Chu Lo shakes up international markets with loan from Export Fund

3rd August 2022, 10:31 am

Chu Lo, a Japanese-inspired premium soft drink brand based in Ancoats, Manchester, is celebrating accelerated growth that is set to continue having recently received a £100,000 loan from the GM Export Fund, managed by GC Business Finance.

Formerly working for the Royal Navy, Chu Lo founder Steph Buttery was inspired in Japan by a popular alcoholic drink, Chu Hai. Upon returning to the UK, she was disappointed not to be able to find it anywhere, so set out to establish her own brand. With the ready-to-drink alcohol market already incredibly saturated, Steph developed a non-alcoholic sour fruit soft drink and was ready to shake up the industry.

During the pandemic, Steph sought external finance from GC Business Finance (GCBF). Having worked with the Growth Company since the ideas stage, Steph had benefited from having a business coach and finance group to provide guidance through the early stages of starting her business. While the Chu Lo team was working on its first major fundraise, it needed a faster funding solution, which its regular bank was unable to provide.

Working with her advisor Andy, Steph secured the six-figure loan through the GM Export Fund. The loan supported Chu Lo as it expanded to the Middle East. During a virtual international trade mission, Steph presented to six buyers, which resulted in five contracts. Chu Lo now trades in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the USA and in parts of Europe. It’s team of seven are continuing to seek expansion opportunities, with the business agreeing major contracts with HMV and Belong Gaming Arenas.

Chu Lo’s growth accelerated following her appearance on Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars show on BBC One. Getting through to the final, Steph saw a 500 per cent increase in Chu Lo sales in the 30 days after the last episode aired.

Steph Buttery, founder of Chu Lo, said: “There is nothing on the market like Chu Lo. We have a really specific target customer, primarily gamers, and are passionate about building a community of people who love our product. The loan received from GCBF helped us as we waited for our first funding round, but it was the support from Andy and the team that made all the difference. The response to my appearance on TV has been overwhelming, not just in the UK but across the world, and I’m so excited to see how Chu Lo continues to grow in the coming years.”

Andy Nichols, senior loan manager at GC Business Finance, said: “It’s been brilliant to work with a business like Chu Lo, which demonstrates real export potential and appeals to a very unique market. Steph and the team have done a brilliant job of getting the brand to where it is, and I can’t wait to see it take over the soft drinks industry here and overseas.”

To find out about the GM Export Fund and how businesses benefit from loans of up to £250,000 read more here:

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