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SWIG Finance has achieved a major milestone, funding over 1,000 start up enterprises via the Start Up Loans scheme since its launch in 2012.

The government-backed scheme provides affordable loans and free business support to help young businesses succeed. As the South West’s contracted Delivery Partner, SWIG Finance has so far invested over £6.75m into 1,000 start ups across the region with £1.65m invested into 222 Cornish enterprises.

One of the latest beneficiaries is Estrella Bikes of Verwood in Dorset. Launched by childhood friends, highly decorated Paralympic cyclist Darren Kenny OBE and engineer, Rob Ellis, the venture started as a hobby in 2009 when Darren started making one-off bikes, before both partners decided last year that the time was right to combine their individual expertise and expand Estrella Bikes into a business.

Darren says: “I had heard previously about Start Up Loans and the support element of the programme was a massively important factor in our application to the fund. Nick Gregory at Dorset Growth Hub was incredibly helpful with this.

“My background is in cycling and Rob is an incredible engineer but neither of us knows much about business! Accessing that support and guidance from SWIG Finance during the application process and the ongoing mentoring support has been beyond valuable.”

Estrella Bikes was founded on the principles of quality, affordability, classic style, mutual trust and 5 star customer service. The carbon fibre bikes are manufactured under close supervision in the Far East and are tailored precisely to their owner on a built to order basis.

Darren says: “Due to my disability it was especially important to me to have a bike that fit me properly but the prices make them unaffordable for many. Currently, our cheapest bike is still £1,200 and although we don’t want to end up being totally mass market in the future we want to look into developing an aluminium frame bike which would allow us to make a model in a lower price bracket.

“The funding from SWIG Finance will also enable us to approach factories directly to access componentry which means we will be able to sell the bikes through specialist shops rather than only online and built to order.”

SWIG Finance accepts Start Up Loan applications of up to £25,000 from businesses trading up to two years and works with local business advisers to make sure the support provided to applicants is suitable. Managing Director at SWIG Finance, John Peters says: “We are thrilled to have reached this milestone and to have helped so many start ups access vital finance and support across the region.

“Estrella Bikes is a fantastic example of a business which can get to a certain point independently but really benefits from the scheme’s mentoring programme as well as the investment. We wish Rob and Darren every success with the future of their venture.”