Inspiring Business by Sharing Success

TV series explores alternative finance to high street banks

TWO businesses, which are going from strength to strength after receiving financial support from ethical loan provider Enterprise Loans, are set to feature in the BBC documentary series A Matter of Life and Debt.

Upcycling furniture business Elphius Flux, in Chesterfield, and chocolatier Cocoa Amore, in Leicester, were put forward for the new documentary series by Enterprise Loans.

The organisation, which has its headquarters in Sherwood Rise, Nottingham, provides responsible finance and expert business advice to companies. It has helped both businesses to launch and has continued to support them as they have expanded.

A Matter of Life and Debt looks at how people across the country are turning to alternative ethical lenders to help them when high street banks won’t. Some stories are about when life throws a curve ball, while others need help launching their business ideas. For all of these entrepreneurs the ethical loan is life changing.

Gwen Hopkinson overcame the limitations of a life changing injury, after falling down a flight of stairs, to launch Elphius Flux in June 2015 with her husband Jason. Since then the couple have gone from working out of their garden shed on quirky furniture projects to renting a private workshop in the Chesterfield countryside - providing complete shop fitting and refurbishment services for restaurants, hotels and bars.

Gwen said: “I suffer from osteoarthritis in 80% of my body, but I’m a big believer in having a positive mental attitude and the more I have pushed myself to get moving the more I’ve been able to do.”

Keen to keep busy following recovery, Gwen launched herself into the couple’s hobby for upcycling furniture and with Jason’s support it began to take off, which is when they turned to Enterprise Loans for financial backing.

They received a loan of £8,000 which helped them to invest in vital equipment including a van and new tools.

Gwen added: “We chose Enterprise Loans because they took the time to get to know us. They visited us at home and we were able to talk through any concerns we had as well as discuss our long-term business aims. They also helped us put together an in depth business plan and really think about what we wanted to achieve.”

Now in its third year, their business has boomed and the couple are kept busy with a variety of exciting projects. Seventy per cent of their work is business to business while they also provide unique creative pieces to antique shops in Sheffield and Chesterfield.

Inspired by the couple’s story, BBC documentary film makers visited them in July to film them at work and talk about their unique company.

Also set to feature in the upcoming series is Cocoa Amore based in Leicester’s Silver Street, which has made a name for itself as one of the few shops in the East Midlands to mix and mould chocolate on site. It also runs taster and educational workshops for chocoholics.

Founder Peter Gardner turned to Enterprise Loans in 2009 after being made bankrupt and struggling to find a bank that would be willing to help him make his business dreams a reality.

He said, “I have always had big ambitions to run my own franchise so straight out of school I bought into a pub franchise in Stoke on Trent. But at the age of 22, I was a bit naïve and got taken advantage of and within nine months I had debts of £57,000.”

A true entrepreneur, Peter was undeterred and realised there was a gap in the market for a chocolate boutique to rival high street names such as Thornton’s.

He turned to Enterprise Loans who helped him write a comprehensive business plan and gave him a start-up loan of £15,000 to set up first business Chocolate Alchemy in Loughborough. He made the decision to sell the business in 2013 in order to better streamline his vision for launching a chocolate shop franchise and Cocoa Amore was born, thanks to funding of £10,000 from Enterprise Loans.

He said, “Since launching Cocoa Amore in Leicester almost four years ago we have more than doubled our turnover and we have a lot more potential for growth.

“I would like to see Cocoa Amore on the UK high street and eventually grow it into a global chocolate shop chain.”

The BBC interviewed Peter about his struggles with bankruptcy and about the fact that Enterprise Loans gave him financial support when he had nowhere else to go.

Neil Millington, loan fund manager at Enterprise Loans, said: “We are thrilled that two of the businesses we’ve supported have attracted the interest of the BBC. They have both overcome difficult circumstances to achieve much-deserved success and we’re looking forward to seeing them feature in the new BBC documentary series.

“We are always looking to help grow businesses and support start-ups and would therefore encourage entrepreneurs and business owners to get in touch and see how we can help them.”

The series A Matter of Life and Debt is a 15-part documentary that will be on BBC One at 11:00am each weekday and started on Monday 9 October.

For more information on Enterprise Loans visit www.first-enterprise.co.uk


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