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Community Development Finance Association

Green, gourmet & graveyard businesses line up for Microentrepreneur of the Y

17 December 2014 11:07


A renewable energy firm, a luxury chocolate shop and an innovative management system for graveyards are among the businesses announced as finalists for this year’s UK Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards. The national awards scheme celebrates innovative and growing businesses that have taken off with the help of alternative finance from community lenders (known as CDFIs).

Embargo: 18th December 2014 00:01

Microentrepreneurs from Northern Ireland dominate the shortlist, which also includes a premium popcorn manufacturer which grew out of a couple’s kitchen experiments and a multi-million pound used car business set up by a former bankrupt.

One of the finalists is PlotBox, based in County Antrim and set up by Sean and Leona McAllister. PlotBox uses inventive drone plane technology to map graveyards and provides a software platform to help cemeteries and crematoria manage their operations. In addition, the records generated are used to populate a genealogy website for the public. The McAllisters took a loan from their local CDFIs, Enterprise Northern Ireland and Ulster Community Investment Trust, to get things up and running.

Another finalist is Derrick Wilkinson’s renewable technology installation business, GR33N Limited. Based in Doncaster, Derrick has grown the firm from a small family run business to a pioneering, multi-million Pound turnover Company. GR33N now employs 20 staff, and its work has saved over 9,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over the last year. The business was able to expand thanks to a £50,000 loan from local CDFI Finance for Enterprise.

The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are run in over 30 countries by the Citi Foundation, and they have teamed up with the Community Development Finance Association (CDFA) to bring them to the UK.

Ben Hughes, Chief Executive of the CDFA, said:

“The UK clearly has a wealth of dynamic, innovative entrepreneurs. And all of the great businesses on our shortlist have been helped to success by their local community lender. We are also championing these CDFIs that have lent where the banks haven’t, and turned the dreams and determination of entrepreneurs into livelihoods, profit, growth and jobs.”

“CDFIs are evolving to reach more people and provide more ethical loans. Manchester’s Business Finance Solutions, East London’s Fair Finance and the Black Country’s BCRS Business Loans have all achieved record levels of lending and are finalists for the CDFI Growth Award. Just last year, they together lent over £40m, helping over 10,000 customers.”

Bob Annibale, Head of Community Development and Microfinance at Citi, said:

“The quality, diversity and wide geographic spread of entries to the Awards is truly impressive. It’s a real testament to the commitment and growth of the UK’s community finance sector in recent years, and demonstrates the important role CDFIs play in creating vibrant, sustainable businesses across the UK. The awards are an exciting opportunity to showcase the individuals and organisations that are changing lives, boosting economies and energising neighbourhoods.

The winners of the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony on 4th March 2015 at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London. The winners will share prize money of £57,000.

Ms Sam Collin, Communications Manager, CDFA 020 7430 0222 or 07866 241087


The finalists for the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are:

Microentrepreneur (Growth) Award
From bankruptcy to a multi-million pound quality used car business, with help from a loan from First Enterprise Business Agency
• GR33N Limited
A fast-growing renewable energy solutions company based in Doncaster that took a loan from Finance for Enterprise
• PlotBox
An innovative software management system for cemeteries and a genealogy resource for the public, based in County Antrim, supported by a loan from Enterprise Northern Ireland and Ulster Community Investment Trust

Microentrepreneur (Sustainability) Award
• So Popcorn Ltd
A manufacturer of premium popcorn that grew from its owners’ kitchen experiments, based in Draperstown, which took a loan from Enterprise Northern Ireland and Ulster Community Investment Trust
• Cocoa Amore
A creative Leicester- based artisan chocolatier that took a loan from First Enterprise Business Agency
• Montgomery Food Consulting Ltd
A food consultancy business which introduced an innovative butchery excellence scheme, based in County Tyrone that received a loan from Enterprise Northern Ireland and Ulster Community Investment Trust

CDFI Growth Award
• BCRS Business Loans – supporting small businesses across the West Midlands, lending grew to £5m in 2014, from £500,000 in 2007.
• Business Finance Solutions – lending to businesses in the North West, which broadened its reach and products to help over 6,700 businesses last year.
• Fair Finance – a London-based consumer and business lender, which secured commercial investment to expand its lending- growing by 75% in the last year

CDFI New Horizon Award
• Big Issue Invest Scotland– a joint venture between two CDFIs, using complementary expertise to broaden the finance on offer to Scotland’s third sector.
• Five Lamps – a Stockton-based CDFI which has teamed up with FRC Group to launch an ethical competitor to ‘brighthouse’ - offering domestic goods on affordable, weekly payment plans for low-income consumers
• Fredericks Foundation – a Surrey-based CDFI working with partners to launch a comprehensive support and finance programme helping housing association residents move from unemployment to self-employment.

CDFI Marketing Award
• Charity Bank – a bank supporting charities and social enterprises that promotes its social purpose through its marketing and links its savers with the impacts of its borrowers.
• Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust – a business lender that re-launched its brand, built a strong public presence and referral network that grew its pipeline from 0 to £1.4m in six months.
• My Home Finance – a consumer lending CDFI that launched the national ‘affordable lending campaign’ bringing together 24 partners to highlight the alternatives to payday lenders
Further details of the shortlist are available at

About the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards
Launched in 2005 and now spanning more than 30 countries, the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards programme highlights the contributions of microentrepreneurs and microfinance institutions (MFIs) to their local economies. Through the programme, the Citi Foundation has invested more than $12 million in microfinance networks and MFIs to convene thousands of key stakeholders that influence sector-wide policy and regulation and encourage innovation around the world.
The programme was launched in the UK in 2013. The Citi Foundation is working in partnership with the Community Development Finance Association (CDFA) to celebrate the achievements of the community finance sector.
Additional information is available at

About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation is committed to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of individuals and families, particularly those in need, in the communities where we work so that they can improve their standard of living. Globally, the Citi Foundation targets its strategic giving to priority focus areas: Microfinance, Enterprise Development, Youth Education and Livelihoods, and Financial Capability and Asset Building. Additional information can be found at

About the CDFA
The CDFA is the voice for providers of fair and affordable finance. We represent and support a national network of community development finance institutions or CDFIs.
Additional information is available at

About CDFIs
CDFIs lend money to businesses and people who struggle to get finance from high street banks. They are social enterprises that invest in customers and communities. CDFIs create jobs and help businesses to start and grow. They help people to pay bills, meet unexpected expenses or improve their home. They help people who may otherwise use high cost credit, such as payday lenders. They provide support as well as finance, giving extra help and advice where it’s needed. They are about people. They get to know their customers; they help viable enterprises and people who can afford to repay.
Additional information about CDFIs is available at

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About Community Development Finance Association

We are the national trade body for alternative ethical lenders. Our members provide fair affordable loans to people and businesses turned away by banks and who may otherwise turn to payday lenders. Our members are based throughout the UK, and have case studies of a vast range of success stories.

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