Posted on Monday 24 March 2014 by Ulster Business

NI Small Business Loan Fund hits the million mark

The £5m Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund (the Fund) has distributed £1m in loans in under a year to various businesses across Northern Ireland. The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Investment plc (UCI) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland. UCI is a subsidiary of social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).

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.

Harry McDaid, Chief Executive, UCI said: "The first loan was drawn in April 2013, and we have now made 53 loans aggregating in excess of £1m to a diverse range of businesses across NI.

"Through this investment process, and with successful management of the fund, we are securing jobs that might otherwise be lost, and promoting employment which otherwise may not have existed. Businesses such as Rocktown Trading, Leisure Industry Academy and Romantique Bridal are great examples of this and we are delighted to be able to play an important role in their growth journey and the wider economic growth of the Northern Ireland economy."

Rocktown Trading, which trades as Maintenance Solutions Ireland provides components used in the maintenance and repair of cars. Owner Alan Dawson said: "The loan we received will enable Rocktown Trading to export our products across the globe through use of eBay and Amazon. It will open up a new window of opportunity for the company and the possibility of expansion in the near future."

Leisure Industry Academy, owned by Lois Cameron and Mark Henry, is a training provider of fitness courses in Northern Ireland, offering services to local councils, leisure centres and various sports groups among others. The loan secured will be used to enable the company to become an awarding body, growing its export market within the UK, Ireland, and the Middle East where it already has a significant presence.

New start business owner Marie Mullan has used the loan to start her own bridal boutique, Romantique Bridal in Magherafelt. Marie said: "The loan was used to purchase designer stock, allowing us to present an impressive offering. The company is fast becoming an established location for would-be brides to receive expert advice and pick from a diverse choice of designer brands."

William McCulla, Invest NI Director of Corporate Finance said: "Northern Ireland is dominated by small and micro businesses with proportionately more small businesses relative to its population base than the rest of the UK.

"We launched the Fund last year to specifically help bridge the gap in funding available to small businesses across all sectors in the start-up and growth phases of development. For the Fund to have performed so well in its first year is confirmation that it is clearly meeting the needs of many businesses and we hope it continues to be able to support local businesses with their ambitions and growth plans."

The Fund is an effective way for people across NI looking to set up their own business to fund their initiative, or for existing business owners to expand. Those interested in finding out more about the Fund can visit www.nisblf.com

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