a problem. “We started Afrocenchix in 2010 out of frustration that afro-hair products on the market didn’t work or were full of toxic chemicals. There were better products in America but we didn’t have access to them so we started making products ourselves while we were at university.”

Joycelyn Mate (left) and Rachael Corson (right), co-founders of Afrocenchix

What began as a student side hustle has become a fully-fledged business with an online community of more than 30,000 people. There are now seven people in their team, plus contractors.

All products are created by Afrocenchix, tested externally and then made in-house. This meant that Afrocenchix could keep operations going when the first lockdown was announced.

“Rachael and I are very resourceful - we’re good at making lemonade from lemons. You have to be very adaptable when you run a small business,” says Joycelyn. “It’s really important to understand what your customers want and go and meet them there, rather than continuing to do things in a traditional way when the market is changing.”

The co-founders decided to apply for a Bounce Back Loan with Starling to meet growing customer demand and make sure they had adequate cash flow to pay their team. “I thought applying for the loan would be long and tedious, but it wasn’t. The checks were easy and then the money came in about two or three days later.”

Matt Lloyd: Greycat Associates

As a Paralympic athlete, both in ice hockey and sitting volleyball, Matt Lloyd has huge amounts of drive and ambition, not only for his own consultancy Greycat Associates, but for all the businesses he advises. Matt, 48, started the consultancy with his wife Ruth, 40, in 2017 after they decided to close the skating rinks they had created, designed for roller skates which replicated ice skates but worked on multiple surfaces, not just ice.

“At the end of 2016, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which was a bit of a blow, as I already had spina bifida. It wasn’t practical for us to run the rinks anymore. We decided to focus on what we were really good at - supporting and nurturing new and existing businesses,” he says. “Ruth has a background in law and criminal justice, I have a background in systems thinking and journalism..”

It was partly through journalism that Matt first became involved with ice hockey. “As an 18-year-old, I had a load of friends who played ice hockey and roller hockey - I reported on matches for local newspapers,” he says. “I came across the Paralympic version of ice hockey, which I never knew existed, in my early 30s and thought I would be too old. But within 18 months, I was representing Great Britain at the 2006 Winter Olympics.”

Matt Lloyd represented Great Britain in the 2006 Winter Paralympics

In addition to the sports industry, he also has considerable experience in the music industry, having founded the magazine Ultramotive in 1995 and his own record label Goo! Records.

Matt has always been fascinated by new business models and ideas and has kept a keen eye on Starling since 2017, when we launched in app stores. “When the coronavirus hit, we found that our high street bank wasn’t agile enough to react as required - it gave us the impetus to move to Starling,” he says.

“We applied for a Bounce Back Loan at the end of May - we thought we could do with a cushion, especially as our major income comes from advising hotels and ice rinks. The process with Starling was brilliant. It was a short and easy form, written in plain English, which you could do effectively on a mobile device.”

Dan Hinton: Pixelfish

Not many people come straight out of university and start a business, aged 22. But that’s Dan Hinton’s story, co-founder of web design and build studio Pixelfish.

“Something a freelancer designer said to me while I was at the Arts University Bournemouth really struck a chord, which was that coming out of university can actually be a great time to try self-employment - you don’t usually have other financial commitments, like a mortgage or kids,” he says.

Dan, 34, founded Pixelfish in 2009, together with another graphic design graduate, who has since moved on from the business. Today, there are five people in the core team, plus a number of regular contractors. The two most recent team members joined in the last month, hires that were partly enabled by the Bounce Back Loan that Dan received from Starling in May.

Dan Hinton, founder of Pixelfish

“I signed up to Starling in October 2019, way before anything happened with the coronavirus, and I’m very pleased I did. We use the accounting platform FreeAgent and Starling’s integration is much better than our previous bank,” he says. “As soon as lockdown hit, I was pretty hot on reading what the government was doing to support businesses. I applied for the Bounce Back Loan at around 9am, the very first day I could. I was approved later that afternoon and the money came in early next morning - everything was sorted within 24 hours.”

The loan began as a safety net but has recently facilitated further business growth. “Having the loan gives us that cushion and confidence to invest in the business.” Pixelfish works with clients in all sectors, and the Pixelfish mantra is that great work comes from positive working relationships.

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