A Hertfordshire challenger bank has helped a family tomato business continue to grow, ensuring UK supply for the fruit continues to thrive.

Redwood Bank agreed to step in and help the Gibilaro family expand their operations at Villa Nursery in Essex, when major High Street Banks refused to.

The nursery has been in business for nearly 50 years and the family are the sole growers of sugardrop tomatoes in the UK. With trade deals still uncertain once the country exits the European Union, the family felt keeping their supply chain going was even more crucial.

Felice Gibilaro, who co-runs the nursery with his brother Michael, said: “We had several major contracts in place supplying sugardrop tomatoes to Tesco for its Finest range, Waitrose, Asda and Aldi, so it became clear that we needed to expand.

“However, despite having agreed all these major deals, we were unable to get a High Street Bank on board to back us. It was hugely frustrating as we are – and continue to be – a flourishing and solid business.

“Also, in light of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, we felt there was a sense of duty to ensure we continued supplying the UK with tomatoes.”

Unwilling to give up, the brothers met with Redwood Bank, which very quickly identified the company’s potential. 

Ciaran Kilheeney, Business Development Manager at Redwood Bank, said: “We were only too happy to help the Gibilaros. Through conducting site visits and face-to-face meetings, we were able to understand their needs quickly, what obstacles they were going to face and what the end outcome would be if funds were secured.”

The Redwood team successfully secured a facility in excess of £3.1million over a 20-year amortising basis. They were able to repay the current facilities held with other banks, help to restructure the business internally to provide more security for the Gibilaro family, and most importantly, raise sufficient funds to erect more glass houses, fulfilling the customer’s requirements.

Ciaran added: “We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved and winning the deal from a High Street Bank for what was - at the time of drawdown - our biggest loan, made helping the Gibilaro family even more satisfying.”

Today, the nursery sits in 30 acres of land of which 14 acres is under glass, a far cry from when the company was first founded in 1970 by Vincenzo Gibilaro, after he moved to the UK from Sicily.

Gary Wilkinson, CEO and Co-Founder of Redwood Bank, said: “Helping an independent business fulfil its full potential is hugely rewarding. Because of our support, Villa Nursery has now been able to continue its growth and keep the rest of the UK supplied with sugardrop tomatoes.

“The Gibilaro family can look forward to the next 50 years of supplying supermarkets and dinner plates. Their business plan was ready, but it took Redwood’s belief to allow it to fully ripen.”

Redwood Bank is the UK’s first business challenger bank to be completely born in the cloud.

Redwood Bank’s products include individually assessed mortgages for business owners and professional landlords, as well as a range of Best Buy savings accounts offered to businesses, charities, clubs and associations.

For further information, visit www.redwoodbank.co.uk