Using CBILS funds to fight for a fitter nation – Silverlinks Clinics

Ten years ago, Chris Matthews weighed over 20 stone. After stumbling across a weight-loss programme that changed his life, he made it his mission to help others gain control of their health too.

22 July 2020

Lockdown in the UK has disrupted business for companies big and small, but it’s been businesses reliant on face-to-face interaction and physical contact that have felt the effects of coronavirus the worst.

For Chris Matthews, iwoca customer and owner of Silverlinks weight loss clinics, it’s taken creativity and resilience to endure the storm.

“We were hugely impacted when the country went into lockdown – it was very challenging” says Chris. “We went from taking £12,000 a day, six days a week, to nothing overnight. We had to make the hard decision to stop all patients who were on our programme, which meant we had to safely take them off it in a fairly short period of time.”

The story behind Silverlinks Clinics

For those who are no longer chasing commuter trains to carry out their 9 to 5, staying healthy has become more front of mind. Coronavirus has made us far more aware of daily risks to our health, and as a result many have turned to kicking bad eating habits and increasing their daily activity to keep healthy.

For some, this is all relatively new, but for Chris Matthews it’s something that’s been close to his heart since he started his business back in 2011.

“Ten years ago, I weighed over 20 stone – I’m only 5’ 8” so I didn’t carry it well either,” jokes Chris. “I was very fed up with life generally and with being so overweight. Through a chance meeting with a doctor in Cheshire I ended up discovering a weight loss programme called Alevere. The programme helped me lose 8 stone in 20 weeks. I was so impressed that I set up my own franchise offering the therapy to people in the North of England.”

“My motivation for starting the business was just to help people not be as miserable as I was when I weighed over 20 stone.”

With no pills or surgery required, the weight loss therapy that Silverlink Clinics offer has helped thousands of people safely lose weight, and has even enabled some to find a new love of sports that weren’t accessible to them before. They’re a small business that’s dedicated to fighting obesity in the UK and helping the public achieve their fitness goals.

Turning to iwoca to fuel recovery

But coronavirus left Silverlinks in need of financial support. Having furloughed every single one of his employees, Chris initially turned to his bank for a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Having been a customer with them for over 30 years, he was disappointed at the lack of clarity and support they provided.

“Our experience applying for CBILS with our bank has been absolutely dire,” explains Chris. The highstreet banks are great at giving you an umbrella when the sun’s out – we’ve been promised a decision by the end of the week for the last nine weeks. Businesses have gone bust waiting for the banks to make a decision.”

“As the bank was taking so long, I thought we might as well put in an application with iwoca. We’ve been with iwoca for a long time and we love the flexibility you offer. In the past the loan has allowed us to move fast when we need to and has been instrumental in helping us grow the chain of clinics to where they are now."

"Our account manager has been really good too – you always call us instead of us having to try and get in touch with you.”

‘People are starting to take their health seriously’

Though running a small business in the current climate has been challenging, there’s undoubtedly silver linings that have come from it too.

“We’ve been able to get patients back on their nutritional programmes and have actually set up an e-commerce element to the business that wouldn’t have happened before. All the nutritional products can now be ordered online and then delivered from our new warehouse facility. We’ve effectively built it from scratch.”

Having secured CBILS funding from iwoca, it seems Chris can now breathe easy as he concentrates on getting back up to full steam.

“I’m very optimistic,” says Chris. “People are starting to take their health seriously and we’re now in a great position to help them.”

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Dan is part of the content team at iwoca. He writes articles explaining financial topics, as well as guides on the best support for small businesses during coronavirus.

Article updated on: 7 October 2020

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