Arina Osiannaya is the Managing Director of the Business Funding Show (BFS), which is the UK’s first and only exhibition exclusively focused on SME funding and growth support. It's being held in London on the 2nd & 3rd of February 2016 at the iconic Old Billingsgate. We talked to her about the show.
Why did you decide to set up the Business Funding Show?
To help businesses learn about all the available funding options and meet finance-providers in the most time-efficient way. In the UK I've meet many ambitious and smart entrepreneurs whose passion for what they are doing was so inspiring, however, I've seen that some of them have growth limitations because they don’t have the required funding. Without sufficient knowledge of the types of funding and ways to access it - the typical ‘funding circle’, would take six to nine months - time entrepreneurs can ill afford. That was the reason I decided to set up the The Business Funding Show - to help solve this issue. This way, businesses can simultaneously be introduced to lenders and investors and be educated on all possible funding solutions. Ultimately, the main problem isn't a funding gap, it is a knowledge gap.
How can the Business Funding Show help new and growing companies?
I became obsessed with an idea of creating a way to help businesses and support agency and finance providers to meet each other and establish an effective dialogue. I’ve noticed whenever an event would get funders on site - it would attract a big number of visitors; however, there was no single place - an event fully dedicated to funding and support; hence, we created it. Our show brings together an entire spectrum of finance-providers and ambitious fast-growing SMEs.
By setting up the Business Funding Show, we are creating a time-efficient way for business owners to meet the entire spectrum of finance providers and choose the best funding option. Some argue that exhibitions are no longer valid in a digital era; however, nothing replaces the power of personal contact - in the same way customers need to trust a seller before buying, the same goes for funders and SMEs - they need to know each other; but if they fundamentally don’t know about each other’s existence they can’t do that.
What are the greatest misconceptions business have when it comes to finance?
That it is scary or difficult to obtain. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth. However, the stigma of struggling to obtain investment via a panel of hardened investors or being rejected for a bank loan is still perceived by many small business owners to be commonplace. The fact is, the funding landscape has changed beyond all recognition in recent times. There are now so many options out there for business owners looking for funding that there’s never been a better time to find finance for a business.
And what are the greatest challenges they face?
The market has changed so much that access to finance is, thankfully, much less of a challenge today than it used to be. Although this, in turn, throws up it’s own issues as businesses simply don’t know their options around when they need finance or where to go to get it. This means SMEs tend to raise funding exactly when they need it, not in advance - so when the problem becomes urgent, it is sometimes too late and affects business productivity. Likewise, SMEs can be intimidated by the volume of information and choice in the market, which can lead to hesitancy around the best way to go and ultimately inertia. However, while potentially daunting, SMEs need not worry. While there are many funding options out there, there are also just as many, if not more, support services that can provide information to business to help guide and steer their specific financial decisions. Bodies like the ICAEW and UKBAA are just two examples of where business owners can go for impartial information and guidance.
What advice would you give new and growing businesses looking for finance?
Invest the time to research to find the best option that suits you. Regardless of what you need, there is a funding option for you so there is no need to rush a decision. While business owners are time poor, taking the time to get a funding decision right will save time (and cost) in the long run. So, to business owners, ‘Know what you need, both financially and in terms of support and guidance and go and get it’.
Which other countries and systems do you think do finance for entrepreneurs and small businesses better?
In recent years the attitude to lend to SMEs has changed dramatically and this has been reflected in policies, grants and targets from governments around the world. The USA, of course, is regularly cited as one of the ‘best in class’ countries in which to start a business although this is predominantly based on the success of the Silicon Valley businesses. In Europe, countries like France, Germany, and Switzerland are all well set to encourage business growth while further afield, Singapore and Hong Kong are regularly cited as having well built structure and support services for SMEs.
If you were stuck in a lift with George Osborne, what would you say?
That SMEs are the backbone of this country and that, in spite of recent positive news around the growth of our economy, more must be done to encourage entrepreneurship and business growth. Specifically, by introducing policies to encourage traditional lenders, like banks, who still remain the default destination for businesses looking for a loan, to open channels of finance to SMEs, and be more flexible about how they take repayments.
Find out more about the Business Funding Show.