Hard graft: The secret to securing growth finance

As Honest has proved, you need to show you have the grit to grow a business
For young entrepreneurs with ambitions set on growth, the secret to success might be as simple as putting in the hours. At least that was the message at Santander’s Breakthrough Box Live event in London last week.

Tom Barton, founder of gourmet burger chain Honest Burgers, which started out as a festival pop-up restaurant and now boasts nine venues across the capital, puts his success down to he and his co-founders having a mutual respect for “hard graft”.

“When we set up Honest Burgers in Brixton, we literally worked every hour under the sun, 110 or 120 hours per week, on the grill, serving customers, picking up meat on my bike and cycling through central London with 180 bread buns taped to my back.

“We got shingles, flu and I nearly cut my leg off with an angle grinder, but it was that commitment in our mind that got us where we are today.”

Barton admits they’re more professional now, with 240 employees and a private equity investor, Active. They came on board after Barton and his co-founders realised the potential of the business to expand, and secured mezzanine funding from Santander.

“Brixton could have given one of us a great life, but we wanted to grow and broaden the team with different skills and experience. We needed that extra funding,” he said.

Lee Alderson, growth capital director at Santander, managed that deal. He admits it was a risky opportunity to take, but the commitment of the founders and proof of the concept were hard to argue with. “The restaurant was turning over £20,000 per week with only 20 available covers. The management costs were very low and the finances were solid.”

“As investors working with SMEs we know there are risks and bumps along the way, but by looking at the team behind a business and the revenue stream, we get a gut feeling about which businesses to invest in.”

It seems in this case, Alderson’s “gut feeling was right, “It’s a close relationship and in this case, to back a business and then within a year see the management sell the equity and strengthen the board – that’s a result.”