Startup Direct is a delivery partner of the Governments Start Up Loans Scheme that provides up to £25K in start up funding for entrepreneurs wanting to start a business.

In addition to the funding, we provide 12 months free mentoring and extensive support through regular workshops and events as well as numerous initiatives and discounts through our corporate partners.

We are a not-for-profit organisation with offices in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Reading, Nottingham and Leeds. We are passionate about supporting our businesses to help you through your startup journey.

We are developing an exciting range of startup initiatives designed to help and support you as you grow your business. More information on these can be found under our Support section.

Mission Statement

To inspire, empower and support entrepreneurs starting and growing their business

Vision Statement

Our vision is that everyone who has the ambition and drive to start and grow a successful business has the support available to do just that

Our Team


James Pattison

During his 10 years working in investment banking and asset management, James quit 3 different jobs to start 3 of his own startup businesses. Following that, James spent a year advising startups on raising funding and perfecting their pitches to investors. James then founded and now heads up Startup Direct.

North West Regional Manager

Nick Bell

A serial small business founder with experience in tech, domestic property development, management consulting and hospitality

Senior Advisor and Partnerships

Gillian Mclaren

Gillian joined the team as a Senior Advisor from Toronto, Canada where she worked to support the launch and growth of entrepreneurship across the country. With a background in Fine Art and Graphic Design, Gillian has used her creativity and small business experience to assist in the mentorship and support of hundreds of entrepreneurs. Gillian has relocated to the UK to explore a new market, expand on her knowledge of business development as well as for the opportunity to do more travel.

Strategic Partnerships

Fran Warrington

Fran heads up Strategic Partnerships for Startup Direct and has over ten years experience in Account Management with a commercial focus, in both large companies and Start Ups. Her role at Startup Direct entails finding services and partners that help our businesses to save time, money and stress along their Startup journey. Fran enjoys working with the broad variety of small businesses and entrepreneurs that we work with and helping them to grow. Outside of work Fran enjoys travel, snowboarding and great food

Birmingham Regional Manager

Karl Willetts

Karl has been involved in the music industry for over thirty years both in production and tour management and also performing onstage. Alongside this, Karl has also worked within the business support sector over the past 20 years, previously employed as creative sector relationship manager and account manager for the Business Link West Midlands for several years. Karl has also worked with a number of ERDF funded business support projects for both Birmingham City Council and Coventry University. At Startup Direct, Karl is the manager of the Birmingham branch and a Business Advisor. With a creative business sector focus he currently assists businesses from across the UK to access business startup loans.

People Operations and Office Manager

Krutika Parsons

Krutika has considerable experience in communications, operations and people management within the education, telecommunications and event management sectors. With a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and International Business from Drexel University, she joined Startup Direct in 2016 motivated by the dynamic nature of the start-up world. She now heads up the People Operations at Startup Direct and also gets involved in several special projects. Outside of work, mystery/crime tv shows, the gym and American football and baseball take up a lot of her time.

SAN Team Leader and Business Advisor

Silvia Gaplovska

Silvia is a business advisor and leads a team of two which oversees the first part of the application process. Originally from Slovakia, graduated from law school with honours, but decided to change the direction aiming to be a part of the start-up eco-system. Having worked with young entrepreneurs for a few of years she has gained experience in business analysis and financial planning. Silvia enjoys working with tech and social impact businesses, and also the food and beverage industry.


Natalie Culshaw

Originally from Morecambe, Natalie moved to Liverpool to study English Literature. She is now based in our Liverpool office and conducts initial eligibility & credit checks on applications whilst providing support during the application process. Natalie is always working towards streamlining processes to ensure clients get the most effective support. Personal interests include books, films, walking and attending music festivals in the summer

Client Services

Aparna Ramaswamy

Aparna is an experienced professional with nearly a decade of experience in the financial inclusion sector. With a Master’s degree in Development economics, she is passionate about the third sector and has worked both in India and the UK. She provides client support services here at Startup Direct, supporting clients at the stage of their initial application as well as liaising with mentors for post-loan support to client. When she is out of the office, she's engrossed in books and loves to explore London.

Business Advisor

Kieran Wright

Kieran joined Startup Direct in 2017, bringing with him a wealth of experience developed over several years as a Business Advisor. He has a passion for supporting entrepreneurs of traditional businesses and helping them embrace modern business practices such as; online marketing strategies, value propositioning, business planning and performance management. In addition to this, Kieran enjoys working with tech and online startups. He has a keen interest in learning new skills that he can then use to mentor entrepreneurs. Outside of work, Kieran loves spending time with family. His typical weekend consists of a cycle ride through Richmond Park and trying new restaurants in London.

Business Advisor

Gary Chatwin

Gary has over 25 years experience in advising businesses at various stages; from start-up to exit. He joined Startup Direct in 2016 as a Business Advisor and enjoys working with a variety of businesses. It is the combination of the idea, the vision, the practicality but mainly the people behind a project that helps him decide on its chance of success.

Business Advisor

Tony Ryan

Tony Ryan is passionate about helping businesses that are not achieving their true potential, but are ready and willing to do something about it. He specialises in fundraising for start-ups and SME’s, from loans to crowdfunding and anything in between. He has spent his whole working life advising companies and for the last fifteen years has specialised in the SME sector.

Business Advisor

Anna Elyasova

Anna’s main skills are financial analysis, business strategy and detailed operational and financial planning. She is experienced in supporting businesses with multiple products, international operations, and niche family businesses and also in helping entrepreneurs with their next stage funding strategy. Her interests lie within funding businesses with multiple shareholders and those that are already trading/ operating and are looking to grow

Business Advisor

Sharda Ramdewor

Sharda is part of the Business Advisory team and helps clients to develop their business plan and cashflow forecast. She has a legal background and over 4 years’ experience of working as a Business Advisor within the Start Up Loans scheme. Her expertise lies in business planning, strategy and marketing. Sharda won the award for Business Advisor of the Year 2015 by the Start Up Loans Company which she attributes to having ‘the most fantastic, passionate and driven entrepreneurs as clients’. She is also currently undertaking a PhD and teaches Law at the University of Warwick.

Business Advisor

Tony Cross

With professional training in financial management and leadership Tony has pursued a long career in personal financial services with building societies. An interest in sales through service rather than for pure profit has been a driving force for him. He also has experience in the retail sector and then moved on to consultancies, working with SME’s to get better services from financial institutions. He joined Startup Direct in 2017 as a business advisor. Outside work, he enjoys sports and entertainment, but also management education, economics and history.

Business Advisor

Peter Hollingsworth

Peter has fifteen years SME advisory experience within Government / ERDF funded projects. Masters Graduate, MBA student and small business owner. Passionate about all things start up, tech and innovative. He travels around the Midlands, Bristol and Belfast.

Business Advisor

Patrick Burge

Patrick has senior management, strategy and marketing experience within SME’s and larger organisations. Having worked within the textiles and apparel industry, tech startups and sporting related business, his interests lie here.

Business Advisor

Mark Dunwell

Mark has varied experience and interests from manufacturing operations, low carbon energy, healthtech and medical devices to complementary therapies and sports coaching for performance and rehabilitation. He enjoys business advising with a special interest in start-ups

Business Advisor

Kate Goodman

Kate joined Startup Direct in 2018, having spent more than 25 years in various Senior Management roles Kate has a breadth of experience across all aspects of business management for both micro businesses through to large corporate companies. Most recently Kate has focussed on people and performance to generate improved business profits.

Business Advisor

Peter Wilson

Pete has a passion for new business, and the creation of new and exciting ventures. A serial entrepreneur, Pete has been creating his own business ideas since his school days. Having worked in sales across a variety of industries in the early part of his career, he has been running his own start-up for the last 4 years. Having taken so much from this time, he loves to share his experience and knowledge with others looking to embark on their own new business journey. A true foodie, Pete loves to experiment in the kitchen, with moderate success! He also loves to keep fit in the gym and spend quality time with friends and family

Dual Approval Specialist

Sonia Robinson

Sonia has been a Business Advisor for over 15 years and serves as a director for her family business. She is passionate about business startup support and helping people achieve their dreams of self employment, which brought her to join Startup Direct in 2018. Outside work, she is kept busy by her five year old twins, the gym, eating out, gin and tonics with friends and family holidays.

Community and Social Media Manager

Jesus Agudo

Creative, innovative and techsavvy, Jesus has over 10 years of experience in advertising, communications and social media. Jesus is the perfect person to tell a good story and share with the world, he also has the recipe to make everyone talk about it.

Our values

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