A Welsh microfinance lender has helped save a business a Gwent woman set up just before lockdown.

Nicky Stephenson, founder of Nuvo Designs, has years of experience in sales, hospitality and training. When her mother died suddenly, she had to leave her job to take on a caring role for her father.

In need of a project, Nicky set about melting and remoulding her old bathroom candles. She shared photos of the upcycled candles on Facebook and commissions started rolling in. Soon, she was able to open a small gift shop in Newbridge.

But shortly after opening, lockdown struck. Savings that were propping up her business and home costs started to dwindle. High-street lenders would not provide finance because Nicky had been out of work for too long, had few savings remaining and the business had not been operating long enough.

Nicky was introduced to Welsh microfinance lender Purple Shoots. It's founder, Karen Davies, saw what other lenders had not: a woman with a strong track record in business, a solid business plan and great customer recommendations.

Karen ‘saying yes’ meant that Nicky could kit out the shop and develop a full gift range.

Nicky said: "Purple Shoots was the only one that offered to help and for that I’ll be forever grateful.”

Karen has a background in finance and economic development. She recognises both the fragility of SME cash flow and how hard it can be for those with the lowest credit scores to get finance to start a business. She firmly believes that these restrictions should not stop people reaching their goals.

She said: "Of course you can always find a reason not to provide the loan, like a credit check that throws up a County Court Judgement. Lending to this demographic is unpopular and seen as difficult, rather than as it should be seen: life-changing, inspiring and essential.”

Over the next six years, Purple Shoots plans to expand into at least six more areas and support 4,000 people, lending more than £8m.

“We want to grow and help more people, not give in. It is all worth it for the borrowers that thrive,” said Karen.

Nicky is on track to draw her first salary from Nuvo Designs in time for Christmas.