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29 August 2012

Progress stories

We revisit some of our investee companies to find out how their businesses have progressed since receiving business growth funding from The North West Fund...

Progress stories

The North West Fund for Business Loans fuels turnover boost at Premier Point of Sale

Stockport-based manufacturer Premier Point of Sale is on target to boost turnover by 36% after receiving funding from The North West Fund for Business Loans, managed by FW Capital.

Premier, which makes marketing equipment, received a £125,000 loan in August 2011, which was used to increase stock levels and deal with a huge increase in demand from its customers. A second loan of £125,000 was issued in March 2012 to help the business broaden its range of products and enter new markets.

The company reported turnover of £1.1million in 2010/11, but is forecasting a 36% rise in sales to £1.5million in 2012. Premier also plans to recruit three additional staff to join its dedicated team to focus on customer service and driving up sales.

Managing director Simon Matthews established the business in 1997. It supplies display equipment to distributors who then sell primarily into the retail and leisure sectors. This includes A-boards, snap frames, leaflet dispensers, fittings and other display accessories.

Matthews said: "With our order book growing, we needed additional capital to fulfil the demand. The loans we have received from The North West Fund for Business Loans have enabled us to purchase more stock and achieve greater economies of scale. It has also allowed us to keep our prices competitive."

Gary Guest of FW Capital, fund manager of The North West Fund for Business Loans, said: "We're pleased to be able to support Premier POS with two loans. This injection of working capital is key to the firm's future, letting them widen their product range and supply a rapidly expanding customer base."

Hazel Grove MP Mark Hunter said: "I was delighted to hear about the progress this locally-based business is making. Small and medium businesses will help us out of these difficult economic times and so it is pleasing to see that this additional cash boost from The North West Fund has had such an impact on Premier Point of Sale."


Business has Edge after funding from The North West Fund for Venture Capital

Public sector specialist start-up Edge Public Solutions has achieved a huge increase in revenue in only 12 months after securing seed investment from The North West Fund for Venture Capital, which is managed by EV.

The Sale-based business, which provides sustainable transformation services to the public sector, secured a significant equity investment from The Fund in July 2011.

The business now plans to build on its impressive growth, which included a 355 percent leap in revenue for the last financial year, and is on track to more than double revenues in this financial year.

At a time when public sector spending is under scrutiny, councils are looking for sustainable methods to deliver a level of cuts, savings and efficiencies that they have never experienced before. Edge works with existing management teams to identify and deliver non-service affecting efficiencies, while putting its fees at risk for non-delivery.

Edge has secured a number of major new contracts across the UK in its core market of local authorities. In 2011, Edge expanded into the education sector and has recently been appointed by thirteen Southern-based further education colleges to develop and implement an expansive programme of cost saving measures.

Richard Young, of EV and fund manager of The North West Fund for Venture Capital, said:
"Edge is one of only a few transformation specialists in the country that offers a risk-free service, and this is vitally important for all public bodies. In just 12 months we can already see the impact that investment is having on the business in terms of revenue, performance and its ambitions.

"Jim has done an excellent job in leading Edge through this step-change in growth and we look forward to continuing our support for the business as it focuses on the next phase of its ambitious growth plans."

Jim Aspin, managing director of Edge Public Solutions, said: "In the current economic climate councils are, quite rightly, looking to make genuine long-term savings. The sorts of savings that can only come from transforming the way councils work in order to improve frontline services and make them more efficient and user-friendly.

"The North West Fund for Venture Capital has provided us with the perfect platform to grow the business and take advantage of the opportunities in the market. However, if we don't deliver the agreed results to our clients then our fees are at risk. It makes our service offering of particular interest to public sector organisations."


Explosive growth at Castlerock after funding from The North West Fund for Development Capital

Recruitment specialist Castlerock Recruitment Group Limited is on course to increase turnover by 40% from £15million to £21million following investment from The North West Fund for Development Capital, managed by YFM Equity Partners.

Castlerock provide permanent and temporary staff to clients that include the Ministry of Defence, NHS, HM Prisons and the private sector. The company's management team is made up of Ian Munro, Ian McDougall and Paul Booth. Castlerock is headquartered in St Helens.

The funding has enabled the firm to expand its business by employing additional staff to support recent contract wins, as well as providing extra working capital. The firm has 11 offices across the UK, with the latest additions opening in Cumbria and Stoke-on-Trent. As a result of the increased capacity, the business has boosted its headcount from 88 to 110 in just six months.

This includes the recruitment of former director at Kinetics Group, Thomas Ledson, as group finance director and a new operations director to bolster its senior team.

On the back of the expansion, turnover, which was £15million in the year to March 2012, is expected to reach £21million by March 2013. 

Matthew Male at YFM Equity Partners, worked on the deal and sits on the board to offer support and guidance to the company. Ian Parsons has also been appointed as a non-executive director and will bring a wealth of expertise after working with a number of healthcare organisations over the past 30 years.

Ian McDougall, director at Castlerock, said: "The funding has enabled us to grow at a much faster rate and has provided us with a fantastic resource to increase the size of our team and boost the company's turnover. Importantly, we also now have the support and infrastructure in place to continue to prosper."

Joseph Bergin head of YFM Equity Partners in the North West, which manages The North West Fund for Development Capital, said: "The difference the funding has made to Castlerock in such a short period of time has been extremely impressive. The business has transformed into one of the UK's leading healthcare recruitment specialists that provides medical locums of the very highest calibre through an efficient, effective and friendly healthcare recruitment service."


EcoLogicLiving's double-turnover success following cash injection from The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental

Carlisle-based provider of renewable energy EcoLogicLiving is on target to double turnover to £3.6million in its next financial year following investment from The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental, managed by CT Investment Partners.

The company supplies and installs renewable energy and heating technologies for homes and businesses, including solar PV panels and biomass. The firm secured an injection of £500,000 venture capital in April this year and is already noticing the signs of success.

Turnover, which was £1.8million in the year to March 2012 is projected to be £3.6million by the end of the 2012/13 financial year.

Following the funding, EcoLogicLiving has appointed Chris Simpson, former executive chairman of Proven Energy, as a non-executive chairman to provide general guidance and offer expertise within the renewables sector.

The firm has also launched a recruitment drive for at least six new roles, including a head of operations, two sales managers, a financial controller, designer estimator and a personal assistant.

Along with its recruitment, EcoLogicLiving has increased the capacity of its office space by a third after installing mezzanine flooring.

Judy Pearson, director of EcoLogicLiving, said: "Among the work that has bolstered sales was our landmark project with Carlisle City Council, installing solar panels on the Sands Centre and Civic Centre. Having someone on board with Chris's level of expertise will also contribute tremendously to the development and success of our business."

Adam Workman, of CT Investment Partners, which manages The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental, said: "The impact of the funding has been outstanding for EcoLogicLiving. The firm is showing clear signs of increased productivity on the back of a rise in demand for its products and services.

"The firm has also taken a new product into its portfolio by developing a biomass range aimed at commercial businesses, which will have a positive impact by effectively reducing heating bills for companies across the region at a time of increasing energy prices."

EcoLogicLiving expects more work in the future to come from its relationship with Carlisle City Council.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: "This is great news for a great Carlisle company that is looking to expand and grow.

"This investment shows that firms in Carlisle are capable of competing with companies not just elsewhere in the North West, but globally within the market of new and renewable technologies. Carlisle is a fantastic manufacturing city, and this investment demonstrates that fact."


AMD brings Melio to market with the help of The North West Fund for Biomedical

Liverpool-based Albert Medical Devices (AMD), which develops products for the urology sector, has successfully gained regulatory approval and has seen the first sales of its urinary catheter bag, Melio, after receiving funding from The North West Fund for Biomedical.

The company, based at Liverpool Science Park, received an initial £50,000 Pathfinder Investment from The North West Fund for Biomedical in November 2011. The Fund is managed by early-stage venture capital firm SPARK Impact.

AMD used the funding to take on new members of staff, navigate the regulatory approval process and begin manufacturing.

At the point of the initial funding from The North West Fund for Biomedical, AMD had developed a late stage prototype of Melio. However, following rapid progress, AMD secured £300,000 follow-on investment from The Fund.

AMD founder Trevor Wills came up with the concept for the intelligent leg bag in a bid to improve his father's quality of life following a severe stroke.

Existing leg bag products have remained unchanged for more than 70 years, with patients having to lean down to strap the device in place and typically need help to empty it. Wearers of traditional bags have no way of knowing when it is full and overly full bags can cause reflux and an increase in infections.

The Melio system avoids these issues by replacing the tap with a tiny pump and employing a simple computerised level detector. A miniature computer controller clips on to the waist belt and puts the wearer in charge.

AMD chief executive Tom Fitzherbert said: "The funding and support we have received from The North West Fund for Biomedical was vital in securing regulatory approval and launching our product. We have received tremendous feedback from our customers who say the product has changed their lives."

Dr Penny Attridge, senior investment director at SPARK and manager of The North West  Fund for Biomedical, said: "We completely believe that the Melio leg bag could increase the quality of life for thousands of people and we are delighted to see the product taken to market with the backing of The Fund."

Councillor Nick Small, cabinet member for enterprise and skills on Liverpool City Council, said: "Innovative firms like Albert Medical Devices will be the firms that grow Liverpool's economy, creating jobs and prosperity, as well as improving people's quality of life with new products like Melio. 

"The North West Fund has recognised this with this investment. This is great news for Liverpool Science Park and great news for the city."


The North West Fund for Digital & Creative helps website firm increase headcount

First Active, which operates fashion and lifestyle website FemaleFirst.co.uk, has increased headcount after receiving a £350,000 equity investment from The North West Fund for Digital & Creative, managed by AXM Venture Capital Limited.

At the point of investment by The North West Fund in April 2012, the company employed two journalists and a programmer. First Active now employs two programmers, a graphic designer and seven journalists. The majority of the newcomers to the business are graduates from the North West region.

The company, based in Ashton-in-Makerfield, has appointed Martin Boddy, a non-executive director, who is a well-known figure in the digital marketing sector.

First Active is the publisher of one of the UK's most visited sites focused on the female market, FemaleFirst.co.uk.

Managing director Stephen Reay said: "The funding from The North West Fund enabled us to move a great deal closer to our goal of being UK's leading online women's lifestyle site. We are well on our way to doubling traffic by the end of 2012.

"We are very proud of the fact that we recruited graduates from the local area as no demographic struggles with unemployment more than young people. The passion, vitality and commercial awareness of the people we have taken on suits our brand tremendously well."

David Smith, investment director of AXM Venture Capital, said: "The team has a clear plan to build on the site's huge popularity, using The Fund's investment to grow the team and fully monetise its traffic with support from major advertisers and commercial partners."


If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner looking for growth funds please visit http://www.thenorthwestfund.co.uk/funds for more information.


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