A sports accessories company in Co Down which produces a canine-inspired head cover for Rory McIlroy's clubs has secured a major loan to boost working capital.
Premier Licensing will now be able to expand and take on new people on a seasonal basis after the injection of an undisclosed sum of cash from the Growth Loan Fund.
The firm employs eight people in Newtownards and makes crested golf accessories such as head covers, towels, gloves, balls and tees for all around the UK and Europe.
The company has the deal to make the Saint Bernard dog-shaped head cover for Rory McIlory's clubs.
Kevin Funnell, director of Premier Licensing, said: "When the company first started we targeted several golf courses in Northern Ireland, but soon realised there was a much wider market in the UK and Ireland for our products. Our products are now available in the vast majority of top golf resorts across the UK and Ireland."
And as well as golf club merchandise, it's also secured licenses for Premier League clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal for the supply of their logoed golf products.
"We are now selling directly to the club's retail outlets as well as to the golf and gift markets," he said.
The company's biggest year for growth has been capped with winning the Saint Bernard commission.
Mr Funnell said: "We are currently working with Nike to produce the head-cover which will be used in a huge promotional campaign this year.
"We are immensely proud to be able to work alongside the world's number one golfer to create and launch this unique product which will reach a truly global audience.
"With this year's Irish Open being held at Royal County Down we have seen an increase in sales, particularly from customers in Northern Ireland.
"The event is becoming one of the most prestigious in the European Tour calendar and has brought a huge boost to tourism in Northern Ireland."
Ross Methven, co-director, added: "The loan received will help us purchase new engraving and printing equipment as well as funding working capital.
"Over the next three years we plan to employ more members of staff as our business expands."
Finance for the £50m Growth Loan Fund - which provides loans to Northern Ireland SMEs seeking to access growth finance - is provided by Invest NI and private investor, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).
To qualify for a cash injection from the Growth Loan Fund must be based in Northern Ireland, demonstrating growth potential and generally be in the manufacturing, engineering or tradeable services sectors.
For more information about the Growth Loan Fund's criteria contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.growthloanfund.com