New growth fund will provide £30m in SME loans

Padraic McKeever (left), owner of Sports Merchandising Ireland, with Invest NI's William McCulla and Neil McCabe from WhiteRock

A NEW Growth Loan Fund has been launched with a £30 million pot to support small businesses in the north.

It is a successor to a similar fund set up in 2012 and which has already committed £55m to more than 100 businesses.

Finance for the Growth Loan Fund II is being provided by Invest NI, and it will be managed by WhiteRock Capital Partners.

William McCulla, director of corporate finance at Invest NI said: “The previous Growth Loan Fund helped over 100 businesses bring forward growth plans and develop exports.

"This second fund will build on this over the next five years, providing loans ranging from £100k-£500k for growing businesses with an export focus.”

One of the final companies to benefit from the original Growth Loan Fund is Sports Merchandising Ireland, which supplies teamwear to sports clubs. It used a £300,000 loan to purchase additional stock and equipment.

Owner Padraic McKeever said: “We wanted to be able to offer consumers a wider choice of sportswear outside of official brands. We are developing our own brand and we hold the LGFA license to supply Cork, Kerry, Armagh and Tipperary and hope to add the men's license in the future.

“Our e-commerce platform has grown in recent years with orders from as far as the USA, Middle East and Australia. Our retail platform remains popular and we've invested £650,000 in our two new Intersport stores, creating 22 new jobs within the local community.

“The support from the Growth Loan Fund allowed us to purchase a new embroidery production machine and invest in our own McKeever brand teamwear. We're currently rebranding the business to McKeever Sports and this will be rolled out in the next six months.”

Paul Millar, chief executive of WhiteRock Capital Partners, said: “There have been a number of great success stories during the life of the Growth Loan Fund - like Vita Liberata, one of the first funding recipients, which was sold in a multi-million pound deal earlier this year.

“The appetite for funding remains strong and we are delighted to continue as the fund managers for Growth Loan Fund II.

"Never before has Northern Ireland been able to offer such an extensive range of alternative finance options.

"As before, we will continue to work alongside primary banks, equity partners and asset-based funders to support businesses to reach their growth ambitions.”