No place like home...

Maria Ramsdale

I grew up in Cumbria and even though I left the sleepy mountains for the bright lights of the big city and sunny Mediterranean islands, I always knew I would end up back at home.

As a Cumbrian lass born and bred, I’m passionate about the region and its businesses. This is the very reason why I joined FW Capital as I knew I could make a difference by providing finance to our hugely successful business community. Most outsiders think we just have lakes, mountains and B&Bs, but those that live and work in the region know what a diverse cross section of businesses choose to call Cumbria their home.

We have industries such as ship building, nuclear energy, and a wide variety of innovative manufacturing encompassing everything from baby milk to jet engine lights. We have amazing food and drinks production – everything from award-winning cheese, cakes and chutney to an extensive array of gins and whiskys.

We are known worldwide for our famous Cumberland sausage which now has Protected Geographical Status. The original recipes were a direct result of spices imported in the 1600s into Whitehaven docks. This is also said to have links to Cumbria Rum Butter and Grasmere Gingerbread.

Cumbria is also famous for the first country house hotel and the original recipe for sticky toffee pudding, originating from Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel. But I use the original John Tovey recipe from Miller Howe which, with a little twist, is now one of the Ramsdale family’s best-kept secrets!

Away from food and back to other businesses, we have door manufacturers, sub-marine building, robotic engineered machines used by NASA, playground equipment manufacturers, papermakers, architectural designers and many skilled precision engineering companies. The list goes on and on…

We also literally make money here and developed the first plastic pound note!

The thing I love most though is the natural environment - beautiful rivers like the Eden supplying locals with fresh fish and peace and tranquillity. The pace of life is different - we don't have a rush hour but get stuck behind a tractor, and you're definitely going to be late!

It has been such a blessing during lockdown to be surrounded by such outstanding countryside and now I am making the most of it by combining networking and business meetings with wellies and dogs! Most people would imagine a career in financial services to be city based, surrounded by high rise offices and busy roads but I have the best work view I can imagine - my desk faces the mountains backing Ullswater. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

What I love about my role at FW Capital is combining my love of Cumbria with my passion for supporting businesses. Since launching NPIF-FW Capital Debt Finance in the region, we have invested £3.5million into industries such as food and drink, manufacturing, engineering, logistics, tourism, and hospitality. These funds have been used to help businesses grow by purchasing new machinery, expanding premises, hiring new staff or providing growth capital. I pride myself on being able to understand and relate to not only the day-to-day obstacles and challenges faced by a Cumbrian business owner, but also the challenges and the funding requirements that can come with growth.

To my mind, there is nothing better than watching a business we have funded go from strength to strength. There is still some reticence, within pockets of the business community, relating to finance and I speak to many a business owner who are initially nervous about approaching funders such as ourselves for a loan. The message I always give them is that we are here to listen and help. Growth can only happen if it is properly financed, and the funding we provide also comes with many additional benefits such as advice support and signposting either through our own experts or our large network of contacts.

I’m passionate about helping businesses. There is such a rich and diverse SME community here in Cumbria and I want to help as many as possible realise their full potential. If you think you have a funding need from £100k to £750k, please do get in touch with me for an initial chat. If you’re lucky you may even be treated to a slice of the secret Ramsdale sticky toffee pudding!

Operating from the British Business Bank’s Sheffield head office, the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund provides a mix of debt and equity funding (£25,000 to £2m). It works alongside ten Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the combined authorities and Growth Hubs, as well as local accountants, fund managers and banks, to support Northern-based SMEs at all stages of their development.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.