Friday, 23 August 2013

NI Small Business Loans Fund

As part of its Access to Finance Strategy, Invest Northern Ireland has appointed Ulster Community Investment plc (“UCI”) to manage and deliver the NI Small Business Loan Fund. The aim of the Fund is to ensure that businesses are not held back because they cannot access finance.

Who can apply?

Loans are available for individuals, private companies and social enterprises in the SME and micro enterprise size range, in the start-up and growth phases of development. Such enterprises are defined by the EU as:

  • A micro enterprise is defined as an enterprise that has fewer than 10 employees and has either an annual turnover of less than €2million or a balance sheet total not exceeding €2million.
  • A small enterprise is defined as an enterprise that has fewer than 50 employees and has either an annual turnover of less than €10million or a balance sheet total not exceeding €10million.
  • A medium enterprise is defined as an enterprise that has fewer than 250 employees and has either an annual turnover of less than €50million or a balance sheet total not exceeding €43million.

Businesses applying must be substantially based in Northern Ireland and must provide evidence of funding refusal from the private banking sector.
 For further information click here:

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Selling Through Online Marketplaces

Following the success of Invest NIs recent Selling through Online Marketplace workshops held in June, they will be repeating these events in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.
Invest will be holding two sessions each day with delegates having the option to choose between either Beginner or Advanced sessions. The Beginner session will be aimed at companies who have not sold on EBay/Amazon or have tried on a small scale. The Advanced session is for experienced online sellers, seeking to learn about some of the advanced features e.g. multichannel management.

To view dates of worksops click here::

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Final call for Rural Development Programme bids

Michelle O'Neill, the agriculture and rural development minister for Northern Ireland, has issued a final call for grant applications to the £21.5m Rural Development Programme.
The programme is open to companies ranging from sole traders to those with up to 750 employees, as long as they are involved in the processing of primary agricultural products.
Up to £250,000 is available per applicant towards the cost of purchasing equipment and plants, reconfiguring factory layouts or making building alterations.
All applications must be submitted by 20 September 2013, although funded projects have up until 31 March 2015 to complete.
O'Neill said: "I hope all in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry processing sectors will welcome this final opportunity under the current programme to avail of financial support."
To date, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has approved funding worth approximately £18.6m to 88 separate projects.
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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Guide to managing cash flow in your business

A recent survey highlighted managing cashflow as the biggest challenge facing businesses today.

Sage have produced a range of useful tips and advice to help businesses keep on top of their cashflow.

Download Sage's free guide here

Invest NI's Propel Programme, help to fast track your business to the next stage.

If you’re an entrepreneur, with an innovative, export focused business idea, Propel could help you fast track your business to the next stage.

Propel is aimed at high calibre entrepreneurs who have the passion and energy to succeed on an international stage and if your business has significant growth potential, particularly in international markets, it offers:

• Up to £20,000 financial support
• A series of 12 high quality training workshops
• Individual mentoring support from experienced international entrepreneurs
• Help with drafting an investor ready business plan
• Shared work space
• Support to make overseas market visits

Invest NI have organised a number of events to showcase the propel programme, with the schedule as follows:
08.30 – 09.00  Registration
09.00 – 09.15  Invest NI
09.15 – 09.45  Xcell Partners
09.45 – 10.00  Case Study
10.00 – 10.15  Q&A

2013 Venues:
2 September: Armagh - Armagh City Hotel
3 September: Cookstown - Glenavon Hotel
4 September: Derry - City Hotel
5 September: Antrim - Dunsilly Hotel
6 September: Belfast - Belfast Met E3

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The High Street is dead long live the High Street

If you live in a grubby old house, and there is a dead mouse on the kitchen floor do you blame the cat for killing the mouse, or do you say the problem is a bit more serious than that? The High Street has some problems. This weekend the ‘Telegraph’ paraphrased a government minister saying the High Street was dead. The solution, however, is not to make online retailers pay more tax any more than killing the cat will solve the problem of a mouse infested house.

It is little harsh to say that Nick Boles, the planning minister, said the High Street was dead when what he actually said was :“People's shopping habits are changing very fast as a result of the rise in internet shopping and changes in lifestyle and working patterns.” He continued: “We need to think creatively about how to help town centres thrive in this new era. We want to encourage local councils to concentrate retail activity into the prime shopping streets in the heart of their town centres and adopt a more relaxed approach to underused retail frontages.”
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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Better Broadband For Businesses

Better broadband for businesses as market testing begins on Connection Vouchers scheme

Businesses in 5 cities can now apply for grants to cover cost of installing faster and better broadband.

A two month market test of the Connection Vouchers scheme, part of the government’s Super-Connected Cities programme, is now under way. The scheme will allow businesses to apply for grants of up to £3,000 to cover the costs of installing faster and better broadband into their premises.

The vouchers scheme aims to stimulate the broadband market to improve digital connectivity in participating cities. It particularly aims to benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs), helping cities to create and attract new jobs and investment, and make the UK a more attractive place for companies to locate and do business.

First 5 cities to benefit
We have been working closely with a handful of cities who have demonstrated that they have the plans in place to take part in the initial market test.

These 5 cities are:

Manchester / Salford

These cities have demonstrated that they meet a set of criteria, including having a credible ‘demand stimulation’ plan in place (to inform businesses about the benefits of getting better broadband) and demonstrable and diverse interest from the supplier market.
Find out more about the scheme and eligibility on the connection vouchers website at

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

The problem with banks

The problem with banks lending to small businesses is that it is not often a good idea. Business loans are risky, of course they are. Mortgages are less risky because for one thing there is the property they are secured against, and for another thing there is the fact that to the people who own the homes keeping up mortgage payments is just about the number one priority. But there is a third far more important point. Businesses create wealth; mortgages don’t. And the creation of wealth is incredibly important, but also by its very nature risky. Banks have become the bogey men of the 21st century. The public hate them. The truth is, however, that small businesses, the type run by entrepreneurs and that create wealth don’t really need banks at all, not banks as they are these days anyway. They need something far more. And curiously enough the venture capital industry has just been spelling out what it is.
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