Share of £5m Loan Fund helps Toymaker, Trainer and Candlestick maker expand

24th September, 2013

Boutique candle maker Castlehill Candles from Portaferry, gym and fitness studio Push Fitness from Enniskillen, and education supply company Learning Space NI in Belfast are just some of the businesses that have received financial support from the Fund. The loans have been used to create new jobs, purchase new premises and invest in support systems that have enabled the companies to expand.

William McCulla, Invest NI Director of Corporate Finance, Harry McDaid, Chief Executive of UCIT, Richard Linton, co-owner of Push Fitness, Connie Mercer, managing director, Castlehill Candles and Lorraine McAleer, manager of Learning Space NI.
William McCulla, Invest NI Director of Corporate Finance, Harry McDaid, Chief Executive of UCIT, Richard Linton, co-owner of Push Fitness, Connie Mercer, managing director, Castlehill Candles and Lorraine McAleer, manager of Learning Space NI.

The Fund provides access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to develop their business, but find it difficult to access funding through traditional sources. Funding for the £5m Fund is provided by Invest Northern Ireland and it is managed by UCI, a subsidiary of social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).

Harry McDaid, Chief Executive of UCIT, welcomed the announcement: “UCIT has a proud history in supporting a wide range of community, voluntary and social enterprise clients to create social and economic benefit, increase employment numbers and secure jobs that might otherwise be lost.”   

“As managers of the NI Small Business Loan Fund we are extremely keen to deliver support to as wide a range of businesses as possible across Northern Ireland. Our approach is to channel support to dynamic businesses capable of expanding their product / service range to find new clients and new markets. Each of these businesses has demonstrated an ability to target new opportunities, and they have solid plans for growth.”

The Small Business Loan Fund is an important part of the financing mix that will help to drive economic growth and create a sustainable recovery. In a nutshell, we seek to enable business to enable itself.”

William McCulla, Invest NI Director of Corporate Finance, Lorraine McAleer, manager of Learning Space NI and Harry McDaid, Chief Executive of UCIT.
William McCulla, Invest NI Director of Corporate Finance, Lorraine McAleer, manager of Learning Space NI and Harry McDaid, Chief Executive of UCIT.

William McCulla, Invest NI Director of Corporate Finance, said: “The NI Small Business Loan Fund is attracting a lot of interest. In just six months the Fund has offered over £500,000 in loans to local businesses.  This clearly demonstrates the need for this fund as part of our Access to Finance portfolio and how vital access to such support is for small businesses if they are to achieve their growth plans.”

Lorraine McAleer, manager of Learning Space NI, said: “The support we received from the Small Business Loan Fund has been instrumental in helping to develop our business, fulfilling bigger orders and putting us on track for future expansion. They’ve seen the potential in our business, enabling us to take on two new members of staff.”

Richard Linton, co-owner of Push Fitness, said: “We’ve used the money from the Small Business Loan Fund to deliver a whole renovation and meet our working capital requirements. The planning process necessary to help secure the loan was really helpful – it’s given us a structure to plan for growth and the process has been very straightforward.”

Connie Mercer, managing director, Castlehill Candles, said: “Investment from the Small Business Loan Fund has been crucial in helping us to develop new product ranges and continue to innovate in our designs. By 2015, we’re hopeful that 60 per cent of our sales will be made up of export to markets such as the Republic of Ireland. We’ve taken on two new members of staff and plan to grow with a further two each year.”

Since its foundation, UCIT has provided over 200 charities, community organisations and social enterprises with loan finance in excess of £30 million. Those interested in finding out more about the Fund can visit www.nisblf.com

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