Streamlion helps female entrepreneur secure successive loan funding for rapidly expanding portfolio of tailoring and convenience businesses

Streamlion helps female entrepreneur secure successive loan funding for rapidly expanding portfolio of tailoring and convenience businesses

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!”

5 top tips on how to scale your business successfully

5 top tips on how to scale your business successfully

Your start-up is successful.  Business is good.  Another idea is brewing.  The inkling to start your portfolio has begun …

But before you can launch yourself into that initial phase once again you need to know how to successfully scale your existing business so it can continue to fund your future adventures in business.

Scaling a business is about more than just growing your sales and employing more people. To successfully scale, your business needs to be based on the right foundations which ensure it is equipped to deal with a continued higher volume of transactions. It will undoubtedly involve further investment and a good amount of time invested in strategizing for future success.

At Streamlion, we work with clients at all stages of building and scaling businesses so we thought it would be useful to capture our top 5 tips on how to scale your business successfully.

Top Tip #1: Start at the beginning

It’s all too easy for excitable entrepreneurs to leap over the initial stages of scaling a business and move straight to the increase in marketing or selling. Before that, it’s essential to ensure your business is equipped to handle this extra throughput. Not doing so could result in disappointed customers which, in turn, could seriously damage your reputation and put paid to any future plans for growth. Premature scaling is cited as one of the leading causes of startup failure.

The beginning is planning. Scaling a business is not the same as growing it. Scaling involves innovating your business model as well as your product or service. You need to invest time in working out potential new markets, back-office automation and funding.

Top Tip #2: The price of growth

Scaling a business effectively is never cheap. In fact, one of the most common reasons that startups fail to scale is down to funding. And funding a scale-up is an entirely different prospect to funding a startup so it’s essential to work with experts who can help with creating a sustained growth plan as well as helping you understand the transformations that need to happen to set the business up for a successful future.

Like scaling, finding funding is down to putting in the right preparation and demonstrating that your business is ready for change and growth.

Top Tip #3: Optimisation is key to transformation

To quote Einstein “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” Scaling a business needs the same approach; success is all about understanding how things work and how they need improving to cope with a larger volume.

Achieving automation and integration, which are the likely outcomes of optimisation, will likely involve technology. The happy fact is, there’s no shortage of packages, apps and products that can help make things easier. However, finding the right one for your business is critical.

CRMs, automated marketing, accounting and your overall IT network all need to come under the microscope at this stage.

Top Tip #4: A change of pace

Your business goals might be clearer but it’s a well-documented fact that change management needs careful handling.

As well as any team members involved, it’s well worth getting under the skin of your customer experience journey. Plotting out every touchpoint between you and your clients will help to identify any areas that might need attention prior to scaling. We use Customer Journey Maps to help our clients to see any areas of friction which might cause problems when scaled. Additionally, you can identify areas for investment, which could be wrapped up with the other areas that need funding in order to create the very best version of your business.

Top Tip #5: It’s not all about you

Creating a business is a little like having a baby, you bring it into being, nurture and help it to grow and, inevitably, you eventually leave it to stand on its own two feet. This time is now.

For a business to scale, it needs to be able to operate consistently based on the policies and processes you’ve spent so long on assessing and improving. You have options as to whether you outsource some of the regular activities, or whether you hire a team to run things for you. Either way, taking a step back for the first time can be daunting.

The key thing to remember is that you’ve invested time in getting things right, so your business is ready for this, even if you aren’t. It’s also really important to hire the right people – people you know share your values and will continue to inject enthusiasm and innovation into the business.

Finally, as with most things in business, successful scaling is also a mindset. By working with a strong team of advisers and having faith in your own ideas, scalability becomes infinitely easier.

Seven Simple Questions to ask before Starting your own Business…

Seven Simple Questions to ask before Starting your own Business…

Yesterday I was chatting to someone at the pool and they asked me what I did for a living.

I said “I have my own business”, to which they replied “That’s great, I would love to be my own boss”.

But is that all it’s about?

Definitely not – jumping into the start-up world is a big decision and you need to be completely convinced that you have a great idea you are passionate about.

Even with this belief, you risk a great deal getting started and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.

There’s loads of advice online and in start-up workshops, but basically you need to ask yourself seven simple questions before you take the leap:

1. Why do I want to start my own business?

If you simply hate your job, or you’re following a trend, it probably won’t survive. You need to solve a problem in an industry you love and this passion will help you succeed.

2. What problem(s) am I solving?

You need to provide something unique that will solve a problem for someone else. If they can do it themselves then there is no need to buy from you!

3. What lifestyle sacrifices am I willing to make?

It’s a big decision to give up a high-paying job to follow your entrepreneurial idea. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and ask what kind of lifestyle you would be comfortable with.

4. Will my family and friends be supportive?

The small business rollercoaster takes you up and down, and as you veer from ‘busy excitement’ to ‘tumble weed depression’, you need to have supportive people around you.

5. How much money will I need?

It’s good to have some savings to use in the early days, but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Cash flow can be a killer so make sure that you have loans or access to more cash if necessary.

6. Should I grow quickly or take my time?

If you have a great business idea, you should seize the moment and grow as fast as you can. This is best with funding so that your investors can realise quick and profitable returns. However, if you’re going it alone with your own money, you can take a little more time.

7. Am I in the right place to launch my business?

You need to either know, or get to know, your industry and make contacts by going to lots of networking and start-up events. Hearing about the experiences of other people is the best way to learn. This can help you work out whether you’re in the right place geographically to launch your product.

Remember it’s great to be your own boss, but it’s your passion and belief in your business idea, plus a strong and stable support structure that will give you the best possible chance of succeeding.

Why cashflow planning is the secret to business success

Why cashflow planning is the secret to business success

The UK is known for being highly entrepreneurial, with over 99% of all domestic businesses being classified as SMEs.

However, research carried out in 2019 showed that 64% of the British workforce has entrepreneurial dreams but an incredible 41% of those are put off setting up their own business by money fears.

In 2016, Hiscox and Bloomberg carried out research showing that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start a business fail within the first 18 months. Cash flow is listed as the number one reason for failure.

Cash Is King

No surprise then, that my latest blog is all about cash. That four-letter-word which proves so critical to everything we do in business. At Streamlion, we help businesses to find funding for their entrepreneurial dreams but to do that effectively, we need to really focus in on cash.
Love or loathe the saying, but cash really is king.

Creating a cashflow forecast

When entrepreneurs work with Streamlion to arrange a business loan, we take a detailed look at cashflow forecasts, plotting out how and when they expect to make their sales.

Often, simply by undertaking this task, business owners give real thought to the incomings and outgoings of their business for the first time. It’s easy to think in ‘big handfuls’ when planning a business concept or launch but getting down to the finer detail will quickly expose unsafe assumptions or gaps in your business plan.

Doing a cashflow forecast at an early stage in the life of the business is also a great way to get into the habit of continually updating it. Cashflow isn’t something we glance at now and again. As a successful business owner, you need to have a clear view of your cash situation at pretty much every given moment.

That’s because, even if you have the funding you require to start the business, your cash can also be affected by late payment of invoices. This is an ongoing problem for the majority of Britain’s SMEs. In fact, during 2018, accounting software business FreeAgent found that just 58% of invoices were paid on time or within a 3-day window of their due date.

Gary Turner, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Xero puts this problem into sharp focus:

“Late payments don’t just damage business finances and relationships, they compromise personal finances and relationships. Our research illustrates how getting paid on time can have a dramatic effect on a small business owner’s happiness. When small businesses struggle, the whole of the UK struggles.”

Clarity of cashflow is key to decision making

Having a medium-term view of your cashflow is critical when it comes to business operations. When you run a business, you continually need to make sound decisions, often quickly. Whether your biggest customer goes bankrupt and can’t pay their latest invoice, or emergency investment is needed, you need to know whether the business can cope with the situation financially.

A sudden interruption to cashflow can be catastrophic for SME businesses. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, combatting late payments could keep an additional 500,000 businesses open every year.

The statistics are compelling. Positive cashflow is key to survival unless you have the funding you need to ride out the tricky times. Funding is always at a preferable rate if applied for in advance, so having the information you need, at the click of a button, gives you and your business a distinct advantage.

As recently as 2018, the government committed to improving the late payment situation by affording protection to smaller businesses, who are the main sufferers when larger companies take too long to pay. So, the issue has been recognised, but we’re yet to see any firm legislation. Let’s hope our leaders can see the benefit of supporting entrepreneurship and work harder to ensure the UK retains its reputation as one of the best countries in the world in which to start a business.

How to scale your business – part two

How to scale your business – part two

Our last blog discussed the differences between – and challenges associated with – growing and scaling a business. This time, we want to share some tips to help you successfully scale your business.

Scaling a business is about more than just growing your sales and employing more people. To successfully scale, your business needs to be based on the right foundations which ensure it is equipped to deal with a continued higher volume of transactions. It will undoubtedly involve further investment and a good amount of time invested in strategizing for future success.

At Streamlion, we work with clients at all stages of building and scaling businesses so we thought it would be useful to capture our top 5 tips on how to scale your business successfully.

Top Tip #1: Start at the beginning

It’s all too easy for excitable entrepreneurs to leap over the initial stages of scaling a business and move straight to the increase in marketing or selling. Before that, it’s essential to ensure your business is equipped to handle this extra throughput. Not doing so could result in disappointed customers which, in turn, could seriously damage your reputation and put paid to any future plans for growth. Premature scaling is cited as one of the leading causes of startup failure.

The beginning is the planning. Scaling a business is not the same as growing it. Scaling involves innovating your business model as well as your product or service. You need to invest time in working out potential new markets, back-office automation and funding.

Top Tip #2: The price of growth

Scaling a business effectively is never cheap. In fact, one of the most common reasons that startups fail to scale is down to funding. And funding a scale-up is an entirely different prospect to funding a startup so it’s essential to work with experts who can help with creating a sustained growth plan as well as helping you understand the transformations that need to happen to set the business up for a successful future.

Like scaling, finding funding is down to putting in the right preparation and demonstrating that your business is ready for change and growth.

Top Tip #3: Optimisation is key to transformation

To quote Einstein “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” Scaling a business needs the same approach; success is all about understanding how things work and how they need improving to cope with larger volume.

Achieving automation and integration, which are the likely outcomes of optimisation, will likely involve technology. The happy fact is, there’s no shortage of packages, apps and products that can help make things easier. However, finding the right one for your business is critical.

CRMs, automated marketing, accounting and your overall IT network all need to come under the microscope at this stage.

Top Tip #4: A change of pace

Your business goals might be clearer but it’s a well-documented fact that change management needs careful handling.

As well as any team members involved, it’s well worth getting under the skin of your customer experience journey. Plotting out every touchpoint between you and your clients will help to identify any areas that might need attention prior to scaling. We use Customer Journey Maps to help our clients to see any areas of friction which might cause problems when scaled. Additionally, you can identify areas for investment, which could be wrapped up with the other areas that need funding in order to create the very best version of your business.

Top Tip #5: It’s not all about you

Creating a business is a little like having a baby, you bring it into being, nurture and help it to grow and, inevitably, you eventually leave it to stand on its own two feet. This time is now.

For a business to scale, it needs to be able to operate consistently based on the policies and processes you’ve spent so long assessing and improving. You have options as to whether you outsource some of the regular activities, or whether you hire a team to run things for you. Either way, taking a step back for the first time can be daunting.

The key thing to remember is that you’ve invested time in getting things right, so your business is ready for this, even if you aren’t. It’s also really important to hire the right people – people you know share your values and will continue to inject enthusiasm and innovation into the business.

Finally, as with most things in business, successful scaling is also a mindset. By working with a strong team of advisers and having faith in your own ideas, scalability becomes infinitely easier.

At Streamlion Consulting, we are experts in knowing and advising on the difference between growing and scaling your business.

Our scale-up workshops are designed to help entrepreneurs face exactly this type of challenge. We spend time looking at your business, acting as your trusted advisor to help you to make the decision that’s right for you and your business goals and aspirations. And we can then help find funding for this type of expansion.

If you’re interested in finding out more, contact Helen on helen@streamlionconsulting.com or call 07790 493033.

The Startups 100 for 2020

The Startups 100 for 2020

You may be forgiven for thinking not much has been happening in the world of business startups for the past year or so. You’d be wrong. We’ve seen our busiest year ever here at Streamlion, and it seems there’s been no change to the old adage that alongside crisis comes opportunity.

Startups.co.uk have published their list of The Startups100 for 2020, using criteria such as finances, turnover, strength of business idea and the opinions of existing successful entrepreneurs, to rank businesses across the categories of tech, family, social, B2C, B2B, and regional.

The full list of the class of 2020 is here, and we’re excited to see everything from healthy baby food, to outsourced delivery services for small grocery stores and a platform for families to use to monitor elderly relatives in care.

There’s a heavy emphasis on automation – or making everyday life more simple – with a hefty number of data and analytics platforms included. Wellbeing and sustainability are also big players. Overall though, it’s great to see the appetite for entrepreneurialism hasn’t diminished.