How have GBEA alumni used funding to grow their businesses?

5 Sept 2021

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards (GBEA) is a thriving ecosystem of 50,000 UK entrepreneurs and their supporters. As well as celebrating businesses through an annual awards ceremony, the GBEA provides year-round opportunities for winners and finalists. We caught up with some alumni business owners to find out more about their funding journey.

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Funding Options are proud sponsors of the Sustainability Entrepreneur of the Year category at this year’s GBEA. The finalists were announced earlier this year and the Finals will take place in November where regional winners will be crowned.

To gain a deeper insight into some of the companies involved in the awards – past and present – we hosted a series of ‘Finalist Announcement Workshops’ in collaboration with the GBEA. We interviewed previous winners on how they’ve funded their way to success. 

Have you ever wondered what a typical startup funding journey looks like? (As it turns out, there isn’t one; everyone’s journey is different.) Here’s what we found out:

1. Holy Moly ⁠– from angel investment to invoice financing

Holy Moly is a premium natural dips brand founded by school friends Tom Walker & Gaz Booth. Their 100% natural vegan dips are available through Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Ocado and a variety of other well known retailers. 

The pair won the startup category in 2018 for the Midlands, followed by the food & drink category in 2019, and are finalists again this year. Our Front End Tech Lead, Tom Parsons, interviewed Holy Moly’s co-founder Tom Walker about his funding journey. 

“We were able to raise enough cash and get a couple of angel investors from family and friends to get going. As we grew, the need for cash grew and we did a second fundraise for a quarter of a million, which was probably in year two,” Walker explained.

“We just closed another funding round for a couple of million pounds in year four. This is to get us from startup to scaleup and build on everything that we’ve done so far.

“There’s been a whole range of options outside of equity that we’ve used alongside the way, from invoice financing to looking at our contracts with suppliers and trying to get credit. There’s a wealth of opportunities to get support and cash.”

2. Brooklyn Brownie Co. – bootstrapping and beyond

Josh Lashley runs his baking business, Brooklyn Brownie Co., from his home with the help of his 14-year-old son, Leo. The pair won the Family Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2020. Lashely shared his startup story with Funding Options’ Chief Revenue Officer, Stuart Lawson. 

Lashley said he and his son began their business with “”50 bucks and a basting jug” and didn’t rely on finance when they started to grow. “We were able to ride the wave of success and continue riding. We didn’t scale too quickly ⁠– we scaled within reason and within the budget constraints that we created for ourselves.”

“I couldn’t take out a huge loan. Ideally, I would have loved to do that and go all-in. But I really wanted to shelter our family. My son’s mother passed on and I had to ensure he was secure. Within a week, we realised this was going to move,” he told Lawson.

Today, John and Leo’s brownies are shipped to customers across England and Wales and the pair have a growing social media presence. Check out their fun, informative and emotive content on Instagram at @brooklynbrownieco

3. Mazuma Accountants – leveraging a variety of loans

Lucy Cohen is an accountant, powerlifter and award-winning entrepreneur. In 2006, Cohen and her friend Sophie Hughes founded Mazuma, the world’s first subscription-based accounting service for small businesses. 

They started it with £100 and used Lucy’s spare bedroom as a HQ.  

Mazuma won Disruptor of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in 2019. She shared her startup journey with our CEO, Simon Cureton, at one of this year’s GBEA finalist announcement workshops. Cohen says she and Hughes put “everything they could” into growthing the business, and “invested all their profits directly back into the company.”

They also took out a variety of business loans, acquired grants, and in 2019 took part in an equity raise. “We’ve experienced most of the major funding businesses out there,” she said.

4. Imployable – the power of crowdfunding 

In 2015, Imployable’s co-founder, Peter Kelly, left his career in the Royal Marines. Although he’d gained some impressive project management qualifications alongside during his time in the military, he was struggling to find a job.

He met up with fellow ex-Royal Marine Kieron Yeoman who was coaching people to transition back into the workplace, and realised they shared a keen interest in “getting work”. 

The pair decided to combine their skills and start Imployable, a career management tool that empowers people to take charge of their own careers by identifying, mapping and tracking their way into a new career.

Speaking with Funding Options’ People Director, Zoe Cornish, Peter explained that he initially received £20,000 from friends to fund his idea. However, the big funding challenge came when he had to make a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). 

“That initial £20,000 allowed us to fake it until we made it, the app was far too difficult to build any sort of MVP without six figures”.

Imployable managed to secure £300,000 of seed investment after creating the graphic design for its product. The pair did a crowdfunding campaign in 2019 with 300 shareholders and recently finished a crowdfund with a further 290+ shareholders, obtaining over £1 million in investments. 

Funding for business growth

Feeling inspired?

If you’re looking to get your business off the ground or if you’re ready to take it to the next level, use our platform to see what funding you could be eligible for today. 

Our Funding Cloud technology connects you with over 120 lenders in seconds to provide uniquely tailored results from across the lender market.

As well as a fast application process and instant, pre-approved offers, you’ll get free access to a Business Finance Specialist who will help you to navigate the funding process. 

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Joe Morley
Joe Morley

Head of Unsecured Lending

Joe has worked in the alternative lending space since 2015. During this time he has helped hundreds of SMEs access millions in essential funding ranging from long-term asset-backed lending to short-term unsecured revolving credit lines and beyond. In his role, Joe manages and supports a large team of Credit Finance specialists.

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