Business finance provider Let’s Do Business Finance (LDBF) is delighted to be celebrating a fantastic milestone – 20 years of dedicated service in providing startup and growth loans to businesses across the South East and East of England


Founded with a visionary mission: to empower businesses with the financial support they need to flourish and thrive, it has demonstrated unwavering commitment to fostering economic growth in the South East and East of England, helping over
6,000 businesses to access over £52m. Speaking to Managing Director Sean Dennis, Platinum reflects on the significant impact LDBF has had on the business community.


What made you want to create Let’s Do Business Finance?

Really, it was about helping businesses to access finance. Graham Marley and I both come from banking backgrounds, and we were seeing old clients come into the office saying, “my bank won’t help me anymore,” caused by the start of that ‘computer says no’ decision-making process by a lot of the high street and mainstream lenders. We had the opportunity to access some funding to set up our own finance company, which we thought sounded extremely interesting so we did it!


What was your vision for what you thought it would achieve?

Originally it was quite small scale. It really was just about helping businesses across East Sussex to access sufficient funds that they couldn’t raise from mainstream routes, and to complement our other business services offer. I guess the aim to begin with was to test the water, to see what the demand was and how it would add value to the other services that we provided, then take it from there.


How do you think things have changed in business lending over the past 20 years?

Gosh, an awful lot! When we started, our focus was very much on Start Up Loans. The Start Up Loan Company didn’t exist at that point and for the majority of businesses that were coming through the front door, it tended to be start-ups or early stage businesses saying ‘I can’t get any funding elsewhere.’

There’s been a number of iterations of our business over the past 20 years. We still focus very heavily on the start-up end of the market, but now we do that with the support of, and through, the Start Up Loan Company. Being a regional business support partner is a really important part of our business, and something we’re really proud of.

Particularly over the past four or five years, we’ve seen an increasing demand for businesses that are more established, often much larger and are growing. When we started, our average loan might be £4,000-£5,000, We’re now looking at £80,000-£90,000, and we lend up to £150,000. There’s been a big transformation within mainstream lending that has centralised a lot of the funding support.

Let’s Do Business Finance is an accredited delivery partner of the Recovery Loan Scheme through the British Business Bank. How important do you think the creation of that fund was to businesses in the UK?

It was absolutely vital at the time, particularly at the height of COVID, along with its predecessor CBILS. They were absolutely crucial in saving many businesses that would otherwise have failed. The Recovery Loan Scheme is there to help businesses move on from COVID and the pandemic, and it’s still really important. An awful lot of businesses took on – well, had to take
on – debt to survive. Because of that, a lot of them are struggling to move forward again. They haven’t necessarily got the security or the collateral that some of the funders might be looking for, and that’s where the loan guarantee scheme steps in and helps them access funding to help them develop and grow going forward.


What makes Let’s Do Business Finance different from other mainstream lenders?

There are a few things that make it different. The primary thing, and this is where we come from, is that we’re what’s called a ‘community development finance institution.’ Essentially, what that means is that we’re aiming to provide access to finance where businesses can’t raise it through mainstream routes, typically high street banks, but also increasingly, fintechs.

A lot of traditional mainstream funders don’t provide local support now, which is where our relationship approach really chimes with a lot of businesses because we can physically meet with them. We can go to their premises, and learn and understand about them, which traditional lenders often can’t do. That personal touch is a really important and something that businesses value.

I think the automation of decision making by mainstream providers, and them becoming more remote, has really helped us develop and grow our business because we’ve slotted into the void that they’ve left behind. For us, it’s not just a transactional arrangement. We’re looking to add value, not just in terms of providing finance but supporting our clients in other ways.

If they need help on marketing, for example, we can put them in touch with other support that may be available in areas like that; areas that can develop and grow their businesses.

But overall, the key thing that we’re looking at, and we’re really interested in supporting clients on, is the impact of what that loan means for the business, whether it’s enables them to set up, start to grow, take on staff, or safeguarding jobs. All of those things are really important to us, particularly in geographical areas or for businesses that are facing financial exclusion.
It’s what sets us apart from others.


What challenges have Let’s Do Business Finance faced over the last 20 years?

I guess the main one – there’s a bit of an irony here – was access to finance. We need to access sufficient capital for us to then on-lend to the businesses, and that always has been, and perhaps always will be, one of our greatest challenges. Being able to access enough funding at the right price enables us to have a sustainable, viable business model that then helps us
to support the businesses in our local community.


Moving on to the future, what’s next for Let’s Do Business Finance?

More growth! It is a really exciting time. We’ve developed and grown the Start Up lending. We’re now the South East region’s business support partner for the Start Up Loans Scheme, which we’re really proud of and we’re looking forward to the next couple of years to continue progressing that.

We are accredited for the Recovery Loan Scheme. In fact, we are one of the few regionally-based accredited lenders in the South East and East of England. We’ve developed and grown that, and we know we can do that further.

Geographically, we’re moving beyond our traditional areas of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Essex. We’re already covering the whole of the east of England and we’re now pushing out across into Hampshire, up to Oxfordshire and increasingly into London. We’re really proud of what we have done; we’re helping over 600 businesses a year. We never would have envisioned that. It’s great and we’re really excited about the future because we know we can take things even further and continue to grow.

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