More than 70 small business in Northern Ireland have been given a boost through investment totalling £1.5 million from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund.
Managed by Ulster Community Investment on behalf of Invest NI and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland.
UCI is a subsidiary of social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).
The Fund has helped support companies from a wide range of sectors including IT, leisure, tourism, food processing, construction and many others.
Funding has been provided for general start-up costs, refurbishment and repairs, machinery, franchise development, exporting in addition to working capital finance to finance expansion.
“At this stage we have assisted over 200 SME businesses aggregating debt support over £4m and the demand continues to grow,” said UCIT chief executive, Harry McDaid.
“These are businesses, both start up and established, which cannot access finance through conventional channels, yet they are managed by passionate and competent promoters who have put their capital at risk and in the process translated their plans to cash flow and job creation.
“The Fund is also open to social enterprises and a number of organisations in that broad sector have availed of it.
“These included a community café, dance studio and a print works. We are delighted to be able to support these businesses in their growth ambitions and to help many others get off the ground.
William McCulla, Director of Corporate Finance at Invest NI said: “This is excellent news for small businesses in Northern Ireland and for the Small Business Loan Fund which plays an important role in supporting the vital growth of businesses in Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland is home to a wealth of talented businesses which are a major contributor to our economy and it is only right that we support them as best we can.
“We know that it can sometimes be hard for these businesses to raise funds for projects and the availability of the small business loan fund can make all the difference.
“Reaching this milestone clearly shows that there is a definite need for this fund and we would encourage ambitious businesses to contact the fund managers and apply for this loan scheme.”
Michael Carlin, NI Small Business Loan Fund Manager said: “Demand for this fund is still high and is servicing a gap in the market for both early stage and existing businesses looking to grow.
“Our funding is complimentary to other sources of business finance within the marketplace and in many cases has helped to leverage mainstream bank support.” He said the application process has also been welcomed by clients as it offered a two to three week turnaround time along with dedicated loan executives available to help with any issues during the assessment or after a loan had been made.
One of the companies to have recently benefitted from the Fund is Newtownards-based Shnuggle, which received a £40,000 loan to cover working capital finance.
Founded in 2009 by husband and wife team, Sinead and Adam Murphy, the company designs and manufactures a range of award winning baby products including an innovative, hypoallergenic mosses basket. Its products are currently being sold in 22 countries, with stockists including John Lewis, Mamas & Papas, Mothercare and Argos.
“The loan from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund has enabled us to purchase stock to keep up with the high demand for our products.
We want to keep developing and designing innovative products. We currently have a team of four but will look to take on a graphic designer and some marketing staff in the future.”