Get support: the LCR Finance Hub
Across the City Region there’s a huge ecosystem of support for businesses. But what exactly do they do? And how can they help you? We’re going to introduce you to some of them...
First up, we caught up with George Wright and Lynsey Barnes from the Liverpool City Region Finance Hub which covers Halton, Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral, the six boroughs of the Region.
What is the LCR Finance Hub?
The hub is a free support service for SME's in the Liverpool City Region who are looking to access financial support. This could be help to access things like start-up investment, business loans, equity investment, angel investment etc, or support in getting their business investment ready.
Our purpose really is to be a gateway to support and to help people navigate the funding landscape – which isn't always easy! And because we're an independent service supported by Growth Platform, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and MSIF, our advice is totally impartial.
Who can access the support?
If you're an SME in the Liverpool City Region we're here to support you. We do tend to help more small and micro businesses as they are less likely to have financial support within the business, but we do advise some larger businesses too, basically we don’t turn anyone away.
What kind of challenges are businesses facing who approach you for support?
It's different for every business, but it's often related to a specific funding need. It could be related to starting or growing the business, an immediate cashflow issue, accessing working capital or support with buying an asset.
When you're running an SME, it can be hard to find the time or know where to start. That's where we come in, we'll ring around, source quotes, or if it's a specialist field we'll connect you with a broker with the knowledge to help.
People come to us looking for support to get investment ready as well, for help with financial forecasts and business plans. Getting all this in the right place gives the business the best possible chance of securing funding.
What's an average day like in the hub?
It's a mix of working directly with people on their queries, financial forecasting and business development. Our finance advisors will be getting into the detail, connecting face-to-face or over Zoom to talk through challenges and offer advice on funding options and introductions to partners who can help.
It's a holistic service we offer really, we don't just pass on a phone number to a funder, we'll make a proper introduction and it's the same with other partners. A business might benefit from other contacts we have in a specific sector, in the visitor economy or clean growth - if it's a useful channel we'll introduce them. We're not a standalone service, we're part of a wider ecosystem in the City Region.
On the business development side we're always busy looking for new connections in the industry and new SME's who might benefit from our service. We're constantly assessing demand and looking for partners in the City Region to collaborate with. Recently we delivered some Investment Readiness workshops with Liverpool and Wirral Chambers of Commerce which were a big success and we'll be looking at developing some more workshops as well as drop-in clinics across the region.
Do you think there's a reluctance from some businesses to seek financial support?
There is definitely a reluctance from some businesses, particularly those that are owner-managed. It could be for a number of reasons, the funding landscape can be daunting, accessing funding can be complex, and people can be wary of asking for support – some find it hard to believe we’re genuinely independent and free!
But we’ve been set up to do the leg work, to take away the fear of approaching lenders, and make the process easier and simpler. We’ll be honest and upfront about what’s available, what the chances are of a business getting finance. We always want it to be a ‘yes’ but if it’s not we’ll work with businesses to understand why and help them get in better shape for future funding.
How many businesses have you helped?
Since the hub was set up in 2017 we’ve supported around 2500 businesses and helped to secure funding of around £12 million. The average loan size we help with is around £50k and we’ve referred 800 businesses to other business support services in the region as well. Linking into the support ecosystem is a big part of what we do, it could be a resilience programme, business growth programme, the Gather Beyond programme, they all have a role to play.
Has the pandemic affected demand?
We’ve seen demand pivot over the past year or so and more start-ups coming to us for support. Lots of people have had a change in circumstances or a chance to reflect on their next steps. So we’ve been helping more people with the British Business Bank start-up loan scheme, which offers great rates and can help to establish the business before going for conventional funding. It can be accessed anytime within the first 2 years of trading as well.
Have you supported many businesses from the creative, digital and tech sectors?
We get enquires across all sectors really. But we are definitely seeing more enquiries from digital, creative and tech sectors. It reflects the general growth in the region across the sector, so we expect this demand to continue to grow.
It’s great to see the support we’ve offered come to fruition with businesses like Betmate, a social gaming platform based who recently got a six-figure investment to help them grow the business. We helped them to firm up their forecasts and integrate their headline figures with their business plan. They have big ambitions so we're looking forward to working with them to secure more investment in the future.
The hub recently secured an investment of £600k from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, what will that be used for?
It’s great because, alongside the continued support of MSIF and Growth Platform, it will allow us to scale up the hub, grow the team and help more businesses. The vision is to deliver a more intensive service, to help more with business planning, to help people present to investors, and deliver support at every step of the funding journey. Ultimately helping more people and contributing to economic growth in the region.
If people want to access support from the hub how do they get started?
There are lots of ways to get started. Many people use the enquiry form on our website where you can give us some background info before we get back in touch. You can call us directly on 07947 371947, book a slot at our virtual clinics, and we’ll be holding some physical drop-in clinics across the Region’s six boroughs with details to be confirmed early in 2022. However you contact us it will be completely confidential, and we’d love to hear from you.