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Those who can, coach

Mark Mills is helping triathletes and runners to achieve their best thanks to a £5,000 Start Up loan delivered by BEF.

Experienced triathlete Mark Mills is the founder of Hard & Smart Sports Coaching, a Yorkshire-based start-up that provides online and 1-2-1 triathlon and run coaching for all abilities.

Mark has over 6 years racing experience in triathlon, multisport and road running. In that time, he has competed in European and World Championships at amateur and semi-pro levels.

“Athletics and triathlons are hobbies for the majority of people I coach,” said Mark. “I want everyone to enjoy what they do while training to compete at their very best. That’s why I offer a holistic approach to coaching that facilitates them achieving their performance and process goals.”

Mark, a qualified primary school teacher, began coaching informally in 2017, offering coaching two days per week. Demand for his coaching services grew steadily thanks to his friendly, down to earth approach and strong work ethic. Mark reached the tipping point in mid-2019, when demand from athletes increased significantly. It was at this point, Mark decided to officially launch his coaching services with the support of friends and family.

Armed with an impressive track record, a growing client base and a solid business plan, Mark’s immediate challenge was to acquire start-up finance for premises and equipment. Following conversations with Gareth Allen at RedSky, the business funding solutions specialist, Mark was introduced to Julie Micklethwaite at BEF.

Thanks to a £5,000 Start Up loan delivered by BEF, Mark opened his fully-equipped coaching studio in January 2019. He now delivers coaching five days a week. His state-of-the-art equipment has helped to transform his coaching sessions and opened opportunities to offer new services. Mark plans to offer targeted training days, group coaching sessions, weekly track sessions and ultimately, an overseas training camp.

“The Start Up loan has allowed me to invest in a business that I’m passionate about. It was the perfect way to generate the money I needed to start. I couldn’t have gotten started without it,” said Mark. “Julie was really helpful, straight to the point and explained the process really well. Her jargon free communication and good feedback really helped.”

Julie Micklethwaite, Start Up Loans Manager at BEF said: “It was a pleasure to support Mark. He is a seasoned triathlete whose dedication, hard work and teaching skills will help athletes and triathletes to achieve success on and off race courses. I wish him every success.”

Gareth Allen, Business Manager at RedSky said: “Working with people like Mark is great. He is a talented bloke with loads of drive. Helping him develop his business plan and secure the start-up funding was incredibly rewarding. I can’t wait to see what he does with Hard & Smart. I believe he’s going to make a great success of it.”

For more information on Hard & Smart Sports Coaching visit

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