Creative Industry Finance programme – supporting sustainable growth in the creative sector

At the end of September, our friends at Creative United launched the Creative Industry Finance programme, a new investment and advice programme for the creative sector. One month in, we asked Sarah Thirtle, Creative United’s Head of Business Lending Programmes, to give us the lowdown on the programme. Here’s that lowdown…


A little over a month ago (at the time of writing this) we here at Creative United, alongside our funder Arts Council England, launched the Creative Industry Finance programme across England. If you haven’t heard about the programme yet, here’s the skinny. If you’re looking to borrow money to invest in your creative business, and would like free and expert business advice to help you prepare for this, Creative Industry Finance is here for you.

At a buzzing launch event in London’s thriving Hoxton, the great and the good of the creative and cultural industries gathered to celebrate the successes of the pilot programme and find out more about what’s to come in the fully-fledged incarnation.

It showcased the real impact Creative Industry Finance has had on those creative enterprises who were part of its two year pilot – from confidence and network building to being directly responsible for increased sales and expansion of business. It also brought home to me the impressive wealth of talent, ideas and passion there is across our creative sectors, and how crucial it is that this is supported and championed.

From those with talent, ideas and passion springs this country’s ability to push creative and artistic boundaries, grow the economy and gain global recognition. Creative Industry Finance aims to be a driving force for even more creative enterprises to fulfil these aspirations.

Since the launch we’ve been working hard, assessing the steady stream of applications coming in daily. We’ve also been getting out and about as much as possible to spread the word about the programme, meeting creative business people around the country. From these conversations it becomes clear, very quickly, that no matter what the creative sector the challenges faced by businesses are very similar. An often repeated polemic is: if you have a creative enterprise, or are a creative yourself, you would probably not be good at “business”.

I think that’s poppycock. And here’s why.

Creative enterprises are run on a shoestring, led by someone with a vision and a self-belief. Great work develops from tiny acorns of ideas…and tiny budgets. Those driving these enterprises are single-minded and, most likely, have a deep knowledge of their sector. They have built long-standing relationships with others in their field – suppliers, clients, partners – in order to get the best prices and make the most impact. If these aren’t attributes of someone that’s skilled in business, I don’t know what is.

Business advice, like that offered through the Creative Industry Finance programme, enables people to recognise within themselves the value of their own ideas and motivations, as well as the value of their work itself. It equips people with a little bit of insider know-how, so the numbers jumbling around in their heads can form neat rows on spreadsheets. It provides the signposts to a marketing strategy which takes your current set of customers and expands it with new ones. It sheds light on where bringing in other members to your team can share the load, leaving you, the creative entrepreneur/maker/performer/designer etc., free to do what you do best – pursue your talent, ideas and passion.

Another common issue is the difficulty in borrowing those crucial sums of money needed to invest in the growth and development of creative businesses. The high street banks’ reticence to lend to those in the creative industry and the suggested reasons for this are well documented, so I won’t go into that again here. I will simply say, Creative Industry Finance plans transform. Our lending partners are on board as because they see the potential in offering finance to creative enterprises, and, with us, are working towards providing the evidence to support our belief that, far from being too great a risk, our creative enterprises are vital and viable.

If you’re interested in accessing business advice and finance in order to grow or make sustainable your creative enterprise – large or small – head to the Creative United website to find out about eligibility, and start your application.