Showcasing the Best of Welsh Business


Wales Based Start Up Loan Recipient a Finalist for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards


A Start Up Loans-backed business owner from Wales has been announced as regional finalist for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

Originating from Cardiff, Claire Pledger, founder of House of Curls, is a finalist in the Health & Beauty Entrepreneur category for Wales, representing the entrepreneurial spirit of the region.

Claire Pledger, founder of House of Curls

Clare Pledger received a £20,000 Start Up Loan via Business in Focus to launch her business House of Curls, an e-tailer specialising in curly and natural hair products. She launched the business after finding a gap in the market for hair products that cater towards people with naturally curly hair.

She is one of seven founders of Start Up Loans-backed small businesses to be announced as a finalist.

Louise McCoy, Commercial Director, Start Up Loans, said:

“It’s wonderful to see so many of our Start Up Loans recipients being recognised for their hard work and tenacity by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Claire has shown true entrepreneurial spirit with House of Curls and I am pleased to see that, with the help of Start Up Loans, she has been able to access the finance needed to grow the business to where it is today. I hope her story, and the stories of the other Start Up Loans-backed businesses being recognised as finalists, inspire others to take the leap into business ownership.”

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards was first held in 2013 and was set up to acknowledge the hard work and inspiring stories of entrepreneurs across the UK. Previous winners include David Buttress of JustEat and Julie Deane OBE of the Cambridge Satchel Co.

On 21st November 2022, this year’s Awards will bring together 1,400 entrepreneurs, judges, mentors, investors, and partners to celebrate and champion the hard work of Britain’s entrepreneurs. Guests will have the opportunity to hear from leading figures in British entrepreneurship and network with fellow entrepreneurs from across the country.

Other Start Up Loans-backed finalists from across the UK include,

NICE Drinks founded by Lucy & Jeremy Busk

Nominated in the Food and Drink category for London and the East of England.

NICE, a UK based independent wine company, was founded by Lucy Wright and Jeremy May in 2019.   Jeremey had worked in the food and drink industry and came up with the idea for NICE after discovering an American brand of canned wine on Instagram and became immediately obsessed with the concept. He wanted to make wine more approachable and fun. They took out loans worth £25,000 each in February and May of 2020 with Virgin StartUp to kick start their ‘wine in a can’ business and were announced as Start Up Loans ambassadors the same year.

Toddle Born Wild founded by Hannah Saunders

Nominated in the Health and Beauty Category for the South West.

After leaving the armed forces after nine years, mum of two, Hannah took out a £14,700 loan in 2020 to launch Toddle Born Wild, a natural vegan children skincare brand. She decided to launch after spotting a gap in market for sustainable and effective skin protection for children. She continues to expand her business and has since won funding from Steven Bartlett and Deborah Meaden on Dragon’s Den.

Healthy Nibbles founded by Sara Roberts:

Finalist in the Sustainability Entrepreneur category for Scotland.

Healthy Nibbles is the UK’s award-winning answer to healthy snacking. The business was set up in 2015 when Sara grew tired of the only food available to snack on ‘on the go’ was unhealthy. Her business now provides healthy snack options to companies in the form of vending machines, ‘micro markets’, snack boxes and gifts. Sara Roberts took out £20,00 over two loans through The Hub.

The British Craft House founded by Susan Bonnar

Finalist for creative entrepreneur of the year in the Southeast

Susan, 52, was an air traffic controller in the Royal Navy for 22 years and when she retired, she spent many evenings at home crafting. Frustrated with not having a suitable platform to sell her own products, her idea for The British Craft House was born. She took out £12,000 in 2019 through Delivery Partner Virgin StartUp, to pay for designing and developing The British Craft House – an e-commerce site selling hand crafted artisan gifts.

KinKind founded by Victoria Coe

Finalist for Start Up Entrepreneur of the year in the Southeast

Victoria, founder of KinKind, an e-retailer specialising in 100% plastic free, cruelty free and vegan, British shampoo and conditioner bars, took out a loan for £25,000 through delivery partner Virgin StartUp in May 2019. She’s on a mission to eliminate plastic bottles in UK family bathrooms with their 100% plastic-free hair & beauty bars.

The Strings Club founded by Amy Cunningham

Finalists in the Scale Up category for the Midlands

The Strings Club was founded in 2012 by professional violinist and teacher, Amy Cunningham. She runs a series of music camps and programmes for children aged 4-11. Her aim was to give children an opportunity to engage with music in a rewarding, enriching – but most of all fun way.

The Start Up Loans programme recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, having delivered 98,000 loans worth over £922m in funding.

In September, the British Business Bank announced it is expanding the programme to include new businesses that have been trading for up to three years, as well as introducing a new growth loan option for businesses that have been trading for up to five years.