by Streamlion Consulting | Jan 30, 2023 | Case Study
Onur Simsek is both smart and technically capable. So, although he had all he needed to build his game-changing hospitality business solution, when it came to seeking the Start Up Loan funding to fulfil his dream, he was quick to seek out expert financial help from Helen Steel at Streamlion Consulting.
Atlacarte is a hospitality business solution that is now attracting significant interest from major brands. Its founder Onur Simsek, originally from the Netherlands, had followed opportunities around Europe for some years, including running a Benelux business for a large technology firm from their base in Dublin.
It was in a bar in Dublin during a 2012 business trip that the original idea for Atlacarte was born. Hungry and frustrated with slow waiter service, Onur conceived the idea for a platform to improve customer service speed and experience. He registered the domain name but did no more.
A few years later, work brought him back to Dublin – and he decided the time was right. He began to digitise the hospitality customer experience by building a unique software solution based on a messaging platform – an ideal medium for the highly social world of eating out.
Atlacarte found immediate success with restaurants, pubs and takeaways who loved its chat-based ordering and reservation capabilities – but then the pandemic shifted the market. By 2020, a slew of new apps and appless solutions had emerged to serve this space. There was real danger that his platform’s wider potential might be lost in the morass. He was determined this wouldn’t happen.
Finding fast funding for growth
Development takes time and money, so Onur now needed funding. Having bootstrapped the original build with his own funds, he needed a loan to invest in making the solution a fully appless and web-based enterprise hospitality CX solution for big chains and international brands.
Moving quickly is essential in the tech business. Moving at speed with finance depends on having a deep understanding of the process and every fact and document at your fingertips – especially when it comes to gaining a Government-backed Start Up loan.
A friend recommended that he speak with Helen to get advice – and things moved smartly along from there. Onur recalled that “Helen was really approachable and professional. She was able to take everything out of my hands! With her help I applied for the Start Up Loan I needed to take Atlacarte forwards.”
Virtually effortless application experience
Financial applications and banking procedures can be complex. With Helen’s help, Onur had no need to navigate these. He acknowledged that “I really didn’t have to do anything, as Helen created the business plan, cashflow, and dealt with all the application paperwork. She went above and beyond what I expected and really surprised me with her depth of knowledge. She always knew exactly what was required – and she needed only the minimum from me to get the deal done.”
He continued: “It ended up being easy for me because Helen did everything. This kind of Government financial help seemed quite far away, but through her it was easily reachable. She simplified the process completely – basically saying to me what was needed, what to fill in, and what to get for her. If you give her everything she asks for, she can make an amazing case for you.”
“Without her help I am sure we would have got there eventually, but it might have failed along the way and would probably have taken three or four months. Thanks to Helen it only took one month to get approval.”
With his Start Up Loan in place, Onur was able to shift Atlacarte development into high gear. He has created the market’s only true all-in-one hospitality business solution that uses the vast power of chat to help businesses sell, showcase, and promote themselves by creating conversations between venues and their customers and between customers themselves – wherever they are.
Sharing opportunity with new entrepreneurs
Onur has built a strong relationship with Helen through the loan application process. “She’s so nice to work with. She even surprised me with a gift of brownies, which happened to be from the small town in Wales where my girlfriend comes from – those personal touches matter” he remembered.
Small wonder perhaps that he has been quick to share the benefits. Because Onur did not originally have an office of his own, his Uncle had offered him space within his accountancy practice, which supports the local Turkish community. In the months following lockdown, Onur became aware of many people that wanted to start their own businesses after experiencing job losses and employment uncertainty. With his Uncle’s support, Onur referred several of these to Streamlion Consulting.
Helen has helped several businesses this community unlock access to funding – including, so far, a furniture designer and maker, two mobile car washing firms, and a mobile dry cleaner. She has also helped find funding for a kosher chocolate start up for a member of the nearby Orthodox Jewish community.
Onur has become a regular referral partner for Streamlion. His advice to other entrepreneurs: “I know so many struggling entrepreneurs – although I will only get to do the Start Up loan process once, I will continue to refer others to Helen for help. People who have a dream need to be helped to do it now – because if they wait, they will regret it”
Want to become a referral partner? Find out more here.
You can download this case study here: Streamlion_CaseStudy_Atlacarte_FINAL
by Streamlion Consulting | Nov 16, 2022 | Case Study
Mind and Bodee is a natural supplements company focused on supporting wellness through food and gut health.
Nazia Begum never imagined she could have a business of her own. When she dared to dream of turning her beauty therapy knowledge into a makeup sales business, she started on a journey – although it was less smooth than she first imagined.
She recalled: “I decided I wanted a business at the age of 40, because I thought it was now or never. I naively thought that I would be able to start the business off with my own savings”
Very soon, Nazia realised she wasn’t fully prepared for all the potential costs of starting a business. She had chosen a product brand to distribute but explained: “As I started to do my research and get samples, I realised I would need a cash injection to get it started. To start up, I would need to buy 1000-2000 units up front to get them at a reasonable price – this was more than I had planned for.”
Her first step was her high street bank. She not only faced the issue of having no previous business history but realised that the language of finance and the detailed business information requests would be a challenge. She briefly considered a personal loan – but realised that these carried interest rates that would be far too expensive.
One good idea is enough
After a recommendation from one of Helen’s previous clients, Nazia got in touch with her. She was very pleased that she had. “When we reached out to Helen, she was absolutely fantastic. She talked us through our idea and vision and held our hand through the process.”
Nazia was delighted to find that Helen considered her a candidate for a Start Up Loan, with a viable business concept and a good credit history. It came as something of a surprise. “In my mind I was just a Mum of five and part time therapist who could probably never have a business of my own. After speaking to Helen, I realised you just need a good idea. And if you’ve got a good idea with the right support, you can actually become a businesswoman.”
Building proper foundations
Helen and Nazia began working together to improve the original business plan: “Helen helped rewrite my business plan in a language that the Start Up Loan company would understand and acknowledge – I couldn’t have done that on my own” she said.
Putting together a cashflow forecast was something about which Nazia had been particularly nervous. “The cashflow aspect was a minefield, but Helen walked us through it all. Because how do you know what to put in a cashflow forecast if you’ve never been in business? I didn’t know what numbers to put in, or the number of units to say that I could sell each day. It’s hard to know what to put in for a new business, and it is quite daunting.”
Helen handheld her through the process, ensuring that all the costs were considered – not just for inventory but for import duties, warehousing costs and customer post and packaging.
Within six weeks of the application, Nazia was delighted to receive approval for her Start Up Loan.
New concerns sowed seeds of change
The advent of COVID and the lockdowns that followed in April 2020 put things on hold as new concerns arose. Among these were Nazia’s husband’s health as a diabetic and asthmatic since both emerged as risk factors for COVID. Her response was to get proactive: “I became really interested in immunity. We helped boost my husband’s immune system with vitamins, minerals, and supplements. My kitchen cupboards were full of them! When he did get COVID he was able to recover quite easily.”
Nazia could also see that makeup wasn’t necessarily a smart market to get into at a time when people were wearing less of it than ever before. This, coupled with her new interest drove a change of direction. “I realised: I love this area of wellness. So instead of waiting until we could see what the economy was like after the pandemic, I would pivot the business and go into supplements.”
She realised the business model and plan created for the original business could easily pivot to one that focused on selling a natural supplement brand. Nazia did some further research, and by October 2020 had identified the brand ‘Love Your Gut’, bonding with an Australian influencer who was proving its success in that market. The die was cast, and she decided to bring it to the UK.
Facing the final hurdles as a family
All the business plans were still valid – but there were some extra costs to consider, such as meeting the requirements for UK food labelling standards and new marketing advice, branding and social setup, which took significant time.
The delays and additional costs were quickly absorbing the funds from the Start Up Loan. When Nazia asked Helen’s advice again, she learned that there could be additional loans for the company up to a total of £100,000 with the involvement of new directors.
Her adult daughters had already started to become involved and enthused about the business. So, armed with this new information the decision was made that Anisa and Anila would join as directors. Helen helped them build a clear case for additional Start Up Loan funding, which was granted.
Although the business has taken a little time to get off the starting blocks, Nazia believes Helen has played a pivotal role throughout the journey. When asked why, she said: “Helen is not just supportive, but empowering and empathic. She is knowledgeable and relatable, and always pushes your business not her own.”
She continued: “Helen understands that business finance can be scary, especially if it’s new – and that people with aspirations don’t always know business. So, she is always asking what you need, and where you are on your own journey, educating and helping you all the way.”
Mind and Bodee has now become a truly family business. Today, the products are in stock and ready to roll out into the UK market. It has a family management team on a mission to help improve the UK’s gut health through natural supplements and healthy living. Nazia is sure they have a good opportunity: “People who want to get healthier, even if they are diagnosed with illness, always have a choice – they can help themselves, improve their gut health, and have many options they can explore. Mind and Bodee plans to help them.”
You can download this case study here: Streamlion_Case_Study_MindBodee_FINAL
by Streamlion Consulting | Aug 18, 2022 | Case Study
Entrepreneur Hafsah Jamil has all the business vision she needs to succeed – but found the information demands of bank loan applications for funding a challenge. Helen Steel from Streamlion Consulting provides the ongoing financial advice, guidance, and practical support enabling her to secure the funding she needs to expand her portfolio.
Securing funding for an entrepreneurial business is often more complex than people expect. When Hafsah Jamil set out to invest in a workwear embroidery business opportunity in October 2018 her first stop was her high street bank.
Hafsah was already an experienced business owner, but she found she wasn’t fully prepared with all the information she would need to apply for an Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) Loan.
She explained “I already owned Janz Tailoring, which consists of two local tailoring businesses I purchased about five years ago. When I asked my bank about funding my next purchase, they referred to Helen because I needed a quality business plan and financial forecast to make an EFG loan application through NatWest.”
Helen provided both plan and forecast, but also conducted an Operational Due Diligence report on the workwear company – and Hafsah decided not to proceed with the purchase as a result.
Laying foundations for a successful purchase
The introduction was to prove a turning point, giving Hafsah support and a relationship that she would rely on again and again. She soon identified an even better business opportunity as her third acquisition target. Her uncle and aunt wanted to exit their successful newsagent and convenience store business in Witney, Oxfordshire.
She recalled “I turned my eye to this purchase because I have many years of experience in this type of business. Helen valued the business for me based on my uncle’s financials, and we agreed a purchase price. Helen then did the detailed business plan and financial forecast for an EFG loan, and it was approved by NatWest.”
Although she knows what she wants and has a clear determination to succeed, having Helen to turn to for advice and help gave Hafsah the extra financial confidence and capability she needed. She said: “Helen is such an expert in this area she took all the concerns and issues away from me, by working closely with the lenders for a successful result.”
Building a business portfolio step by step
Hafsah was glad to receive the funding to buy the convenience store, but she was already looking towards the future. She said “I also needed more capital for the business, which I had renamed Newzlink, in order to expand further. Helen helped secure me this funding through the Startup Loan Scheme.”
Hafsah used these funds to purchase a similar store nearby which she could incorporate neatly into her operation. She had already worked with Helen to explore whether Newzlink could offer Post Office services, but this wasn’t possible because a sub–Post Office was already operating in the Maham’s store nearby. Her response was direct “I approached Maham’s and asked if they were open to selling their business to me – and they said yes. It was a quick sale.” She purchased Maham’s from the McColl’s convenience store chain, marking her fourth business acquisition.
The secret of success lies in preparation…
In addition to clear business plans and detailed financials, strong and sustainable cashflow is one of the strongest assets in demonstrating fitness for further funding.
In preparation for the Startup Loan application, Hafsah knew that Newzlink needed to get in the best possible financial shape. She said that “One reason I bought Newzlink originally was its really strong news distribution and local delivery base. When I first bought it, too many customers were in arrears of 3 months or more. Helen had direct experience, having owned and managed a newspaper distribution business in South Africa. She knew exactly what to do to turn our cashflow positive. News distribution is still growing – though there’s a growing challenge from online news, so every part of the business needs to pull its weight.”
… and never being deterred from goals
With no personal assets or access to family funding, working with banks and financial service providers is often the only route to goal for aspiring entrepreneurs. It can seem particularly overwhelming to female and BME entrepreneurs who have ideas and determination but are a little uncertain of their financial ground or the barriers they may encounter.
Hafsah certainly didn’t always find this an easy process. “I could easily have been knocked back many times, dealing with various organisations and individuals. It is true that a female business owner has to work twice as hard at business relationships and arguments to get the outcomes they want. Helen helped me learn that anything is possible if you have the right advice and are backed up with the detailed, accurate, quality information and documents you need.”
With the experience of multiple funding cycles, Hafsah now has all the financial confidence she needs “I don’t need to be scared of the ‘red tape’ and prospect of complicated documents and numbers, because Helen handles it easily and efficiently.”
Her advice to other entrepreneurs who may experience similar feelings is very simple: “Don’t waste time – pick up the phone and call Helen. She’ll help if she can, but even if she can’t help, she’ll say so and suggest other avenues. It’s so worth having that conversation with her.”
On the team and part of the family
As Hafsah’s small empire has consolidated and grown she has continued to turn to Helen to support her efforts to invest in and expand her operations, treating her very much as part of her senior team. “Helen has become my ‘go to’ for all sorts of business and funding advice during the pandemic – if I needed any documents completed for CBILS or Recovery Loans, she was always there to help, and she also helped me get a BounceBack loan for Newzlink.”
As she continues her entrepreneurial journey Hafsah truly values having such deep financial knowledge and advice to call on. She stated: “I knew early on that Helen was a valuable advisor on finance and funding – but I did not expect her to become my friend – she is really now part of the family, highly respected and completely trustworthy.”
This family feeling was only reinforced when Helen was able to help Hafsah’s uncle find his own next step, after selling Newzlink to his niece. She helped him to apply for and gain his own Startup Loan to purchase a takeaway business in Birmingham, which is now doing extremely well.
Learnings pave the way for future success
Hafsah’s original convenience store is now not only serving customers and delivering strong profits but has become the foundation for a small chain within an expanding entrepreneurial business portfolio. She recognised the instrumental role that Helen has played: “I really don’t think I could have done all this without Helen – she has become my expert in this area, and we work very well together. I’ve learned that you don’t need to be an expert in every area to be successful.”
Asked about her biggest learning about how to create entrepreneurial success, she said: “Above all, you must be determined and persevere. I have succeeded because I trusted my gut instincts and believed in my own feel about different entrepreneurial situations – and I was never derailed by other people’s opinions.”
Hafsah’s clear business vision and sheer determination to succeed, along with having the right business backup, means that the future looks bright indeed. She hasn’t finished yet: “I am now looking to expand my tailoring business, so of course I have approached Helen for help with that too. And I am looking for my next business purchase!”
You can download this case study here: Streamlion_Case_Study_HafsahJamil_FINAL