A fledgling enterprise based in South East England is making its mark in developing countries around the globe thanks to the Start Up Loans scheme.
Epven was set up 18 months ago to create and support commercially-viable projects of social benefit to emerging economies, with particular focus in East Africa, Central America and South East Asia.
Although based in Sevenoaks in Kent, the business – founded by Managing Director Tim Chambers and Partners Michele Bruni, Rebecca Fries and Norman Sarria – also has offices in London, Italy, Mexico, the US and Nicaragua.
The operation is split into three distinct areas with:
Epven as the management consultancy arm working with multi-national food companies, investors and non-governmental organisations at an international level.
Value for Women Ltd is the firm’s social enterprise aimed at helping women get involved in business.
The third branch of the business is !nspiraFarms, which is running a pilot project of small scale agriculture processing centres to help African farmers add value to their produce.
It is thanks in part to a £8,000 Government-funded Start-Up Loan that !nspiraFarms has been able to undertake research and development into new technologies for this pilot, which is expected to lead to direct sales in the future. The loan has also allowed Epven more flexibility with cash flow.
The Start-Up Loan Scheme gives low-cost funding and mentoring support to entrepreneurs with a viable business proposition and is open to those aged 18 and over. It gives a helping hand to newly-formed businesses by offering loans of around £7,500 with flexible payback terms, dedicated mentoring and a host of other business benefits. The Start-Up Loan Scheme is run across South East England by the Let’s Do Business Group.
Tim says the terms of the Start-Up Loan were hugely beneficial to his young company compared to those offered by a high street bank, and has helped support the expansion of his core team to nine people.
“The Start-Up Loan had less restrictions than loans from commercial banks and the affordability of it was great giving us additional flexibility in our cash flow,” he said.
Keir Dellar, Head of Projects at the Let’s Do Business Group, said: “We were impressed with the business plan put forward by Tim Chambers on Epven and were pleased to offer financial support through the Start-Up Loan Scheme.”