The Lancashire Access to Finance service, which provides fully-funded investment readiness support to SMEs and scale-ups, is celebrating helping its 50th Lancashire business after a new wave of secured funding was announced. Over £7m of investment offers have now been brokered by Access to Finance advisers on behalf of Lancashire SMEs over the last two years.
The Access to Finance service is delivered in partnership with Boost; Lancashire's Business Growth Hub, led by the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Lancashire County Council, with funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It has recently supported local firms PMH Digital Ltd, an e-learning and mentoring consultancy in Lytham St Annes, and My Fish Company, a wholesale seafood supplier in Fleetwood.
They, like the other 48 Lancashire businesses supported, not only get access to new funds to drive growth, but they will also get a range of support services, business advice and guidance.
This includes a full assessment of a company’s financial position and their funding requirements; help with developing a business plan; coaching and mentoring to support an investment proposition and pitch presentations; and an introduction to potential finance providers.
Among the groups of finance providers who work closely with Access to Finance are the NW Business Angels, one of UK’s longest established and most successful business angel networks. The Angels’ network has already helped raise more than £22m in funding for over 250 companies across the region.
Earlier this year Access to Finance and the NW Business Angels also came together to spearhead a new initiative called the Bay Angel Group. This saw the creation of a new network of private investors, business advisers and major banks to help kick-start a new culture of investment in North Lancashire.
Some of North Lancashire’s most dynamic early-stage businesses have been given the chance to present to the new group since its launch. These included Oaktec, an engineering research specialist based in Lancaster who develop low carbon vehicle energy technologies; and Morecambe-based Stephenson’s Dairy, the first UK dairy to concentrate on free range milk, and which promotes ethics and a sustainable supply chain.
Philip Hargreaves, Head of the Access to Finance service said: “There are plenty of ambitious and growth hungry early-stage businesses in Lancashire which still struggle to find the funds to scale which can result in missing market opportunities.
“This is where we come in - we have a team of experienced and specialist advisors who not only understand the importance of raising finance, but can also advise on how to develop a business proposition to ensure you get the right type of funding, from the right kind of investors, at the right time.”
In February this year Boost and the Access to Finance team were key partners in the launch of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), which aims to provide equity and debt finance of between £50,000 and £2 million to regional SMEs across a range of sectors throughout the North. The fund is the latest addition to the range of growth finance options available for ambitious Lancashire businesses.