£5m grant fund launched for young entrepreneurs affected by coronavirus

Sarah Lavery, from Newtownabbey, who runs children’s entertainment business Dudes and Divas

THE Prince’s Trust charity and Ulster Bank have launched a £5 million fund to help young entrepreneurs across the UK to keep their businesses afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

Available to entrepreneurs aged 18-30, the money can be used to maintain core business operations during the crisis, as well as meet any existing financial commitments, such as paying for essential equipment or settling invoices from suppliers. One-to-one support and guidance is also being offered to applicants who need it.

To be eligible, businesses must have started up in the last four years and be run by someone aged 18 to 30.

But young people who are in the process of starting a business and don’t have any other source of income during the crisis are also eligible to apply for a grant via

Among the applicants is Sarah Lavery (26) from Newtownabbey, who set up children’s entertainment business Dudes and Divas three years ago with support from The Prince’s Trust which she was forced to close a fortnight ago.

She said: “I felt awful, like I was a failure and letting the children and families down who had parties booked with us. But it became clear that it was in the best interest of our customers and staff to close."

Sarah has three members of staff and is concerned about cashflow during the time the business will be closed.

“This scheme gives me hope that there are organisations trying to support young entrepreneurs through this difficult time. If I was successful in receiving a grant it would help pay for the essential ongoing costs of keeping the business going.

“I’m very lucky to have benefited from the support of mentors during my business journey.

“I’m trying to stay positive and use this time to develop our website and plan for the future to make sure our business is strong when we reopen.”

Mark Dougan, regional director of the Prince’s Trust said: “It's vital to encourage and protect the entrepreneurial spirit of young people in Northern Ireland. This fund is a lifeline which will help struggling businesses make it through the challenging time ahead. It complements support from the government and allows us to provide grants to those who need it most.”

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