PROFILE ART Business Loans
Food for thought Boosting the local economy by funding growth, diversification, consolidation and creating jobs ART Business Loans started to support businesses in 1997, lending to all sectors and types of business with two main objectives: firstly, to provide access to loan finance for businesses the banks were unable to fully support and secondly, to support job creation and preservation. Demand has grown over the years and ART Business Loans has grown with it supporting, among other sectors, the local independent food industry. Originally serving inner city Birmingham, ART Business Loans has widened its reach to now serve the whole of the West Midlands. It lends from £10,000 to £150,000 to businesses with a viable proposition which nevertheless fail to meet the banks’ lending criteria. “Our remit is different to the banks’” explains Steve Walker, Chief Executive of ART. “Our primary purpose is to boost the local economy, ensuring that vital small and medium sized businesses have the finance they need to grow, diversify, consolidate and, most importantly, create jobs. We are finding that demand is stronger than ever, evidenced by the fact that we have seen three successive years of record loan delivery – lending over £3m in the last year.” To date, with funding from both the public and private sectors, ART has supported over 900 businesses in the West Midlands, lending over £20m and enabling borrowers to create or preserve over 7,000 jobs. Its small team of experienced staff, based at Innovation Birmingham Campus, are knowledgeable about business as well as finance and can offer advice and signposting to other funders if
Clockwise: Birgit Kehrer, passionate vegetarian cook and founder of social enterprise catering company Change Kitchen. Award-winning restaurateur, TV chef and ‘Yummy Brummie’ Glynn Purnell in the kitchen. Flaming good food being cooked at Shahi Masala - Indian, Chinese and Italian buffet restaurant. appropriate. What is interesting is the wide variety of sectors and types of business that have been supported, including social enterprises and charities. Many examples can be found on ART’s website under the heading ‘Be Inspired’. With the latest British Business Bank figures confirming that 85% of the
new jobs in the UK created between 2008 and 2013 were by firms with fewer than 50 employees and with record numbers of new businesses being established the need for financers such as ART Business Loans, which lend when the banks can’t, looks set to continue for many years to come.
Food for more than thought Within ART’s lending portfolio, including businesses that have long since repaid their loans and continue to thrive and grow, one sector provides an excellent example of the wide variety of entrepreneurial activity that exists in the West Midlands. The food sector is more than usually diverse, with well over 50% led by the BAME community and over 40% led by women. ART has lent to businesses ranging from the highly successful Michelin-starred Purnells through to small home-based specialist food providers. The wide variety of cuisine supported includes Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian, Afro Caribbean, Somalian and Vegetarian, delivered through restaurants, cafes, takeaway outlets and catering companies. Food manufacturers helped include one of the largest suppliers locally of halal pre–packed meals and the producer of award-winning smoked humous products stocked by Waitrose. In recent years, ART has also supported a number of innovative new drink products and several hotels and pubs.
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