A boss who overcame Coronavirus and went on to successfully steer his office supplies business through the lockdown has secured a £200,000 NPIF loan to support his growth plans.

Gordon Profit of Citrus Office Group has secured a CBILS-backed loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Citrus, which employs the majority of its 18 staff at its premises in Nelson, Lancashire, and has an additional office in Nottingham, supplies businesses throughout England and Scotland ranging from SMEs to large corporates and Premier League football clubs. The company has grown steadily in the past few years. However in early March, after returning from a skiing holiday in Austria , Gordon was rushed to hospital with Covid-19 and spent seven days in intensive care.

Within a week of his discharge, the lockdown was introduced and he was back at work helping the business to navigate the changes. With many workplaces closed, demand for office products initially fell sharply and to make matters worse, the supply chain was disrupted. The company reacted rapidly – delivering direct to workers’ homes, re-organising logistics, introducing a new PPE and sanitiser range and seeking out other new products and suppliers.

While many workplaces have reopened, Citrus continues to diversify including the launch of its own branded workwear range.

Gordon, who acquired the business in 2008 after a career in the industry, said: “The past few months have been a huge challenge. We’ve not only had to deal with a drop in revenue, but also disruptions to supplies and logistics. However we are now in a much stronger position and recognise that changes of this type also bring opportunities – for example to make acquisitions or win new clients as companies seek more competitive suppliers. The funding will give us a breathing space to take stock, explore new possibilities  and put our plans into action.”

Pete Sorsby, Investment Director at Mercia, added: “Citrus had been growing strongly in the period before the pandemic. Gordon and the team have shown real entrepreneurial flair in adapting to the new business landscape. This funding will provide additional working capital to help the business adjust and take advantage of expansion opportunities the changes have created.”

Steve Fogg, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership said: “The way in which Citrus has adapted to a decrease in demand from established markets and identified new diversification opportunities is a brilliant example of creativity and resilience in these challenging times. We are increasingly hearing of Lancashire businesses showing real ingenuity to find innovative solutions in the wake of Covid-19 and it is fantastic that Citrus, and others, are able to make use of schemes such as CBILS to full effect and make the most of new market opportunities.”

The deadline for CBILS loans applications has been extended to 30 November. NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance can provide loans in the North of England with a focus on Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region, York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding and the Humber.


The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS).


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.

Red Star is an animation studio creating film content for 3D and 4D attractions in special venues such as theme parks and museums as well as children’s TV and feature film productions.

A Sheffield animation studio which has won international acclaim is expanding with the help a £100,000 loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Red Star 3D creates its own films which are shown in cinemas, theme parks, museums and other venues. Its most recent creation, StarDog and TurboCat, opened in cinemas last December and is currently available on Amazon.

Founded in 2004 by Ben Smith and Jan Rogowski, Red Star is recognised as one of the leading independent studios of its type worldwide and has won dozens of awards and nominations at film festivals. It is now expanding its services to produce work for film companies worldwide and has already won one major contract.

The company, which currently employs 10 people, is planning to create an additional 40 jobs in the next two years. The  loan from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund will help to fund its growth and its recruitment plans.

Ben Smith, co-founder, said: “We’re delighted Mercia have chosen to support our expansion plans. While this is a challenging time for many business owners, demand for our animation production services is booming. The funding will allow us to take advantage of the opportunities it brings.”

Pete Sorsby, Investment Manager with Mercia, said: “Red Star Entertainment is a successful studio with a strong management team and a worldwide reputation for its work. The funding will enable it to take on new projects and create new skilled jobs to expand Sheffield’s growing digital sector.”

Mark Wilcockson at the British Business Bank, said: “Since its launch in 2017, NPIF’s impact on businesses has been wide-ranging, providing funding to launch new products, employ new staff, enter new markets and acquire new facilities. We are pleased that NPIF is supporting this growing Sheffield based digital company and providing vital investment to to unlock the North’s growth potential

Red Star received fundraising advice from Dan Wilkinson of Sheffield City Region Growth Hub Access to Finance, while Steven Crookes of Knowles Warwick accountants provided advice on the investment.

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.

A Yorkshire-based supplier of high quality biomass wood pellets and wood fuels across the region, focused on excellent customer service.

Vision CCTV Limited is involved in the design, installation and servicing of CCTV Systems throughout the whole of the UK, providing multi-site organisations with the highest level of service within the industry.

A provider of property services and quality workmanship.

Universal Coatings provides coatings for everything from swimming pools to steel structures and also offers a complete fabrication service.

Televideo deliver the highest standard of outside broadcasting to a worldwide client base, always with a friendly and professional attitude.

Titus Learning provides Moodle services to a wide range of businesses, not-for-profits, public sector organisations and education providers in 23 countries worldwide.

Suppliers of racking across the UK and Europe, now in the third year of trading with rapidly increasing turnover.