Royal Navy veteran Susan Bonnar, from Lee-on-the-Solent, launched The British Craft House, an online platform for handmade goods, last November
Now, just one year on, she has more than 450 businesses selling on her platform, and has seen her busiest ever trading day, thanks to lockdown, a rise in online shopping and an increased desire for handmade quality British goods.
The 52-year-old said: ‘We had our busiest ever day on Friday, then that was beaten on Saturday, then again on Sunday, and then again on Monday. We couldn’t believe it, four days in a row.
‘We are on for a really busy Christmas, everyone seems to be shopping earlier, people are fed up with this year and want to fast-forward to next year already.
‘Our growth has been unbelievable, it has been so big. On Saturday and Sunday we took more than we did for the whole of January, February and March combined.
‘I am so proud, it is a really exciting time for us.’
Mum-of-three Susan, who is married to John, who is in the Royal Navy, spoke about her success to mark the annual Start Up Loans Ambassadors programme.
Now in its fifth year, the programme celebrates exceptional business owners who have followed an ambition of becoming their own boss after receiving support from the government-backed Start Up Loans programme.
The British Craft House is just one of more than 7,200 south east based businesses that have received a loan since 2012, representing a total value of over £66.5m.
The Start Up Loans programme provides pre-and-post loan support to help applicants to develop a business plan; a fixed-interest loan of up to £25,000 to start or develop their business; as well as mentoring support to help loan recipients with everything from cash flow to marketing.
Susan took a £12,000 loan, which she used to launch her business.
She said: ‘When I was first starting, I priced up the website and quickly realised that I would not be able to do it myself, and I didn't have the savings to fund it entirely.
‘I had never had a loan, except a mortgage or car loan, so I was way out of my experience.
‘The start-up loan was great, it was not just a loan but a whole package. I didn't have a business background, coming out of the navy, so I took every single bit of help that I could - and that’s paid off.'
The 2020 Start Up Loans Ambassadors will be honoured at 1pm today at a virtual event hosted by Start Up Loans and attended by Paul Scully, minister for small business.
Since 2012, the programme has given more than 78,000 loans to business owners across the UK worth more than £663m.
Mr Scully said: ‘The British Craft House is a fantastic concept, bringing the skills and enterprising spirit of over 450 local creators together to showcase their products to the world.
‘Businesses in the south east have received over £66.5m through the government’s Start Up Loans programme and it’s great to see that investment paying off.
‘The Start Up Loans scheme has a vital role to play in our plans for levelling up every part of the UK, and enabling small and unique companies to take on the competition and flourish is an essential part of that.’
Richard Bearman, managing director, Start Up Loans, said: ‘Our 2020 ambassadors demonstrate that with the right support and mentoring it’s possible to thrive and succeed in even the harshest conditions.'