Finance: Not all lenders are the same, says Richard Glinn
BELIEVE it or not, there are some really caring money lending organisations.
These companies generally do not have large advertising budgets, so they have little voices which are drowned in the blustering and booming of the banks, credit card companies and pay day loan puppets. It can therefore be hard work to find them, but once you have, the experience can be enlightening.
In the East of England, Foundation East has been in business since 2004. It can lend up to �50,000 to a start-up or existing company with a workable business plan.
Where is the difference? Foundation East is a not for profit organisation and its employees do not receive ‘fat’ bonuses or salaries. Their work is focussed on saving and creating jobs and boosting the local economy. It is their job to provide loans and thereby supporting the “S” and the “M” of SME. The business loan managers who visit the loan applicants are more interested in the people, the idea and the passion than credit score, credit history and security.
Since April, Foundation East has approved loans totalling �270,000 to existing and start-up businesses based in Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire and and would be very happy to achieve �1million of lending by the financial year end. Over 90% of the current portfolio is paying on time with 70% of the remainder striving to get back ‘on stream’. All these repayments are used for further lending. The loans are approved by panels made up of members. Foundation East is a membership organisation. Many well-known local individuals, entrepreneurs and companies have shown their support in this manner.
It works! A recent Social Return on Investment audit concluded that for �1 invested by Foundation East �3.79 of social and economic value was produced. The “proof of the pudding” is case studies.
Foundation East provided a financial lifeline to award-winning business Ultimate Care, which provides carers to people living in Suffolk’s rural communities.
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Six months after it had borrowed money from the bank to start-up, Ultimate Care needed further funds to gain essential Social Services accreditation. Unable to extend its loan with the bank, founder Nicola Rowland turned to Foundation East for help and the company has gone from strength to strength.
Nicola explains: “It was my husband that encouraged me to start the business. I knew there was a better way of providing care in the community and he challenged me to have a go. We managed to borrow the money to start the company from the bank. But in order to tender for Social Services contracts we needed to be accredited, and we could only apply for this after we had been running for six months, in order for them to do the necessary inspections. This was the problem; the bank was unwilling to lend us more money so soon.”
Nicola approached Foundation East and the loans manager visited Nicola and quickly understood the potential of her business model. The company was loaned the money it needed to take on seven additional carers and train them and also to purchase a vehicle.
Valerie Jarrett is the loans manager for Suffolk. She said: “Foundation East doesn’t use credit scoring as the criteria for awarding a loan, instead we look at the business plan, the accounts and most importantly the people behind the company. If after an initial assessment the business looks viable then it is referred to a panel of our members for a final decision.”
“Support from Foundation East has been invaluable,” says Nicola. “Through them we also received some pre-agreed business coaching which we found so useful we carried on after the agreed sessions finished. The coaching proved vital to us both in understanding how a business operates and how best to push forward in the right direction. Although we would have eventually got there the process helped us to understand quickly what is required to have a successful business. It helps the individual develop skills they already have and focus them in the right areas.”
: : Richard Glinn is marketing and membership manager at community finance organisation Foundation East