TWO Blairgowrie entrepreneurs aim to increase the turnover of their pet food business by 50 per cent from £6 million within the next year as they target further expansion on the back of debt finance.

Bella and Duke is backed by investors including Kevin Dorren and Ana Stewart and supplies 9.4 million meals for pets each year across 26 recipes.

The Perthshire firm is now on a sales and marketing push after securing a loan from UMi Debt Finance Scotland.

Mark Scott, chief executive, and Tony Ottley, chief operating officer, founded Bella and Duke with Michael Scully in 2017, and have grown turnover to £6m, with the further 50% increase in sales forecast during its next financial year.

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The £100,000 loan from UMi has enabled the company to hire a further two full-time members of staff and two part time workers at its distribution centre, taking the firm’s headcount up to 34.

The loan will also fuel Bella and Duke’s sales and marketing drive through a mixture of online and print advertising.

The company said the raw food is supplied to customers throughout the UK. As well as dogs, the business also produces meals for cats.

The recipes are developed with nutritionist Rowan Sanderson and vets, while the company also works with dog behaviourist Caroline Spencer.

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Mr Ottley, who uses his background in the food industry to source the ingredients for the meals, said: “We see ourselves as a wellbeing company rather than simply a pet food supplier.

“Only three species on the planet eat processed food - humans, dogs and cats.

“Humans do it by choice, but dogs and cats don’t get to make that choice.

“Even our treats are made from raw meat, so it’s the whole diet and not just the main meals.”

The company said that it is also considering exporting in future but the team is currently focussed on supplying food for dogs and cats in the UK.

Bella and Duke won £50,000 during the 11th round of the Scottish Edge business development competition in December 2017 and has attracted funding from several high profile investors, including its chairman, Move Fresh founder Mr Dorren, and its non-executive director, Ms Stewart, the former head of cash machine software firm i-design.

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Coatbridge-based UMi Debt Finance Scotland was launched in January 2019 to manage a £12 million loan fund as part of the Scottish Growth Scheme, created by the Scottish Government and funded partly by the European Regional Development Fund.

It provides loans of between £25,001 and £100,000 to Scottish businesses and the loans are issued for three years and carry interest rates of between 6.5% and 12%.

Tom Brock, fund director at UMi Debt Finance Scotland, said: “Tony and his team are passionate about improving pet nutrition through providing quality products with outstanding customer service, underpinned by a professional business plan and a clear growth strategy.

“Bella and Duke is a good example of the type of Scottish businesses we want to support - experienced and ambitious entrepreneurs with a clear vision and understanding of their market, and with high quality product and services. Bella and Duke typifies the diverse range of Scottish businesses we are funding under the Scottish Growth Scheme.”

Mr Brock added: “We expect the businesses to outgrow us fairly quickly so we are just a stepping stone to help them get to that next stage in funding. The Scottish Government did an analysis and found that there is a funding gap in that space.”

Others include AnOrdain, the Glasgow luxury watchmaker, which used the money to help recruit apprentices and drone maker Innovair in Aberdeen.