by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Businesses behind the innovative Hero Shield project to manufacture and deliver much-needed PPE to frontline health workers have secured financial support from Ulster Bank to assist them through the Coronavirus crisis.   The Hero Shield project first launched in March when a collective of local companies pooled their resources and expertise to design, manufacture and deliver PPE to Northern Ireland’s local Health & Social Care Trusts.


Among the companies at the forefront of the Hero Shield project are Ulster Bank customers Shnuggle and Minprint who have now received significant financial support packages, including UK Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs).


Adam Murphy, CEO at Shnuggle, a company that designs clever baby products, says the loan will help sustain the business he and his wife Sinead established over a decade ago.


“The team at Ulster Bank have been extremely understanding and responsive to the needs of our business. The bank has been very supportive of the plans we’ve outlined for Shnuggle and the future of the Hero Shield project.


“This loan is a cash flow lifeline that will help us to get back on our feet as quickly as possible. With sales depressed and cash reserves depleting it will absolutely sustain us as it guarantees the future payment of suppliers, ensuring we have access to product to continue to meet future demand.”


When Shnuggle put out the call to the business community to lend support to the Hero Shield project Minprint, the Belfast-based commercial printers, responded and repurposed its printing equipment to produce visors.


It has also secured a Coronavirus support loan through Ulster Bank as part of a package of measures.


Managing Director Jamie McMinnis says the loan will keep the business afloat as it explores new revenue streams.


“We’ve experienced a substantial downturn in trade, most notably from our clients in the events industry. Beyond that, our day-to-day operations have been hit too. With so many longstanding customers unable to operate there’s less of a requirement for commercial printing.


“The team at Ulster Bank have been incredibly supportive throughout this process. The loan will bridge the gap and ease short-term cash flow concerns as we reinvent our business.”


Girvan Gault, Director, Commercial Banking, Ulster Bank, says, “At Ulster Bank we take pride in delivering help for what matters, and never has that been more relevant than now. Across our communities, business and personal banking customers have banded together to show their support frontline health workers by lending their skills and expertise. We’re strongly committed to supporting these customers and all those who bank with us with the assistance they need during these challenging times.”


In recent weeks, the Hero Shield project announced it had produced and shipped 100,000 visors for free or on a non-profit basis and will increase production capacity to manufacture up to 70,000 units per week.


Crossen Engineering, an Ulster Bank customer of over four decades, is now working alongside Denroy Plastics to make the innovative products available to the business community.


Managing Director Paul Crossen says the health service will continue to have priority but that the increase in production capacity will enable them to make the product available commercially.


“Everyone involved in the project is incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. We are fully committed to continuing production of vital PPE for the health service, but we’re now exploring ways to make the Hero Shield product available to the business community in Northern Ireland.


“We believe it’s a product that can protect workers and help businesses to resume trading in a safe manner when lockdown restrictions are eased.”


A percentage from every sale of Hero Shield visors will be donated to Hero Shield Ltd to support its charitable work.


More information about the comprehensive range of support measures Ulster Bank is providing to business customers is available on the Ulster Bank Business Hub.



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