"We are proud that 36 of our loans in the year have been to female entrepreneurs which is higher than the industry average."
Steve Waud, chief executive at BEF
A Yorkshire-based social enterprise has announced it has boosted the region’s economy by £31m in the last 12 months as well increased lending to female entrepreneurs by 9%.
The Business Enterprise Fund (BEF), has made the announcement as part of its annual social impact report which also reveals the not-for-profit organisation has loaned a total of £7.08m in the last year, helped to create 175 new UK businesses and generated or safeguarded 820 jobs.
Specialising in responsible and flexible finance to businesses making an impact in their communities, 36% of BEF’s loans in the last 12 months were to female-led businesses across West and North Yorkshire and the North East.
Steve Waud, chief executive at BEF which is celebrating its 15th anniversary later this year, said: “At BEF we remain dedicated in our role to supporting under-represented yet tenacious SMEs across the North, who don’t necessarily have the same level of investment available to their counterparts in the South.
“We are proud that 36% of our loans in the year have been to female entrepreneurs which is higher than the industry average and we’re continuing to promote the support available to help tackle the evident funding gap, which has also recently been highlighted in the Alison Rose Review. The economic impact our lending continues to generate is something we are hugely proud of at BEF.”
BEF has made 331 client deals in the last 12 months with the highest number of loans being made to businesses in the manufacturing (25%), business services (18%) and retail (17%) sectors.
Sally Hotchin co-founded Leeds-based Relentless Interiors, a concrete interiors specialist, with Richard Butt and received a £20k loan to support investment in machinery, stock and the set-up of a niche training arm for installers who fit the company’s microcement products into homes.
She said: “Relentless Interiors has enjoyed huge growth in the last 18 months and we really couldn’t have done it without BEF; it was an extremely supportive process and I was never questioned for being a female in the construction industry – which, on occasion, can happen when dealing with day-to-day business!
“Further to our base in Rawdon, we also have showroom space at the House of Harrogate and in Arlington Interiors in Farsley and we’ve recently secured an exclusive UK distribution deal with an overseas supplier, so we’re going from strength to strength. Our training arm for installers is about to launch and we’ve plans to grow the team too. We have a lot to thank BEF for and I’d encourage anyone in the position of starting or growing their business to approach them for support.”
Steve said: “As part of our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), we continuously aim to empower people from all backgrounds in starting their own businesses with our tailored support and flexible finance solutions.
“This year 40% of our lending has been within lower-layer super output areas which is a 6% increase from last year. These individual businesses are in areas which can be excluded from mainstream funding but are often having the highest impact within their communities.”
BEF has hired five new employees this year in a bid to provide further support and finance to business owners across the North of England, including the North West. Further to its lending, the social enterprise has supported a range of good causes including its continued work with Bradford charity, One In A Million for which it raised more than £7k in the last year.
The Business Enterprise Fund has offices in Leeds, Bradford, Goole and Teesside. For more information about the social impact report please visit www.befund.org/our-impact.