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DotImpact in Kings Hill becomes first firm to receive interest free loan from Escalate run by Kent County Council but says process is 'hefty'

By Chris Price

A digital marketing agency has become the first company to gain funding through a council-run interest-free loans scheme.

DotImpact based in Kings Hill aims to boost sales and take on staff with the “substantial sum” of money it was awarded through Escalate, a scheme targeted at businesses in west Kent.

Founded by Amanda Robinson in 2011, the firm’s financial performance has grown 390% since then.

DotImpact founder and managing director Amanda Robinson from Kings Hill

The company primarily helps SMEs in Kent grow their digital presence with marketing campaigns.

It employs 12 people and aims to use its new funding – in the tens of thousands of pounds – to initially employ another three to four staff.

“I wouldn’t say getting the money was easy. The paperwork was hefty to say the least..." - DotImpact founder Amanda Robinson

The company was awarded the money after outlining plans to grow its client base from 38 to about 250 by 2017, increasing staff levels to about 25 people by that time.

Ms Robinson, who lives in Kings Hill, said: “I wouldn’t say getting the money was easy. The paperwork was hefty to say the least.

“But now we have the support of the Escalate fund, our plan is to create employment opportunities within the business with the aim to help further SMEs in Kent achieve their growth potential.”

The £5.5m Escalate pot was launched by Kent County Council in December – using money from the government’s £3.2bn Regional Growth Fund – and aims to create and protect 1,250 jobs through more than 150 businesses.

It covers Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Wealden areas, as well as Hastings and Rother.

Kings Hill

Mother of two Ms Robinson says her location at Kings Hill has been a big factor in her firm’s rapid expansion.

She said: “It’s been a fantastic environment for us to be in.

“It’s a hub of SMEs and we have signed up so many clients on our doorstep.

“We are looking at using the fund to take the message out to other areas in Kent.”

Meanwhile, more than 20 businesses have already clawed in cash through another Kent County Council scheme – the TIGER fund.

In the last year, the £20m fund has handed out more than £6.8m in loans to companies across north Kent, Medway and Thurrock.

Businesses celebrate being awarded cash through the £20m interest-free loan scheme TIGER

At a reception at Princes Park in Dartford, businesses shared their stories of how they have been able to put money into new products and services as well as long-term job opportunities.

Among the benefactors is Jim Shaikh, whose invention the Yoomi baby bottle heats a feed to the temperature of breast milk.

After receiving £200,000, his company can move to larger premises in Rochester, increase production and take on more staff.

He said: “For us to move to the next level of business we do need an injection of capital to break down some of those barriers.

“It’s an injection of cash at the right time to really pump prime your business. It frees us up for the expansion we know is coming.”

Logistics firm Nicholls Transport in Sittingbourne will use its £2.4m loan to invest in more vehicles and move to a larger site.

Chief executive Paul Nicholls said: “The TIGER fund has enabled us to develop locally, keep the staff that we’ve got in the Swale area and indeed employ more.

“The fund has enabled us to invest some serious money in a larger fleet and therefore we can bring forward our programme of more employment.”

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