Female entrepreneur awarded Start Up Loan to fund business launch, after turning down Dragon’s Den investor
Rotunda Living, the only company in the UK building exclusively in the round, has seen business boom since being awarded a loan by Start Up Now, the North West arm of the government’s national £150m Start Up Loans programme, delivered by Business Finance Solutions.
Now the Hazel Grove based company, which was launched in 2012 and is run by owner Gemma Roe 34, has been awarded a unique commission, to build the country’s first completely round modular eco-classroom for a primary school in the North West. When it is in place in July 2014, the rotunda will be used by the school for lessons and for events such as parents evenings. Gemma also recently sold her first three module home, the building will be completely off-grid and the build is due to complete by August 2014. Gemma is also currently working on a commission for a rural landowner for circular holiday lodges.
A rotunda is a timber framed modular eco-building which can be used as an extension to a home, school or business and can be equipped with everything from the essentials such as double glazing and electrics to a wood burning stove, reed bed water filtration systems and bespoke furniture. Rotunda Living is passionate about using a UK supply chain, sourcing timber for each commission from suppliers close to each project to support the local economy and reduce carbon emissions. As a social enterprise, Rotunda Living also returns 100% of profits into woodland regeneration and conservation projects in the UK.
Gemma says: “Building in the round is something that we passionately believe affects both our physical and emotional wellbeing, which is why we’re so excited to be building the country’s first rotunda classroom. Today’s built environment tends to be focused on hard lines and box-like modular eco-buildings but a rotunda offers far more organic curves, natural locally sourced rustic wood and a nurturing environment that will help to accelerate learning and stimulate both creativity and inclusivity for the children and staff alike.
“The loan and advice from Start Up Now really helped me to get Rotunda Living up and running and we have hit the market at just the right time, with the garden buildings market now estimated to be worth £198m in the UK. People are craving that extra bit of space at home – for a home office, guest bedroom, exercise studio or simply just for a bit of sanctuary and space – and there is real demand for something different. The earliest structures built by all civilizations were round for good reason; round structures are more efficient to build and to heat, provide a greater floor area and provide the greatest structural strength of any other form.”
Paul Breen, Director of Business Finance Solutions, said: “Rotunda Living is a great example of the kind of forward thinking, sustainable businesses that we are able to support with Start Up Now. Gemma’s passion for creating eco-friendly, life-affirming buildings has enabled her to create a real stand out presence in this growing market, from which she is now reaping the just rewards with commissions such as the UK’s first round classroom.
“Gemma’s integrity and commitment to the environment and to her community are also built into the structure and DNA of her business – a philosophy that is popular with customers but that many big businesses have been slow to wake up to.”
Gemma was introduced to Start Up Now by an advisor at the Business Growth Hub’s Access to Finance service, and was awarded a £7,000 loan to enable her to market the first prototype and bring in the first few sales back in 2013. Having appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2011, Gemma initially accepted an offer of £75,000 for a 30% share in a previous business (O-Pod Buildings) from Theo Paphitis but subsequently walked away from the deal when it became apparent it wasn’t suited to their needs as a growing business and went on to develop her own range of timber framed eco-buildings, within the Rotunda Living brand. Gemma already employs a team of five and plans to expand the business in both the domestic and commercial markets, focussing on the UK holiday and tourism lettings market in particular.
Gemma also has the support of another of the North West’s best known business women and philanthropist Dawn Gibbins MBE, who is a Non Executive Director of Rotunda Living and has installed a rotunda round house on her own property.
Start Up Now will see £15 million allocated to new start-ups across the North West over the next two years, creating around 3000 new businesses and over 5000 new jobs in the region. Over 800 BFS Start Up Loan recipients in the North West are now running their own businesses, creating employment and economic opportunities across Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Cumbria. Start Up Now is available to everyone over the age of 18 in the North West.