Life through a lens shows way ahead for Stourbridge firm

CLEARER FUTURE: From left, Steve Grice,Dan Boughton, Oakhill Optical, Isobel Harding and Philip Chapman.

CLEARER FUTURE: From left, Steve Grice,Dan Boughton, Oakhill Optical, Isobel Harding and Philip Chapman.

First published in Business Daily

A STOURBRIDGE manufacturer which supplies lenses for opticians and optical professionals across the UK is looking to safeguard its future after securing investment.

Oakhill Optical, in Pedmore Road, has secured a £210,000 loan through the Assetz Capital peer-to-peer lending platform, organised by Ludgate Finance, which has offices in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

The wholesale and manufacturing laboratory supplies ophthalmic lenses to around 120 clients across the UK and Ireland, including high street store Boots opticians.

The company has been manufacturing lenses since 1973 but its vision for the future became unclear while facing the tough economic climate.

Following advice from a high street bank, Oakhill Optical decided to use an invoice financing facility but that proved unsuitable and hindered the company’s operations.

With the business facing difficulty, owners Julian and Isobel Harding called in Ludgate Finance to help stabilise its finances.

Ludgate is a specialist in raising business finance in the fast-growing peer-to-peer market and introduced the Assetz Capital lending platform as an alternative to more traditional routes to finance.

Philip Chapman of Wall James Chappell solicitors, based in Stourbridge, helped to finalise the investment and completed the relevant documents within three days, ensuring Oakhill Optical had access to the funding within four weeks.

Isobel Harding, a director at Oakhill Optical, said: “It was like a weight had been lifted off all of our shoulders. The finance has given us the flexibility to repay our previous borrowing and we even had a little bit left over to help the business grow.

“We have taken on two additional employees within the last two months, taking the total number of employees at the firm up to 25 and we have also secured seven new clients since Christmas.

She added: “We really couldn’t have asked for a better service from both Ludgate and Wall James Chappell. Their advice really saved the business and without their support we wouldn’t be in operation today. They came into the office to talk us through the process and helped to finalise the investment in such a short time period.

“The loan auction experience was quite unbelievable. We are a really tight-knit firm and everybody was eager to find out whether we would secure the finance in time.

“Everyone was over the moon when we hit the target and the morale at the company since has been fantastic. Some of our staff have worked with the company for over 40 years so it was great to deliver the good news.

“We have now regrouped our finances and stabilised the business. We are also in the process of redesigning the website to make it easier for clients to place and track orders.

“Our production and profits have increased since securing the finance and in the long term we are looking at the possibility of opening an opticians locally, which would allow us to sell spectacles at a discounted price.”

Steve Grice, of Ludgate Finance, said peer-to-peer lending networks such as Assetz Capital often gave businesses more freedom to structure a deal around individual circumstances.

“This is an example of a good business that was struggling with inappropriate funding," he expalined. "Oakhill Optical’s revenue stream was struggling to keep up with the cash requirements of both a factoring facility and bank overdraft fees.

“We spotted that the company’s finances would be better suited to support the repayment of a loan over a period of time, therefore the £210,000 secured through the Assetz Capital platform has allowed the company to pay off its previous borrowing as well as giving the firm a little bit extra to stabilise the business.

“Oakhill Optical has been in operation for more than 40-years and it is fantastic to see that the loan has not only helped to stabilise the company’s finances but has also enabled the firm to increase its workforce and grow.”

 

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