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The UK’s creative sector is producing novel products, telling diverse stories and addressing some of the most important collective problems of our time. However, to reach their true potential, creative businesses need access to finance. Creative England’s new Creative Growth Finance Fund, launched in October 2019, will provide much needed scale up finance to innovative businesses across the UK.
At Creative England we have always believed in the potential of creative businesses. Seven years ago, we launched the UK’s very first specialist creative industries investment fund. We were consistently seeing businesses struggle to access the finance they needed to start up and grow, and wanted to address this. We’ve since worked to invest over £20m into more than 350 early stage businesses. In doing so, we’ve uncovered excellent talent across the country, helped create over a thousand jobs and, it’s fair to say, we’ve had some fun along the way.
One of my favourite parts of my job is the day-to day contact I have with the inspiring leaders at the helm of these creative businesses. There’s nothing more rewarding than meeting a team with just an idea or a vision for the future, and being part of their journey to build this into a successful business. Take Manchester-based Northcoders, for example. We met them back in 2016 when they were looking for early stage investment to grow their coding school, with visions of tackling the digital skills shortage across the North. Just two years later, they were named the British Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year. Or Nottingham-based Lockwood publishing, a growing games company with just 13 staff when I first met them in 2014. They now employ close to 100 people across four offices, and last year expanded into Europe for the first time.
Yet as we’ve been working to help our businesses out of the starting blocks, we’ve noticed that they’ve come across hurdles further down the track. It’s become more and more apparent that once creative companies do grow and develop, they struggle to access that next level of investment needed to scale up. Even where companies are generating substantial revenue, the finance options often just aren’t there.
That’s why Creative England launched our Creative Growth Finance Debt Fund, in partnership with Triodos Bank. This is a £24million investment fund, available for post-revenue, IP rich SMEs, at point of scale that requires supporting finance. We’ll be offering much needed, larger loans, between £100,000 and £500,000, to businesses across every region of the UK. Each loan will be built around a repayment structure that suits the diverse nature the beneficiary business, and where appropriate we will provide wrap around support from Creative England’s wider offer for the sector, including our recent merger with the Creative Industries Federation.
We’re looking to invest in creative and digital businesses that are already up and running, giving them that extra cash injection to reach their full stride. Traditionally, businesses at this stage would turn to private sources of finance like banks or VCs, but in the creative sector, we know that most mainstream financiers aren’t interested at this level. They view businesses as much too risky and from a sector they don’t fully understand.
At Creative England, we understand the creative sector from the inside – we know how these companies work and where the future value may lie. We want to use this expertise to create a truly joined up investment pathway – a pathway on which creative businesses can really accelerate.
It’s a strikingly simple story that we tell at Creative England, and one that we’ve championed for a long time – the creative industries are a fantastic investment opportunity. Creative businesses have great potential to grow and scale. I’m excited that now through our Creative Growth Finance, we’ll be able to really show it too.
Creative England’s Creative Growth Finance is open for applications from businesses now. Learn more about the fund and criteria for applying here.