Small Business Loan Fund on course to lend £9m to Northern Ireland firms

L-R: Donal Leahy, Enterprise NI; William McCulla, Invest NI; Caoimhe O’Kane, Eat Naked NI; and Harry McDaid, UCIT
Ryan McAleer

THE Small Business Loan Fund has reached the £2m mark, with 96 businesses across the north signing up in the past year.

The fund provides loans of up to £100,000 to small businesses, while start-ups can obtain initial loans of up to £15,000.

Managed by Ulster Community Finance (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland, the fund is delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).

Chief executive of UCIT, Harry McDaid said the fund has the potential to lend over £9m to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) over its five year lifespan.

“Funding is available for requirements such as capital investment, working capital needs, new product and market development.

“As well as creating a large number of new jobs, we've also helped safeguard existing roles. A wide variety of ambitious companies from a number of different sectors have benefited from the fund so far and their growth will continue to have a positive impact on the local economy.”

Among the firms to use the fund is Magherafelt-based healthy meal firm Eat Naked NI.

Caoimhe O'Kane said her company received a £15,000 loan to complete the fit out of a commercial kitchen in its new premises in Magherafelt.

Set up four years ago, the company's healthy meal plan service has grown in popularity, requiring additional investment to support the expansion of the business.

“Our new facility will support our growth moving forward and means our production capabilities will increase significantly,” she said.

“We're looking to target large catering contracts and we'll be hiring further staff as the business grows.”

Invest NI's corporate finance director, William McCulla said the £2m milestone signalled a significant demand for the loan fund.

“The fund is an established part of the local SME funding ecosystem, assisting small businesses right across Northern Ireland and is available to all sectors, with flexible repayment terms.

“It continues to address the funding challenges small businesses here face, including in the start-up phase.”

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