In addition to our regular weekly profile piece, we are pleased to feature something a little different today that we hope will be useful and relevant to our readers. We are joined today by Arina Osiannaya of the Business Funding Show (BFS), the first and only UK exhibition exclusively focused on SME Funding and Growth Support.
Our questions are in bold.
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Who are you and what’s your background?
My name is Arina Osiannaya and I’m the Managing Director of the Business Funding Show (BFS), which is being held in London on the 2nd & 3rd of February 2016 at the iconic Old Billingsgate.
Before coming to the UK, I worked in Moscow on multiple projects for a range of fast-growing SMEs and that was when I got so excited about business growth, seeing how many economic issues it can solve – from unemployment to poverty.
However, no matter which country I’ve been in, I observed that finance is the main issue for any business – and it’s the same whether you are just starting up or have already been trading for years. Funding can help to scale way faster and opens multiple opportunities – i.e. you can afford better technology, hire more staff, invest in marketing and PR activities.
I became obsessed with the idea of creating a way to help businesses and support agency and finance providers to meet each other and establish an effective dialogue. I’ve noticed whenever an event would get funders on site – it’d attract a big number of visitors; however, there was no single place – an event fully dedicated to funding and support; hence, we created the one our show brings together – an entire spectrum of finance-providers and ambitious fast-growing SMEs.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
Managing Director. My main job is to ensure the first ever show of its kind in the UK will be a major success!
I look after Strategy, Sales, Partnerships, Marketing PR and Operations.
My day-to-day activities include bringing new exhibitors & sponsors, as well as arranging deals with partners and select contractors; however, the work like PR, Marketing and Operations is managed by professionals, since I think everyone should be an expert in what they do.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
The BFS is set to introduce SMEs to the entire spectrum of finance-providers and growth opportunities, whilst bringing together businesses looking to scale, and leading market-players (i.e. NatWest, Paypal, Crowdcube, Experian, etc.) spread across three exhibiting zones: Lending, Investment and Growth.
Further expertise will be provided by celebrated entrepreneurs like Richard Reed (Innocent), Charlie Mullins (Pimlico Plumbers), Lord Bilimoria (Cobra Beer), and industry leaders like Bill Morrow (Angels Den), Matt Adey (British Business Bank), Jenny Tooth (UKBAA) – just to name a few.
In terms of visitors, we already have over 8,400 attendees registered, from local and foreign businesses across different sectors, as well as intermediaries and private investors.
It is true that funding is one of the driving forces behind business success; however, without the necessary support, businesses still struggle to scale and can’t always utilise funding wisely. Hence, we created the Growth area to introduce SMEs to crucial services, i.e. accounting, legal, insurance, mentoring and provide 1-2-1 support within a dedicated Mentoring Clinic.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
To help businesses to learn about all the available funding options and meet finance-providers in the most time-efficient way.
Everyone who has spent some time in business would agree with me that the main assets for business owners are time and money. Without sufficient knowledge of the types of funding and ways to access it – the typical ‘funding circle’ would take six to nine months and that’s not time entrepreneurs can afford to invest. That’s exactly what causes reluctance in SMEs and builds a funding gap.
We’re creating a very time-efficient way to meet the entire spectrum of finance providers and choose the best funding options. Some argue that exhibitions are no longer valid in a digital era; however, nothing replaces the power of personal contact – just as customers need to trust a seller before buying, the same goes for funders and SMEs – they need to know each other; but if they fundamentally don’t know about each other’s existence they can’t do that.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Finance and service providers, and trading SMEs looking for growth or expansion. Our revenue model relies on sponsorships and exhibitors.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
I wish they could try to put themselves into a businesses shoes, and then they’d probably see that it isn’t always obvious to a business what funding options are available, how they differ one from another, what businesses need to do to get funded – and to become accessible! Have you tried calling finance providers? 45% don’t ever pick up the phones!
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
Probably to collaborate with other market players to lead a market instead of pulling it into different directions and confusing businesses.
What phone are you carrying?
A 9 year old Samsung. It performs its function of calling; plus the battery lasts enough, it doesn’t crash when dropped and it has buttons, so I don’t have any issues with irresponsive screens. All essential when I’m on site, and using it almost 24/7.
Where do you get your industry news from?
I mostly use LinkedIn, British Business Bank, Share Radio & other reputable industry sources + conferences & relevant events.
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
I’d say there are a few. Thanks to new providers like Everline, Unbolted, Ratesetter, Funding Knight, and Funding Secure – it’s all becoming more straightforward to access funding online, and cut through the sometime inaccessible and confusing language of finance.
What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
I think we will see more internet services demystifying different funding processes, and bringing all the options together under one more visible platform. Alternative funding platforms like crowdfunding and p2p will still continue to grow, probably developing more of a niche approach, you can already observe if you look at the services from Funding Secure, Unbolted or LendInvest.
The dialogue between businesses and funders will continue to establish themselves, with more attention to the causes of funding gaps. We’ll also probably see a bit less reliance on the big banks as the first port of call for people seeking funding. However, banks are already becoming more approachable though establishing divisions looking after support of pre-revenue, early-stage and micro-enterprises – NatWest is a great example of this. This will hopefully bring more understanding of how to access a range of funding avenues.
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Our thanks to Arina for her answers today.
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