Small business is booming in the South East, according to new figures from the British Business Bank which shows that the Start Up Loans scheme has lent more than £45 million to microbusinesses in the region.
Latest data from the Government-backed programme reveals that since 2012 it has issued more than 5,543 loans, averaging £8,286 each, to aspiring business owners in the South East to kickstart new businesses.
Among the recipients is Alexandra McCabe, 34, the founder of FittaMamma, who used a fixed-term £10,000 loan from Start Up Loans – part of the British Business Bank – to launch her own maternity fitness wear brand in 2013.
Alexandra launched the business after struggling to find maternity fitness wear for her pregnant sister-in-law who wanted to stay fit but was confused by contradictory advice about exercising while pregnant. She also felt self-conscious about working out in conventional sportswear.
Taking matters into her own hands, Alexandra, from Brighton, decided to create her own e-commerce business to empower women to keep exercising through their pregnancies.
Alexandra designed a range of sportswear that would give pregnant women the confidence, reassurance and support to exercise while pregnant. She extended the concept by creating a website that provides a “one-stop shop” for information on health and well-being during pregnancy.
Since launch, the range has expanded and now supplies supportive fitnesswear to mums-to-be worldwide, including vests with motivational slogans to inspire their active pregnancies.
FittaMamma’s Instagram channel also aims to specifically address misinformation and campaigns for change using #pregnantnotpowerless.
Alexandra McCabe, founder of FittaMamma, said: “We hear many stories of women not exercising because they’re worried about harming their baby. When my sister-in-law fell pregnant, I noticed how difficult it was to find sportswear that gave her the confidence to continue exercising. After researching the subject, I also discovered how much contradictory information there was out there.
“This inspired me to face the challenge directly and create my own maternity fitness brand to empower mothers-to-be to stay active. Start Up Loans provided me with a fixed-rate loan, as well as mentoring support to help me get started.
“Since then, there’s been a real positive shift in sentiment towards the subject and the trend for pregnant celebrities to post pictures on Instagram of their exercise routines has really helped. We’re really proud of all the progress we’ve made over the past four years and we look forward to seeing what’s in store for the rest of the year.”
Patrick Magee, British Business Bank chief commercial officer, said: “Reaching £45million of funding in the South East is a real achievement and is testament to the ambitious spirit of new business owners in the South-East such as Alexandra.
“We’re looking forward to seeing more new business owners take up funding to kickstart their own businesses.”
Kelly Tolhurst MP, small business Minister, said: “The UK’s 5.7 million small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we’re dedicated to helping them thrive through our modern Industrial Strategy, ensuring we retain our status as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a small business.
“Reaching this important milestone reflects the success of UK government-backed start-up loans in supporting entrepreneurs across the South East helping them form new businesses that grow local economies and are at the heart of our communities.”