Starting a business in Belfast: Belfast Bounce
The bouncy castle start-up discusses Belfast's range of loan agencies and support, how it found premises, and how the city could boost your reputation...
Company name: Belfast Bounce
Founders: Andrew Cousins and Gary Posnett
Founded: January 2013
Description: Belfast Bounce provides bouncy castles to the local communities and catering for all types of events from kid’s parties to corporate events
What’s great about starting a business in Belfast?
The Belfast business community has always relied on word of mouth, reputation is a pivotal focus for any business, especially in the service industry. With regards to the business community we deal more with individual clients however the support we have received from local youth agencies and youth clubs has been enormous.
What business support in Belfast have you used? How was it?
We had assistance with developing our business plan through Invest Northern Ireland’s Regional Start Initiative, which gave us a tailored view of how our business would grow over the next two years and also give us an insight into our costs and the materials we would need.
We also received support from agencies such as the North City Business Centre and a loan provided by ENI Start Up Loans which is part of loan package from Start Up Loans. This was vital for the equipment that we needed to purchase. The advice that we received from these various organisations allowed us to make our business idea a reality.
At the beginning we did have difficulty with finding premises to store our bouncy castles as they can be quite large even when deflated. However we eventually got our premises sorted at our Local Enterprise Agency.
Name the top three reasons to set up a business in Belfast:
- Belfast is a word of mouth city if you build up a strong reputation here your business will essentially market itself. We have also found that the general public in Belfast are very open and friendly.
- Belfast is a great place to start a business, there is great help and support available from organisations such as Invest NI and the Local Enterprise network. There are various loan products available from ENI Start Up Loans and the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund.
- The economy in Belfast seems to be improving fast and we are very proud to operate in such a wonderfully vibrant city.
Where could Belfast be better / what does it need?
Belfast needs to open up access to community grants and other grant funding streams, especially for the disadvantaged in Belfast. Organisations like the Princes Trust help young disadvantaged people in Belfast, but there needs to be more help and support for individuals hoping to start a business over the age of 30.
We also need more support for sustaining businesses in the first few years as much of the current emphasis is on business growth. That is great in times of prosperity, but as we move out of the current financial downturn, sustainability is the key.
How easy has it been to access finance to grow?
With regards to the ENI Start Up Loan we didn’t face any problems when getting access to funding for our business and the support we received was truly first class. Banks and other loan providers can be a bit tricky when you have no trading history to show for smaller businesses but Enterprise NI really helped us through their Start Up Loan produce.
However the further we go on our business journey we are finding it increasingly difficult to gain additional funding to purchase new materials and this is understandable, but there should be more help and support available to help existing businesses sustain themselves and develop.
Where do you go to network in Belfast?
We take the vast majority of our bookings and enquiries online. As for a particular place where we network, we don’t necessarily have one as there are so many different events going on. Depending on the client we usually go to them or a place which is local to them.
There is a good local business and a plethora of business events going on in Belfast all year round, from business breakfast briefs to seminars on social media and employment issues. It is really buzzing.
Where do you take a client for a business lunch/ meeting?
There are various business hubs in the city centre which offer meeting facilities and there are a number of excellent dining options available. If meeting for a more casual encounter with a client the Cathedral Quarter is a great place to do it. The likes of the Harp Bar is a great option as it has a relaxed atmosphere to do business in.
Where’s great for a company night out?
For the past number of years we have gone to the Continental Market at Belfast City Hall to entertain our clients. We go to the beer tent and to all the different stalls. It’s a great night out and the selection of food is unbelievable! It’s great to see so many people out on their company nights out there as well. When the Continental Market is not on there are hundreds of fantastic restaurants in Belfast’s city centre. We are really spoilt for choice and the atmosphere is great with plenty of craic!