Start Up Loans recognises that during these times of unprecedented uncertainty small businesses across the UK are facing significant challenges.

We are continuing to provide support to business owners through our dedicated network of delivery partners. Second loans are also still available for those needing financial assistance to help them get through this very difficult economic period.

We have also published a series of guides on important areas of business including social media, marketing and SEO. The guides are designed to ensure business owners, existing and new, have all the resources they need to build and grow a successful business.

We also believe that peer-to-peer support is vital. That is why we invited our customers to share their advice and tips on what they are doing to protect their business during this difficult period.

Case studies:

Motivating staff and boosting morale

PJ Farr used an £18,000 loan in 2013 to launch UK Connect, a communications provider for the construction industry.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced him to change the way he interacts with staff and rethink how he approaches employee well-being.

 "As a business owner, you are responsible for your employees. Our job is to reassure them, be open about the situation and communicate regularly, especially if working from home. The decisions we make now will impact their lives and the overall welfare of our companies when the crisis is over.

"Ensure daily communication with your employees. I recommend having a structure in place. It might be one-on-one calls if your employees work independently of each other, or a team call, if they work together. The key is consistency. Email alone is insufficient, so it's important to make use of video conferencing technologies.

"You should always be looking for the silver linings. This is a great time to upskill and provide training to your staff. Maintain individual KPIs and regularly check-in to ensure your colleagues feel supported and motivated.

"Finally, be available and accessible. Listen to your employees' concerns. If a newly remote employee is clearly struggling, but is not communicating, ask them how they're doing. This will help you find out important information you might not hear otherwise. Be sure to listen carefully to the response and ensure that the employee's concerns are the focus of this conversation."

Making the most of technology to speak to people in their homes

Craig Rose used a £25,000 loan in 2015 to launch Seaweed and Co., a company selling products made from seaweed. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way he engages with customers and has encouraged him to make the most of technology.

"These are incredibly surreal and challenging times, and as a small business it is worrying that such a huge amount of effort is under strain from uncertainty. However, it gives time to reflect.

"In my business, we are focusing on what we can do now, how we can start conversations with people who are now spending time at home.

"We have developed video presentations to send to key customers that explain various products and how they can be best used, as we would if we were meeting someone face to face. We have also set up an online booking system so that customers can arrange a call to ask questions.

"We are also planning for when normality returns. We are requesting that customers continue to challenge us with developing solutions that use our products, so that when the time comes, we are ready to go.

"I am optimistic that these challenging times will lead to good things and that we will come out stronger, with a fresh perspective."

Moving operations online and diversifying

Holly Hamer used an £8,300 loan in 2019 to launch Rockit, a children's boutique which sells sustainable clothing. She was forced to overhaul the way she runs her business after the government ordered all shops selling non-essential goods to shut their doors.

"The current crisis has presented my business with a number of unforeseen challenges. Following the closure of all shops, I am now running Rockit online. I have added additional stock to the website, and to support my move to online I have used some of the loan money to run Google ads. As Rockit is a new business, web sales figures are still in their infancy, so I'm hoping to use this ‘downtime' to try and grow these.

"I would also urge fellow business owners to make the most of social media. I am regularly posting on Instagram as a way of maintaining a connection with my customers in a world with no face to face contact.

"In addition to moving sales online, I have taught myself to make children's clothing, testing my creations out on my own children. I am planning to use the extra time I have to develop my skills, with the ambition to sell them in the shop when we return to normality. Not only will this give my business a unique angle, it also has the potential to increase my margins.

"Alongside making clothes, I've also been making masks for a local supplier of healthcare products to the NHS following a call-out for people with sewing skills to help them meet demand.

"I can't change what's happening with the physical shop, but I can make the most of the time that I've been given, and I'm hoping by learning a new skill I'll be able to diversify and grow the business further."