The business scene in Northern Ireland is in the midst of a transformation. Historically, the country hasn't been renowned as a hot spot for entrepreneurs and startups, but that's exactly what it is becoming.
SMEs are the backbone of Northern Ireland
According to The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), small businesses account for around 75% of employment and turnover in Northern Ireland, with SMEs employing more people in the country than large companies and the public sector combined.
With SMEs playing such a crucial role in the Northern Irish economy, and an abundance of talent and skills available, it is easy to see why Northern Ireland, and in particular Belfast, has become a rapidly growing centre of innovation in sectors such as technology, engineering and financial services.
Welcome to Belfast
Belfast has also been named the most business-friendly small European City by fDi Magazine, and the 2016 Tech Nation report showed that the city remains one of the UK’s quickest developing tech clusters. Factors like excellent university talent, lower costs and a high level of business support are making Northern Ireland the ideal location for digital tech startups and growing enterprises. Derry, Newry and Omagh are also noted as smaller hubs of tech companies.
There’s now a vibrant tech community bringing skills and experiences from the rest of the UK, Ireland and the US – people are coming back here with ten, 20 years of significant experience. Stephen McKeown, Analytics Engines (from Tech Nation 2016)
Small business loans in Northern Ireland
There are a number of finance companies in Belfast, Northern Ireland and all around the UK, with products designed to help businesses looking for funding to grow. To help SMEs and startups in Northern Ireland find that all important capital, here’s a list of alternative sources of business funding;
Our relationship managers work closely with clients to create funding packages that are tailored to the unique needs of their businesses. The online application process only takes a few minutes, and money can be deposited in as little as 48 hours.
Enterprise NI – SMEs in Northern Ireland may be eligible for startup loans of up to £10,000 over one to five years, provided by Enterprise Northern Ireland, which is a network of Local Enterprise Agencies across the region.
NI Small Business Loan Fund – SMEs and micro-businesses at startup and growth stage in Northern Ireland may apply for loans from £15,000 (for startups) up to £50,000 for follow-on loans and growing enterprises.
Bank of Ireland (BoI) – BoI provides business loans to small businesses up to approximately £230,000. If a loan of around £80,000 is enough for your needs, the bank takes applications over the phone.
Growth Loan Fund– Profitable SMEs in Northern Ireland in manufacturing, engineering or tradable services with export potential can apply for loans between £50,000 and £500,000. Businesses need to provide a plan for growth, and a positive trading history isn't critical. Typically unsecured loans, money is repaid over a maximum 5-year term.
Barclays Corporate – Based in Belfast, Barclays provides businesses in Northern Ireland with a range of financial products. The Term Loan is suitable for small business in need of a more flexible approach to funding, but the lower limit is £25,001, which is a stretch for many smaller ventures.
First Trust Bank – Small businesses can find financing through First Trust Bank's Business Growth Fund – they can borrow from £150,000+. There's no arrangement fee on loans up to £1 million.
Lending isn't the only option for business funding in Northern Ireland. If you're happy to give away equity and work closely with investors, you have even more options. Here are a couple:
Techstart NI – Seed and early-stage funding for tech entrepreneurs and university spin-outs in Northern Ireland.
CoFund NI – A venture capital firm co-investing alongside business angels and syndicates into SMEs.
Fund your business today with a Fleximize business loan
Fleximize has a wealth of lending experience. Our relationship managers can guide you through our range of flexible business loans, and help find the right unsecured finance option for your small business.
Call us today on 0207 100 0110, or click Apply Now to find out how much you could borrow.The Ultimate Guide to Business Funding provides a comprehensive list of SME finance options available in the UK. (Header image courtesy of William Murphy)