Start-up SMEs are very important to employment creation, poverty alleviation and sustainable economic development of South Africa. One of the challenges facing start-ups is non-availability of debt financing. The government of South Africa has put in place various intervention efforts to improve access to debt finance by start-up SMEs. This study investigates empirically the effectiveness of Business Development Services providers (BDSs) in improving access to finance by start-up SMEs. Data was collected through the use of self-administered questionnaire. Data analysis included descriptive statistics, correlation and regression analysis. The results indicate that most start-up SMEs are not aware of the programme. The results furthermore indicate that start-up SMEs that are aware and use the programme have improved access to debt finance. The recommendations focused on improving the awareness of the programme by start-up SMEs.