New Welsh enterprises are making increasing use of the Start Up Loans Company (SULC), according to the latest figures.
Demand for funding has taken off dramatically in the first five months of the year – and the trend looks likely to continue.
Robert Owen Community Banking based in Newtown is one of the administrators of the scheme in Wales, and has lent over £1 million to 140 businesses in Wales in just over four years.
In the first five months of 2017, ROCB has already lent over £300,000 to 44 businesses, exceeding expectations.
Mark White of ROCB explained:
“It looks as if 2017 will be by far our best year for making SULC loans. Last year we lent £309,000, and we are on course this year for a total in excess of £750,000 if things continue as they are.”
Loan size is also increasing, he said:
“When we began, the average loan was under £5,000 – this has now risen to nearly £8,000
SULC is part of a UK Government initiative to stimulate enterprise in Britain, and has provided £230 million of funding to thousands of UK businesses.
The scheme offers loans at 6%, and also free mentoring and advice for 12 months on how to create a business plan, cash flow and other issues faced by new businesses.
There are three main criteria for judging applications: credit worthiness, whether or not the applicant can afford to take on the loan and whether the business is viable.
In Wales using SULC funding, ROCB has helped launch businesses in diverse fields, including a creche in Cwmbran, a music studio in Cardiff and a manufacturer of Romany wagons in Ebbw Vale.
“Interest is coming from all over Wales and we are delighted with both the volume and quality of applications,” added Mark.
The programme is targeted at micro-businesses, as well as larger companies which want capital for growth.
“We are able to lend from £500 to £25,000 to each principal of the business. The aim is to foster enterprise in Wales and plant the seeds for future prosperity,” he added.
ROCB has forged a network of links, both in Wales and also with SULC delivery partners in other parts of the UK.
It is also part of the UK’s Responsible Finance network which recently staged its annual conference in Cardiff.
In the longer term ROCB is aiming to set up dedicated funds to promote growth for expansion of existing Welsh businesses.
“We are developing our own funds under management which will provide finance for SMEs which have gone beyond the start-up stage,” added Mark White.