START UP LOANS SELECTS CASTLEWELLAN BUSINESS FOUNDER AS AMBASSADOR FOR UK SMALL BUSINESSES
· The Smart Bunker recognised as an example of standout start up success
· Start Up Loans has delivered over 67,000 loans since 2012, providing £534m of funding
· Minister for Small Business Kelly Tolhurst commends the programme for supporting aspiring business owners
EMBARGOED Until 00.01, 22 October 2019: The founder of a business in Northern Ireland making an intelligent outdoor storage solution has been chosen to champion UK start-ups by the government-backed Start Up Loans programme.
Niall Greenan, 45, from Castlewellan, who is the founder of The Smart Bunker, is one of 10 business founders to be honoured at a reception today (Tuesday, October 22), at the Houses of Parliament in London to celebrate some of the UK’s most successful small businesses.
Distinguished guests will include Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chair of the British Business Bank, Kelly Tolhurst MP, Minister for Small Business and Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury.
Niall came up with the idea when he realised how difficult it was for his mother, who has arthritis, to fill a coal bucket from her traditional coal bin. The Smart Bunker is an easy-to-use dispensing system which releases coal with a simple pull of a lever to fill the bucket to the required amount that can be carried.
He used a £5,000 Start Up Loans to develop the device, which has gone on to win several awards. He has also expanded The Smart Bunker to include safe storage of wood pellets, ice treatment and animal feed. The product has attracted attention for its sustainability credentials, providing a good alternative to the plastic bags usually used for agricultural storage. The delivery team also offers a service to refill the smart bunkers and recycle plastic bags to save them from landfill.
The Westminster reception will kick-start a year-long programme that will see the Ambassadors take part in a series of local and national activities, where they will offer advice to other aspiring business owners about becoming their own boss.
Now in its fourth year, the annual Ambassador programme celebrates exceptional business owners who have realised their ambition of becoming their own boss after receiving support from the Government-backed Start Up Loans programme.
The other Start Up Loans Ambassadors include a woman who created a brand of sportswear designed specifically for pregnant women and a former soldier who used his service experience to set up a telecoms company for the construction industry, specialising in rapid broadband and phone line connectivity.
Through a network of Delivery Partner organisations, the Start Up Loans programme provides pre-loan support to help applicants to develop a business plan; a fixed-interest loan of up to £25,000 to start or develop their business; as well as mentoring to support new loan recipients throughout the early stages of their business journey.
Since 2012, the programme has delivered more than 67,000 loans to business owners across the UK amounting to more than £527 million – with £7.5 million going to small businesses in Northern Ireland.
Of the loans issued by Start Up Loans, four in 10 (40%) went to women; more than one in five (22%) went to people from a black and minority ethnic background and over one in three (35%) went to people who were previously unemployed, reflecting the diversity of the UK start up community.
Kelly Tolhurst, the Minister for Small Business, said: “Small businesses are crucially important to our economy, helping to create jobs and generate income. These Ambassadors reflect the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit which is driving innovation and productivity up and down the country.”
Niall Greenan, the founder of The Smart Bunker, said: “I’m delighted to be chosen as an Ambassador for Start-Up Loans. My story shows that if you believe in your idea and have the tenacity and determination to succeed, then anything is possible.
“The loan and support that I received from Start Up Loans made a huge difference to my business – I really wouldn’t be here without it.”
Richard Bearman, Managing Director, Start Up Loans, said: “Start Up Loans exists to ensure aspiring business owners and early stage businesses have access to the finance and support they need to thrive and we’re proud to have played a part in helping innovative companies like Niall’s to start and grow.”
Michael McQuillan, Chief Executive, Enterprise Northern Ireland, said: “The Start Up Loans Programme is important to Northern Irish businesses, providing start-up ventures access to supportive guidance and funding. Niall Greenan is an exemplar ambassador. With the right guidance and timely support Niall has applied his innovative approach and enterprising spirit to propel the multi-award winning The Smart Bunker onto the world stage.”
2019/20 Start Up Loans Ambassadors:
1. Niall Greenan – The Smart Bunker
Niall, 45, came up with the idea for his business after watching his arthritic mother struggle to fill a coal bucket from her coal storage bunker. The Smart Bunker is an easy-to-use dispensing system which releases coal, wood pellets, grit salt and animal feed with a simple pull of a lever.