A popcorn manufacturer has secured £150,000 worth of funding from a venture capital firm to help it expand its base and grow its team.
Consett popcorn company Corn Again was initially set up in 2008 at the home of its founders Catherine and Richard Furze. In their first three years, the couple had ploughed £25,000 of their own personal savings into the business.
Catherine said: “The idea for our business was inspired by a book by Lionel Shriver which had a lot of popcorn ideas in it. I thought I’d have a go at making some and that’s when I realised that I couldn’t buy any flavourings for it – apart from the big brands. We came up with the idea at the right time and started the business from our kitchen table.”
Though the couple started out in the family home, Catherine and Richard now run the operation from a small factory unit at Number One Industrial Estate, about half a mile from Consett’s town centre in County Durham.
Having secured finance from Rivers Capital, a venture capital firm offering funds for entrepreneurs, the husband and wife team have big plans for the business, which produces around 22,000 bags of popcorn a week, and turns over around £100,000 a year.
Rivers Capital’s investment in Corn Again was via the North East Angel Fund, which invests in start-up and existing businesses with growth potential and is part of the Finance for Business North East suite of funds.
Catherine said: “By next year I hope that we have trebled the size of our existing 1,500 sq ft unit. The new funding will allow us to concentrate on the marketing side of the business as that is one area which is really important to us. It’s not just about the core product, it’s also about how you package it.”
Now with around 11 UK clients, mainly in the south east and London, Catherine and Richard are looking at potential markets further afield in Ireland, Europe and the Middle East.
Catherine, who previously worked in the newspaper industry for 20 years, said: “We are looking at taking on four new staff, probably the most important role for us will be a factory manager who will oversee the operation and allow us to concentrate on the marketing side going forward.”
The couple are also waiting to hear about another significant funding opportunity for their business, which currently employs five people.
Catherine said: “We offer a very niche product hand-cooked in artisan kettles. There are only four or five popcorn manufacturers in the UK so the potential to grow is definitely there. One of the most unusual flavours of popcorn that we produce is garlic and herb.”
Nikita Bazko, of Rivers Capital, praised the pioneering approach of the Corn Again founders; noting that they “have the energy, dedication and drive to be successful business owners, and have invested considerable effort into this business over the past four years”. Law firm Ward Hadaway provided legal advice to Rivers Capital on the investment.