Kingfisher Seafoods in Barrow-in-Furness exports live shellfish. Brexit posed a serious threat to its business model.
Dr Omar Namor, a director of the firm, said: “Most of our product is unpurified shellfish exported to Europe and, according to the information we had, that trade would cease in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
The firm, which employs six people, began to explore alternative markets in the Far East and identified demand for whelks from China.
However, it needed to ensure year-round continuity of supply and its 50-year-old wooden fishing vessel, Pamela S, could rarely sail in winter.
Dr Namor said: “In winter the vessel rolls so much it’s difficult to stand on deck. We needed to replace her with a catamaran, which is more stable.”
Kingfisher was struggling to raise the £280,000 needed until it came across the GSK Enterprise Fund, administered by Cumbria Business Growth Hub.
This provides grants to meet up to 30 per cent of the cost of projects that create permanent employment in the area close to GSK’s Ulverston site.
Dr Namor said: “I put in an expression of interest and they came back and said, ‘Yes, we’re interested, can you table a formal application?’.”
Growth Hub adviser Adrian Luckham helped with the expression of interest and was assigned to guide Kingfisher through the formal application.
“He was a great help,” Dr Namor said. “We knew what we wanted to do but it’s bit different when you have to put a formal proposal together.
“Adrian gave us pointers as to what we should say – things that I wouldn’t have thought of – and we were successful. We secured a £50,000 grant. We wouldn’t have been able to buy the new catamaran without it.”
The investment will create four jobs and safeguard two more.
Dr Namor said: “Adrian contacts me regularly to highlight other grants and schemes that might help us.
“It’s useful to have someone who can draw attention to opportunities. When you’re running a business you’re often too busy to do it yourself.”
Adrian added: “I also referred Kingfisher to the Department for International Trade, for support with their project to develop the Chinese market.
“When the Rural Development Programme for England re-opened late in 2019, I contacted many of my clients to see if any might be considering a qualifying investment project – although Kingfisher were by then a completed client, I try to maintain contact with all such clients as I don’t want them to miss out on an opportunity just because their Growth Hub support has ended.
“As a result, Omar is now working on an expression of interest for that programme, which closes to new projects February 16.”
To find out how Cumbria Business Growth Hub can help your business, call us today on 0844 257 84 50.