FUNDING boss Stephen Waud is expecting a busy 2016 with the appetite for borrowing among emerging businesses rejected by banks stronger than ever.

The rising number of small and micro businesses turned away by mainstream lenders has driven growth at the Bradford-based social enterprise the Business Enterprise Fund, of which Mr Waud is chief executive.

Launched in 2004 as a subsidiary of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, BEF now also has offices in Leeds, York and Darlington with further expansion on the cards.

To date, the community development financial institution has helped create more than 2,000 jobs after lending over £23 million to businesses through start-up loans, unsecured and secured loans up to £150,000.

Stephen Waud said: “Although there are signs in the world economy around slackening pace and lower demand, we are not finding this at the grass roots level. Businesses are still eager for development and growth finance and we are keen to support those businesses.

“In 2016 we’re expecting to see a further increase in small businesses accessing finance to grow and progress which is heartening to see for the region.”

BEF has boosted its cash pot by securing £3.5 million of loans in a pioneering deal with

the European Investment Fund which saw it become the first UK CDFI to win support from the EU organisation. BEF has also raised £700,000 of capital investment from the government’s Regional Growth Fund.

Mr Waud said he was in negotiations about another major deal to make even more funds available to new and growing companies.

He said: " Although the mainstream banks are starting to lend more, BEF is operating in fertile territory. Recent findings by the British Business Bank showed that 50 per cent of companies with fewer than 50 employees still find it difficult to get finance.

"We have just drawn up a three year plan which anticipates further growth for BEF, in the North through closer collaboration with other CDFIs to help us meet the need for financial support to new and emerging businesses which are so vital to the economy."

BEF is based at the City Hub flexible office building in Little Germany which was created through a £1.8 million conversion of a burnt out wool warehouse to provide an “enterprise incubator” with 19 offices and support services for up-and-coming businesses. .

Stephen said: “Basically, BEF is a lending operation, but our mission is also to influence and help change the landscape of financial exclusion. Many of the businesses we are supporting are run by previously unemployed people. Our support has helped them to realise their ambitions, giving them hope for the future.”