Funding Growth: Explore Your Options

Funding Growth: Explore Your Options

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

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

Funding Growth – Roisin Maguire, CEO, Jetpack Learning

Hear from attendees of last year’s conference


8.30am – 9.00amRegistration
9.00am – 9.10amWelcome
Susan Hayes Culleton - Hayes Culleton Group
9.10am – 9.30amSetting the scene
Ryan Williams, The AMP
9.30am – 10.00amCase study: Debt options to complement Bank finance
Rhona Barbour - Whiterock Finance
Sean O'Hare - Re-Kkur
10:00am – 10:50amPanel: Exploring alternative debt options
John Metcalfe - Upstream
Mark Johnson - Johnston Financial Solutions Limited
Liz McCrory - UK Export Finance
Michael McQuillan - Enterprise NI
10:50am – 11:10amMorning break
11:10am – 11:50amPanel: The benefits of good governance, NEDs and networks
Mary McKenna MBE - AwakenHub
Larissa Feeney - Acountant Online
Audrey Osborne - Techstart Ventures
11:50am –12:30pmCase study: Equity finance for traditional businesses
Julie Gray - Gray's Clip
David Gray - Gray's Clip
Claudine Owens - Carendon Fund Managers
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 Culleton
Susan 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.

Ryan Williams, The AMP

Speaker Ryan Williams

Ryan Williams is an investor and Director in multiple businesses across the UK, Ireland and Central and Eastern Europe. His two main ventures Connected Health and Conscia deliver innovative and disruptive services in the traditional and ‘tired’ sectors of both homecare and recruitment.

Ryan is a business mentor and Angel Investor, investing in 2-3 new high growth startups per year and has led the development of the North Wests first privately funded growth incubator in one of the most iconic buildings on Ebrington Square. Ryan realised that the City and the region needed co-working and collaborative space for high growth businesses, venture capital and investment support, appropriate mentoring and sign posting for innovation businesses along similar lines to the Ormeau Baths in Belfast.

Rhona Barbour – Investment Director, Growth Finance Fund, Whiterock Finance

Speaker Rhona Barbour

Rhona is responsible for sourcing, structuring and executing deals for Growth Finance Fund. The fund provides loans in the range of £500k to £2m to local SMEs across a range of sectors.  Rhona is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ireland having worked in Corporate Finance and Forensic Services at PwC from 2003 to 2013. Rhona joined Whiterock Finance in 2013 and is part of the Senior Management Team.  The Growth Finance Fund is a £37.5m fund backed by British Business Bank, NILGOSC and Invest NI. Whiterock Finance also manages the £30m Invest NI backed Growth Loan Fund II.

Sean O’Hare, Re-kkur

Speaker Sean O'Hare

Sean has over 30 years of expertise in Engineering, Business, and Finance, holding the position of Managing Director in several companies both in the UK and internationally. Sean has actively contributed to various initiatives in the entrepreneurial ecosystem such as InvestNI Propel program, and StartPlanetNI. He is the founder of SMETRIC RISK, Waterworx robotics and Clarify Solutions and is currently working as an advisor for several NI companies including, Galaxy, Jaguar Polymers and Re-kkur. Sean takes great pleasure in working with high-growth potential companies, such as Re-kkur, and continues to expand his portfolio in both property and business investments.

John Metcalfe, Upstream

Speaker John Metcalfe

John is Acquisition and Relationship Manager at Upstream, an independent provider of working capital funding. Upstream is part of the wider Cubitt Trade Holdings Group in the UK, which has resulted in significant capital being deployed to support businesses and fund strategic initiatives across Ireland. John has over 15 years’ experience in the finance sector, having started out with Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Ltd as part of their Business Banking team in Belfast. Immediately prior to joining Upstream, John was a Business Manager within the Bank of Ireland Mid-Corporate team, with responsibility for managing a diverse customer portfolio and assisting with with a broad range of funding requirements.

Mark Johnston – Founder, Johnston Financial Solutions

Speaker Mark Johnston

Mark is a Commercial Finance broker with over 30 years experience in the finance sector. He is a Chartered Banker, and a member of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers.

While Mark’s main purpose is to provide SMEs with access to finance for Commercial Property & Construction;  Vehicles, Plant & Machinery; and Cashflow and Growth Finance he also has a wealth of mentoring and consultancy experience within the SME sector.

Johnston Financial can support proposals in the range £10k – £5m. All engagements start with a conversation to help get a good understanding of what the client really needs and to help them consider fully the potential options and pitfalls. Ultimately, the relationship and understanding is key to supporting further business growth.

Liz McCrory – Senior Export Finance Manager for Northern Ireland, UK Export Finance

Speaker Liz McCrory

Elizabeth brings a wealth of trade finance experience having worked at Danske Bank and AIB Group, where she provided specialist support and advice to the business banking and retail network on a range of import, export and domestic solutions to settle trade transactions from guarantees to documentary credits, documentary collections and export financing.

Elizabeth then joined UK Export Finance (UKEF) in 2012. UK Export Finance is the UK government’s export credit agency who support exports for any size company and across all industries, from capital goods to services and intangibles like intellectual property. Their mission is to advance prosperity by ensuring no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance, doing that sustainably and at no net cost to the taxpayer.

Elizabeth holds a diploma in International Trade from the Institute of Export in addition to a diploma in Management from the Chartered Management Institute.

Michael McQuillan, CEO, Enterprise NI

Speaker Michael McQuillan

Michael is Chief Executive at Enterprise NI. Previously he was Director of the Business Institute and the Centre for SME Development at Ulster University and was appointed as a Visiting Professor to the Ulster University Business School in 2010. An entrepreneur by background, Michael was involved in several businesses. Most notably, as co-founder of ‘The Streat’ coffee chain, he established the business in 1999, expanding it organically and then through franchising, leading to an acquisition by a major food distribution company in 2010. Michael is a Non-Executive Board Member of Invest NI and a member of the Governing Board of South Eastern Regional College. He was a Member of the Tourism Northern Ireland Board from 2013 to 2020.

Mary McKenna MBE – AwakenHub

Speaker Mary McKenna

Mary McKenna is a Northern Irish exited serial tech entrepreneur and now angel investor.  She co-founded successful online learning company Learning Pool which is based 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 20 or so early stage tech startups to date and along with some friends she co-founded social enterprise AwakenHub, an all-Ireland female founder community, in summer 2020.  AwakenHub now has 3,000 members and is about to launch Ireland’s first and only women-led angel syndicate, AwakenAngels.

Mary is a distinguished visiting Entrepreneur in Residence at Said Business School (part of University of Oxford).  She is a visible role model, commentator and speaker, well respected in the UK and Ireland’s tech community and frequently quoted in the media.

Mary works as an Innovation Expert for the EU on their flagship EIC Accelerator and is currently active in several programmes (the EIC Accelerator, the Women Innovators Prize as a judge and the Women TechEU programme).  In her daily life she mentors hundreds of women and girls each year on a pro-bono basis and she is Entrepreneur in Residence at St Mary’s College in Derry, a post-primary school with 1,000 students aged 11-18.

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.

Larissa Feeney, CEO, Accountant

Speaker Larissa Feeney

Larissa Feeney, a highly accomplished fellow chartered accountant (FCA), brings over 15 years of invaluable expertise. She is the CEO of Accountant Online, Ireland’s multi-award-winning online chartered accountancy firm. Her exceptional track record includes serving as President of the Donegal Women in Business Network and lead entrepreneur for development program ACORNS, a true testament to her leadership and dedication to empowering people in business. Accountant Online assists businesses in Ireland, NI, and UK with accounting, financial, taxation, and company secretarial services, with a commitment to streamlining processes and embracing digital solutions. Accountant Online has been consistently celebrated, securing ‘Medium Practice of the Year,’ ‘Practice of the Year’ 2020, and ‘Online Practice of the Year’ 2022 by the Irish Accountancy Awards.

Audrey Osborne, Investor at Techstart Ventures

Speaker: Chris NixonAudrey Osborne is an Investor at Techstart Ventures, a seed investment partner for the best and most ambitious entrepreneurial founding teams in Northern Ireland and Scotland.  She has spent the last 6 years conducting seed and follow-on investments in early-stage technology companies across a variety of industries and sectors. Working with companies across all stages of business from seed to scale to exit. Before moving into venture capital (VC), she was a founding member of an Angel and VC backed start-up where she was a Product Manager focused on product management, customer acquisition and establishing product market fit. Prior to moving into technology, she spent 7 years in Marketing and Advertising in the US where she performed market analysis and ran-multi channel campaigns for international accounts.

Julie and Davy Gray – Co-Founders and CEO

Speakers Julie & Davy Gray

Julie Gray – Co-Founder – CEO
An experienced business problem solver working with companies like The Walt Disney Company, TUI and London Underground from her board position at multi-national company Keith Prowse. From setting up global call centres, to implementing automated solutions, Julie’s experience extends from staff recruitment and training, setting up and restructuring departments and policies, developing and implementing operational and technical solutions to cash flow management and multi-million pound currency purchases. Her role with ViperClip will be to drive the business forward to success as CEO.

Davy Gray – Co-Founder – CTO

Davy’s expertise lies both as a user with his career as an electrician in residential, commercial and the industrial sector, but also from a problem solving perspective. He has wired new build homes, re-wired older properties and wired larger premises from shops to factories. His experience also extends to a production environment, solving problems with the engineers and in resolving assembly issues. Davy’s experience will be invaluable as CTO as we bring out products designed with the user in mind. His role in the business lends authenticity to the products we deliver.

Claudine Owens, Investment Manager, Clarendon Fund Managers

Speaker Claudine Owens

Claudine is an Investment Manager with Clarendon Fund Managers which manages Co-Fund NI, a £50m equity fund that has invested alongside private investors in over 100 innovative and high potential companies across NI’s economy. Her role involves sourcing and completing new investments and subsequently working directly with portfolio companies to help them reach their growth potential.

Prior to joining Clarendon in 2018 Claudine was a Relationship Manager with Bank of Ireland’s Corporate and Business Banking Teams for 12 years where she managed a varied portfolio of business clients across a diversified range of business sectors with lending requirements ranging from £100k-£20million.

About the organisers

British Business Bank

The British Business Bank is the 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.


InterTradeIreland is a dynamic resource for business growth. We focus on helping businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland explore new cross-border markets, develop new products, embed a culture of innovation and become investor ready.

By tapping into our range of supports and networks, we can boost the innovation power of your business through cross-border collaboration and also help you to establish and grow business exports with our flexible and tailored supports.

We’re also helping firms to continue adapting post-Brexit, with dedicated digital resources designed specifically for cross-border SMEs.

Invest Northern Ireland

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.

Read more on the Invest NI Access to Finance Leaflet and the  Invest NI Non-Executive Director Support.