ART (Aston Reinvestment Trust), a social enterprise itself, has been lending to social enterprises since it started in 1997. In recent years, perhaps not surprisingly in view of the challenging economic environment and huge public sector spending cuts, very few have come forward looking for loans. 2014, however, has seen an upsurge in enquiries and loans agreed. It seems that social enterprises working in a variety of sectors now have the confidence to invest in growth and the future. One of latest is Bibsy Bananas, set up in 2012 by the inspiring young entrepreneur Bibs Berry.
Bibs says she began working with children when she was just 11 – and always knew what she wanted to do. By the age of 14 she had her first business plan. Aged 16 she began gaining qualifications in childcare and youth work. And at 23 her dream of running her own nursery, youth facility, after school and holiday clubs had come true. Bibsy Bananas, with the obviously true strapline ‘where fun is at the core of learning’, was established in Castle Vale, Birmingham in 2012 and moved to Bromford in 2013.
Bibs approached us looking for a loan to help her renovate two properties in Bromford, which needed to be made fit to accommodate a nursery and a ‘youth den’. Her application was approved and she subsequently had this to say: “The ART team made the lending process understandable. There was no jargon. What’s more, Graham has been out to see us a few times since we’ve had the loan and taken a real interest in how we are getting on. There is a relationship there now.”
Typically of a social enterprise, it was not just the money that made the renovation possible. It was also the contribution of staff, their partners and families, parents and the local community. Bibs says: “Everyone pulled together to do the painting, cleaning and as many of the other necessary jobs as possible. It was fantastic.”
The nursery can now take up to 50 children and the premises for older children can take up to 90, although Bibs prefers to keep it at 60. A visit shows just how much the children enjoy being in the stimulating environment, using the facilities and making new friends. The staff team of 16 is clearly well trained, dedicated, and able to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere.
Looking to the future, Bibs is full of ideas for expansion and extension of Bibsy Bananas’ services. “We work quickly and are growing rapidly,” she says. “ART enabled us to keep up the pace. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
We hope that others will be inspired by Bibs’ story to come forward an approach ART for a loan. Loan finance for social enterprises does have its advantages:
FIVE REASONS FOR SOCIAL ENTERPRISES TO USE LOAN FINANCE
- It can support cashflow whilst you are waiting for payments that only come at the end of a project
- It can be used to pay for people or equipment that enable to you generate income that exceeds the cost of the loan in the long term
- It comes without the onerous paperwork and reporting required with some grant funding, so if you are using it to generate income it can be a less time-consuming, more straightforward, transaction
- It can be used to invest in building work or equipment that saves energy or streamlines processes, enabling the organisation to save money in the long term which more than covers the cost of the loan
- If you have a good idea for generating income, it can help you set up and start earning money quickly
To find out more visit our website or call us on 0121 359 2444.