Digworld were successful in accessing the North East Microloan Fund in September 2011.
Digworld is Community Interest Company (CIC) - a type of limited company designed specifically for those wishing to operate for the benefit of the community rather than for the benefit of the owners of the company.
Digworld CIC was incorporated in October 2010. The Managing Director, Keith Gibson, had previously been involved with the design of equipment for people with infirmities and disabilities and it was through his research that it became clear that there was a lack of gardening facilities for this group of people. The therapeutic (and wellbeing) advantages of gardening are well documented; and from this research Digworld was born - (the company name stands for Disabled and Infirm Gardeners World). "The Plantpod" is Digworld's leading product.
Although Keith had initially designed the products to help people with disabilities the company found that their products appealed to other markets too - schools in particular showed an interest, as did people who wanted the facility to ‘grow their own' but lacked space.
To formally test the market Digworld took a stand at the Education Show, and also exhibited at NAIDEX - Disability event. The products were so popular that the company ran out of stock and needed to restock before being able to sell more extensively so they needed a cash injection.
Traditionally Digworld would have turned to grants as an income source. Although grants can be ideal for supporting research and development, or to help cover core operating costs, the company knew that they needed money quickly and with the long lead time and the lack of availability in terms of grants, they started to investigate other financing options.
Rather than committing further personal finances, or relying purely on commercial revenue streams, and given that the banks were still ‘shut' to many new organisations such as Digworld, they decided to consider loan finance.
Claire Foster, Digworld, said: "Loan finance was certainly a viable option for us. We felt that loan finance route offered us three main benefits. Firstly, it would provide an injection of cash that would make things happen now. Secondly, it would encourage us to plan a longer term strategy, far beyond the traditional time-limited grant funding, and thirdly the repayment nature of the loan would help us to focus on business planning and organisational development."
Accessing the North East Microloan Fund through Entrust
Digworld was successful in securing a Finance for Business North East Microloan from Entrust. Finance for Business has been made possible by a unique collaboration between the European Investment Bank, European Regional Development Fund, and Regional Development Agency, One North East. The European Investment Bank is committing £62.5m into the fund, with £44.25m coming from the European Regional Development Fund 2007-2013 and £18.25m from One North East. North East Finance, based in Newcastle, manages the fund on a day-to-day basis.
Claire continued: "Right from the application stage, the process was managed extremely professionally, and was frankly painless, and more importantly, very quick. We had drawn down the funds within a matter of weeks. Throughout the discussions we were able to demonstrate that we had a plan, we had a product, we had a market - we just needed a hand!"
With Entrust's funding support Digworld has been able to explore other markets by directing their skills and experience into other areas and the company has gone from strength to strength. They are now in detailed discussions with the Capital Growth campaign - this is a partnership initiative between London Food Link, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and the Big Lottery's Local Food Fund. It is championed by the Chair of the London Food Board Rosie Boycott and aims to create 2012 new community food growing spaces across London by the end of 2012. They are also launching a new e-commerce site next month, which opens up a whole new revenue stream. Claire commented:"Without Entrust's support we would not have been in a position to launch an e-commerce site for at least a further two years. Our products have also been filmed for the Alan Titchmarsh show".