ENTREPRENEURSHIP in the North-East is on the rise, according to figures published today by Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank.

They reveal that the government-backed programme has lent more than £30.5m to small businesses in the North-East since it was launched in 2012. In the last year alone, entrepreneurs in the region were granted loans totalling more than £4.8m (an increase of 18.6 per cent since the end of October 2018).

To date, the programme has issued 3,882 loans to aspiring business owners in the region, with the average loan amounting to £7,867.

Among them is Gary Ewing, from Bishop Auckland, who took out a £25,000 Start Up Loan to launch Inspiral Cycles, a bicycle shop and online retailer that provides new bikes, parts and accessories, plus a workshop.

Mr Ewing had always had a passion for bikes, so when the local cycle store in Bishop Auckland closed, he and his wife Fiona spotted an opportunity.

In addition to their savings, Mr Ewing used the loan to purchase stock and equipment to kick-start the business. The shop is now doing so well that Gary now employs four full-time staff and Inspiral Cycles is building an extension to double the size of the current space.

Mr Ewing said: “Starting a business is the best thing I’ve ever done – but it hasn’t been an easy journey. I’ve had to negotiate many hurdles and challenges.

“Fortunately, Start Up Loans has supported me every step of the way.”

In addition to finance, Start Up Loan applicants receive support from an experienced business advisor.