Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Couple secure start-up loan in 70s

The couple will use the money to launch Full House Marketing, a booking website for independent inns and guest houses

A husband and wife claim to be Britain's oldest entrepreneurial couple, after launching a business in their 70s.

Royal Navy veteran David Pledger, 71, and wife Sandra, 73, from Stoney Stratton in Somerset, have secured a £25,000 start-up loan for their new company.

Mr and Mrs Pledger, who have been married for almost 45 years, will use the money to launch Full House Marketing, a booking website for independent inns and guest houses.

Their ambitious move comes just days after Chancellor George Osborne announced changes to the state pension age, meaning people in their 20s will have to work until they are 70.

The £25,000 loan was granted after Mr and Mrs Pledger approached X-Forces, a social enterprise to help veterans and their families realise their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Mr Pledger, who served as a mechanical engineer and diver in the Royal Navy from 1959 to 1966, said the couple were told the loan had been approved last week.

"X-Forces were on the ball throughout the whole business planning process and when submitting our loan request," Mr Pledger added.

"The entire process took less than three months and I can't thank them enough for their help and support in making our dream a reality".

The idea for Full House Marketing came after Mr Pledger turned around two Somerset businesses, The Full Moon and The Thatched Cottage.

Revamping and regenerating the hotels turned into a pilot program for the booking and marketing system he will now develop commercially with his wife.

"For small hotels, using commercial packages to improve occupancy such as LateRooms doesn't provide a good return on investment because of the high commission rates," Mr Pledger added.

"Our technology will offer a package to family-run and independent hoteliers that is both affordable and profitable."

The couple previously worked as hoteliers turning around failing B&Bs and small-scale hotels in the West Country.

Mr and Mrs Pledger have spent the past three months under the guidance of experts at X-Forces, which was launched by Lord Young in the summer and has the backing of Cisco and Barclays.

The couple were mentored by former Royal Navy officer Mike Mackenzie, who helped shape their business plan and forecast financing needed to launch the company.

Ren Kapur, managing director of X-Forces, praised the couple as an "inspiration".

"David and Sandra are an inspiration to all of us, the lift on the age cap for start-up loans which previously constrained so many has meant that more people can now get into business and do their part to help the UK's economic recovery," Ms Kapur said.

"Age should be no barrier to realising one's potential and for those military veterans who have served the UK so loyally and with such selfless commitment this is a real success story."

Full House Marketing will officially launch in February 2014.

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