The North Yorkshire company behind an iconic art poster brand has secured a £150,000 loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), to help expand its sales in Europe.
Athena has been an art publisher for over 50 years and previously ran a chain of high-street stores. The new company is now owned by Simon Coates, previously a director of the original Athena company, and his business partner Nick Morgan. The duo moved the business online in 2012 and now supply a range of up to 250,000 product lines from their factory workshop in Easingwold.
The company, which employs a 20-strong team, is also a leading supplier of picture frames via the website Vivarti, providing artworks for consumers, hotels, commercial interiors and buy-to-let investors. The business, which had already begun selling into Europe, has undergone a transformation in the past two years to adapt its systems to comply with changes in export regulations, and European sales are now starting to grow again as a result.
The funding will help further expand its exports to Europe and increase stock levels to enable it to continue its growth plans.
Nick Morgan said: “With 400 million consumers, Europe represents an important market for us and it was challenging to adapt to new regulations. However now things have settled down, we have been able to navigate the new customs arrangements and put measures in place to comply with the rules. The funding will help us rebuild and strengthen our trade with Europe.”
Andy Clough of Mercia added: “Nick and Simon are both very experienced operators who have spent years in art production. It is great to be able to help them reestablish their exports to Europe and support the growth of this iconic brand.”
Sean Hutchinson at British Business Bank, said: “The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund supports a wide range of businesses and it is fantastic to see a Athena utilise funding to improve and remain competitive as it seeks to grow. Exporting goods and services plays a vital role for the UK economy, acting as a major driver of economic growth, whilst creating profits and employment. It is great to see NPIF support companies like Athena with export activity and supporting their growth plans. Local businesses with a strong international presence is part of what makes the Northern economy a dynamic, exciting, and attractive region for 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.