€5.4m in loans approved to 357 small businesses in 2015, supporting 930 jobs.

Microfinance Ireland (MFI), the State backed not-for-profit lender to micro-businesses, has announced a record 50% rise in the number of loan applications during 2015.

Approvals for start-ups, sole traders and small businesses have also reached an all-time high with the lender approving €5.4 million in funding to 357 businesses across every county in Ireland throughout 2015, supporting the creation and maintenance of 930 jobs last year.

MFI, which was established in late 2012 by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation under the Action Plan for Jobs, has to date approved €11.6m in loans to 770 businesses. A total of 752 businesses applied for loans in 2015, compared with 508 applications for 2014, an increase of 48%. The average loan size approved during 2015 was €15,190.

Announcing the results, the Chairman of Microfinance Ireland, Cyril Forbes, credited an effective partnership with the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and banking sector along with the new Microenterprise Loan Fund Scheme for the record number of applications last year.

Mr Forbes said: “We shall continue to “put air in the tyres” of all viable, genuine and creditworthy projects or individuals by giving access to affordable funds through MFI, equally striving to ensure than no borrower takes on unsustainable debt. We shall pursue this single objective with the wholehearted support of Government and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, together with partners such as the Local Enterprise Office network and our parent company, the Social Finance Foundation.”

According to Michael Johnson, CEO, Microfinance Ireland, two thirds of applications are coming from start-up businesses. He said: “As part of our annual customer survey, small business customers are reporting high levels of satisfaction with the loan support MFI offers; results show that 85% would apply to MFI again for future funding, 95% were happy with the term and flexibility of payments on their loan, while 96% would recommend MFI to a friend or family.”

MFI loans have helped sustain and support a total of 1,821 jobs since the organisation’s founding, working in close partnership with Local Enterprise Offices as well as with small business organisations and mainstream bank SME lenders. MFI offers business loans of between €2,000 and €25,000 to companies with fewer than ten employees, with a turnover less than €2m. A subsidiary of Social Finance Foundation, MFI (www.microfinanceireland.ie) was set up in 2012 with the support of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the European Investment Fund.

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