social impact report & annual statement

'Corking' construction business has grand designs to improve sustainability

Corksol are set to build an eco-friendly business thanks to a Start Up Loan from BEF.

Jonathan Ward — Founding partner and Managing Director of Corksol UK Ltd — is a small business owner based in Brighouse, West Yorkshire with a passion for eco-friendly and sustainable products. “We need to challenge the concept of what is acceptable as a building material,” he says. “With truly sustainable materials available it is incumbent on us to embrace these where possible”.

Founded in 2017, Corksol have an exclusive UK license to supply a natural cork render for new build and renovation projects. Recommended by Kevin McCloud, presenter of TV’s Grand Designs, their sprayed cork coating offers an eco-friendly, sustainable, and energy efficient alternative for architects, property developers, construction contractors, and DIY enthusiasts.

CorkSol’s sprayed cork offers significant benefits over traditional render products. It is:

  • A completely natural and sustainable product that can be applied by spraying.
  • A significantly better insulator that has a better thermal rating.
  • Fully water resistant and fire retardant, and far less liable to cracking.
  • Applicable to any type of surface including plastic, metal, and wood clad buildings.

Jonathan and his co-founders Paul Hemingway and Jamie Orr faced the challenge of introducing the game changing product to the UK construction industry. While the opportunity was enormous, Corksol set a realistic plan that enabled them to grow at a sustainable rate.

Jonathan said: “This required us to build a network of professional, committed and well-trained installers across the UK. We opted to deliver and certify the training in-house. We needed funding to open a dedicated training school.”

As a new business Corksol were unable to secure financial support from high street banks. This is when they approached Julie Micklethwaite, Start Up Loans Manager at BEF. Corksol opened their dedicated training centre in October 2017 thanks to a £75,000 Start Up Loan from BEF.

Jonathan said: “Our experience with the banks did not live up to our expectations. The help we wanted was unavailable to a new business like ours. We needed to find someone who believed in us as much as we did. Having looked at all of our options, the Start Up Loan presented the most obvious and viable way to get going quickly.”

In the two years since opening their training school, Corksol have developed a network of 50 installation companies across the UK. Whilst sales have grown, they faced challenges due to the slow embrace of their innovative product.

In response, Jonathan and Paul received a second Start Up Loan of £18,000 in December 2018. This enabled them to upgrade their training centre, keep up with demand, and focus on the launch of new, complimentary products later in 2019 that will transform the competitiveness of the business.

Jonathan said: “In the last two years, we’ve learnt a lot about our product and ourselves. We’ve embraced that learning by opening new opportunities and working with consultants who can drive our business forward. We are confident about what the future holds.”

Jonathan continued: “My experience with BEF has taught me that there is always someone out there on your side. When we’ve needed support, BEF have been there for us. They know what small businesses like ours go through. Their non-judgemental approach is a breath of fresh air.”

For anyone who dreams of starting a business, Jonathan offers some hard-earned words of wisdom. “As a small business you can feel very isolated and up against the world. Support is there. Network to make your vision a reality,” he says. “Explore your options and work with like-minded people who offer real support. Don’t be ashamed of the support, especially from those with experience, it’s vital to your success.”

Julie Micklethwaite, Start Up Loans Manager at BEF, said: “It’s been a pleasure to play a small part in the ongoing success of Corksol. Their innovation, determination and desire to succeed in a tough market is a good example to anyone thinking of starting a business. I wish Corksol every success with their new products and services.”

For more information on Corksol visit or

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