Showcasing the Best of Welsh Business


Start Up Loans Programme Celebrates 10th Anniversary and Reveals Welsh Ambassador


Abergavenny-based Dryad, an outdoor sportswear company, is among 12 small businesses to be selected as champions of UK start-ups by Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank.

The announcement comes as the programme celebrates its 10-year anniversary, having delivered more than 4,300 loans worth more than £43m to new business owners in Wales since 2012.

One such recipients of these loans are Matt, a triathlete, outdoors-enthusiast, and Joby, a designer with a passion for running, who took out a loan of £25,000 in April 2021 to launch Dryad.

The heart of their venture is to make the best quality and sustainable women’s sportswear while fighting for better equality in sport.

For Matt, Dryad was influenced by the negative impacts of fast fashion on the planet, alongside, and on the opposite side of the news agenda, the persistent inequalities in sport. Inspired by his sister, someone impacted by both discussions, he set out to design a sustainable women’s sportswear brand in Wales with a purpose and a mission to tackle barriers women experience in sport.

Since the birth of the company, Dryad has collaborated with apparel design company SSEAMS to create a line of women’s activewear using recycled fabrics that have a a fully traceable value chain. The company also allocates a portion of profits to organisations that help increase participation in sports for girls and women.

Matt and Joby said:

“We set Dryad up because we wanted our work to not only be purpose-driven but also fun. We wanted to build a brand that has integrity, is fair and transparent and enables us to provide opportunities and support women to participate in all sports at all levels.”

The company’s main ambition, apart from continuing to grow, design new product lines with sustainable materials and raise awareness of the shared inequalities many women face, is to become a B Corp, a certification awarded to businesses meeting high standards of social and environmental performance and transparency.

The annual Start Up Loans Ambassadors programme, now in its seventh year, celebrates exceptional business owners, Matt and Joby, who have followed their ambition of becoming their own boss after receiving support from the government-backed Start Up Loans programme.

Drawn from each of the UK’s 12 Nations and regions, the 2022 Start Up Loans Ambassadors reflect the broad diversity and ambition of the nation’s smaller business sector at a grass roots level. More details of the businesses selected from Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England’s regions can be found further below.

Start Up Loans was established as a £10m pilot scheme by Lord Young in 2012, in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis. His vision was to enable more young people to achieve their dream of setting up their own business, by offering affordable loans and expert support to those who might otherwise struggle to access funding.

Since then, the programme has delivered more than 97,000 loans to business owners across the UK, amounting to more than £900m of funding, while expanding to support entrepreneurs of all ages. 40% of loan recipients have been women and 21% people from minority ethnic backgrounds. 40% of recipients have been aged 18-30, reflecting the scheme’s continued support for the next generation of UK business owners.

Susan Nightingale, Devolved Nations Director, UK Network said:

“Given the current challenges facing business owners across Wales, it’s never been more important to celebrate those using creativity, tenacity and grit to make a success of their enterprises. It’s my pleasure to welcome Joby and Matt and congratulate them on their roles as Ambassadors, and I look forward to working with them over the coming year to inspire others thinking of becoming their own boss.”

Tina McKenzie, Policy and Advocacy Chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“This is great news from the British Business Bank, marking 10 years of improving the small business ‘birth rate’, and at the same time powering the levelling up agenda by supporting small business creation in all the UK nations and regions.  Today’s figures and ambassadors are a real legacy for Lord Young, and we hope that this can be built on and expanded in future.”

Robin Spinks, Head of Inclusive Design, RNIB said:

“RNIB wants every blind person to be able to lead the life they want to live. British Business Bank is a government owned business development bank dedicated to making finance markets work better for smaller businesses. Two very different organisations have come together with a shared mission to enable those with sight loss to realise their ambition in starting a successful business.”

Through a network of delivery partner organisations, the Start Up Loans programme provides access to pre-and-post loan support to help applicants to develop a business plan; fixed-interest first and second loans of up to £25,000 to start or grow their business; as well as mentoring support to help loan recipients with everything from cash flow to marketing.

In 2022, the programme was expanded to make first loans available to businesses that have been trading for up to three years, and second loans to businesses up to five years. The programme previously provided finance to start-ups which had been trading for up to two years.

Breakdown of loans by region

*Source: Start Up Loans, 31 August 2022

Start Up Loans ambassadors 2022/23

  1. Glasgow, Scotland: Emma Airley and Sebastian Bacewicz – Pastéis Lisboa
  2. Abergavenny, Wales: Matt Thomas and Joby Barnard – Dryad
  3. Craigavon, Northern Ireland: Claudia Mariza Rosado e Costa – Mama Claudia
  4. Old Street, London: Dhruvin Patel – Ocushield
  5. Lincoln, East Midlands: Joezy Uweh and Amy White – Naturawell
  6. Woking, South East: Choe Bruce – Chloe Bruce Academy
  7. Cambridge, East of England: Alice Wu – Peace and Pure
  8. Durham, North East: Emma Hamlett  – Collected
  9. York, Yorkshire & The Humber: Chantal Charles-Smith – Laughing Llama Coffee and Bistro
  10. Walsall, West Midlands: Nirmla Warwood – Thatch and Stone
  11. Clitheroe, North West: Selina Ellis-Gray – Hellion Toys
  12. Wrexham, South West: Hannah Saunders – Toddle Born Wild
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