High hopes for new breed of South Yorkshire business angels

Jim Lawson, head of the Wosskow Brown Foundation, with young entrepreneur Jack Croft.
Jim Lawson, head of the Wosskow Brown Foundation, with young entrepreneur Jack Croft.

A squad of business angels is being garnered from on high to aid cash-strapped budding entrepreneurs and businesses battling to grow.

Successful individuals with a philanthropic heart who are willing to provide cash and expertise are being sought across South Yorkshire to plug what is described as a vital gap in financial support.

The appeal for angels comes from the Wosskow Brown Foundation, part of the Sheffield and Barnsley-based Wosskow Brown Solicitors, which launched in 2014 to assist small businesses and start-ups as well as grassroots sport and charities.

Jim Lawson, head of the Foundation, said: “Large companies turn to banks and venture capitalists to fund their plans. But we encounter a number of potential start-ups and small companies who need funding for even relatively small sums. They don’t have the trading history or income to be eligible for traditional funding. If they are successful with an alternative lender, they are deemed a higher risk and end up with a higher rate of interest.”

He added: “We are building a network of angel investors who are prepared to support the businesses we are assisting. Angel investors fill a vital gap between ‘family and friends’ funding and the banks and other agencies who are risk-aversive and lend only after compliance rules have been fulfilled. We are creating an army of savvy and experienced private investors who can make investments from £5,000 to £50,000.”

One young entrepreneur already benefiting from the Foundation’s support is 17-year-old Jack Croft, who wants to create clothes from the expensive fleece of an endangered species in Peru.

He needs £6,000 to import the wool but he can’t borrow, receive a grant or apply for a credit card, because of his age. He is receiving support through the WB100, a free five-year programme of mentoring.

The Foundation will also be gleaning help from the Dotforge Accelerator programme, which offers business support to hi-tech industries. ​Potential investors and recipients will be paired by Jim, while Dragons Den-style pitching events are also being organised.