Grimsby-based manufacturing company, looks to create eight new jobs and target multi-million-pound growth after securing a loan from alternative lending provider Finance For Enterprise and the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF).
Operating from Grimsby’s Enterprise Village, Smartflow Couplings now specialises in manufacturing innovative hose couplings which are used to improve both safety and efficiency whilst transporting hazardous liquids. The company recently secured support from Innovate UK to bring a number of new products to market. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the company worked closely with the National Engineering Laboratory and National Physics Laboratory to rigorously test the company’s new designs before bringing them to market.
Since the company was established in 2016, Smartflow Couplings has enjoyed significant organic growth. Up until 2019, it produced just one type of coupling, which was used by businesses operating in the oil, gas and chemical industries.
After successfully developing ideas for its new product range, the company spent much of the Covid-19 pandemic undertaking extensive testing, enabling 20 new types of coupling systems to be brought to market. With the new range launching in 2021, Smartflow Couplings quickly found that demand for its products were outstripping the number it could supply to customers. In order to fulfil the growing numbers of orders, Gary and his team sought additional finance and contacted Finance For Enterprise for support.
Working with investment manager Jeremy Meadowcroft, the company was able to secure a six figure loan, jointly funded by Finance For Enterprise and NPIF – BEF & FFE Microfinance, which is managed by BEF & FFE and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.
With funding in place, Smartflow Couplings has been able to successfully reduce lead times and meet the growing demand for its new range of products. As a direct result of the financial support provided by Finance For Enterprise and NPIF, the company is aiming to treble its workforce, as well as target an eight-fold increase in turnover within the next two years.
Gary Thompson, managing director of Smartflow Couplings, said: “Smartflow Couplings has performed well over the past five years and until now, we’ve been entirely self-funded. However, we recognised that to reduce lead times and increase production capacity, additional investment would be needed to help us reach the next stage of our growth journey. When we secured a grant from Innovate UK to help us increase the number of products in our range, we saw this as a catalyst to drive growth within the business.
“When we launched the product range at the end of 2021, I knew this would be transformative for the business, but there were also challenges we needed to overcome. For example, purchasing additional raw materials and recruiting staff to reduce lead times. I spoke to Jeremy and he talked through the different funding options available to us. He made the application process very straightforward, and kept me updated throughout the process. The funds Finance For Enterprise helped us to secure has enabled us to purchase the essential raw materials to produce our new valve range, and we’re also hoping to recruit new members of staff as the business grows. The result of the investment has also meant that we’re able to increase capacity in the business, helping our customers to benefit from lower lead times.”
Jeremy Meadowcroft, investment manager at Finance For Enterprise, said: “The Recovery Loan Scheme was created to help businesses prepare for future growth after being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Having invested significant amounts of money in research and development to bring new products to market, Smartflow Coupling’s plans were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, due to the impact of sourcing raw materials.
“The support we were able to provide through the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and the Recovery Loan Scheme is likely to see the business enjoy significant future growth. Since launching the new product range the company has seen a significant rise in orders from across the world and with plans to treble its workforce, within the next two years, the innovative work Gary and his team are undertaking is having an immediate positive impact upon the local economy. Since providing Smartflow Couplings with the additional funds needed, the company is already recruiting members of staff, as well as providing the vital cashflow to overcome the challenges associated with the rising costs of raw materials.”
Sean Hutchinson at British Business Bank, said: “NPIF funding has a range of uses, such as building teams, and purchasing new equipment to support the development of new product lines. This latest NPIF loan, backed by the Recovery Loans Scheme, will support Smartflow in meeting its every-increasing customer demand and bring more of its innovative products to market. In doing so it is generating employment and economic growth in the local community helping to achieve NPIF’s ambition of a stronger North. NPIF’s objective is to support SME growth across the North and I would encourage other businesses with an ambition to grow to get in touch with our fund managers and see what support is available.”
After being made redundant as a result of the oil price crash in 2015, founder, Gary Thompson saw an opportunity in the manufacturing sector and decided to launch Smartflow Couplings. Bringing together a small team of experienced engineers, Gary set up the business, specialising in the creation of dry break couplings. The company launched its first product in 2016 and since that then, it has secured ISO:9001 accreditation. In 2020, the company successfully secured grant funding from Innovate UK to enable the business to continue its research and development work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finance For Enterprise provides a range of tailored loans up to £250,000, aimed at supporting SMEs throughout Yorkshire and the North Midlands. The company acts as fund manager for the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and is an accredited delivery partner for the Recovery Loan Scheme and Start Up Loans UK.
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.