Sky-high vehicle insurance rates are bringing a Lancashire firm’s expansion plans screeching to a halt, a young business owner says.
Preston entrepreneur Josh Skorczewski said he has been quoted premiums of more than £10,000, pricing him out of driving for his own company.
The 21-year-old and his similarly aged business partners at Advantage Productions UK fear the firm may have hit a glass ceiling through no fault of their own.
Josh, who has recently passed his driving test, told the Lancashire Post: “We’re having to struggle on because we simply can’t afford that much each year.”
The firm - based near Lytham - is a PA system and event technology service, providing sound and lighting equipment for gigs and festivals across Preston and Blackpool.
Josh said: “We have been relying on ‘man with van’ companies to help us transport the equipment but as we grow the systems we’re using are getting bigger.
“And as our reputation grows, we’re doing larger events.”
Josh, who lives in Deepdale and is a former Preston College student, enquired about gaining vehicle insurance for business use so the company did not have to rely on third-party transport.
But, because of his age and him being an inexperienced driver, he and his business partners were quoted five-figure sums.
He said: “We’re all in our early 20s and have passed our driving tests within the last 12 months. We just can’t afford those prices.
“We’re just going to have to struggle on as we are as we can’t see another way.
“The systems we’re operating now require two Sprinter vans, to give an idea of how large they are, and it’s becoming more difficult to carry on as we have been doing.”
Advantage Productions pledges to clients they will “have what you need to make your event special.”
Having started out as an assignment while Josh was studying at Preston College, it now operates across the Preston city region and Blackpool including at local festivals.
Josh said the company has gained a “reputation to be proud of” and has “grown exponentially” since starting out in 2013.
But their recent predicament has left them scratching their heads for answers.
He said: “At first we mostly helped out metal bands, that’s how we started out, but we’ve moved away from that now and are serving some of the biggest local clubs and venues.”
The entrepreneur’s plight has garnered sympathy from support services for young business professionals, who said it highlights some of the various challenges facing start-up firms.
Both county based business network Lancashire Boost and the Prince’s Trust charity have offered a helping hand.
County Councillor Michael Green, Cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: “The challenges Josh and his colleagues are facing are common for many growing businesses.
“It can be particularly hard for new businesses as they may face higher costs because they have young owners and don’t have an established trading history.
“Our message to growing business owners like Josh is that there’s a network of support out there, both in terms of funding and other business expertise.
“Boost has supported hundreds of growing Lancashire businesses and we’d be happy to speak to Josh and explain what support might be available to him and his business.”
Boost is Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub and is led by the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Lancashire County Council, and supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Mathew Holt, Head of Enterprise and Awards Programmes for the The Prince’s Trust, said: “This is a perfect example of the unexpected obstacles new businesses are likely to face, and why having the experience of an advisor or mentor is key.”
The Prince’s Trust works with 18 to 30-year-olds to turn big business ideas into reality through its Enterprise programme. The programme, which is accessible both in person and online, covers everything from business planning and marketing to sales, budgeting and tax.
Mr Holt added: “We deliver free workshops in Lancashire and across the North West and I am sure any budding entrepreneurs would find the support extremely beneficial to help support their business.
“It’d be great, and extremely beneficial I’m sure, for them to come along.”
Ash Phillips, founder of Yena, a national network support for young entrepreneurs, said: “It’s situations like this that we make our job to help people avoid, as they can quite simply be the difference between failure and success for founders.
“We’re currently helping hundreds of people every month across the UK around obstacles like this, and we welcome more people to do the same, including corporates, who need to learn that supporting the economy starts with start-ups and everything they can do for the Davids of this worlds - as opposed for the Goliaths - will benefit us all in the long run.
“When I started out, I spent four years teaching myself everything I needed to know about running a business because the support and barriers to access them were far too high; either cost prohibitive (too expensive) or just not great – often delivered via not well thought-out government programmes. That’s the reason I started Yena; which now offers the support, guidance, resources, and community required to start and grow a business easier than ever before, for anyone, anywhere, regardless of their circumstances.”