NI Small Business Loan Fund makes £4.3 million available to Co Antrim businesses
Belfast-based artisan food production company Tom & Ollie is one of 191 companies in Co Antrim to avail of support from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund since 2013, making the total allocated to businesses in the county over £4.3 million.
The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance Ltd (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social enterprise organisation Community Finance Ireland (previously known as UCIT Ltd). Small businesses, sole traders and partnerships keen to develop their business can avail of loans up to £100,000, while start-up businesses can obtain initial loans of up to £15,000.
Tom & Ollie (Tomato and Olive) was established in 2014 by friends Seamus Mullan, Hugh Cushnan and Fergal McGrainne from Broughshane. The business has its roots in local artisan and farmers markets across Northern Ireland, with a regular stall at the weekly St George’s Market in Belfast. Tom & Ollie is a SALSA approved artisan producer of pesto, tapenades, hummus and sun-dried tomatoes along with specialising in cheese and charcuterie.
In 2017, the team undertook extensive R&D and product development work, aimed at expanding their wholesale & retail offering. This resulted in new ranges for the retail and food service sector and the business has acquired high profile customers including Aldi Ireland, Lidl, Sheridan Cheesemongers & Pallas Foods. To support this ongoing growth and associated working capital requirements, in 2020 Tom & Ollie accessed £45,000 from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund.
“Tom & Ollie is a forward-thinking business that has made the most of the demand for high quality, local artisan produce. The fast and flexible finance that the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund offers, perfectly suited their growth ambitions and it has been impressive to see the expansion in their high-profile customer portfolio.
“As well as food production, sectors which have benefitted from the Fund to date include manufacturing and, renewable energy. The fund is open to organisations throughout Co Antrim who are interested in learning how financial support of up to £100,000 could further their business ambitions.”
Fergal Green from Tom & Ollie said:
“The NISBLF team recognised our ambitions for the business and coupled with our previous success and robust business plan, could see how accessing working capital would support our growth. The finance helped allow us to realise those ambitions. We now manufacture over 65 lines in Belfast. Recent business developments include a new online delivery service with over 300 market fresh products available for next day delivery in Ireland.”
The NI Small Business Loan Fund is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of loan and equity funds.
William McCulla, Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance, said:
“We’ve worked closely with Tom and Ollie since 2019, offering practical business advice and support to expand its team and build its sales in the GB market.
“The Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund has also contributed to the company’s success. The Fund’s financial support has helped it to maximise the commercial opportunities available, and to grow its product range as its customer portfolio has expanded. I’m pleased to see the positive impact the Fund has had on Tom and Ollie’s business growth, and its continued assistance to SMEs across Co Antrim and Northern Ireland.”
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