Record number of loans issued to small firms in north says Enterprise NI

Female entrepreneurs now make up almost half of Start Up Loan recipients

Three UK Government-backed loan schemes have paid out £34.9 billion to around 830,000 businesses.
A record number of business loans were approved in Northern Ireland last year, according to Enterprise NI

A record number of start-up and small business loans were issued in the north last year, with more than 250 companies accessing loans worth more than £3.5 million, according to new data from delivery partner Enterprise NI.

Some 203 business people successfully accessed Start Up Loans to a value of almost £2 million, while the NI Small Business Loan Fund, designed as a next step for SMEs who have established themselves, saw 49 loans disbursed to a total of £1.79 million.

A Start Up Loan is a personal loan for business purposes for a term of one to five years at a fixed rate of 6% year, up to £25,000 (the average loan amount is £9,295) while the NI Small Business Loan Fund, which is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance Strategy, offers loans up to £100,000 for existing businesses and £15,000 for start-ups.

The Enterprise NI data also shows an approaching gender equality within the lending of Start Up Loans, where 94 of the 203 borrowers (46.3%) were female, while £829,940 of the total £1.83 million loaned (45.4%) was disbursed to female applicants - a record high for female participation in the fund.

However, just 11 of the 49 NI Small Business Loan Fund borrowers (22.4%) were female, receiving £329,500 of the £1,785,253 (18.5%) total.

Mid Ulster businesses received the most support, with 38 (18.7% of recipients) getting Start Up Loans worth £412,300 (22.5% of the total funding) and 10 (20.4%) NI Small Business Loan Fund recipients receiving £447,253 (25.1%).

Belfast came next in both categories, claiming 34 Start Up Loans (16.7%) worth £240,240 (13.1%) and nine NI Small Business Loan Fund loans (18.4%) worth £228,000 (12.8%).

Enterprise NI chief executive Michael McQuillan said: “It’s fantastic news that records for both Start Up Loans and NI Small Business Loan Funds have been set in the financial year 2023/24.

“As delivery partner of both of these loan funds, we at Enterprise NI have been stating for some time that the entrepreneurial spark has returned to Northern Ireland and based off the strength and sheer number of applicants to both loan funds, it is encouraging to see the entrepreneurial surge being borne out in the numbers.

access to finance
Michael McQuillan, chief executive of Enterprise NI

“The narrowing gender divide among borrowers is also very welcome news and is testament to the work being done in all 27 of our Local Enterprise Agencies as we work to ensure inclusive entrepreneurship support throughout Northern Ireland.”

He added: “What these record numbers show is that more people than ever are starting businesses in Northern Ireland and taking an active role in the shaping of their local economy.

“Enterprise NI is proud to play a part in that and looks forward to partnering with the Executive, councils, and other stakeholders to codesign the right supports that will allow Northern Ireland to capitalise on the entrepreneurial spark these numbers attest to.”