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Media Enquiries Please contact Tom Clarke
Tel: 01276 608513
Email: tom.clarke@thefsegroup.com

Digital Music Platform Secures Expansion Loan

A Brighton based business that offers a pre-produced library of music and software that can be licensed for use in videos is the latest company to be supported by the Coast to Capital Funding Escalator. Founded in 2014 by former composer Sebastian Jaeger and software developer Christopher Young, Filmstro is changing the landscape of media production. From budding teenage film makers to the BBC, customers of all size and budget are taking advantage of this pioneering software. What started out as an evening and weekend project has turned into a company able to boast an impressive 40,000 customer downloads in its first two years and an enviable rate of 24% customer increase month on month.

The Filmstro software allows users to customise the momentum, depth and power of the music compositions available in their extensive music library. Film producers are acutely aware of the power of music but they often lack the skills and training to adapt the music to their needs, instead being forced to film around the score. Filmstro does away with this and enables film makers to embrace their creative freedom.

To facilitate the rapid growth of the business Filmstro have secured £200,000 from the Coast to Capital Expansion Loan Scheme. The funding will be used to scale-up the Filmstro team, with the company projecting to triple their employee numbers over the next two years.

Sebastian Jaeger, Co-Founder and CEO of Filmstro, “As a former freelancer I know how frustrating it can be when a project is restricted. That’s the purpose of our software, to remove these restrictions whist still being affordable and adaptive. Music is integral to films and we recognise the needs of both composers and producers so that everyone involved in production has the best experience. Anyone can use Filmstro. No matter how big or small your project, we have music for everyone.”

Jon Cornell, Fund Manager at the FSE Group, “We are delighted to be supporting Filmstro through their next phase of growth and are excited to be part of their ongoing journey. With the market for online music and video content growing incredibly quickly the innovative Filmstro product is well placed to take the market by storm. We wish Sebastian and his team all the best for the future.”

The Coast to Capital Expansion Loan Scheme is part of the Coast to Capital Funding Escalator, a £5million initiative funded by Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership. The escalator, which also includes a growth equity fund, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £500,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities across the Coast to Capital region.

For more information about the Coast to Capital Funding Escalator please visit http://www.thefsegroup.com/coast-capital-funding-escalator or contact Jon Cornell at Jon.Cornell@thefsegroup.com tel: 07786 912674.

For more information about Filmstro please visit: www.filmstro.com

Micro-Home Designer and Manufacturer Secures Growth Loan

Smart Offices, based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk is set for expansion after receiving £200,000 from the East of England Regional Growth Loan Scheme. Set up in 2006 Smart Offices have been designing, manufacturing and installing garden offices for customers across the country.

The company offers 6 different ranges of state-of-the-art garden office buildings, which can all be tailored to each customer’s requirements. Each smart building is fully personalised enabling customers to choose the finer detail of their office space, with a wide range of choices available, including windows, doors, furniture, blinds and lighting.

With the rise of house prices and monthly rents increasing Smart Offices have spent the last few years developing a pioneering solution for the housing problem faced by many. A large section of society are affected, ranging from, adult children who want to move out but cannot afford to, graduates back home from University but struggling to find somewhere to live and elderly relatives unable to pay the astronomical prices commanded by retirement homes. These are the people that Smart Offices Managing Director Charlie Dalton had in mind when they developed their solution; Zedbox. Micro-homes designed as safe and comfortable residential dwellings.

Charlie Dalton, Managing Director at Smart Offices comments, “The Zedbox concept offers a spacious home with a powerful style statement. We offer our customers affordable studio living with each self-contained home being assembled in your garden in as little as three days. We are incredibly excited about the future of Zedbox, with the early feedback that we have received being very encouraging. The funding will enable us to launch Zedbox with the level of marketing and enthusiasm that it deserves.”

Hayley Johnson, Fund Manager at Finance East, “With an experienced management team and a growing reputation for skilled craftsmanship, Smart Offices are well positioned to take the market by storm with the launch of their new Zedbox range. We are delighted to be funding them to meet their goals and look forward to working with Charlie and his team.”

The East of England Regional Growth Loan Scheme is managed by Finance East, part of The FSE Group, on behalf of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England, and British Business Bank. The RGLS is available to established, incorporated businesses based within the East of England that have a minimum annual turnover of £100k, show strong growth potential and have a medium to long-term funding requirement to deliver that growth.

For more information about the Regional Growth Loan Scheme contact Hayley Johnson on 07717 805780 or email hayley.johnson@thefsegroup.com

For more information about Zedbox please visit: www.zedbox.co.uk

Rags and Bert’s: Fetching Fun for the Dogs of Berkshire

Reading Business Celebrates Opening of New Kennel Facility.

Reading based business Rags and Bert’s, which caters for all canine needs in a fun, safe environment is set for growth after securing a £30,000 loan from Thames Valley Berkshire Pre-Revenue Commercialisation Loan Scheme.

Set up in 2016, Rags and Bert’s offers a wide range of services including, Doggy Day Care, an overnight stay at the luxurious Dog Hotel, dog grooming and training and behavioural classes. The company opened their doors earlier this year, with the unveiling of a new state-of-the-art centre, based on the Loverock Road Industrial Estate. With the business growing at a fast pace and with numerous happy pooches, Rags and Bert’s are expanding their offering with the opening of a new kennel facility.

Julia O’Gorman, Managing Director at Rags & Bert’s comments, “Rags & Bert’s lives by the moto ‘where dogs play and stay’ and our dedicated, spacious 3000 square foot facility is the perfect place for your canine buddy. I came up with the idea of Rags and Bert’s whilst living in California and have modelled the business on the USA style of doggy daycare. What we offer is an alternative to dog walkers, with all dogs being looked after and entertained under one roof. The funding comes at an exciting time for us as we look to scale up the business with the opening of our kennels facility later this week. The luxury kennels will enable us to house 16 dogs overnight in a safe and fun environment”

Cheryl Weeks, Fund Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the TVB Pre-Revenue Commercialisation Loan Scheme on behalf of Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), comments: “Julia and her team of Pack Leaders have a wealth of experience and qualifications in animal health and care. This coupled with their state of the art facility, makes us believe that this is the perfect company to be supported through our new Pre-Revenue Commercialisation Loan Scheme. We are delighted to be supporting the company and wish them all the success for the future.”

The TVB Pre-Revenue Commercialisation Loan Scheme is part of the TVB Funding Escalator, a £8.3m initiative funded by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP. The escalator, which also includes a Post-Revenue Commercialisation Loan Scheme, an Expansion Loan Scheme and a Growth Equity Fund, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £25,000 and £250,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the TVB Funding Escalator please visit http://www.thefsegroup.com/thames-valley-berkshire-funding-escalator/ or contact Cheryl Weeks at cheryl.weeks@thefsegroup.com tel: 07866 835143.

Further Funding for Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator Client – Widgety

“Derek Ellis, Fund Manager at The FSE Group, “We are delighted to show our continued support to Damien and his team. Since the initial funding in September last year the company has grown significantly and now works with over 200 travel agents. This additional £50,000 will enable the company to upgrade the platform with the latest software and to increase the number of employees to meet demand.”

Find out more about Widgety here: http://www.widgety.org/

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Online Content Sharing Software Platform Secures Expansion Loan

Hampshire based software company Widgety is set for expansion with the help from a £100,000 loan from the Enterprise M3 Expansion Loan Scheme.

Through a neatly designed interface businesses are able to quickly and easily update, monitor and distribute their content to any website. Launched in 2012 Widgety was first aimed at the cruise and travel sector, with clients including Regent Seven Seas Cruise and Advantage Travel. The company has recently adapted the platform to cater for the small and medium sized enterprise market, allowing attractions and businesses to showcase their events and promotions seamlessly across multiple third party sites.

Damian Gevertz, Managing Director at Widgety, “The concept is a simple one, we identified the problems that businesses have when updating a vast amount of information about their company online, and came up with the Widgety platform that does everything for you. Widgety works across all devices allowing content uploaded just once to update automatically everywhere”

Derek Ellis, Fund Manager at the FSE Group, “With strong existing contracts and the mechanisms in place for growth, we believe that Widgety can continue to excel and enter new exciting markets. We wish them all the best for the future and look forward to helping them reach their future goals.”

The funding is being used for new staff and software development to finish the remaining key modules needed to bring the product together and move towards full automation and support. This will allow Widgety to grow from its current base geographically.

The Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator is a £5.5m initiative funded by Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership. It includes a growth equity fund and provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding of £50,000 to £200,000 for activities delivering high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator please visit http://www.thefsegroup.com/enterprise-m3-funding-escalator or contact Derek Ellis at derek.ellis@thefsegroup.com tel: 01276 607302.

Next Generation Solvent Technology Manufacturer Secures Expansion Funding

A Maidenhead based business specialising in the manufacturing and design of a range of solvent solutions used with energy efficient cleaning machines is set to expand with the help of a Thames Valley Berkshire Expansion Loan. Safe Solvents was established in 2015 with the aim of developing a revolutionary high performance, non-toxic and non-flammable aqueous based detergent.

The products developed by the company are designed to replace the dangerous hydrocarbon-based solvents and outdated technology that is still widely used across the parts-washing market. These environmentally friendly solvent replacement solutions are used across many different sectors, including UK Motorsport, Military, Aviation and Automotive. The machines that have been developed are the most energy efficient on the market and are the only plug and play systems of their kind, requiring no extraction or plumbing.

The funding will be used to finish the development work on a new range of equipment, with a strong focus on direct marketing campaigns to actively promote the new range to their target market. The company also plans to increase their employee numbers with the expansion of their business development team.

Tom Sands, Managing Director at Safe Solvents, “It is our mission to develop usable, effective, and sustainable alternatives to all toxic solvents with safer formulations for the safety of users, the general public, and the environment. We have over 70 years’ experience in the chemical development and cutting edge mechanical engineering sector and our team have developed the most advanced solution currently available on the market. The funding will allow us to scale up the operations side of the business and expand our reach to new clients across the country.”

Ian Baker, Senior Fund Manager at The FSE Group, “Tom and his team have achieved a great deal over the last year in terms of product development and expanding their customer base and we are thrilled to be supporting them. With extensive planning and field testing, Safe Solvents have emerged as market leaders in their field. This is just the kind of company that the expansion loan scheme is here to support and we hope it will be the start of a long and successful journey.”

The Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator is a £8.3m initiative funded by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP to support job creation and economic prosperity in Berkshire. The escalator, which includes four different loan schemes and a growth equity fund, provides eligible companies – from start-up to established – with loans and equity funding between £25,000 and £250,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator, please visit www.thefsegroup.com/thames-valley-berkshire-funding-escalator or contact Ian Baker ian.baker@thefsegroup.com tel: 01276 608517.

For more information about Safe Solvents visit: www.safesolvents.co.uk

Reading Business Secures Expansion Loan

SME Web Accountants Ltd (SWA), led by Sean Hackemann, advised the Management Team of Ignite Data Limited (Ignite) on its development capital fundraising with debt funding provided by the Thames Valley Berkshire Expansion Loan Scheme. The funds will be used to accelerate Ignite’s growth strategy and for working capital purposes. SWA provided financial modelling and advisory services to the Management Team.

Based in Reading, Ignite Data designs and delivers smarter research solutions in the real-world using electronic healthcare records (EHR) and outcomes data. Ignite’s technology enhanced solutions allow its pharma and clinical research organisation (CRO) clients to Find Sites for research and clinical trials, Recruit Patients for their research and Manage EHR Data.

Dan Hydes, Managing Director, Ignite, commented:

“Within very tight timeframes Sean worked with us to develop a robust integrated financial model that was central to us raising with funds with FSE Group.”

Cheryl Weeks, Fund Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the TVB Expansion Loan Scheme on behalf of Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), comments:

“To date Ignite Data has built up an impressive list of clients, which include a wide range of leading pharmaceutical and NHS organisations. We were instantly impressed with the technology behind Ignite and are delighted to be supporting Dan and his team in the next stage of their growth. We wish them all the success for the future.”

Sean Hackemann, Director, SWA, commented:

“We are delighted to have assisted the Management Team in raising development capital to accelerate Ignite’s growth and facilitate this cutting-edge business to further carve out a niche in the pharma and research sector. This transaction is a great example of how our growth services help ambitious SMEs obtain development capital in a really challenging funding space.”

£750k Investment Secured for App Helping Blue Chip Companies Engage Employees

A Staines based provider of mobile employee engagement solutions is the latest company to receive investment from the Enterprise M3 Growth Fund. The £175,000 investment is part of a £750k round, which also includes £455,000 from business angels, facilitated by the FSE Investor Network, and existing investors. A second close will shortly see an additional institutional investor provide a further £0.25m, bringing the total investment to £1m. FSE has achieved leverage of over 5 times its investment, which will help accelerate the company’s growth ambitions.

StaffConnect is carving a niche in the underdeveloped space of employee engagement, specifically targeting sectors and environments where a significant proportion of staff are non-desk based and do not feel an attachment to the company. Its platform provides employees with an app for their smartphones, meaning they can connect with their colleagues and employers without having to give personal phone numbers and email addresses, whilst providing employers with a sophisticated interface which can be used to manage and measure a wide range of functions to support employee engagement.

Founder and CEO, Bulent Osman, outlines the problem: “disengaged staff can be a huge barrier to success with research suggesting that, in the US alone, the cost to business is around $500 billion; an effective internal communications strategy that instils company values and cultivates a sense of loyalty and belonging, can deliver almost 50% higher returns across a business. Our solution gives an employer the opportunity to add this value across their entire organisation, especially where workers are remote or non-desk based and most likely to continue feeling disconnected.”

With the rise of social media, this disengagement is even more damaging to businesses than it has been in the past, as disgruntled employees frequently take to these – sometimes public – platforms to express negative feelings and experiences. StaffConnect addresses this, along with other elements to promote and improve employee engagement, through its range of pre-built and bespoke modules that include among others, news, messaging, events, social and surveys.

Already in use by a number of blue-chip clients including Vodafone, Yeo Valley and YMCA, this is a well-developed product that is ready for further roll-out. This latest round of investment will be used to grow the sales team and customer support function, aiding expansion across additional territories.

Ralph Singleton, Fund Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the Enterprise M3 Growth Fund on behalf of Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), adds: “StaffConnect has created a leading-edge solution with a technical capability beyond that of the competition and for such a young company to have already secured global, high-profile clients, with many more in the pipeline, is both unusual and impressive. We look forward to working with the team to capitalise on the growing traction they are experiencing and fulfil their potential in this rapidly expanding market.”

Geoff French, CBE, Chair of Enterprise M3 LEP comments: “We are really pleased to see that Enterprise M3 Growth Fund is helping another ambitious company to expand and maximise productivity. The £900,000 we have invested into local businesses so far from the £5.5m pot, has leveraged a further £4.1m in additional funding from private and institutional investors, thus generating a total of £5m for businesses to grow and create more jobs in our area.”

The Enterprise M3 Growth Fund is part of the Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator, a £5.5million initiative funded by Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership. The escalator, which also includes an expansion loan scheme, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £200,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Enterprise M3 Growth Fund please visit http://www.thefsegroup.com/fund/enterprise-m3-growth-fund/ or contact Ralph Singleton at ralph.singleton@thefsegroup.com tel: 01276 607307.

About StaffConnect:   

StaffConnect delivers the world’s leading enterprise, mobile employee engagement platform. StaffConnect’s solution transforms the employee experience by enabling large organisations to connect, communicate and engage their entire workforce, especially remote, non-desk employees. The customer-branded mobile app gives employees ‘a voice’, with access to company and user-generated content to increase loyalty and productivity. The cloud-hosted platform empowers employers to target that content, with analytics, to deepen engagement with everyone. From offices in London and San Francisco, StaffConnect’s domain experts support large customers from all around the world that are driving workforce performance to enhance the customer experience and build shareholder value. For further information, please visit: www.StaffConnectApp.com.

Flavours and Fragrance Creators Expand into New Premises with Latest Regional Growth Loan

A Suffolk company delivering flavours, fragrances and ingredients to the food, drink and cosmetics industries has expanded into new premises with the support of a loan from the East of England Regional Growth Loan Scheme (RGLS), which is managed by Finance East.

Omega Ingredients was established by husband and wife team, Steve and Elizabeth Pearce, in 2001. As skilled biochemists with over 30 years industry experience, the pair have grown a unique and flourishing business, providing both ‘off the shelf’ and bespoke offerings to meet the needs of their clients. Having developed a strong and loyal customer base within the UK, they are now experiencing growth in the US and across Europe.

With overseas potential dramatically increasing, the business must be fully equipped to service them, as Elizabeth explains: “to become an approved supplier in this industry can take a considerable amount of time and investment, however once approved the business needs to be ready to meet the new customer requirements without hesitation. The rapidly expanding pipeline business has enabled us to identify the growth plan and future manufacturing requirements. With this in mind we invested (with the help of Finance East) in a new building facilitating expansion in product development, clean QA and factory facilities.

This £50,000 loan marks the fourth RGLS loan totalling £350,000 for Omega Ingredients, having taken the first in 2009 to implement a capital expenditure programme which has led to sustained growth for the business.

Stuart Ager, Senior Fund Manager at Finance East, remarks: “When we first started working with Omega over eight years ago, they were a team of six turning over around £750,000. The company now employs 20 people, is turning over in excess of £2million and is set for continued growth through 2017 and beyond. This innovative business marks a real success story for the region and we are delighted to have supported this latest expansion.”

The RGLS is managed by Finance East, part of The FSE Group, on behalf of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England, and British Business Bank. The RGLS is available to established, incorporated businesses based within the East of England that have a minimum annual turnover of £100k, show strong growth potential and have a medium to long-term funding requirement to deliver that growth.

For more information about the Regional Growth Loan Scheme contact Stuart Ager on 07825 699407 or email stuart.ager@thefsegroup.com.

A case against fast finance: why the relationship with your finance provider matters

When it comes to finding funding, small businesses should consider how well their finance partner knows their unique needs, rather than going for the quickest route

The funding landscape affecting small and medium-sized businesses has undergone some interesting shifts recently. While banks have become more conservative with their lending, there’s also been an upsurge in alternative finance options such as peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding platforms. But are small businesses taking full advantage of all the options available to them?

Armed with a proposition, the majority of small businesses opt to go to the banks first in the hope of securing funding. According to the British Business Bank’s 2015/2016 report, over half of UK smaller businesses immediately go to their main bank when they first identify a financing need rather than shopping around for finance. Unfortunately, success is by no means guaranteed – especially since banks have adjusted their risk appetite over the last few years. But with so many other funding options available now, rejection from a bank doesn’t need to spell the end of the road anymore. That being said, many businesses seem to be hesitant to spend more time assessing the financial options on the table.

As well as a reluctance by banks to fund small businesses, there’s also been a sharp change in the day-to-day relationship between banks and their clients. With continuing pressure to reduce costs – which often means staff reductions – many banks communicate with small businesses via their business support teams over the phone or through a live chat online. The rise in digital communications has changed the relationship between businesses and banks, and the intimate relationship that used to exist is now sadly rare.

Turned away by their bank, many businesses feel they have no choice but to apply for online loans. And while this approach may work out for some, there are other routes. The problem is that these options are often overshadowed by flashy ads telling people to “apply in minutes” that promise quick decisions. But what chance does the business owner or management team have to really set out their plans or demonstrate their understanding of the opportunities – or the threats?

The decision on both sides is simply driven by numbers and data. However, the numbers can look worse if a business is starting up or on the cusp of growth. That’s why establishing a relationship between a business and its finance partner is important. Getting the full story requires a conversation and open communication. It’s vitally important that a business trusts its source of finance, and the only way that level of trust can be built up is via a strong relationship. Generic or one-size-fits-all solutions just won’t work here because no two businesses are the same. So as small businesses shop around for funding, they should look beyond how much money the other party is willing to put on the table.

The good news is that there are many new funders looking to step forward to fill the gap left by banks. It’s now up to small businesses to cast the net wider and also to weigh up what a funding partner is offering against what their business really needs. Many businesses opt for the quickest and simplest route, and this is where they can become frustrated.

The cheapest deal may come through a simple application process online, but without taking some time to look at other options you might miss out on the best deal. Some funding sources, such as bank loans or crowdfunding platforms, are very visible. But there are others worth exploring that perhaps receive less attention. Government lending schemes in collaboration with local enterprise partnerships or wider schemes funded by the British Business Bank are often tailored to the business’ stage of development and can adapt as the business grows and prospers. Crucially, the relationship aspect plays a key role throughout the process. Both parties identify future opportunities or potential risks and work through challenging times together. Support builds trust, which in turn strengthens the relationship. So while data and technology may have encroached on some relationships, they’re still going strong if you know where to look.

Staircase Manufacturer Steps up Growth Plans with £50,000 Regional Growth Loan

The owner of a Norfolk based manufacturing company has secured a £50,000 Regional Growth Loan to support its expansion.

Demax has a long history of producing staircases that dates back to the 1970s. It now provides a full service – design, manufacture, sale and installation – for high quality, bespoke staircases. Offering its products to both the residential and commercial sectors, Demax’s clients range from Nandos, Mercedes Benz and Barratt Homes, to Arab Princes.

Ros Knights had been employed at Demax since 2011, working her way up to General Manager. Last year she made the company her own via a management buy-out and this brought an opportunity to revitalise some elements of the business; improving the financial position and laying foundations for further growth were key, as Ros explains:

“Taking on the business, I was aware there were some weaker elements and some areas of real strength – particularly around our reputation for having a highly skilled workforce capable of creating beautiful products of exceptional quality. I was, and still am, excited by the challenge of fulfilling the potential of the business and we’re delighted to already see a 25% increase in enquiries over last year.”

To further enable the planned expansion, Demax will use the £50,000 from the East of England Regional Growth Loan Scheme (RGLS), which is managed by Finance East, to help fund the move to new, larger premises, along with some refurbishment and investment in machinery. This will ensure workflows are improved, allowing for significant additional capacity throughout the factory, in order to meet increasing demand. The company will also be looking to recruit further staff in sales, fabrication and fitting this year.

Stuart Ager, Senior Fund Manager at Finance East, comments: “With its strong reputation and experienced management team, backed up by a technically skilled workforce, Demax is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities it faces in this niche sector. Its customer base is both loyal and growing, and the flexible manufacturing capacity offered within its new premises will support this. We look forward to supporting Ros and the team throughout this expansion.”

The RGLS is managed by Finance East, part of The FSE Group, on behalf of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England, and British Business Bank. The RGLS is available to established, incorporated businesses based within the East of England that have a minimum annual turnover of £100k, show strong growth potential and have a medium to long-term funding requirement to deliver that growth.

For more information about the Regional Growth Loan Scheme contact Stuart Ager on 07825 699407 or email stuart.ager@thefsegroup.com.