A Leeds-based optician and eyewear business has invested in stock and people following a £50,000 loan from NPIF – BEF & FFE Microfinance, which is managed by BEF and FFE Microfinance, and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Established in 2017, Eye Room has been a beacon of eye care excellence in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Strategically located near the heart of city, the business offers optometry and optician services for eyesight testing and sells contemporary designed glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses from its retail store and online.

The business is owned and run by husband-and-wife team, Tomas and Hafiya Oppedal, who pride themselves on providing a level of customer care that is often missing from the high street. The business aims to offer high quality and individuality at realistic prices. Customers are afforded a retail experience that offers them the time and support required to choose from a comprehensive range of contemporary designs from the UK, Scandinavia and beyond.

In a bid to expand its customer base, Eye Room turned to Business Enterprise Fund (BEF), a trusted finance partner with a track record of supporting local businesses. Having previously received a Start Up Loan from BEF, Eye Room was well-acquainted with the organisation's commitment to fostering growth for businesses unable to secure funding from high street lenders.

With the support of Mark Iley, Senior Investment Manager at BEF, Eye Room secured a £50,000 NPIF microfinance loan backed by the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS). This strategic infusion of funds has enabled Eye Room to boost its marketing efforts, expand its eyewear inventory, and expand its working capital.

This investment has resulted in the creation of one full-time job and one part-time job, while simultaneously safeguarding three existing positions. This fortified the local workforce and contributed to the economic vitality of the region.

In the words of co-founder Tomas Oppedal: “Our partnership with BEF has been instrumental in realising our growth aspirations. This NPIF loan has empowered us to better serve our community and expand our horizons.”

Eye Room’s remarkable journey, from a vision for outstanding eye care to becoming a thriving eyewear provider with an enriched workforce, showcases the profound impact strategic financial support can have on local businesses. It exemplifies the shared commitment of Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) like BEF, the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, and Eye Room to fostering growth and making a positive impact on the communities they serve.

Mark Iley, senior investment manager at BEF said: “Start-up and scale-up phases are two critical stages of business growth. We take immense pride in supporting businesses like Eye Room whose dedication to excellence is truly commendable. We are delighted to be part of their growth journey and wish them every success.”

Debbie Sorby, senior manager, British Business Bank said: “Eye Room’s ability to bring high quality services at affordable prices is crucial in the current economic climate, and it is something everyone can benefit from. The Fund is dedicated to investing in businesses serving the heart of its community, and meeting needs with accessible, high quality and essential products.

“With an increase in digital working, the demand for optometry services is growing, not least for products at affordable prices. As Eye Room expands it will inevitably increase its staff numbers, and the investment will play an important role in facilitating this job creation and security. We look forward to helping Tomas and Hafiya expand their customer base across Yorkshire and beyond.”

The current NPIF investment phase has now completed with the British Business Bank launching the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund II in March 2024.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project (NPIF) is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.