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DRAGONS’ Den star and entrepreneur James Caan has urged budding youngsters to take advantage of a scheme to help more people get into business.

The Start-Up Loans scheme was launched to help anyone aged between 18 and 30 initiate a business enterprise and has so far resulted in more than 300 applications from the Bristol area.

The £110-million national programme was launched by the Government and James Caan in October 2012 and aims to help 30,000 new businesses get off the ground.

So far, 334 loans have been issued in the South West as a region, totalling just over £2 million.

Mr Caan told Business: “Bristol is a thriving hub of creativity and diversity and some great businesses have come out of Bristol through the initiative.

“It is crucial to give start-up companies the confidence to get going.

“It is one of the hardest things to do because you’re putting yourself on the line and opening yourself up for criticism.”

Amounts are flexible, with a typical loan size of £5,000.

Alongside this finance, young business owners receive fully-funded business advice during the application process and on-going mentoring support for a year.

Among the successful applicants in Bristol are Thomas Coppen, of Keel Over Marketing, who borrowed £5,000 to get his company off the ground.

The firm is now established as a specialist search engine optimisation, pay-per-click and adwords management company.

Thomas, 25 from Bedminster, said: “The Start-Up Loan allowed me to realise my dream of setting up the office in Bristol.

“This funding came after I was turned down by banks due to my age and insufficient credit history.

“The mentor scheme associated has allowed me to ensure my loan is invested and used productively.”

Keel Over Marketing now employs two people full time and is about to employ a third as well as employing three or four contractors at any given time.

South West Investment Group Start-Ups is delivering the fund in the South West and has developed relationships with local business support agencies to help applicants with developing business plans and mentoring support.

Mr Caan said: “Providing the right follow up support once they have the loan is essential.

“This can be mentoring, resources centres, peer to peer support or just a forum to share ideas and ask questions.

“Without the initial support for start-ups we cannot expect the UK economy to grow from the ground up. We all have to help businesses thrive. It is beneficial to us all.”

Article appeared in the Bristol Post 09/10

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