One in three owners of small businesses in Northern Ireland have put their hands into their own pockets rather than apply for a loan, a new survey says.
A Federation of Small Businesses study found that many people have dipped into their own savings as an alternative to the banks.
Roger Pollen, FSB head of external affairs, said that the organisation has been concerned that the relationship between small businesses and their banks has deteriorated in recent years.
"Access to credit and faith in the banking system is crucial for economic recovery following such a prolonged period of downturn but relationships between some businesses and banks have undoubtedly become strained in the last few years," he said.
Paul Blair from Carrickfergus, who started up a pet supplies firm, is one business to access his own savings.
Mr Blair sells Safestix, retailing at £14.99 online, to independent pet shops in Wiltshire and the products are stocked by two major English chains, Pets Corner and Kennelgate.
The entrepreneur has not been inspired by the banks.
"My biggest gripe has been the banks. None of them have been interested, they're still not," he said.
"I've sold 1000 units in the first month of trading.
"Like countless other new businesses my life savings have gone into this and I've borrowed heavily from family and friends not to mention a credit card bill or two."