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Almost £6 million in Government-backed start-up loans has been pumped into the Black Country over the past six years, helping around a thousand people get their own businesses off the ground.

Another £603,380 was lent to 88 business owners in South Staffordshire by the Start Up Loans Company (SULCo)

Since launching in 2012, the Government-backed scheme has provided a total of £1.6 million in low-interest funding to more than 300 loan recipients across Wolverhampton, helping kick-start local start-up businesses. In total, more than £375million has been provided by The Start Up Loans Company to over 50,000 loan recipients across the country.

The programme has helped 2,115 in the West Midlands who were formerly unemployed or economically inactive, as well as helping an additional 21,151 people across the UK into employment nationwide.

Across the Black Country, £1,275,725 has been lent to 190 business owners in Dudley, £1,668,300 lent to 256 start-ups and new businesses in Sandwell and in Walsall £1,390,354 has been lent to 249 budding entrepreneurs.

Chris Smith, aged 34, is one loan recipient in Wolverhampton who received a proportion of the funding to launch his own business in 2014. Evo Fit, based in Willenhall, is a start-up gym that offers cardio and resistance training, with classes ranging from core blast to HIIT and boxercise.

A former personal trainer in a health and fitness club, Chris felt inspired to take his teaching to the next level by starting a gym of his own.

He approached The Start Up Loans Company for a loan to kick-start his venture, and successfully secured £22,000 of low-interest funding. The loan went towards paying rental premises, as well as purchasing equipment used in the studio.

The business employs five members of staff and services more than 600 customers across the Wolverhampton area.

In 2015, Chris worked with with renowned fitness expert Joe Wicks and his future plans include launching new fitness and cycling programmes at Evo Fit. The business also has its sights on opening another gym in Birmingham city centre in the next year.

Chris Smith, CEO and founder of Evo Fit, said: “As a personal trainer, the best thing about my job is helping people reach their goals and transform their lifestyle in a positive way. But while I’ve always enjoyed that aspect, I realised that I could use my experience to create my own business and do it myself.

“Although I was confident I had a concept that would work, I lacked the right financial support to start-up on my own. The Start Up Loans Company provided me with a loan to help me put my plans into place, meaning I was fortunate enough to avoid any financial stumbling blocks in the early stages. Since launching Evo Fit, I’ve been able to help more people pursue their fitness goalsand continue doing what I love, which is fantastic.”

Joanna Hill, interim CEO at The Start Up Loans Company, said: “It’s fantastic to see how Chris has used his experience to help others become fitter and healthier through launching Evo Fit. Since securing financial backing, the business has gone from strength to strength, and by collaborating with fitness experts, Chris has been able to extend his offering even further.

“Reaching £1.6million of funding for new business ventures in Wolverhampton is a great milestone for us, and highlights the entrepreneurial appetite for new business growth in the area. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s in store for budding business owners as we enter into 2018.”

Backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS, the Start Up Loans Company (SULCo) was formed in June 2012 as an arm of the British Business Bank. SULCo provides personal loans for business purposes of up to £25,000 at a six per cent fixed interest rate per annum, and offers free dedicated mentoring and support to each business.

Nearly half of loan recipients nationwide have been NEETs – not in employment, education or training – but figures show the overall return on investment for the scheme is at least £3 for every £1 invested. Those receiving a loan report estimated average turnover for their new busineses of £44,000 in the first year.

Source: Express and Star

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