£500k loan helps bridge the gap for fast-growing fit-out firm

A Halifax company which is a leading provider of furniture and fit-outs for student and rental accommodation schemes is set for growth with the help of £500,000 loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Project:ff&e is on course to increase turnover by 66 per cent in the current year due to a series of new contract wins. However, with mainstream banks reluctant to lend to construction-related projects, the business had struggled to access the funding it required. The loan will provide additional growth capital and allow it to expand its supply chain and create ten new jobs.

Project:ff&e was established in 2010 by colleagues Jamie Watson, Jim Shanks, Martin Corbett and Neil Dimmock who had been working on a project in the education sector. When the company which employed them collapsed, they set up their own business and agreed with the client that they would complete the project themselves.

In recent years the business has taken advantage of the growth in student accommodation and ‘build to rent’ schemes. It now employs around 80 staff and is the UK’s leading specialist provider of furniture, fittings and equipment, servicing the private rented sector (PRS), student accommodation, healthcare and education sectors nationwide.

Recent projects have included work on the Circle Square development in Manchester and St Alban’s Place in Leeds, and it is currently working on the new development on the site of the former Yorkshire Post building in Leeds.

Nigel Barker, the company’s Finance Director, said the company was on course to increase turnover from almost £17m in 2018 to £28m this year. He added: “We have had some great opportunities this year and taken on a lot of new work, but we struggled to find finance through conventional routes. We were told the banks are nervous of the construction sector, although we are not, strictly speaking, a construction firm. The Mercia team listened to our needs and were both pragmatic and quick in finding a solution.”

Jonathan Craig, Investment Manager with Mercia, said: “Project:ff&e is a fast-growing firm that has built a nationwide reputation for its work. As this case shows, even successful businesses can face difficulties in accessing finance for growth. We are pleased to be able to support it by providing the funding it needs to take up these opportunities.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.