Small businesses which have struggled to get hold of finance have a new option today after Invest NI launched its £5m Small Business Loan Fund.
Through it, individuals and small or 'micro' companies which have been turned down by banks and other lenders can borrow between £1,000 and £50,000 to grow or start their business.
The scheme, designed to alleviate the bottleneck of credit in the financial system, is the fourth part of the development agency's Access to Finance plan which includes other funding initiatives aimed at larger companies.
And while most of the loans will be unsecured, personal guarantees might be needed and any company taking out a loan will need to show it has the ability to repay it, in the same way as borrowing from a traditional lender.
The fund will be delivered by Ulster Community Investment plc (UCI), a subsidiary of Ulster Community Investment Trust Ltd (UCIT).
"We are delighted to have been appointed to manage the NI Small Business Loan Fund," Seamus O'Prey, chair of UCIT Ltd, said. "The fund will be investing over the next five years and we look forward to working with Invest NI in delivering what is a new and innovative product in Northern Ireland."
There is a maximum loan amount of £15,000 to start-up enterprises, with potential for follow-on lending of up to £50,000. Existing businesses can apply for amounts up to £50,000. In addition, there will be mentoring support for firms.