Meet 4 innovative businesses shaping your future

It’s the end of our Christmas Carol, celebrating the amazing contribution small businesses make all year round. So far we’ve looked at how to have a traditional Christmas, and amazing experiences you can enjoy this year. Now we’re looking to the future. Read on to find 4 innovative businesses that are shaping our future, all of which have been able to flourish thanks to your lending.  

Live like the Jetsons

Picture the scene, it’s Christmas Eve 2018. You arrive home and your driveway gates swoosh open as you approach. The driveway lights flick on, and as you approach your front door, the porch light comes on automatically to welcome you home. As you turn the key your hallway lights come on at just the right brightness level. The living room lights dim, the curtains automatically close, and your favourite music starts to play throughout the house.

innovative businesses

Nottingham based Design Innovation regularly set up such futuristic home automation systems. Owner Nick Gale has been working in the industry for twenty years. He expanded his business with a loan of £75,000 in 2014.

Building the latest gadgets

TechInvasion could solve all your present-buying dilemmas next Christmas. Established in 2008 with a passion for new functionality and cutting-edge technology, the company scours the globe for the latest and most useful gadgets. They identify the most innovative technology out there, and even work with inventors to bring new ideas to market.

innovative businesses

For the traveller in your life, how about the ‘Airbolt’, a Bluetooth enabled smart suitcase lock. Using GPS, you can see your luggage’s last location and set alerts remotely. You can also add a PIN to boost your security. Or the Rocketbook Wave – a traditional pen and paper notebook that instantly uploads your notes into the cloud using your smartphone. We’re ordering them for next year now! TechInvasion grew their business with a loan of £52,000 in September 2017.

Helping cutting-edge research

Andy, founder and CEO of Oxford Optronix, first built a machine over 30 years ago as part of his PhD Biomedicine studies. He now runs a business that pioneers the design, development and manufacture of sophisticated instrumentation for the life sciences.

innovative businesses

Oxford Optronix now employs fourteen staff, and supplies specialist machinery like the HypoxyLab, a ‘contamination-free’ workstation to enable cutting-edge tissue culture research. They’re innovations could help make serious advances in illness treatment – a fantastic Christmas present indeed. Oxford Optronics are another amazing business that’s been able to progress thanks to your lending. They funded their manufacturing growth with £247,000 over 3 loans.

Building a sustainable future

On Christmas Day in the future, the energy for those twinkling fairy lights might not come from the National Grid, but a renewable energy source much closer to home. Gloucestershire-based consultancy Sustainable Direction Ltd is committed to helping communities generate energy locally, use their resources efficiently and reduce waste as far as possible.

innovative businesses

They’ve done ground-breaking work with the channel island of Alderney, helping the community replace their entire electricity generation system. The new sustainable, low-cost and more secure energy solution could soon be a template for other rural communities. Sustainable Direction was the first business to borrow through Funding Circle in 2010, and have been able to grow even further with a second loan of £54,000 in 2016.

December’s Lending Impact and Borrower Stories


In this month’s Lending Impact, we look into the past, present and future of small businesses in a Funding Circle Christmas Carol. There’s also our latest case study, where you can meet the founder of The Creative Whisky Company, and finally discover six Funding Circle businesses that will help you get in the festive spirit this year.


Whatever the season, small businesses work harder on any given day than Mr Claus on Christmas Eve. To celebrate their hard work and determination, we’ve created our very own Christmas Carol, looking at the past, present and future of small businesses. We begin with the small business past, looking at the history of small businesses, and how they adapted during the industrial revolution. Next up, dive into the small business present and learn about the impact they have on today’s world and the trends that have helped them along the way. Finally, discover what the landscape might look like for businesses in years to come in our small business future.


In our latest case study video, meet David, founder of The Creative Whisky Company. The business was set up in 2005, bottling 15 casks of whisky a year, and today bottles seven times that amount. Although the business has grown significantly, one tradition remains the same; every whisky is “nosed and tasted” by David and his business partner to make sure it’s up to scratch.

A modern Christmas: festive experiences to enjoy this year

Local businesses are moving faster than Rudolph and Blitzen to help you make the most of the festive season. From the butchers and florists, to the bakers and wine merchants, these business owners know exactly what you need to have a joyful Christmas this year. Read more here.

November’s Lending Impact and Borrower Stories

In case you missed it, here’s last month’s post. We met Amy, the Director of The Strings Club, discovered the most read article by our business and community and listed five Funding Circle borrowers to prepare you for the Ashes.

Up next

At the beginning of January, we’ll publish our Insights and Analysis blog to review December’s activity, including statistics from across the platform and helpful tips to make the most of your investment.

As always, if you have any questions or comments our dedicated team are here to help. And if you have any further suggestions we’d love to hear them.

Enjoy lending, the Funding Circle team

A Christmas Carol – Small Business Future

It’s the week before Christmas, and while Santa and Rudolph are taking all the headlines, we’re celebrating the amazing work small businesses do all year round. In our Christmas Carol so far we’ve looked at small business past and present, now for the final chapter we’re looking at the future. Read on to find out what the landscape might look like for businesses in the years to come.

The return of the masters

Large corporate players have come to dominate the retail market over the last century. However, as they strive to be unbeatable on choice and price, by having such a vast offering they can’t compete on specialist knowledge.

small business future

Consequently, small retailers and manufacturers with local knowledge or specialist offerings are making a comeback. Modern consumers are increasingly hungry for information about their products. They want bespoke, locally produced and sustainable goods. They want to know it’s well made and ethically sourced. As a result, they’re seeking out the specialist knowledge of smaller, independent retailers. Entrepreneurs that can show off their credentials are rewarded with repeat business and growing word of mouth, and carve out a niche where large retailers struggle to compete.

Technology that grows with your business

Not too long ago, having powerful data programmes was the reserve of only the largest firms. They required serious investments of time, capital and staff, and gave the big players a competitive advantage that was out of reach to small businesses.

small business future


Now that landscape is changing rapidly. SaaS companies (Software as a Service) and other platforms are democratizing big data capabilities, opening them up to everyone. A small business can take a basic price plan with a limited feature set, then steadily add more options as they grow. They provide enterprise standard infrastructure at an accessible cost. Businesses can then enter new markets and compete on a local, national and international level. As more platforms emerge, small businesses will have fewer limitations and can grow faster than ever before.

Building global brands

Alongside the changes to internal business systems, social media and digital marketing are creating new opportunities to reach customers. Free to set up and simple to use, social media allows small businesses to reach a global audience. Once a luxury for those with big budgets, they can now build brand awareness campaigns to grow their reputation. With a variety of social channels that appeal to different audiences, social media will be an essential tool for long-term growth and short-term sales.

small business future

Businesses can use hashtags and trending topics to reach new customers interested in their field. They can also keep existing customers engaged so they keep coming back. Millennials want to feel informed and involved, not marketed to. So, whether it’s sharing your latest product on Instagram or announcing a limited offer on Twitter, engaging customers through social media will help small businesses thrive.

Alternative finance goes mainstream

Already worth £6.12 billion in the UK alone, the “alternative finance” industry is helping more businesses get the funds they need to grow. Crowdfunding is helping businesses get off the ground, while online lending platforms are giving them the finance to grow.

These new funding streams give businesses access to capital at the point they need it. Whereas banks can be slow to respond, online lending platforms can process applications in just days. This allows businesses to respond quickly to changing demands or new opportunities, making them more resilient.

small business future

In 2017, nearly as much net lending was done to small businesses through Funding Circle alone than the major high street banks combined. As the growth of the sector continues, small businesses will have access to faster, more reliable funding to pursue their ambitions.

AI and bots will fill the gaps

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a computer’s ability to think for itself. It uses information given previously to make decisions, imitating our own ‘human’ cognitive functions. Machine learning is an application of AI that enables computers to learn for themselves as they receive more information.

Why is this important? Typically at small businesses, there are a small number of staff performing lots of different roles. Everyone has to wear multiple hats to get everything done. However, if machines can imitate human thinking, they can start handling some of those business functions, freeing up time and resource.

small business future

In the near future an online chatbot could handle all your customer service queries. Open up your normal messenger apps like Whatsapp or Facebook and it could take orders and recommend products. It could even forward documents and even give installation tips. Many will still want to provide a personal service, but AI can help fill the gaps and compliment their existing service.

As discussed in our look at Small Business Present, it’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur. With consumer habits evolving and technology creating new avenues in marketing, funding and systems, the future of small businesses is packed with opportunities.

Check out the rest of our small business Christmas Carol

Read the first part on the history of small businesses, and our look at the life and impact of small businesses today.


You’re helping this whisky company go even further, one bottle at a time

small business present

Meet David Stirk, a whisky aficionado, author and dedicated business owner. After graduating with an Honors Business Degree, David went on to work in a few different whisky companies, and even wrote a book called ‘The Distilleries of Campbeltown’. However, despite loving the industry he was in, David found himself yearning to take control of the business and make his own choices.

In 2004, the opportunity arose to buy a fantastic cask of whisky, and it gave David the spark to start his own whisky bottling business, The Creative Whisky Company. Based in the beautiful Lowlands of Scotland, his business has gone from bottling 15 casks a year, to doing seven times that amount today. As with any growing business, things can change over the years, however at The Creative Whisky Company, one procedure has remained: every cask they bottle is ‘nosed and tasted’ by David and his business partner.

The whisky industry is a large and competitive market. To invest in more stock and continue growing, David and his team have borrowed more than £390,000 from Funding Circle investors since April 2017. ‘I’d been in an eight month period of waiting for a mortgage to come through on the buildings that we bought. I just thought, it’s time to try another avenue, so that’s when I went to Funding Circle and I was amazed with the speed and the honesty. Everything they said would happen, happened.’ said David.

In this short video, meet David and hear more about his passion for the whisky industry:

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A Christmas Carol – Small Business Present

Businesses across the country work hard all year round. To celebrate their devotion and their contribution to the economy, this festive season we’re presenting our very own Christmas Carol. Last week we looked at the history of small businesses, from medieval times to the early 1900s. Today it’s time for small business present, so read on to learn about the impact they have on today’s world and the trends that have helped them along the way.

Big business booms in the 1960s

Before we get to the modern day, it’s useful to look back over the last few decades to understand the changes that led us here. In the 1960s, small businesses were struggling. Television and globalisation were having a huge impact on the world, and big business was booming.

small business present

Piccadilly Circus at night circa 1960 – David Howard

Shoppers wanted to go to big supermarkets and buy the globally recognised brands they saw on TV. Local shops and independent producers struggled to compete, and their market share dropped dramatically. In everything from farms to finance, large corporate players bought out their smaller rivals, and manufacturing jobs were taken abroad for cheaper labour. Coupled with a thriving stock market and a flourishing electronics and information industry, more and more people moved from manual work to office-based roles.

Such was the preference for big business, even the term “small business” saw a decline. Business owners across the western world faced a squeeze, and starting your own enterprise was an increasingly rare thing to do.

small business present

This graph shows the use of “Small business” in English books over time

Entrepreneurs start their comeback

A career-minded office worker in the 1970s planned to become an increasingly important fish in a big corporate pond. However, as the 1980s progressed, entrepreneurs began to break out on their own once more. While some business owners desired independence and others were laid off, collectively there was a cultural shift away from corporate life, and entrepreneurship was a common aspiration once more.

Technology creates new opportunities

The 1990s saw the widespread adoption of home computing and the internet. Not only did this make it easier to run a business from your own home, entrepreneurs could access a global market at the touch of a button. By drastically reducing overheads, it lowered the barriers to entry for newcomers. Established businesses could now also compete on a more even footing.

small business present

Hewlett-Packard HP9000 Unix Workstation – Thomas Schanz

Adapting to a new world order

An advantage small businesses have always had is their adaptability. Without hierarchy and extensive processes, they are more nimble in responding to a changing marketplace. Employees also have more varied roles and skill sets, as they have to carry out multiple business functions with a smaller staff base. As the pace of change continues to accelerate through the digital age, savvy entrepreneurs can seize opportunities quickly. Large corporate firms, on the other hand, can be cumbersome to respond.

Faith in institutions, whether they are government, media, NGOs or corporations, is also at an all time low. The volume of opinion available today means they no longer hold the sway they once did, and scandal after scandal across every industry has destroyed the trust people once had.

Now customers are looking for alternatives. What they crave most is authenticity, and small businesses are ideally placed to step in. Whether they’re an IT provider or an artisan bakery, small businesses tend to be specialists. They have a natural authenticity as experts in their chosen field, allowing them to engage with their audience more genuinely. They can then appeal to a slice of the market that large companies will struggle to reach.

small business present

David from The Creative Whisky Company – a Funding Circle borrower

A golden age for entrepreneurs

These cultural and technological trends have led to an unprecedented boom for small businesses. Today there are 5.6 million businesses in the UK, an increase of 2.2 million since 2000, and up from just 700,000 a few decades ago. 99% of them are small businesses, showing the incredible impact they have on our economy:

  • Small businesses employ 16.3 million, 60% of private sector employment
  • Their combined turnover is £2 trillion, 52% of private sector turnover
  • 75% are sole proprietors

84% of people who work for themselves are “more satisfied in their working lives”. Less than 5% of owners plan to close their business down and move back to a more traditional job.

Along with the new opportunities in digital marketing and management, new sources of funding are helping small businesses thrive. Online lending and crowdfunding give entrepreneurs better access to the funding they need. This not only helps them get started, but allows them to grow and become more resilient to changing economic times.

Added together, it truly is a golden age for entrepreneurs and small business. Long may it continue.

Check out the rest of our Small Business Christmas Carol

Read our first chapter on the history of small businesses, then complete the journey with Small Business Future, looking at the trends shaping their future.


Refining your lending experience

At Funding Circle, our aim is for you to earn attractive, stable returns by lending directly to creditworthy businesses. To help you achieve this, we wanted to let you know about an update we are making to how we set interest rates for businesses. We’re also introducing a small change to how the projected returns displayed for our Balanced and Conservative lending options are calculated.

Providing borrowers with a more tailored experience  

The interest rate paid by businesses currently depends on two factors; the length of their loan and the risk band assigned to them following our robust assessment process. This means businesses are only offered one of six different interest rates depending on their assigned risk band. In order to provide businesses with a more personalised experience, next year we will begin to increase the range of interest rates we set for borrowers within each risk band.

This change will have no impact on the projected returns you can earn through our Balanced and Conservative lending options, or the estimated bad debt rates for each risk band. We will let you know if these projected returns change via the Lending Settings page of your account.

Refining how we display projected returns

Currently, the projected return shown for either the Balanced or Conservative lending options is the median estimated return, after fees and bad debts but before tax, across all investors using that option. As you lend to your own individual portfolio of loans your own personal estimated return (found on your Summary page) may be higher or lower.

The median shows the lowest projected return that 50% of investors can expect to earn by lending through that option. We want more investors to experience a higher personal estimated return than the overall projected return, so we are refining the calculation. It will now show the lowest projected return that 65% of investors can expect to earn by lending through that option.

The two illustrative charts above demonstrate this, by showing the distribution of projected returns for an example group of investors using the Balanced lending option. The green shaded area shows the percentage of investors in the group whose personal estimated return is equal to or higher than the displayed projected return.

Following this update, and taking into account the current mix of risk bands we expect to be funded on the platform, the projected annual returns after fees and bad debt, but before tax for both lending options will be displayed as:

  • Balanced – 7.2%
  • Conservative – 4.8%

It’s important to note that this change has no effect on your personal estimated return, the businesses you lend to or the estimated bad debt rates we expect investors to experience. You can see the full calculation here.

Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk and your actual return may be higher or lower. If you would like to discuss these changes further please get in touch.

Enjoy lending,

The Funding Circle team

ISAs, Brexit, and the 2017 Budget. November industry news

Fintechs take market share from the dominant high-street banks – Financial Times

In the third quarter of this year, net lending (that’s total lending minus repayments) to small businesses through Funding Circle was higher than the entire UK banking system for the first time.* During that time, over 1,700 British businesses were able to access the finance they need to grow and thrive. This is a great demonstration of the positive impact your lending is having on the economy. Together, we’re helping businesses reach their full potential and go even further.

UK peer-to-peer lenders plan to raise millions from ISAs – Financial Times

We’re really pleased to announce that we have started rolling out our Funding Circle ISA product to existing investors. With the Funding Circle ISA, you’ll be able to earn attractive, stable returns tax-free, while supporting the backbone of the UK economy. It also takes just minutes to set up your account. You can find out more about the ISA account, and register your interest if you are not currently lending through Funding Circle, here. More information can also be found in our FAQs, and blog. If you have any questions please get in touch. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

What fax machines and floppy disks reveal about Britain’s productivity problem – The Economist

During the 20th century, productivity growth in the UK increased steadily, but in the past decade, it’s barely budged. Today, many tech companies are trying to change this by using technology, such as machine-learning and AI, which helps to speed up tasks and increase efficiency. By embracing the growing digital economy and saying goodbye to fax machines and floppy disks, businesses have the power to shake off this productivity standstill and encourage faster growth across the country.  

Budget 2017: Business jury give a thumbs up for helping hand for small firms – The Times

It’s clear that our British small businesses have a key role to play in helping to solve the productivity problem as well. If more small businesses are given the right financial support in order to invest in these new technologies, it would help them maximise their output and effectiveness. Additionally, news in the Budget that the Chancellor will bring forward the switch in business rates indexation from the retail prices index to the consumer prices index is welcome. This and the freezing of the VAT threshold at £85,000 for the next two years is a step in the right direction.

Funding Circle borrowers back joining European Free Trade Agreement post-Brexit – P2P Finance News

The Budget also revealed that a further £3 billion is being set aside for Brexit planning. As the negotiations continue, we asked thousands of small business owners for their views. More than half (57%) of business owners in the UK are supportive of joining the European Free Trade Agreement – or the ‘Norway Option’. It’s evident that this route is a priority within the business community and it’s important that we listen to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for their success. Check out our blog for the full results and read more in the Financial Times.

London’s startups stress out over Brexit—and ping pong – Bloomberg

Ping pong, the national sport of FinTech, brings together tech companies from all across London for a night of excitement, nail biting action and of course, pure glory for the winner. Not only is the event good fun, helping to build strong company morale, it also highlights the importance of access to talent post-Brexit for FinTech firms with many of the competitors coming from all over the world. At Funding Circle, 30% of our teams are non-UK European nationals, so we were pleased the government provided certainty to EU citizens living in the UK last week.

* Data taken from Bank of England ‘Bankstats (Monetary & Financial Statistics)’ – Table A8.1 ‘Monetary financial institutions’ loans to non-financial businesses, by size of business’ under ‘Net loans (exc overdrafts). Bank of England banks account for at least 75% of the lending market.

A Modern Christmas: Festive experiences to enjoy this year

Don’t be a scrooge this Christmas! Local businesses are working harder than Santa Claus and his elves to make sure you make the most of the festive season. From the butchers and the florists, to the bakers and wine merchants, the business owners below know exactly what you need to have jolly and joyful Christmas experiences this year.  

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!

No one knows the exact year that the first Christmas tree was brought into someone’s home, but it is estimated to be around 1510 AD – and the tradition carries on today in many countries across the world. Wreaths have also grown in popularity and decorating them can make for a festive and fun activity. Dried oranges, cranberries, ribbon and pinecones are just a handful of the items you can use. Pick yours up from Rocket Gardens, a DIY gardening company in Cornwall, who even supply handmade edible wreaths made from bay leaves, rosemary and chillies! Rocket Gardens were able to scale up their business after borrowing across three loans since July 2016.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

If you’re keen to get out of England and have a proper adventure this year, then you’re in luck! Incredible ski locations are just a short flight away, in countries such as Austria, Norway and France. Snowflakes falling, picturesque chalets, brightly decorated streets… Whether you’re here for the kids or on a nice getaway with friends, being in the mountains is the perfect festive break. Need the gear? Finches Emporium, a family-run sports store, will have everything you need to make sure you’re prepared for your snowy getaway. To support an advertising campaign, the Finches team borrowed through Funding Circle in May 2014.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Are you with the little ones this year? Then we suggest going to wander through a magical winter wonderland on your way to visit Santa’s Grotto at Bellflower Garden Centre, based in the heart of Suffolk. His elves have been working hard over the past few weeks getting everything ready to make sure it’s a truly special experience for everyone. In order to renovate some parts of the premises and purchase a new van for deliveries, Bellflower Garden Centre borrowed finance from 218 Funding Circle investors in November 2017.

All I want for Christmas is mulled wine

What better way to relax after a hearty meal than to have a nice warming cup of mulled wine? We’re not talking about the bottled stuff either… the best way to enjoy it is to make your own. All you need is a nice bottle of red, sugar, a cinnamon stick, nutmeg and a fresh orange – easy peasy. For a great selection of wines, check out Talking Wines, based in Cirencester, who source outstanding wines from passionate producers across the world. In order to increase stock, Talking Wines borrowed through Funding Circle in July 2013. Festive tip: make sure to have the Christmas tunes turned up and a cosy fire lit to create a truly joyful atmosphere.

Sugarplums and sweets

Since we’ve already got you in the kitchen, why not whip up some homemade gingerbread men as well? Making these gingery treats is the perfect activity to share with the whole family. They’re easy to make, have minimal ingredients and taste just like Christmas! We all know that a gingerbread man isn’t complete without gumdrop buttons, so before you get started, take a trip to Fanny Adams Sweet Shop in Kingswinford and you’ll find just what you need and more. To help open a new shop and hire more staff, the fantastic sweets shop borrowed through Funding Circle in December last year.

Happiness and all the trimmings

And finally, one of the finest holiday traditions has to be enjoying a delicious dinner in the company of all of your loved ones. Can this meal be complete without turkey? We don’t think so. Allington Farm Shop, a family-run farm shop and café based in Wiltshire, sells locally sourced and free range turkeys that are sure to be a winner with your guests. But don’t forget to prepare some mashed potatoes, seasonal garden veg, bread pudding and cranberry sauce before you dig in! To help expand their butchery, Allington Farm Shop borrowed from 618 investors in May 2014.

A Christmas Carol – Small Business Past

Whatever the season, small businesses work harder on any given day than Mr Claus on Christmas Eve. Santa may take all the glory, but it’s the determined businesses around the country that deserve the real recognition.

To celebrate the work they do, we’re presenting our very own Christmas Carol, looking at small business past, present and future over the next few weeks. First up, we look at the history of small businesses, learning what life was like for entrepreneurs up until the early 20th century.

Before the industrial revolution, all business was small business

In medieval times, businesses were small operations working mostly in local economies. Farmers sold grain to merchants for sale at local markets, while a single blacksmith would serve the needs of the surrounding area. They were typically single-man or family operations, working for themselves without employees.

Small businesses began forming guilds

To meet the pressure of increasing competition, skilled craftsmen banded together to form guilds. The guild marked a sign of quality, and would often be associated with a particular town or city. They also acted as early unions, scheduling ‘no-work feast days’.

The rise of big business

During the industrial revolution, new technologies such as steam power allowed large factories to greatly increase production. Due to economies of scale the lone blacksmith could no longer compete, and big business grew to dominate. Coupled with international shipping, electric motors and gasoline, the landscape quickly changed forever.

It was only with this rise of ‘big business’ that the term ‘small business’ became common, as it was needed to compare the two. The below graph shows the use of the term ‘small business’ in English books.

Use of “small business” in English books

small business past

Small businesses adapt to changing times

While wealthy industrialists were riding high, smaller entrepreneurs also took advantage of new opportunities from a rapidly expanding economy. The manufacturing boom and imports from around the empire meant a wealth of new products on offer, providing new opportunities for shopkeepers and merchants. This increase in trade and industry then required servicing by transport, banks, clerks and insurers.

small business past

A Victorian business card

Towns and cities also grew rapidly as people flooded there for work. Infrastructure was needed to support this expansion, creating work in everything from building houses to selling milk. The growth meant more schools, doctors, lawyers, shops, pubs and much more. If you were a savvy entrepreneur, there was a small business waiting for you.

However, while the economy grew, it was still a very precarious place for a small business owner. Income was modest and access to credit was limited, leaving them vulnerable to competition and difficult periods of trade. Reputation and contacts were still a major factor in business arrangements, and working class businessmen trying to elevate themselves to the middle class were more susceptible to hard times.

small business past

Street sellers thrive

Known as costermongers, street sellers had a particular set of reliable wares that they sold from a barrow or donkey-cart. It could be anything from oysters and hot eels to crumpets, candles, books or live birds. There was an estimated 30,000 costermongers in London during the late 1800s, and most middle and working class households depended on them.

A street-seller locksmith

Victorian shops

Early Victorians didn’t put prices on their goods. Not only did this allow for haggling, but meant they could set a higher price for customers who looked more affluent.

Goods were also kept in drawers, cupboards or cases and could only be touched by the shopkeeper. In a shoe shop for example, you would only be able to see closed boxes. Rather than browse, you would describe what you needed shoes for and the clerk would select some for you try on.

As time went by, more shop owners began trying to make extra sales with displays of goods on counters with the prices noted. Window displays then followed, with shops installing plate glass fronts to attract customers as they walked by. Stores got larger, and “shop walkers” were employed that were half security guard and half shop assistant.

small business past

A Victorian shop front

Shops were unique, with different suppliers and product ranges. To prevent men walking into an embarrassing situation, women’s clothes were kept on the 2nd floor. Some sold counterfeit goods, while others marked products as “smuggled and stolen” to make them more desirable. As a result, shoppers would go back to vendors they trusted, and manufacturers began prepackaging goods to ensure quality and weight.

Services to the home in 1900

It was commonplace for small businesses to bring their goods or services to customers’ homes. Bakers delivered daily, while milk was delivered and measured out at the door, often twice a day. You’d then make payment for the week on Saturdays.

Others goods such as coal were delivered too. After ordering at the coal yard, your selected grade of coke for the boiler and coal for the fire was brought and deposited in a bunker outside. You would address tradesmen by the product they carried – “Coalman, Milkman, Dustman” and so on.

Insurance was also collected door-to-door. Life insurance was most popular as it was a terrible stigma not to be able to afford a funeral. A company agent would collect each month and log the payment in his book. They’d try to upsell them to contents insurance, or house insurance if they owned their home.

Check out the rest of our Christmas Carol

Continue the journey with Small Business Present – a look at their place in the modern world and the trends that led them there. And finally, in Small Business Future we look at tech and cultural trends that will shape business life in the years to come.


How to have a terrifically traditional Christmas

Whether it’s December or June, small businesses are working harder than Santa’s elves all year round. To celebrate their achievements, we’re presenting our very own Christmas Carol, looking at the past, present and future of small businesses.

We kicked off with a Small Business Past, looking at the life of an entrepreneur up to the early 1900s. In today’s piece, we’ve got four fantastic Funding Circle borrowers to help you have a traditional Christmas, so you can celebrate like it’s 1900. They’ve all been able to take their business forward thanks to your lending.

traditional christmas

Sit by a roaring fire

Nothing is more cosy at Christmas time then nestling up by a roaring fire. If you want to give your front room the traditional touch, Aberdeen Fireplace Ltd can help you out. You can find traditional coal or wood burning stoves, as well as grates, ash pans and other accessories. You can also get a gas or electric number if you’d like a more modern feel. To upgrade their premises, they borrowed £27,000 in May 2014.

Get a goose for the family

Victorian families would traditionally have goose or roast beef on Christmas Day. Affluent households then began having turkey, which developed into the staple we enjoy today. Whether you’re entertaining a big group or there’s only a few of you this Christmas, The Wild Meat Company in Suffolk have an excellent range of products for you to serve from local farms. The meat specialist borrowed over £40,000 in September to finance a new labelling and scanning system to package their products. Just make sure you order before Sunday 10 December 2017!

traditional christmas

Eat by candlelight

Without electric lighting, families depended on candles to light their homes. Why not give your table a more atmospheric touch this year with a selection of candles from Northumbrian Candleworks. They have a range of candles and scents to suit any tastes, although probably best to stick to the house lights for cooking! Northumbrian Candleworks borrowed £5,300 in July 2017.

traditional christmas

Indulge in a proper Christmas pudding

Although there is some debate, recipes for the Christmas pudding go back to the 17th century. Enjoyed by royals and working folk alike, its popularity led it to become a symbol of unity across the British Empire. To get your perfect pud, head to Georgie Porgie’s Puddings, an award-winning pudding shop in Devon. From sponges to seasonal specials, everything is handmade with local ingredients. Georgie Porgie borrowed £46,350 in May 2017 to expand their premises and improve business year round.


Your December Review – Insight and Analysis

Your December Review

Your lending has reached £3 billion in the UK! November was also a record month, with £129 million lent to small businesses in the UK.

While it’s fantastic to keep growing, the important story is the impact we can have on the economy. That’s why we’re very excited to say that in Q3 this year, for the first time more net lending (total lending minus repayments) was done through Funding Circle to small businesses in the UK than the UK’s major high-street banks combined*. Thanks to your support, we can continue to have a positive impact on the economy, helping thousands of businesses expand and achieve their ambitions.

November Lending Figures

Last month, you and other investors helped businesses to take new opportunities, create new jobs and drive energy into the UK economy. Thank you for your continued support!

November Block

November highlights: launching the Made to do More campaign

At Funding Circle we celebrate the big thinkers and those who decide to get up to tackle something new. Over half of Brits (56%) think they have the skills to run their own business, but only 13% believe they’re entrepreneurial. If everyone believed they were Made to do More, we could boost the economy and ignite even more opportunities. Head to our blog to find out more about our most recent campaign.


These graphs show the most recent activity on our platform.

You’ve helped more than 9,300 small businesses access finance in the last 6 months…



Totalling over £650 million lent


November 2017 sector breakdown

Amount lent to each sector


November 2017 regional breakdown

Amount lent to each UK region



As part of lending to businesses, a small percentage will not be able to fully repay their loan. This is known as bad debt and is a normal part of business lending. We believe diversification, where you lend no more than 1% of your total to each business, is the best way to reduce the impact this has on your return. Our automatic lending tool will help you diversify by splitting your investment across lots of businesses. We recommend lending £2,000 or more, so you can lend to 100+ businesses, with no more than 1% going to each one.  

Each week, we publish a list of the loans being defaulted on the Customer support section of our website under ‘Announcements.’ To see a breakdown of the loans defaulted last week simply click on loans defaulted 30th November 2017.  For further information on why Funding Circle defaults loans you can read our FAQ here.



You can also read more about how our collections and recoveries process works (part one and part two) on our blog.

Up next in December we’ll be looking at the impact your lending is having on the UK economy and bringing to life some of the businesses you’ve helped access finance.

As always, if you have any questions or comments our dedicated team are here to help. And if you have any further suggestions we’d love to hear them.

Enjoy lending, the Funding Circle team

*Bank of England data

**Data from CEBR report

This blog is a general summary, and should not replace financial advice tailored to your specific circumstances. Funding Circle is not authorised to, and does not, provide investment, tax, legal or regulatory advice. If you have any questions, please speak to your professional advisor or seek independent specialist advice.

Read between the lines: Counting the cost of Christmas

We regularly bring you a column from Simon Read, a personal finance expert with extensive experience in helping people make the most of their money. In his last piece, Simon looked at the potential impact of rising interest rates on your personal finances.

Isn’t it great that Christmas is upon us? Season’s greetings to you all – but a warning too.

Yuletide is an expensive time: and if you don’t plan your spending, you could wake up in the New Year with a costly hangover.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the time of goodwill and excess. But when you’re spending more than usual, you should take a more than usual interest in your spending. Frankly it comes right back to budgeting basics. If you plan your spending, then there’ll be no ghastly financial surprises. Experts at Deloitte reckon the average UK shopper will blow £542 this Christmas. That’ll be £283 on presents, £140 on food and drink, £63 on socialising and £56 on travel.

How does that compare to your plans? I know travel could be a lot more expensive, for instance, for those who have to visit family on the other side of the country! But, if you want to splash out at Christmas and can afford to then my advice is go for it. One of the basic tenets of good money management is ensuring you give yourself some fun money.

Without it life can turn into a series of fairly dull financial challenges where you’re always looking to maximize returns on your cash or ensure it’s working hard for your future happiness. But your happiness now is equally important so enjoy the chance to spend a little of your hard-earned and spread a little joy!

However here’s a serious warning: if you’re leaning on a credit card to cover the cost of Christmas, keep a close eye on it to ensure you can clear the debt in January. Nearly two in five families will pay for Christmas on plastic this year, reckons the charity National Debtline.

That’s fine if you’re doing so for convenience and will pay it off next month. But it’s dangerous if anyone puts stuff on a card because they can’t afford to pay it now. That creates worry and potential debt problems.

If you ever find yourself in that position take a step back and ask yourself if you really need to borrow to pay for whatever it is or if you can do without it. The bottom line is that Christmas is the season of goodwill, and people won’t complain if you don’t deliver an outrageously-expensive gift because you may have had to tighten the belt a little more this year.

With that in mind the New Year is a great time to make some positive resolutions. If you haven’t formulated some spending and saving plans for 2018 then make a list, check it twice, and plan to introduce some sensible money habits in January. You can start by running the rule over all your savings. If you have a nest-egg languishing in a building society or bank account then have a look at how much interest it’s paying. I can guarantee it will be relatively paltry.

Make one of your New Year’s resolutions to get more from your savings. You already know you can getter better returns with peer-to-peer lending. Now with the new Funding Circle ISA in the process of being rolled out to current investors, these returns can now be earned tax-free. For a balanced portfolio and looking over the longer term you could also look at opportunities in stock markets. Although with more potential Brexit turmoil ahead, that’s something to consider very carefully.

The key is to start the year on the right foot with a positive approach to your savings. Do so and you’ll end the year better off, and with more money to help pay for the Christmas excess of 2018!

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not represent those of Funding Circle. Funding Circle is not authorised to, and does not, provide investment, tax, legal or regulatory advice.

The information and views contained here are provided solely for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal, tax, regulatory, accounting or investment advice, or as a recommendation or an offer or invitation by Funding Circle.

To the extent permitted by law, Funding Circle does not accept any liability for any loss or damage which may arise directly or indirectly from the use of, or reliance on, such information contained here.

If you have any questions, please speak to your professional adviser or seek independent specialist advice.

How to have Christmas in Lapland in 2022

Christmas is all about tradition. From turkey and cracker jokes to arguing over who gets to be the boot in monopoly, every family has their own. While we all love our favourites, what if one year you did something different? Treat the family to a Christmas they’ll never forget.

Make regular contributions to your Funding Circle account and you could be going to Lapland to meet Santa and Rudolph in their own back yard.


According to the Bank of England, a typical household spends over £500 extra in December, so even modest savings can make a difference. With a little planning you won’t need to get anywhere near your credit card. Contribute regularly for a longer period, and you could have the Christmas of a lifetime in a few years.

In just 5 years you could have:

Christmas in a country house

Fancy hosting your own Downton Christmas special? Put away £20 a month and you could have £4,312.57 – enough to rent a country house for your extended family. You could even hire caterers so you can sit back and relax.

Christmas in Lapland

Put aside £100 a month and you could have £10,077.80. That’s enough to treat the whole family with a trip to Lapland! Meet Father Christmas and ride a reindeer-led sleigh under the starlit sky. It will be a Christmas they’ll never forget.

Christmas in Australia

Want to swap your hat and scarves for flip-flops and swimming shorts? Transfer £200 a month and you could have £17,284.33, enough to take the family for a dream Christmas holiday in Australia. Have a beach BBQ on Christmas day, soak up the sunshine, and maybe even watch a winter Ashes series (from behind the sofa).

These figures are estimates based on lending an initial £2,000 deposit through the Balanced lending option, and regular transfers for 60 months. Please note, forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future performance and your capital is at risk.  

By keeping lending active on your account over several years, you’ll see the increasing benefit of compound returns as your repayments are continually lent out again. If you add in a little extra each month it accelerates this process even more, helping to maximise your earning potential. To get started, follow these 3 simple steps to set up your standing order today.

We hope you have found this useful, and if you have any questions about your account please get in touch.

Enjoy lending,

The Funding Circle team

Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

This blog is a general summary, and should not replace financial advice tailored to your specific circumstances. Funding Circle is not authorised to, and does not, provide investment, tax, legal or regulatory advice. If you have any questions, please speak to your professional advisor or seek independent specialist advice.