Grace Gordon is the founder of leather goods brand Grace Gordon.
When I decided to set up my own accessories brand last year, the biggest question was how am I going to fund this venture? I already had some practical experience, having spent my early career working in high street retail, most recently as a merchandising assistant specialising in denim. But there were lots of financing options out there and countless pieces of advice, and I had no idea how to choose the right one for me.
I looked at bank loans but friends in the fashion business suggested I approach government-run initiative Start Up Loans Company, because it offers advice and support as well as funding. After showing a business plan and investing my personal savings, I secured financial backing of £8,500. I was assigned a mentor of my choice and given a detailed repayment plan.
What I’d feared would be a lengthy process was actually extremely swift. The money was in my account the day after approval, which meant I could get going straight away. I launched the company in November 2013, selling a small collection of leather handbags in three styles.
The loan came with help and free learning opportunities on all aspects of business. I attended a Google talk on search engine optimisation and a workshop on how to get ‘cash flow confident’ at The British Library. The most common advice I encountered was the importance of having at least a basic knowledge of the workings of every sector of your business, so you can accurately estimate the return on investment of financial and physical input into each area.
I launched my new, eponymous brand online on August 18 and will look to wholesale from autumn 15. It consists of about 17 styles, including pouches, backpacks and holdalls. I would encourage anyone with similar aspirations to contact their local Start Up Loans delivery partner - find them at www.startuploans.co.uk - and discuss the options. With a relatively small budget and a lot of late nights, I’ve survived the first year of running my business and can see a bright future for myself and the brand.