Thursday 17th September
Britannia Interiors & Contract Curtains Ltd is a soft furnishing manufacturing company. They received coronavirus support funding with the help of the Growth Hub.
After starting the business in July 2018, Pat Bend and Rose Teece, Co-Directors, were struggling to financially support the running of the company, “we were looking for funding opportunities, any sort of help and support that we could get” (Pat Bend, Co-Director).
They were getting a lot of business from customers but did not have enough employees to manage the work, Pat explained, “we went from a business of three to a business of seven, so within about 13 months we were looking to employ more people.”
Unsure on what direction to go in, Pat and Rose began to search online for a solution but could not find the funding that she needed for her start-up business. However, in Pat’s previous job, she had been a member of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, one of the GBSLEP Growth Hub’s partners. A contact from the Chamber put Pat and Rose in touch with Sandra Cunningham, one of the Growth Hub’s SFEDI accredited Business Advisers.
“We met Sandra and she was just amazing, she pointed us the right direction and supported us. She introduced us to various people and made us aware of what funding streams were out there and we’ve continued to work with her since I started the business”.
Like many businesses in the world, Britannia Interiors & Contract Curtains have felt pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We were massively affected by COVID-19, we were part of supply chains for cruise lines, hotels, office blocks, casinos, restaurants, and all of that disappeared over night.”
Pat and Rose (Co-Directors) decided to apply for the coronavirus Local Authority Discretionary Grant – funding that supports small and micro businesses that are not eligible for other grant schemes. Pat stated: “We’ve been successful in getting the Discretionary Business Grant. We failed on the first application and I was ready to give up, but Sandra was there to encourage me to apply again. We were successful in the second attempt.”
Pat described the grant as an “absolute lifesaver” as she was able to pay the rent for their workplace. “From March  till this week [first week of September 2020], that has been the only funding that we’ve been able to access successfully. It has helped a lot for rent, during lockdown we were charged with rent, but we didn’t go back to the office until the 1st July ”.
Pat credits Sandra for receiving the Discretionary Grant and now is encouraged to apply for other funding: “Even though we couldn’t get any funding straight away, she believed in us and now I’m about to apply for the ERDF Growth Fund and it’s just good to have that sort of support.”
The business expertise and network from the Growth Hub are factors that Pat utilises and appreciates, “For a new company, just knowing that you’ve got a sounding board to talk to, that understands your needs and requirements, I think that’s the most important thing. Sandra gave us a lot of recommendations of people that could help us and that was really useful.”
She further stated: “I can say to Sandra, ‘I’m having a problem’ and with her wealth of experience and her contacts, she’ll say to me ‘speak to this person, speak to that person, they’ll be able to help you’, she’s absolutely amazing”.
Pat continued to praise the services provided by Sandra, describing her as a “great networker” as she frequently introduces Pat to her contacts. She also praised her communication and consistent thinking of ways Britannia Interiors and Contract Curtains can be helped: “Even if I haven’t spoken to Sandra for a while, she’ll contact me if something relevant comes up that she thinks will benefit our business”.
Overall, Pat is “most impressed with the Growth Hub’s commitment, dedication and ‘can-do’ attitude” and is excited to see how she will be further assisted by the expert business support services.