Investment support has entered a new dimension for enterprising Staffordshire businesswoman Joanne Morgan - the inventor of a world-beating range of ladies' lingerie.
Scientist Joanne, from Tamworth, is the creator of the Faveo Freedom Bra, a new backless and strapless breast-support system for the 50 per cent of women who have a larger bra size.
Joanne, aged 33, is now poised to expand her company, Faveo, with the help of venture capital support from the Advantage Early Growth Fund (AEGF), part of the Advantage West Midlands extensive Access to Finance network.
Faveo was one of the most innovative first-round venture capital deals made by the AEGF last year. It also captured the interest and imagination of around 30 private investors who invested alongside the fund.
The funding enabled Joanne to launch the Faveo Freedom Bra to the retail trade in February this year. It went on sale in May and is now available, in sizes C to GG, at more than 100 outlets across the UK and in Australia. The company, which employs five people, has also been approached by business interests in the USA and Europe and its website is generating 20,000 hits a day.
Faveo - which is Latin for 'I support' - was started by Joanne in 2004 after she was unable to find a bra that would go with her glamorous halter neck, low-back dress for a black-tie ball.
Joanne, who has a PhD in cancer research, said: "I tried the dress on at home. I didn't want to take it back to the shop and so started to experiment with new ways to invent a bra. I had my Eureka moment after a couple of glasses of wine.
"I wanted to test it straight away so I cut up lots of pieces of clothing to create a prototype. I worked well into the night, but realised pretty quickly that even my own crude attempt was a comfortable and supportive backless, strapless bra."
Joanne moved the company from Nottingham to the Swan Park Business Centre in Kettlebrook Road, Tamworth, as part of the deal that attracted vital venture capital investment
from the Advantage Early Growth Fund and the private investors who matched the Fund on the same terms. Since February 2004, the AEGF has made 58 venture capital investments in 40 companies across the region totalling #5.82 million alongside #12.34 million from over 400 private investors.
Kevin Caley, managing director of the AEGF, said: "Joanne's enthusiasm and determination to make Faveo a success caught our imagination, not just with the AEGF team but with about 30 private-sector investors who decided to support a company which has terrific high-growth potential in the years to come."
Patrick Palmer, head of access to finance at Advantage West Midlands, said: "The ongoing success of Joanne Morgan and her company is a tribute to the hard work of the AEGF which is playing a crucial role by ensuring early-stage businesses like Faveo have access to the finance they need to start up and grow."