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T: 01768 867118
E: [email protected]

Mardale Road
Penrith
Cumbria
CA11 9EH

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Month: March 2021

A reflection of the past sixteen years from Chief Executive, Grahame Latus

“You guys won’t last twelve months doing what you’re doing”, a statement I keep reminding myself of as each anniversary passes from when we opened our doors to business on 1st March 2005, some sixteen years ago.

Taking the telephone call less than a week after we opened, from a known Business Adviser who made the above remark was somewhat disappointing. Clearly the individual had no understanding of our remit and lacked the vision to appreciate, that what we were setting out to achieve would actually benefit the clients he was tasked to work with.

If he had asked, I probably would have shared with him the two years research previously undertaken which evidenced the need for an alternative source of business finance for business in Cumbria. Evidence which clearly highlighted, that no matter how well served the county was by mainstream banking services, there were still business’s in the county which were falling through the eligibility cracks of the big banks and meant many were being deprived of access to capital for growth, expansion, equipment, etc and with that, the opportunity to create and/or safeguard jobs which fuel the local economy.

Enterprise Answers supporting local businesses through This is Cumbria

Our remit has never been to compete with the banks, but rather to focus on those marginal, yet viable, lending propositions which the banks have a limited appetite for, whatever their reason and to provide businesses with the finance required to achieve their aspirations to start, grow and develop into long term enterprises, creating a positive economic impact in the regions they operate.

But how do we differ from the mainstream? Simply by applying the good old-fashioned principles of judgmental lending, remembering the days when you could talk to your bank manager and he or she, through their knowledge of you and appreciation of your business (or the business idea if you were starting out) would then make their decision to lend, or not. At Enterprise Answers, our values are based upon similar principles, we make the lending decisions at our Penrith office and we make them locally, without resorting to credit scoring and we treat each lending application on its own merits as we really do appreciate, no two businesses are the same. For us, it’s about the people behind the business, as they at the end of the day are the decision makers and this is a key area of focus for us.

Since March 2005 we have lent millions of pounds to hundreds of businesses across Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire but for us, its not about these volumes, but rather the impact those businesses which we have invested in make, enabling them to prosper, grow and add value to everyday lives, communities and the economy. Some of those businesses were known brands locally and have since our investment, grown to be national if not, international brands.

We have weathered the storm of the financial crisis in 2007/8 when the economic crash occurred, forcing many banks to retreat into a risk averse shell bringing the lending shutters down, yet we soldiered on to assist those businesses in need. In 2020 we found ourselves in the midst of yet another economic crisis, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and again we rose to the challenge to assist the Government and the economy, through being one of the first Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme (CBILS) accredited delivery partners, providing the valued financial support businesses sought to navigate the unprecedented crisis.

We are not a big team, but we do pack a mighty punch with a collective belief that we can provide viable businesses with the financial support they need when mainstream lenders are unable to oblige. Competing with mainstream lenders is not our aim but if we can say ‘yes’ to a proposition when other lenders cannot, then we will endeavor to assist, create opportunity, unleash potential and there is a lot of it about, as we have witnessed some amazing business innovation during the pandemic. We engage with a wide range of partners, both nationally and locally, enabling us to connect our clients to a diverse range of business support and add value to any financial package we may offer.

If you are a business based in Cumbria, Lancashire or the Yorkshire Dales in need of financial assistance to develop, expend, grow or even start your own business, you have an alternative lender on your doorstep who will take the time to listen, understand and deliver. Visit our website (www.enterpriseanswers.co.uk) and let us know if we can help.

Today, the Enterprise Answers team may currently be operating remotely due to the pandemic, but we will raise a glass to the past and future years, to acknowledge the team for their unwavering commitment, our Board of Directors for their unrelenting support and to toast our 16th anniversary, the one we were told we would not reach!

Not-for-profit lender, Enterprise Answers reflect on the unique challenges and achievements of 2020 for businesses in the North West.

During a year which has brought about so many uncertainties and difficulties, it was important for us to recognise and celebrate the achievements and successes we have been a part of, no matter how big or small. 

The ethos behind our organisation has always been about enabling businesses to realise & unleash their potential through appropriate finance. Much of the support we provided to businesses in 2020 was about enabling businesses to temporarily protect and safeguard through appropriate finance, in order to allow those businesses to survive and flourish long-term.

No-one could have predicted the way in which 2020 was to unfold at the start of the year. The news reports of a virus outbreak in China bore little impact until case numbers in the UK began to grow and the FTSE 100 fell. Businesses began to worry and seek advice for a situation that they had never experienced before.

Once the chancellor announced the Government’s intention on 16th March to make £330bn available to businesses affected by the virus in loan guarantees, many businesses began to plan for a crisis with many unknowns. 

We were approached by the British Business Bank to become an accredited lending partner to a new scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) which would launch on 23rd March. 

As Cumbria’s only accredited delivery partner, we anticipated a rush of enquiries from businesses. We quickly set up a system to handle all the enquiries, knowing what a worrying time it was for business owners. By the time the first lockdown was announced on 23rd March, trading conditions and the marketplace changed dramatically. The phone began to ring and emails pinged in.

Every trading business suddenly found themselves having to respond and take swift action to the changing situation. Every company with employees had to make decisions based on the limited knowledge and guidance available, whether it be to stop trading and furlough their staff or to change their business processes to enable staff to work from home or to source and introduce new PPE to continue to work safely.  

Just as for everyone else, our team had to review our working situation and we quickly re-organised our infrastructure to allow home working. We are fortunate to have a small but hard-working team that are used to working closely together and can be totally flexible and adaptable, which stood us in good stead for the months ahead.

On 21st April, The Toy Shop in Cockermouth became our first business to receive a funding boost through the CBILS scheme. The husband and wife owners, Jonty and Fiona Chippendale, took the decision to close the shop but realised that without a cash injection, they wouldn’t be able to buy stock and recommence trading on the other side of the pandemic. When we were approached by Jonty, we knew it was a business we wanted to work with. In the end it took just 4 working days from picking up the application, to assess it, approve it and deposit the funds in their business bank account.

Another business that we were able to assist through the CBILS scheme was third generation cheesemakers, Mrs Kirkhams. The business saw a 75% cut in their trade overnight after lockdown, but with the farm’s outgoings to cover the owners knew they needed financial help to see them through. Once the loan had been approved, the business had breathing space to allow them to pivot and begin to sell direct to customers.

Lancashire-based manufacturer Darwen Terracotta approached us shortly after lockdown. The owners were eager to find a way to safeguard the business with its 120 years of heritage and specialist skilled workforce. They had put two thirds of their staff on furlough and worked out what amount they would need to assist their cash flow, based on a worst-case scenario. Having the money in the bank ultimately allowed them to keep their production going and their workforce employed.

We were delighted to learn of a recent success from a business that we supported prior to the pandemic. The historic Lancaster inn,  Plau has been granted Grade II listed status by Historic England, a real accolade to the whole team involved in the project! The premises was bought by the current owners, Jeremy and Rebecca Rowlands in 2014 and they set about transforming the building into a pub. In 2017 we provided finance for the renovation and it successfully opened as a destination venue in 2019.

Another highlight of the year for us was being a part of the very first North West Family Business Awards, held under the wings of Concorde at Manchester Airport in early March. We are passionate about family businesses and being involved with the event allows us to further support the sector. This year we sponsored the People’s Choice award for Lancashire and it was a privilege to see so many super family businesses enter and of course the ultimate winners, Pendle Doors Ltd be crowned. What a super celebration of family business success the event was!

Overall, despite the obvious challenges and difficulties that 2020 brought, we have been pleased to be able to continue making a positive difference to businesses within Cumbria, North Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales.

As an independent, not-for-profit lender, our interests have always differed from those of the banks. What is important to us is to support businesses where appropriate lending can create value and a positive impact, whether that be through providing benefits to the wider community, safeguarding jobs or preserving rich heritage.

In 2021 we aim to continue to support businesses in this way, with not only a strong lending capacity but also with our knowledge and expertise and a team that offers a relationship-based service for businesses long-term.

Our message to businesses for 2021 is to try to remain upbeat and positive, to continue with your business plans where possible and to look ahead to the future in the knowledge that government support will be available. Finally, we would like to take the opportunity to send everyone our very best wishes for the year ahead.