More backing for small business through Staffordshire’s loan fund

A South Staffordshire company that specialises in occupational hygiene advice and testing has expanded thanks to support from the county council’s business loan fund.

Essington-based Workforce First received a £20,000 loan from the fund which was specifically created to help Staffordshire based businesses that are unable to obtain finance from banks. The loan helped to train a newly qualified practitioner and invest in equipment, meaning the company has gone from strength to strength.

Leila Kirk, Managing Director of Workforce First approached the Staffordshire Business Loan fund, run by the county council in partnership with the BCRS, after being turned down for finance by their longstanding mainstream lender.

“We are grateful to the Staffordshire Business Loan Fund as it got us to where we are today. The majority of plans that we had mapped out have now been made possible thanks to a chance meeting at a networking meeting that we attended and found out about this alternative source of finance. The whole process of applying for a loan through BCRS was very quick and easy. We were kept informed at every stage and as they say – the rest is history.”

Established in 2006, the company has continued to grow thanks to Leila’s tenacity and hard work. With more than 20 years’ experience in advising business about health and safety, Leila is also the West Midlands organiser of the British Occupational Hygiene Society.  The company employs three people.

Leila added: “We provide a bespoke service of occupational hygiene advice and testing to large and small businesses, enabling realistic, cost effective and time efficient compliance with health and safety legislation. We have been able to continue on our journey thanks to the Staffordshire Business Loan Fund.”

Loans of between £10,000 and £50,000 are available, but only to viable Staffordshire businesses that have been turned down by the banks. The Staffordshire Business Loan Fund is managed by BCRS, run in conjunction with Staffordshire County Council and part financed by the European Regional Development Fund.  

Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for economy and infrastructure Mark Winnington said: “Backing small businesses is a top priority for the county council and our loans scheme is an important part of our support package. Businesses are still finding it difficult to access essential finance and I’m delighted to see our loan scheme is continuing to make a real difference to businesses like Workforce First.  “What is vitally important now is that we continue to raise the profile of the fund to other small businesses so they know how it can make a real difference to their development and growth.”

Paul Kalinauckas, chief executive of BCRS, said: “Workforce First is typical of many companies that BCRS support. They have an excellent, tried and tested product, a viable business plan, established client base and a pedigree in their sector.

“We understand that banks aren’t always able to help businesses with finance requirements, even when they have growth potential like Workforce First.  We’re not here to replace banks, but we’re not governed by the same criteria – so it’s important that people like Leila who’ve been turned down by their bank, know that we are a viable alternative they can talk to.”

For any Staffordshire based businesses looking for access to finance please contact BCRS through the fast track online application facility at www.bcrs.org.uk or call 0845 313 8410.

To find out more about Workforce First please visit www.workforcefirst.co.uk

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