Funding Growth: Explore Your Options

Funding Growth: Explore Your Options

Welcome to the third Access to Finance Conference hosted by the British Business Bank, InterTradeIreland and Invest Northern Ireland.

This edition aims to demystify external finance for smaller businesses, raising awareness of ‘alternative’ finance options and how they complement traditional bank finance to accelerate growth.


8.30am – 9.00amRegistration
9.00am – 9.10amWelcome
Susan Hayes Culleton - Hayes Culleton Group
9.10am – 9.30amImpact of the Access to Finance Conference 2021
Mary McKenna - AwakenHub
Roisin Maguire - Seedling
9.30am – 10.00amCase study: Debt options to complement Bank finance
David White - Bawnbua Foods
Neil McCabe - Whiterock Finance
10:00am – 10:40amPanel: exploring alternative debt options
Judith Totten MBE - Upstream
Ajay Sharma - NI & ROI, CS Finance
Dónal Traynor - Community Finance Ireland
10:40am – 11:00amMorning break
11:00am – 11:50amPanel: strengthening the Board of a family run business
Angela Craigan - Harbinson Mulholland
Ellvena Graham OBE - Various
Brian Cummings - Clarendon Fund Managers
Chris Nixon - BGF
11:50am –12:30pmCase study: equity finance for traditional businesses
Kerry Murphy - RGM Vent
Raymond Murphy - RGM Vent
Graeme McKinstry - Foresight Group
12:30pm – 12:50pmSignposting to further resources and support
12:50pm – 1:20pmYour action plan for funding future growth
1:20pm – 1:30pmClosing comments
1.30pm – 2.30pmNetworking lunch
InterTradeIreland logo
Invest Northern Ireland logo
British Business Bank logo

Our speakers

Susan Hayes Culleton, Hayes Culleton Group, Hayes Culleton Group

Speaker: Susan Hayes CulletonSusan HayesCulleton, CFA, “The Positive Economist” is Managing Director of the Hayes Culleton Group, with clients across Europe and the USA. The businesses include BECKSearch which unlocks, diffuses and records strategic tacit knowledge within networks and #SavvyTeenAcademy which manages the entire experience of teenage work experiences in corporate organisations. The company also provides training, speaking and content development services, in the subject areas of the financial markets, economics and entrepreneurship.

Susan has twice co-authored “Positive Economics”, the market-leading Leaving Cert economics textbook in Ireland, and she is the author of two books published by Penguin, The “Savvy Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom” and “The Savvy Guide to Making More Money”. Susan is co-founder of The Positive Economist. Associate Lecturer at Ulster University, host of “Fantastic Female Fridays” and presenter of the Savvy Women Online podcast. She serves on the boards of the Irish International Business Network and the Ireland Hong Kong Business Forum. Susan holds a Chartered Financial Analyst charter, MSc Executive Leadership, BSc Financial Maths and Economics and a Diploma in Taxation.

Roisin Maguire – CEO, Seedling

Speaker: Roisin Maguire

Roisin is Co-founder and CEO of Seedling, a digital platform for teachers to create learning resources. Roisin began her career as a digital designer in Dublin with ‘Oniva New Media’. In 2000 Roisin began working in the BBC, in Belfast and London, project managing digital education projects. With an array of skills in design, education and management, Roisin then co-founded Eyesparks design agency. Eyesparks’ focus on educational design, led Roisin and her team to develop the Seedling platform. As CEO of Seedling, Roisin oversees the company’s strategy and its expansion into new markets, most recently the U.S. and Canada.

Mary McKenna – Co-Founder, AwakenHub

Speaker: Mary McKenna

Mary McKenna is a Northern Irish serial tech entrepreneur and angel investor.  She co-founded and built successful online learning company Learning Pool in Derry.

Since selling Learning Pool Mary has worked extensively with early stage startups and scaleups across the entire European ecosystem and especially with female and first time entrepreneurs.  She has angel invested in 21 very early stage companies to date, most (but not all) of them technology businesses.

She is an EU Horizon Europe innovation judge, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Oxford and in 2020 along with some likeminded friends she launched the AwakenHub community for female founders across the island of Ireland.

Mary was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in the 2014 New Year’s Honours for services to digital technology, innovation and learning.

David White – Managing Director, Bawnbua Foods

Speaker: David WhiteDavid White is Managing Director at Bawnbua Foods NI Ltd, a Lurgan-based business producing high quality meat products for the retail & food service sector. The company has won a Queens Award for Export Achievement and David believes that key factors in the continued success of Bawnbua include, an understanding of changing trends and an ability to innovate. The family-owned company has recently created a new cooked meats division “ACRE LANE COOKHOUSE” and has secured important new customers within the local market and mainland U.K. Away from work, David is a father of two who previously enjoyed a “mildly” successful sports career and has recently embarked upon a small-scale farming adventure having imported cattle from Europe.

Neil McCabe – Director, Head of Investments Growth Loan Fund, Whiterock Finance

Speaker: Neil McCabe

As Head of Investments for Growth Loan Fund II at Whiterock Finance Neil is responsible for leading the Investment team in sourcing, structuring and executing deals in the range of £100k – £1.5m to local SMEs across a range of sectors.  Neil is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ireland having trained at KPMG, with 4 years’ experience in Audit and Corporate Finance before joining Bank of Ireland’s Business Banking team in 2007.  He joined Whiterock Finance in 2012 and was part of the Senior Management Team that led a management buy-out in 2016 and subsequently in 2018 and 2020, as the business became 100% locally owned.  Alongside the £30m Invest NI backed Growth Loan Fund II, Whiterock Finance also manages the £30m Growth Finance Fund becoming the first NI based Fund Manager to attract investment from the British Business Bank, alongside local investment from Invest NI and NILGOSC.

Judith Totten MBE – Managing Director and Founder, Upstream

Speaker: Judith Totten

Judith Totten MBE is the Managing Director and founder of Upstream, a business she originally established in 2011 as an independent provider of working capital funding for Northern Ireland SME’s.

Upstream currently supports a wide variety of indigenous NI businesses and Judith is driven to see the complementary finance market growing exponentially in the years ahead.

Upstream has recently become part of the wider Cubitt Trade Holdings Group in the UK and will soon rebrand as ‘Cubitt Ireland’ – a development which will see significant capital being made available to fund strategic initiatives across Ireland.

Judith is now a main Board Member and shareholder in Cubitt Trade Holdings (Europe) LLC, and remains a non-exec Board Member of Invest NI, where she has played an active role for 8 years. Judith was awarded an MBE in 2018 for Services to Economic Development in NI.

Ajay Sharma – Commercial Finance Director – NI & ROI, CS Finance

Speaker: Ajay Sharma

Ajay has worked in the local banking industry for 20 years. He has both lending and treasury experience. Following the financial crisis of 2008, Ajay also worked successfully on a number of debt settlement cases on behalf of borrowers – this involved the debt negotiation piece as well as sourcing the funding solutions. Ajay believes in building long-term relationships with clients. He believes that it is important to strive to deliver the most efficient and bespoke funding package for customers at all times, every client has a different need and a unique set of variables relating to their proposal. Understanding these variables and how they impact the likely funding solution is key to sourcing and delivering the best solution.

Dónal Traynor – Group CEO, Community Finance Ireland

Speaker: Donal Treynor

Dónal Traynor has over 23 years working with charities, social enterprises, SME’s, stakeholder and government influencers across the island.

He holds a degree in Economics & Geography from UCD, Grad. Dip. in Business Studies from UL, an MBS in Co-operative and Social Enterprise from UCC, and is QFA accredited from the Institute of Banking.

Ellvena Graham OBE – Chairman and Non-Executive Director, Various

Speaker: Ellvena Graham

Experienced Chairman, Non-Executive Director and Advisory Board member, working across a number of different sectors including Energy, Banking, Agri-Food, Manufacturing, Business Tourism, Higher Education and the Arts. Previously spent over 30 years in banking, most recently operating at Executive level in RBS/Ulster Bank Group, before leaving the bank in May 2015.

Received OBE in the New Year’s Honours List for contribution to the Economy and Advancement of Women in Business in 2018.  Awarded Institute of Directors NI Non-Executive Director of the Year award in 2021.

Brian Cummings – Investment Director, Clarendon Fund Managers

Speaker: Brian CummingsBrian is an Investment Director with Clarendon Fund Managers which manages Co-Fund NI, an equity fund that has invested alongside private investors in over 80 innovative and high potential companies across NI’s economy.  Brian has been an investor in NI companies for almost 20 years.  Previously he spent 10 years working for an NI venture-backed company where he held several international postings building export markets and latterly supported its acquisitions programme and subsequent exit.  Brian is a Business I.T. graduate and holds an MBA from the Smurfit School of Business.

Chris Nixon – Investor, BGF

Speaker: Chris NixonChris is an investor in BGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active minority-only, equity growth capital investment fund. His role involves sourcing and completing new investments and subsequently working directly with portfolio companies to help them reach their growth potential. Chris has been with BGF since 2016 and recently returned to his native NI after 10 years in the Midlands where he worked in corporate finance at PwC and latterly in the BGF investment team in Birmingham.

Raymond Murphy – Managing Director, RGM Vent

Speaker: Raymond Murphy

Raymond built RGM Vent Ltd from sole trader status in 2004 when he was installing ductwork on commercial sites throughout NI.  RGM became incorporated in 2010 and Raymond has driven the significant growth between 2012 to date.  Raymond manages strategic decision making while maintaining a hands-on link with Contract Management Team.

Kerry Murphy – Company Director, RGM Vent

Speaker: Kerry Murphy

Began HR career in 2001 within FMCG and manufacturing sectors. Sat in the background of RGM assisting Raymond as the business grew.  Officially joined RGM in 2010.  Now responsible for the full HR function, H&S compliance and Quality Agenda within the RGM Group.

Graeme McKinstry – Senior Investment Manager, Foresight Group

Speaker: Graeme McKinstry

Graeme is a Senior Investment Manager in Foresight’s Private Equity team based in the Edinburgh office. Graeme joined Foresight in 2019 and is responsible for the origination, execution and portfolio management of investments into SME’s across the UK and Ireland. Graeme works with a range of businesses across Foresight’s private equity portfolio, and led Foresight’s recent investments into NI based RGM Vent and Hospital Services Limited. Prior to Foresight, Graeme worked as an Investment Manager at Par Equity, a leading UK venture capital firm. Graeme holds an undergraduate degree in Accountancy and Finance from the University of Glasgow and is an ICAI Chartered Accountant.

About the organisers

British Business Bank

BBB logo

The British Business Bank is UK’s economic development bank, and we are here to help your business find a way, with free financial tools and expert information. We’re experts in small business finance and we work with a broad range of partners to help businesses like yours, whether you’re a start-up, an established business or you’re looking to grow.


InterTradeIreleand logo

InterTradeIreland has been helping small businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland explore new cross-border markets, develop new products, processes and services and become investor ready for over two decades.

Based in Newry, our services include supports for sales growth and innovation, plus funding and business insights for SMEs across the island who are looking to grow their business.

Invest Northern Ireland

Invest Northern Ireland logo

As the regional business development agency, Invest NI’s role is to grow the local economy.

We do this by helping new and existing businesses to compete internationally, and by attracting new investment to Northern Ireland.

We are part of the Department for the Economy and provide strong government support for business by effectively delivering the Government’s economic development strategies.