The challenge facing young entrepreneurs
PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 April 2014
Kate Williams talks to entrepreneurs Nik Anstis and Becky Dickinson who are calling for more help for young business people in Devon
Starting up a new business is exciting but is also filled with pitfalls along the way and is not necessarily easy for young people.
Those are the thoughts of one young business partnership — a pair who have launched their own firm in Exeter.
Nik Anstis and Becky Dickinson set up their own digital marketing company — Creative borders — in 2012 and, although they are celebrating success now, they are calling for more help for young business people in the county.
“We just found it so hard to find the information we needed and getting finance was a nightmare,” says Becky.
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After working for a marketing firm and despite each of them having the experience and skills necessary to start up their own digital agency and consultancy company, the young duo found it increasingly difficult to get their business up and running in the county.
“We both tried to get business loans and help but it was tough and no one wanted to lend us any money,” says Becky.
“Because we were young — but not young enough for certain grants — the banks didn’t want to know. Neither of us owns our own house so we couldn’t use that as assurance.”
"We wanted to be in Exeter because it’s such a great, upcoming city right now"
So, with a few thousand pounds of savings in their pockets, each of them decided to ditch their rented homes and they moved in with their respective parents in order to be able to afford to set the business up.
They each worked from home remotely at the beginning. They leased computers and worked hard to get Creative Borders up and running.
“I think part of the issue banks had with loaning us money was that our company is not a ‘conventional’ business,” explains Nik. “It’s not a coffee shop or a hairdressers’. It’s a digital agency and I think that scares some of the banks - despite it being one of the fastest-growing business sectors of our time.”
Nik finally managed to get a personal loan to help with the set-up and running costs which, although not ideal, paid off in the end.
Now in its second year, Creative Borders is flying and finally making good profit with some very respectable clients large and small, including Schwarzkopf and Crealy Adventure Parks.
“Working from home was fine but it wasn’t ideal,” says Becky. “We were so pleased when we were able to move into our offices in Queen Street in September last year. But that was also a difficulty in itself.
“Trying to find small, affordable office space was hard. We wanted to be in Exeter because it’s such a great, upcoming city right now and it was important to us to be in the heart of the city, not out on a limb on an industrial estate somewhere. There are some great office spaces in Exeter on offer with excellent conference rooms but we didn’t want all that, we just needed somewhere relatively small that the business could afford, a stepping stone, if you like.”
Nik and Becky finally found the perfect place on Queen Street, via internet website Gumtree.
The growth of this start-up business is impressive but the pair behind it are calling for more help to young business people in the area.
“Devon is a great county but it needs to offer more help to young entrepreneurs,” says Becky. “Starting up your own business is daunting at any age but for young people it is tougher. Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry was a great help to us, and we joined as members, but there needs to be more advice on offer in Devon to encourage younger people.
“A one-stop-shop for advice would be great — with help and support for youngsters including everything from getting loans and finding a good accountant to creating a business name.”
“Yes, one place where you could find the information you need and not be too daunted would be great,” agrees Nik. “Somewhere offering a selection of solid, pragmatic advice for starting up a small business.”