£200m South West Investment Fund passes £2m investment milestone
The £200 million South West Investment Fund has passed the £2 million investment milestone having completed £2.4m of debt and equity investments in businesses across the region.
The government-backed fund was launched in July by the British Business Bank to boost the supply of finance to small and medium-sized businesses throughout the South West.
The Bank announced last month the fund’s first equity investment of £500,000 in tech-led commercial waste and recycling business Binit.
Now it has confirmed that the South West Investment Fund has also completed a range of debt funding deals from £26,000 up to £500,000, making a total of over £2.4m invested by the fund in South West businesses to date.
Among the businesses to benefit from investment are a specialist eyewear manufacturer in Devon, a landscape and garden design business in Bath, a Thai restaurant group and a nursery in Dorset, a book publisher in Cornwall and a creative filmmaking business in Bristol.
The South West Investment Fund covers the entire South West region and provides loans from £25k to £2m and equity investment up to £5m to help a range of small and medium sized businesses to start up, scale up or stay ahead.
Ken Cooper, Managing Director, Venture Solutions, at the British Business Bank, said:
“Within weeks of launching the South West Investment Fund our appointed fund managers had received hundreds of enquiries from businesses across the region, so we’re delighted to see these first investments coming through and supporting businesses that might otherwise not receive investment.”
The South West Investment Fund is managed by a team of four fund managers that have been appointed by the British Business Bank. They are SWIG Finance, FW Capital, Maven and the FSE Group.
Many of the fund’s initial investments have come from the smaller loans part of the fund (£25,000 to £100,000), which is managed by SWIG Finance across the region.
John Peters, Managing Director of SWIG Finance, said:
“I’m really pleased with the positive impact the fund is already having. We’re continuing to experience high demand and want to support as many viable small businesses as we can, from all corners and communities in our region.”
The purpose of the South West Investment Fund is to drive sustainable economic growth by supporting innovation and creating local opportunity for new and growing businesses across the South West.
And it is increasing the supply and diversity of early-stage finance for South West smaller businesses, providing funds to firms that might otherwise not receive investment and help to break down barriers in access to finance.
The South West Investment Fund was the first in a series of six new Nations and Regions Investment Funds to be launched by the British Business Bank, the government-owned business development bank. A total of £1.6 billion has been committed to the new funds to drive sustainable economic growth, which was first announced by the government in the 2021 Spending Review.
Applications for funding are made directly to the relevant fund managers who can be contacted via the South West Investment Fund website www.southwestinvestmentfund.co.uk
Exeter Eyewear, Exeter, Devon
South West Investment Fund investment: £32,000
Exeter Eyewear is a children’s eyewear specialist based on Exeter Science Park.
The business has received £32,000 from the South West Investment Fund via fund manager SWIG Finance as part of a growth package worth £57,000 to support the creation of a new, innovative range of children’s glasses frames.
The business is led by qualified optician Rob Barrow, who has been helping children see the world better for over 20 years. Rob and his team design adjustable glasses frames for children which have far-reaching benefits, particularly for those with craniofacial abnormalities.
Rob said the investment would be a significant boost to Exeter Eyewear’s growth plans, helping to kickstart production of more than 4,000 specially designed children’s frames.
“The money has enabled us to begin the process,’ said Rob. “All the product is now at the manufacturing stage and we’re expecting a January launch. Having that investment behind us means we’ve been able to set our stall out from day one. We’ve been working with several high-profile paediatric clinics across the county and now all the knowledge we have built up over the past 20 years is finally being used to bring out our own product in our own name.
“Having the investment from the South West Investment Fund has given us the confidence to start this. You get the feeling that someone is listening to you and believes in what you’re doing.”
Hungry Tomato, Truro, Cornwall
South West Investment Fund investment: £84,000
Hungry Tomato was established in Truro in Cornwall in 2015 to publish soft learning books for children. Its mission is to engage and stimulate children’s natural curiosity with fact-packed non-fiction books.
The business has received £84,000 from the South West Investment Fund via fund manager SWIG Finance to purchase more stock and provide working capital to publish new books in 2024.
Led by Sharon and John Twiggs, who have significant experience in the publishing sector, the business currently employs five members of staff, with four new jobs expected to be created over the next 12 months.
“This funding will help us to invest in the creative process which includes commissioning authors, artists and editors and buying in new stock.
“Without it we may have had to change our publication programme which would have slowed the pace of our growth which has been carefully planned, and it would have prevented us from hiring additional staff”.
South West Investment Fund investment: £95,000
Tom Brereton Downs is the founder of Screenology, a unique creative film making programme based in Bristol. The company, which offers applicants the chance to study towards a practical filmmaking degree, was set up in 2015 with just 14 students on the books. Within just four years, that number had reached 140.
But then the pandemic struck. Screenology was hit hard and Tom needed to find a way to develop his programme. He applied for a £95,000 loan through fund manager SWIG Finance to allow Screenology to launch a new course – an MA in Creative Practice.
The course brings together musicians, artists, film makers and more who want to develop their creative careers. There are also opportunities to collaborate on projects. The new course launches in January and will create three new jobs at Screenology, which has a team of 19.
“It’s the first time since the pandemic that we’ve got this sense of possibility back,” he said. “It’s really uplifted everyone.”
Tom said he had contacted other lenders before finding out about the South West Investment Fund.
“What I liked about this loan scheme was that you weren’t dealing with an algorithm – you get to talk to actual human beings,” he said. “It was also helpful for us just to go through the application process,” added Tom. “It makes you look to the future and where you’re at, in general.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the panic when it comes to looking at the big picture, but you need to as an entrepreneur.”
Nusara, Westbourne, Bournemouth
South West Investment Fund: £250,000
Nusara is a multi-award winning boutique Thai restaurant brand, based in Dorset. It is the brainchild of hospitality entrepreneur Andy Lennox, who rejoined forces with husband and wife chef duo Thammanoon Thurasan and Nusara Padungwang as well as Acorn-Award Winning operations director Sophie Cox.
The business recently received a £250,000 investment from the South West Investment Fund via fund managers The FSE Group, to support the opening of their new site in Westbourne, Bournemouth. The area has been a high target for the brand, following its Ambassador Choice status and being granted Thai Select signature status by the Royal Thai Government. The plan is to open in early Spring 2024.
This will be their fourth site in three years, as the brand continues its localised roll out in Dorset. The group has plans to add several more restaurants in Dorset, before a potential nationwide rollout.
Andy Lennox said:
“We’ve managed to create something special out of such a tough time. As a passion project, to open four sites in just under three years is remarkable and a testament to the team we have here.
“For me, being backed by the South West Investment Fund through The FSE Group is a key marker in the sand for the brand. This not only helps us fund the opening of our new restaurant in Bournemouth but the fact we’ve managed to secure more traditional debt financing for the first time, will allow for the potential of an accelerated roll out once we are bedded in.”
Twynham House Nursery School, Christchurch, Dorset
South West Investment Fund investment: £150,000
Twynham House Nursery School is a family-run nursery school in the heart of Christchurch.
Their high-quality learning environment is based on a central philosophy of respect for the child as a unique individual and is rooted in two generations of expertise in childcare and teaching. Since the Kapila family opened their doors over three years ago, in the midst of the pandemic, the business has gone from strength to strength.
Last year, the family were looking to open a second nursery and had begun the fit out of an 18th century building in Pennington.
But due to the age and state of the Grade II listed building, a number of substantial expenses were required to upgrade and modernise it.
The business turned to the South West Investment Fund and received a £150,000 investment from fund managers The FSE Group to support the remaining fit-out of the second nursery.
Paul Kapila, Senior Director said:
“The Fund has been key to helping us unlock our business strategy and open a second nursery. Without this funding, we wouldn’t have been able to finish our renovations and deliver our high level of care to children in the area.
“We’ve recently opened our doors and been inundated with applications from parents interested in placing their child with us. We’re thrilled that thirteen months of hard work have paid off.”
Viridis Landscapes, Bath, Somerset
South West Investment Fund investment: £26,000
Jemma Smallman started Viridis Landscapes Ltd in Bath back in June 2020.
After successfully growing her landscaping start-up, rising material costs, bouts of bad weather and the day-to-day work involved with running a business meant Jemma had to take stock of where she was heading.
Jemma knew she had to recruit an extra pair of hands. She applied for a loan from the South West Investment Fund through the appointed fund manager SWIG Finance, which enabled her to take on a full-time project manager.
Nathan King now looks after the site work, leaving experienced landscaper Jemma to get on with what she does best – creating and maintaining beautiful gardens. She can also devote the time she needs to looking after the financial and administrative side of things.
“It’s made a real difference,” said Jemma. “It had been stressful with one thing and another but having that extra office help has turned the business round really well. The loan was so easy to apply for. I had looked around at other places before I was put in touch with SWIG Finance but the processes just didn’t seem as positive.
“Other loan companies or schemes just didn’t seem to do all of the background checks or look at the business in as much depth as SWIG Finance did. With them, I felt like they wanted to get to know you and the business. For me it was much more personal.
“I would recommend any young business to apply for a small loan with the South West Investment Fund, especially at the moment with the way things are – it’s a bit of a minefield out there. The fund managers at SWIG Finance are able to give you that realistic and reassuring approach.”
British Business Bank
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Notes to Editors
About the South West Investment Fund
Operated by the British Business Bank, the South West Investment Fund provides a mix of debt and equity funding. The fund offers a range of commercial finance options with smaller loans from £25k to £100k, debt finance from £100k to £2m and equity investment up to £5 million. It works alongside the Combined Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), and Growth Hubs, as well as local intermediaries such as accountants, fund managers and banks, to support the South West’s smaller businesses at all stages of their development.
The funds in which the SWIF invests are open to businesses with material operations, or planning to open material operations, in: Bournemouth, Poole, Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Plymouth, Torbay, Devon, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire.
Supported by Nations and Regions Investments Limited, a subsidiary of British Business Bank plc, the Bank is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government. Neither Nations and Regions Investments Limited nor British Business Bank plc are authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The investment from the South West Investment Fund into the businesses mentioned in this release does not amount to any endorsement or warranty from Nations and Regions Investments Limited, the British Business Bank plc or the government of the United Kingdom.