Snack firm So Popcorn to pop open champagne after boost
A snack food firm in Co Londonderry will be putting some 'pop' into its research and development with a cash injection from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund.
So Popcorn in Draperstown was founded in August last year, with owner Declan McBride experimenting with home popcorn makers from Argos.
But it now has listings for its popcorn in retail outlets like Spar and Nisa – and is setting its sights on the outdoor festival market.
Mr McBride – who worked in coach transport before setting up So Popcorn – said: "As an ambitious new start-up we were keen to get our brand out there but to do so we needed a way to fund our working capital requirements and marketing costs.
"We approached the NI Small Business Loan Fund for a loan to help us expand and keep up with the demand for business and they were more than happy to support our ambitions for growth."
He said the money from the fund would enable it to invest in research and development and expand its product range.
It is also due to explore export opportunities throughout the UK – and has already cornered the cinema market in Northern Ireland, with its products sold in Belfast's Odyssey Cinema.
Mr McBride added: "We want to be able to expand into the outdoor festival market and are currently working on a new range of products that will be available soon.
"We are at a point where we have a lot of ideas for products at the paper stage and this loan will enable us to further develop these into prototypes."
The company's popcorn is made in flavours like Irish cream, chewy marshmallow and salty caramel.
And their popularity has taken off since the company launch, with production jumping from 800 bags a week to 2,000 per week. Flavours to cater for the more savoury palate are also being researched.
The NI Small Business Loan Fund is managed by Ulster Community Investment plc (UCI) on behalf of Invest NI.
UCI is a subsidiary of social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).
The fund provides access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to expand but find it hard to get funding through traditional sources like banks.
UCI chief executive Harry McDaid said: "We are delighted to be able to support such an innovative new start-up.
"I have long been impressed by the strong sense of entrepreneurship that is evident in the Draperstown area and this is another example.
"As a relatively small town it punches well above its weight in terms of its contribution to the local economy and has produced many very successful businesses over the years."