Norwich entrepreneurs scoop first government start-up loan

Square Socials James Thomas, front and Seb Atkinson. Photo: Steve Adams

Square Socials James Thomas, front and Seb Atkinson. Photo: Steve Adams

A group of Norwich entrepreneurs are on the verge of transforming their fledgling business into a well-established firm - after becoming one of the first enterprises in the country to receive a government start-up loan.

Square Social, based on Ashby Street, near Queens Road, became the trailblazers of the new scheme to help small businesses following an announcement yesterday that they would receive £5,000 to take on a new member of staff and redesign their website.

The cash-injection provides a helping hand to 21-year-old James Thomas and business partners David Duncan and Seb Atkinson, who are eager to establish a market share in Norwich before eyeing expansion into London and overseas.

It comes after Mr Duncan left his position at Future 50 company Eposnow to inject £3,000 of his own money into the business, which provides social-media management for companies.

Mr Thomas, who graduated from the University of East Anglia in July, said the loan had come at the right time for the business as they look to boost growth and gain some financial security.

He said: 'There's always lots of talk in the press about 'supporting enterprise' and 'helping out our young people' but the harsh reality is that often I've found that this is PR without substance.

'When we first started out we thought let's go for funding straight away, but now I realise that would have been the worst thing for us,' he added.

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'We have had to learn the hard way as to what works in business and what doesn't to make sure we were stable before getting the money.

'But it is definitely the best loan we have encountered for start-up businesses.'

The scheme, delivered locally by NWES, is aimed at 18 to 30 year olds with the aim of lending £112m to start-up firms across the country by April 2015.

However, Mr Thomas said that start-up firms also need practical advice on how to establish a successful business – as well as having the money to do so.

He said: 'What I think we would have also benefited from is some more practical help. When you start out on a course you focus on theory when you could with some information on the practical side of the business which focuses on the basics.'