In addition to helping people across Leicestershire and Rutland start a business from scratch, The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity also makes its interest-free business loans available to people wishing to develop their business; something that borrower Hannah Myatt was able to do.
Provided that the business has been running for four years or less and that an applicant meets the other necessary criteria, the Charity’s investment of up to £20,000 is on offer.
Hannah, a dancer and dance teacher, set up her studio – Skytribe – with the help of a small loan, but later found that additional work was required to bring the premises up to the standards she desired – which is where The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity came in.
In fact, Hannah became a Charity first when her loan was approved, becoming the first applicant to benefit from one of The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s Special Loans, which allow applicants unable to meet the guarantor requirements to apply, with the Charity acting as guarantor should it be deemed a strong business plan.
Taking a journey which many entrepreneurs can relate to, Hannah took the leap in changing her career completely in 2007, as she explains:
“I initially trained as a mental health nurse, qualifying during the 2007 NHS job crisis which affected Leicester mental health services badly. After first taking a nursing job in Oxford I returned back to Leicester to find that there were still no opportunities in my field.
“That’s what sparked the career change. I began dancing professionally under my stage name ‘Doe Demure’, specialising in burlesque, belly dance and hula hoop. I’ve enjoyed some fantastic experiences, including a fire hula hoop performance at the Miss Great Britain finals and performing as an opening act for American rock band The Eels, in addition to performing internationally at UKHG Banyoles, Spain.”
In addition to performing, Hannah was also teaching classes across Leicester. However, she was forced to hire venues across the city which is why, in 2015, Hannah made the decision to open Skytribe Dance Studio so that all of her classes could be delivered from one place that is familiar to those taking part.
“Skytribe is open to all adults whatever their dance ability or goals,” Hannah reveals.
“We run public classes including commercial, jazz and contemporary which are hard to find in Leicester, and some of our specialist classes include opportunities to perform at our regular showcases, such as burlesque, belly dance and line dancing. There are also fitness/health-based options like Mash It Up Fitness (dancehall), pole dancing and PiYO (Pilates/Yoga).
“Dance studios have a reputation for being cliquey, unfriendly and only for the young,” adds Hannah. “I wanted to create a space which was welcoming and fun, without limits on fitness, age and other factors.”
In setting up Skytribe, Hannah put in a lot of work herself decorating the studio, whilst using her initial loan to pay for the premises and equipment. Getting things up and running to enable classes to start immediately – and ensure that she wasn’t paying for additional premises, Hannah soon encountered issues, with the floors needing work in particular.
However, with the winter months on the horizon, Hannah knew that the studio needed work to ensure that students didn’t find the environment uncomfortable.
“I went to The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity to apply for a loan to improve my business and improve the glazing so that the studio wasn’t cold in winter,” Hannah reveals.
“I had heard about them before but didn’t apply because I was unable to provide a guarantor. That was until the Charity changed their terms to offer a limited number of loans for those who can’t meet the guarantor criteria.
“I was lucky enough to be the first successful applicant where the Charity itself acts as guarantor.”
It’s a decision that Hannah is pleased she made and delighted to have been approved for funding.
“The application process was much easier than I expected,” she says. “The interview was relaxed and the panel very kind and friendly. If you know your business plan well then it’s pretty straightforward.
“The loan was to winter proof the studio with professional standard curtains and for some much needed equipment upgrades. It’s going to make a huge difference over the winter and also help keep the heating costs down in future. All of the Skytribe students are pleased, and if they’re happy then so am I!”
With the studio becoming everything that Hannah set out to deliver, the future is bright for Skytribe. September saw a new timetable of classes launched, whilst Hannah has taken on seven instructors to deliver classes that she was delivering single-handedly before.
“The plan is to build on this timetable and keep expanding what we offer, we want to reach out into all of the corners of Leicester and find those people who always wanted dance but felt alienated from traditional classes in the past,” concludes Hannah.
“I would whole-heartedly recommend The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity to anyone in the early stages of starting a business.
“The offer is generous with manageable repayment terms and the process much less daunting than you’d imagine. My advice would be to do it now. Don’t wait until the perfect time because there isn’t one.”
For more information on Skytribe, which is based on Church Gate in Leicester city centre, please visit www.skytribe.org
Meanwhile for details on Doe Demure’s performances and classes, please visit www.doedemure.co.uk
For everything you need to know about The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s interest-free business loans, available up to £20,000, please CLICK HERE