Businesses urged to bid for their share of £2m fund

Ben of Mini Meadows

Ben of Mini Meadows

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Entrepreneurs and growing companies in Northamptonshire are being urged to bid for a share of a new £2 million loan fund.

The funding from First Business Enterprise Agency (FEBA) will help boost expanding businesses or kick-start new companies.

In the last four years, FEBA has provided 37 loans across the county, lending £566,500 in total, and helping to create 68 jobs since 2008.

FEBA funding helped Ben Barraclough set up Mini Meadows, near Welford. After spending 15 years working in sales and marketing for the Hilton and Marriott hotel chain, father-of-two Ben decided to leave the corporate world behind and build a life around the great outdoors.

Launched in 2011, Mini Meadows now employs four people and has just won a national contract with BT to grow more han 50,000 fruit and vegetable plug plants a year which will be boxed up and sent to hundreds schools across the country helping children learn about fruit and vegetable growing.

Ben’s business has expanded thanks to his ability to devise clever ways of encouraging people to interact with nature. He said: “We have just started running free fortnightly chicken keeping courses which have gone down very well. We’ve had all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds come along and it’s great to see the level of interest they have achieved.”

Another popular initiative is the Mini Meadows incubator scheme. Ben said: “We take incubators into local schools so children can watch the growth process of a chicken from the egg to chick stage and beyond. The children love it and I’ve had very positive feedback from parents and teachers who seem equally excited to be following the process as well.”

Neil Millington is loan fund manager at FEBA. He said: “Ben is a great example of someone who has spotted a gap in the market and created an opportunity from it. I have no doubt there are plenty of others across Northamptonshire who want to do the same but don’t know where to start or how to access the funding.

“Despite the fact FEBA has been in existence for 25 years it is still something of a secret and we don’t want that to be the case anymore. Anyone with a great business idea that we can potentially help should come forward and speak to us.”

FEBA’s loan streams include a Young Person’s Loan Fund with £500 to £10,000 available to those aged 18-30 and an Enterprise Loans East Midlands (ELEM) delivering between £3,000 and £50,000. Interest rates are typically six per cent APR for the Young Person’s Loan Fund and between 11.5 per cent and 15.5 per cent for ELEM.

Along with financial support, FEBA also offers free and impartial business advice and can assist with preparing business plans, cash flow forecasts and act as a first port of call for any business related inquiry.