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Newcastle Start-Up takes part in live televised debate


  • Jessica McLean from Start-Up Baggers Originals invited onto Government debate panel
  • The live business debate was part of Conservative Party’s national conference in Manchester
  • The discussion had a live audience of 4,000+ and was televised live on Sky News

A Newcastle entrepreneur was personally invited by Number 10 Downing Street to take part in a live televised debate on business chaired by Michael Fallon at the Conservative Party Conference this week.

Jessica McLean, 27, was contacted by Prime Minister David Cameron’s team after recently visiting the iconic address as part of a select delegation of young entrepreneurs who have received funding from the Government’s Start-Up Loans scheme.

The part-time model explained: “They wanted a female member of the panel, which was made up of representatives from both new and established businesses, and it was such a fantastic opportunity that I didn’t hesitate.

“Michael Fallon was really friendly and I didn’t realise at the time but my Dad phoned me afterwards and told me they had actually gone to school together.”

Jessica studied fashion at Northumbria University and relaunched Baggers, a children’s rainwear manufacturer, which was originally started by her mum Angela 23-years-ago. This was achieved with funding from Start-Up Loans North East and Cumbria and after just a few months of trading, the brand is now on the verge of finalising a deal for 20,000 units of its innovative product to be sold through one of the UK’s most well-known fashion stores.

She continued: “It’s really exciting to be growing at such a pace and next year, we are hoping to take on some staff. It just goes to show you should never give up as the first time around, Baggers experienced cashflow problems and it’s no secret that most start-ups fail in the first three years. It was good for me to take part in the discussion and to be there in Manchester to represent that in a positive way.”

Jessica always had faith in the idea behind Baggers products, all of which tuck into an attached pocket which forms a bag for children to carry. As a result of appearing on the panel, hits to Baggers’ website have increased and there has also been an increase in orders.

Jessica said: “When I met David Cameron at Downing Street I had given him three sets of Baggers for each of his children, and when I saw him again after the event at the party conference he told me his kids love wearing them, which was so great to hear.

“It was an honour to be asked to the event and without a doubt it was an amazing experience.”

The Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East and Cumbria is delivered through a consortium including Virgin Money, Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation (NRF) and Project North East (PNE) – with PNE being the consortium partner responsible for arranging and making the loans.

The scheme continues to open doors for entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30 who have a great business idea. Loans range from £500 to £25,000 with new ‘Lean Start-Up Loans’, of up to £1,000 ,aimed at those who would like to carry out market research before launching, or need a bit of a push to begin trading. With funding still to be awarded in the North East and Cumbria during 2013, successful applicants can benefit from Virgin Money’s mentoring support and Project North East’s many years’ working specifically with young business people.

To find out more about the Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East, as well as the new ‘Lean’ loans and how to apply, young entrepreneurs should visit


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Notes to Editors

The Start-Up Loans scheme for young entrepreneurs was formally launched at Virgin Money’s Gosforth operational headquarters on Tuesday 20 November 2012.

Virgin Money has partnered with Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation (NRF) and Project North East (PNE) to form a consortium in the delivery of ‘Start-Up Loans’ – with PNE being the consortium partner responsible for arranging and making the loan.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), through Start-Up Loans, is providing funding to be offered in the form of small business start-up loans in the North East and Cumbria. The initiative is aimed at young entrepreneurs between 18 and 30 years of age. Loan sizes are between £250 and £25,000, with an average of around £5,000.

The consortium also provides a training, mentoring and engagement programme, to enable unemployed young people and young people from the region’s deprived areas to learn how to run a business and to find out more about the Start-Up Loans programme.

PNE is regulated under the Consumer Credit Act and is responsible for making the loans and administering the full lending process. PNE has nearly thirty years experience of successfully undertaking this type of work in the region, partnering organisations such as the Sainsbury family trusts and Royal Dutch Shell. More information about PNE can be found at and information on start-up loans can be found at