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Lancashire entrepreneur uses Start Up Loan to put alpacas on the map

Lancashire entrepreneur Joanne Schembri has launched her alpaca walking and therapy business Calderbrook Alpacas using an £8,000 Start Up Loan from GC Business Finance.

Joanne, a civil servant, has developed her business in Littleborough to take groups of clients for walks across the South Pennines with her six alpacas. Clients are taught how to lead, handle and engage with the alpacas. Joanne is also about to launch her petting and educational therapy services to take the alpacas into schools and care homes.

Extensive research exists into the therapeutic value of contact with alpacas, particularly for the elderly and for people suffering with dementia, and Joanne is passionate about being able to bring this therapy service to the North West.

Joanne has used the £8k Start Up Loan to purchase the alpacas and is already developing additional income streams for the business including the sale of alpaca waste which is an excellent soil enhancer and alpaca fibre which is proving to be a versatile and valuable alternative to sheep’s wool.

Joanne said: “Launching a business with alpacas has been a long-held dream of mine and the Start Up Loan has meant that I have been able to build the business far more quickly than if I was starting from scratch. Alpacas are incredibly gentle and inquisitive, their fibre is non-allergenic, which means that they are wonderful animals for people of any age to interact with. We have plans in place to steadily grow our herd using a sustainable and responsible breeding programme which will enable us to increase our schedule of walks, visits to care homes and schools, allowing the local community to interact with these unusual animals.

Chris Hutchison, Head of Lending at GC Business Finance, said: “Joanne has spotted a great gap in the market in her area for what is becoming an increasingly popular pastime. Like many of the entrepreneurs we work with, Joanne’s business first began as a passion and we are proud to be able to support her to grow Calderbrook Alpacas into a successful and sustainable enterprise.

GC Business Finance, the North West delivery partner of the government’s national £310m Start Up Loans programme, will see £15 million allocated to new start-ups across the North West over a two-year period, creating around 3,000 new businesses and over 5,000 new jobs in the region.

GC Business Finance is the finance arm of The Growth Company and supported by the GM Combined Authority and Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership. GC Business Finance is a key alternative source of funding for businesses in Greater Manchester and has grown a comprehensive range of finance products from £500 through to £500k, with support on raising early stage equity through the GM Co Investment Fund of up to £2m. GC Business Finance currently manages over £100m of publicly-backed small business investments across the UK.