Start Up Loans scheme celebrates over £8.5 million in loans to Scottish entrepreneurs

Vanessa Tartella (The Wine Hall)

THE WINE Hall, a Perth-based e-commerce platform specialising in rare wines, is broadening its product range and targeting new markets following a funding boost from the Start Up Loans programme.

Founded in 2022 by 51-year-old Vanessa Tortella, a sommelier from Italy, The Wine Hall sells a range of rare and carefully sourced bottles from small and independent wineries in Italy and France to enthusiasts all over the UK.

After securing funding through Virgin Startup and the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme Vanessa is now looking to expand her selection of wines and import larger quantities to begin selling to luxury hotels, restaurants and high-end supermarkets this year.

During her 15 years in the hospitality sector, Vanessa observed the drinks market closely and identified a gap for rare and independent wines. The Wine Hall was launched in 2022 and has since been growing steadily.

Vanessa Tortella said: “Putting small wineries on the map and bringing rare bottles to the market has been something I’ve been interested in since I started working in hospitality, and I had the idea of starting my own e-commerce business for a while.

“I love sharing my knowledge of rare and independent wines, and it’s been an incredible journey so far. I’m very grateful to Virgin Startup and the Start Up Loans programme for the funding and support I’ve received to develop my business.

“The next step is expanding my inventory. In the beginning, I mainly focussed on wines from Italy and France, but I’m currently sourcing an amazing wine from a producer in Lebanon that has never been exported before, and I’m eager to start selling not only to private customers but to a range of luxury businesses as well.”

Vanessa is one of the most recent entrepreneurs aged 50 and over to receive support from the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme. Since its launch in 2012, the initiative has provided £140 million of support to entrepreneurs from this age group across the UK, including 882 loans worth more than £8.5 million in Scotland.

Almost half of the funding support in Scotland, almost £3.9 million, has been provided since the first Covid-19 lockdown across 295 loans. In this period, the average loan value per business was £13,180 – an increase of £2,876 compared to the four years before the pandemic.

Susan Nightingale, UK Network Director for the Devolved Nations, British Business Bank, said: “As Vanessa demonstrates, you can further your business ambitions at any age. It’s why we encourage anyone with a good business idea to get in touch and learn more about how the Start Up Loans programme might be able to help turn it into reality. It is interesting to note the high proportion of the funding during and after the pandemic, suggesting that many people aged 50 and over re-evaluated and took action to pursue their business aspirations.

“We’re also glad to witness the growth of businesses in more rural areas through our Start Up Loans programme. Fife and the Highlands appearing among the top five local authorities in Scotland for support for older entrepreneurs demonstrates the difference funding can make in boosting entrepreneurship and supporting small business opportunities in smaller communities.”

A full breakdown of loans to the top 10 local authorities in Scotland since 2012, including volume and value of loans.

Loans delivered to 50-year-olds in Scotland
Local authorityLoans madeValue (£)
Glasgow City115936,559
City of Edinburgh71864,442
South Lanarkshire51493,349
North Lanarkshire34256,400
Perth and Kinross33379,993
Aberdeen City29346,360
Dumfries and Galloway27249,998

The Start Up Loans programme helps people start or grow their business and is part of the government-owned British Business Bank’s remit to making finance markets work better for smaller businesses. They can borrow up to £25,000 at a fixed interest rate of 6% per annum and repay the loan over one to five years. The programme also provides 12 months of free business mentoring.

If you would like to learn more about Start Up Loans support, visit: 

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