Increasing investment readiness in SMEs: Outset Finance

The brief

For many start-ups and established SMEs, accessing finance is difficult, costly and often unsuccessful. SME funding represents a significant barrier to sustainability and growth, and complete financial exclusion from mainstream funding is still commonplace for disadvantaged and under-represented groups.

Yet at all stages of the business journey, accessing the right type and amount of funding at the right time can substantially boost expansion, bringing with it sustainable new jobs and significant GVA. Ensuring that new and established businesses understand how – and why – to prepare attractive lending or investment propositions is a critical step to facilitating the flow of finance, at all stages of the business journey.

Our response

Outset Finance operates in the South West of England, integrating the Understanding Finance for Business service within our Outset start-up support for new businesses, and also serving established businesses needing growth finance.

Locally recruited advisors bring financial and business expertise, and an in-depth knowledge of funders’ requirements to help clients fully understand their options.

Four workshops: Money Matters, Fit for Finance, Money Sense and Pricing for Profit, are complemented by 1:1 coaching on the business plan and financials. When investment-ready, clients are introduced directly to the most appropriate source of finance, including factoring, leasing, government schemes, debt and equity.


Outset Finance launched in Bristol and Plymouth in 2010 and has exceeded all targets, with strong demand from a wide range of businesses.

In its first 18 months, the Outset Finance team helped 130 clients, a broad spectrum of pre-start-ups, existing businesses and social enterprises, to raise nearly £800,000 from a range of funding sources. Even clients previously excluded from accessing mainstream finance have been enabled to obtain funding for their business. This sum far exceeds the cost of the programme, and 70 new jobs have already been created as a direct result.