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Eric’s success in business had made him wealthy and he and his wife, Charlotte, moved to Ireland in 2003 with a substantial amount of money to invest.Their plan was to develop the farm as a working unit and to produce artisan foods using as much of its own produce as possible.“For many SMEs winning new sales and business is not the problem.
Eric’s parents assumed he would either sell the 180-acre holding in Waterford’s Suir Valley, lying close to the Comeragh Mountains, or rent out the land.
So they were extremely surprised when he announced he had had enough of corporate America and that this represented an opportunity to get back to the land and live up to his long-held but little-expressed green values.
In tackling all of this they had the (paid) assistance of a neighbour and long-time friend of their uncle who had his own small holding nearby and proved invaluable in all matters relating to the farm.
Over a nine-month period the Matthews converted two large barns into four luxurious self-catering apartments and turned the old stables into two more.
Along side this, the couple planned to develop self-catering accommodation attractive to eco-minded tourists and a range of activity holidays based around horse riding, hill walking and mountain biking.
Charlotte took the lead in developing a plan for the artisan food side of the business while Eric was responsible for running the farm, leading the activity holidays and looking after the accommodation with help on the housekeeping side of things.
Demand, however, is clearly there, with over 260 loans provided to date and rising.
“The Fund is still open with facilities of up to £50,000 available.
The Small Business Loan Fund was launched just over three years ago to provide access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to develop their business, but find it difficult to access funding through traditional sources.
It is managed by Ulster Community Investment plc (UCI) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland.