Business loan gives Fermanagh timber company ‘stepping stone’ to growth

21st September, 2021

Tempo-based Stepping Stone Timber Products is one of 32 Fermanagh companies to secure business improvement funding from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund, taking the total allocated in the county since 2013 to over £660,000.

The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance Ltd (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social enterprise organisation Community Finance Ireland (previously known as UCIT Ltd). Small businesses, sole traders and partnerships keen to develop their business can avail of loans up to £100,000, while start-up businesses can obtain initial loans of up to £15,000.

Stepping Stone Timber Products Ltd is a family run business established in 1997 which produces and supplies firewood & kindling products to customers throughout the UK and Ireland including Hendersons, Lidl and Home Bargains.  A loan of £60,000 from the NI Small Business Loan Fund has allowed the company to purchase stock to cater for anticipated seasonal demand from their increasing customer base.

Ulster Community Finance Ltd Chief Executive, Dónal Traynor said:

“Stepping Stone is a great example of a company that identified an opportunity for growth and took advantage of the fast and flexible finance that the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund offers.

“Sectors which have benefitted from the Fund to date include manufacturing, renewable energy and agri food. The fund is open to organisations in County Fermanagh who are interested in learning how financial support of up to £100,000 could further their business ambitions.”

Richard Armstrong, Managing Director of Stepping Stone Timber Products Ltd said:

We’ve benefitted from the advice, support and close working relationship with the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund team since 2014 when we secured a working capital loan to purchase stock and make improvements to our business processes. The second loan we secured gave us the ability to purchase stock in preparation for customer demand over the winter months.  We see the team as a valued growth partner that understands what we’re trying to do and wants to help us achieve our goals.”

The NI Small Business Loan Fund is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of loan and equity funds. Since 2019, Stepping Stone Timber Products has also received support from Invest NI towards job creation, marketing activities and the purchase of new equipment, along with assistance to increase its online presence. Its latest offer will support the creation of an additional five jobs.

William McCulla, NI’s Director of Corporate Finance, said: “The Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund makes an important contribution to small businesses across Northern Ireland, ensuring SMEs can access the type of finance needed to support their growth. Invest NI has continually supported Stepping Stone Timber Products over the years through the Fund, but also through our financial support and business advice, to ensure the company grows successfully. I am pleased to see that the company’s customer base is continuing to increase, and that the Fund is allowing it to keep up with the growing product demand.”

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