NI Small Business Loan Fund makes £2 million available to Co Down businesses

Co Down family glamping business builds on success with Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund.

Mournes-based family business, Willowtree Glamping, is one of 98 companies in Co Down to avail of support from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund since 2013, making the total allocated to businesses in the county over £2 million.

The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance Ltd (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social enterprise organisation Community Finance Ireland. Small businesses, sole traders and partnerships keen to develop their business can avail of loans up to £100,000, while start-up businesses can obtain initial loans of up to £15,000.

Husband and wife team Ciara and Derek Tiernan established ‘Willowtree Glamping’ in 2018, offering luxury glamping in the heart of the Mourne Mountains. Their move into the alternative tourism accommodation was a naturel pivot, as through Derek’s timber products business, he had begun to design and manufacture glamping accommodation. With six units onsite build in different outdoor styles, ‘Willowtree Glamping’ offers year-round short breaks for adults, with links to local outdoor leisure amenities.

Willowtree Glamping secured £12k from the NI Small Business Loan Fund in 2020 to assist with their capital expenditure finance.

Ulster Community Finance Ltd Chief Executive, Dónal Traynor said: “WillowTree Glamping is a great example of a business that responded to changes and challenges in the market and pivoted their offering to meet emerging customer demand. The fast and flexible finance that the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund offers, perfectly suited Ciara and Derek’s growth ambitions and it has been impressive to see the evolution of their offering.

“As well as alternative tourism, sectors which have benefitted from the Fund to date include manufacturing, food production and renewable energy. The fund is open to organisations throughout Co Down who are interested in learning how financial support of up to £100,000 could further their business ambitions.”

Ciara Tiernan from Willowtree Glamping said:“As Derek is a carpenter by trade, our business started off manufacturing high quality timber chicken coops. By 2016, increased costs for materials and transportation meant our business model was no longer profitable, so over the next two years we focused on researching other business opportunities while raising our family. Willowtree Glamping makes the most of our location and the demand for alternative experiences, and as we manufacture the accommodation units on site, we can stand over their quality.

“The NISBLF team recognised the appeal and our ambitions for the business and their loan supported the site preparation for two new units.”

The NI Small Business Loan Fund is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of loan and equity funds.

William McCulla, Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance, said: “It is really encouraging to see the number of small businesses in County Down that have benefitted from securing loans from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund. These loans, along with the hard work of the firms’ owners, help businesses like Willowtree Glamping to achieve their growth ambitions.”Willowtree Glamping to achieve their growth ambitions.”

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