Support small businesses this Christmas

The rest of the world might not know it, but Christmas is a time to act like a small business. It’s a time for community, for values, for focusing on the things you really care about. It’s about taking stock of the year gone by and making new plans for the year ahead. Underneath the tinsel and lights, it’s a celebration of small business life.

So, this Christmas, why not look to small businesses for your festive needs? People who serve their communities, treat their customers like friends and their employees like family. If you need some inspiration, here’s some tips for supporting small businesses this year. 

Shopping online? Big sites can still support the little guys

Did you know that 58% of sales on Amazon are through their marketplace? That’s about $160 billion worth going to small businesses across the world. If Amazon is your go-to shopping site, check out the seller profile for your items to see if they’re a 3rd party. If they are, chances are they’re a small business. 

Other major sites such as Etsy and Ebay also work by bringing together a lot of small businesses into one place. So there’s plenty of options for easy online browsing that still support small. 

Get fresh produce from farmer’s markets

Aside from presents, stuffing your family and friends with as much food and drinks as possible is another great Christmas tradition. It stacks up as one of the biggest spending areas too. This year, instead of giving all that cash to Tesco or Sainsbury’s, go check out your nearest farmer’s market. Not only will you be supporting small business, but the fresh, flavoursome produce can help take your Christmas cooking to the next level. 

If there’s no markets nearby, try your local butchers, bakers and grocers to get the best ingredients for your festive feast. 

Get inspiration on social media 

Finding the perfect present can get harder each year. If you want something unique, well-made and full of personality, small businesses are the way to go. The right business might not be nearby, so get on social media and start looking for the best around. Whether it’s Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook, businesses like to showcase their wares, and they’ll use hashtags to mark them. Start searching and see what hidden gems you can find.

Share the love

Already know a small business you love? Spread the word! Word of mouth is hugely important for any business, so tell your friends, write them a review online or take a snap and put it on social media. Most importantly, go in and tell them in person! Christmas is a time for giving back, and they’ll love your feedback at this busy time of year.  

Take part in Small Business Saturday 

Now in its 7th year, Small Business Saturday comes to the UK on December 7th. Head to their website to look up local businesses in your area. Pick your favourites, head down to check them out and you could come away with your Christmas needs all covered – all by supporting small businesses!

Small businesses thrive with finance. Give them your support while earning for your future by adding funds to your account

By lending to businesses your capital is at risk. Not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. 

Natalie Dormer, Michael Palin and Twiggy join Funding Circle and Just A Card to support independent bookshops

Back in November 2018, Funding Circle partnered with grass-roots campaign ‘Just A Card’ to support Indie Week – the colourful alternative to Black Friday – encouraging people to shop from independent retailers. Well, we are excited to announce that we’ve joined forces with Just A Card again and, this time, some famous faces are joining our campaign to get Britain supporting independent bookshops.

Fifteen household names have lent their support to our new campaign – called ‘Just A Book’ – to support Britain’s independent bookshops. Dominic Cooper, Natalie Dormer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Richard E. Grant, Felicity Jones, Hanif Kureishi, Alex Lanipekun, Hayley Mills, James Norton, David Oakes, Michael Palin, Bruce Robinson, Greta Scacchi and Twiggy have all been photographed reading their favourite books, to show their support for independent bookshops.

James Meekings, Funding Circle co-founder and UK Managing Director says “Our philosophy is that when small businesses thrive, everyone benefits. Independent bookshops and retailers are important to the economy and our local communities. We want everyone to get behind this campaign.” Just A Card’s belief is that all sales – no matter how small – are vital in supporting independent businesses. “Just a book, just a card, just a gift… they all add up and are critical to small business success” says founder Sarah Hamilton. “We’re challenging shoppers to think about where they spend their money, and show how much they value the independent bookshops that make our high streets so special.”

The stars’ photographs, shot by acclaimed photographer Charlie Gray, will appear on posters on the London Underground from Monday June 17. Just A Card and Funding Circle are encouraging everyone who cares about small business to join in and support the campaign.

Join in on social media

Like and share our posts to help us spread the campaign message, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #justsupportsmall.

Follow @FundingCircleUK and @justacard on Instagram and Twitter to take part in our Treasure Hunt. Can you spot all fifteen posters around the London Underground? Share photos of the posters you spot and tag us, and you could win £100 of book tokens to spend at your favourite independent bookshop. (See full terms and conditions). Are you a bookshop or book publisher? Tell us about your business on social media and we’ll give you a shout out!

Ready to FlashMob?

If you’re in London, come along to London Bridge station on Wednesday June 19 and meet other Just A Book supporters. Follow us on social media for more details.

Support your local independent bookshop

Why not visit your local bookshop and buy a book. You’ll be supporting a small business AND you’ll improve your commute.

Support the Just A Card campaign

If you’re an independent retailer, get your window sticker and pins at We hear from retail businesses that they are changing the way people shop.




The big business of small business

When you think of a small business, you might think of a local coffee shop or a garage, your butchers or an electrician. They’ve built a reputation for being independent, hard working and reliable. Lying behind these businesses, however, is an untold story. They may not employ thousands of people or be household names, but collectively they have a crucial and profound impact on driving prosperity around the world.

Small businesses account for 50% of global GDP. Over half the people with jobs in the developed world work in a small business. They support local communities, provide essential services and develop innovative new products. The contribute billions in tax revenue, helping to run schools, hospitals and more. In short, they are the unsung heroes of our economy.

To help tell their story, we’ve partnered with Oxford Economics to produce our second in-depth report looking at the economic impact of lending through Funding Circle. We’ve seen how providing small businesses with access to finance helps them to keep progressing, and has an immense impact on the global economy. And while it’s the businesses that are making it happen, none of this would be possible without the support of investors lending through Funding Circle.

To find out more, check out our summary video and infographic, or you can download the full report.

Lending impact

Celebrate St George’s Day with these English businesses

Small businesses play a vital role in supporting communities and driving the country forward. To celebrate St George’s Day, we met with three businesses across England that have all been able to progress thanks to  investors lending through Funding Circle.

Since 2010, over 43,000 English businesses have borrowed over £4.5 billion to grow and develop. Watch our video to learn how they help their local area, create jobs and contribute to the economy.


Video. The urban spa that’s healing with your help

January is a big month for fitness and health kicks, so if you’re digging out the gym pass or reaching for detox smoothies, we’ve got someone we’d like you to meet. Martha Mary is a business owner in Manchester. With a passion for healing and a mission to bring healing to the high street, she founded Urban Oasis day spa in 2004. 

With locations at Debenhams and the Hilton in central Manchester, Urban Oasis offers treatments ranging from massages and reiki to nails and lashes. As well as keeping up with the demands of running the business, Martha Mary still takes time to perform treatments herself. Although the workload can be intense, her love for what she does keeps her going. “You’ve got to have a lot of energy, empathy and patience. I love what I do and I’m very passionate about it. Trying to make a difference and do something positive with my life – that’s what really drives me.”

Thanks to Funding Circle investors, Urban Oasis took a loan to get a new accreditation, train staff and buy new equipment. Watch the video below to learn more about her passion and the challenges of running a small business. 

Top present ideas from businesses you’ve helped

Looking for some inspiration for presents this Christmas? Below you will find seven dazzling and delicious gift ideas to wow your loved ones. These fantastic companies have all been able to succeed thanks to your lending.

Inside out toys

Are you struggling to think of something to buy the little ones? Inside out Toys sell branded children’s toys on Amazon and Ebay; providing endless hours of amusement and important learning tools.  They are a family owned company; established in 2011 by Nicki and Julian Garner. They have borrowed over £460,000 across seven loans to develop their ‘jumini’ wooden toy range and to purchase more stock.

Enjoy travel

Is your loved one obsessed with travelling? Or perhaps they just need a break away? Make sure you check out Enjoy Travel and their amazing deals. They are a fully licenced tour operator who specialise in finding you your perfect break away. Gerry and his team pride themselves on providing the most enjoyable, memorable music-filled holidays available. With thanks to your investment , Enjoy Travel has been able to create several new music festivals across Europe, including their latest ‘Celtic on the Coastas’ which has just been launched.

Wine Discovery

If you haven’t bought the perfect gift for the wine lover in your life, don’t worry! You can book a relaxing wine tasting event at their home or chosen venue from Wine Discovery Limited. Weather they are looking for an introduction to wine tasting or just want to spend time with friends this is the perfect gift. Their prices start from £25.00 per person; offering a range of different experiences. The company borrowed £6,000 in 2017 to improve their website and buy additional stock.

Bedale Beauty

Looking to push the boat out when it comes to your Christmas shopping this year? If you are on the hunt for something memorable, then check out the treatments available at Bedale Beauty in North Yorkshire. They opened in 1992 and are known locally for their high standard of treatments, product ranges and customer service. They offer the perfect range of Gift Sets; ranging from make up collections, bathing products and many more. The team borrowed £25,000 from investors to push forward with their expansion plans and change the layout of the salon.

Grasmere Chocolate Cottage

Christmas time calls for some festival indulgence- so why not celebrate in style by purchasing a chocolate box from Grasmere Chocolate Cottage Limited! Their aim is to create culinary and visual delights worthy of their iconic Lake District surroundings.  Richard and Angela Barker managed to expand their premises and staffing with a £30,000 loan. Their chocolate goodies are all handmade, so make sure to check them out!

Red Star Brewery

Instead of spending Christmas at your local, surprise your Dad by booking a unique beer tasting experience at Red Star Brewery in Merseyside. The company was formed in 2015 by two friends with the aim to produce ales using the finest hops from around the world. They have since gone on to export beers as far as Serbia and won two gold medals at the 2015 NW Siba awards. The team borrowed £10,000.00 to purchase 150 casks to keep up with their demanding customers.

Our new partnership with Just A Card


Funding Circle was born from the belief that when small businesses succeed, everyone benefits. I’m proud that we have been able to help more than 42,000 British small businesses to get finance through Funding Circle since 2010. However, we know times are tough for independent businesses across the country, which is why I am delighted to announce that we’ll be supporting the Just A Card campaign.

Just A Card is a not-for-profit campaign run by the incredible Sarah Hamilton and her amazing team of volunteers up and down the UK. For the last three years, Just A Card has been working hard to help small businesses get vital extra sales by encouraging people to make a purchase – however small – through their window stickers, pins and posters. And it’s working! Independent retailers who have joined the campaign say that just reminding shoppers of this fact – that every sale counts – is making a difference. This simple yet powerful message highlights what we need to do to ensure our high streets remain full of thriving independent businesses instead of boarded up shops.

How it started

“I had a light bulb moment three years ago” tells Sarah, who founded the campaign “I read a quote from store owners who’d just shut up shop – “if everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card’ we’d still be open”. I realised then that if we value our independent businesses, it’s not enough just to talk about them. We have to take action to support them.

I firmly believe that people cherish independent businesses and want to support them. However, sometimes they simply don’t recognise how valuable every purchase is. We’ve now got 3,000 businesses supporting our campaign with window stickers across the country. With Funding Circle’s help, we’re going to treble that number to over 10,000 by the end of the year. I’m so excited to be working with Funding Circle because they are just as passionate about supporting small businesses as we are.” 

Support independent businesses this Christmas

We’re going to be sending a window sticker pack to all the relevant small businesses in the Funding Circle community, encouraging them to support the campaign. Particularly in the run-up to Black Friday and Christmas, we want people to support their local independent shops, bookstores, cafes and businesses.

So watch out for a very special envelope landing on your doormat early next month. Display your window sticker with pride or pass it on to a local business, and do get involved with ‘Just A Card Indie Week’ November 19 – 23, by following @fundingcircleUK and @justacard on Instagram or visit for more details.

James Meekings – Funding Circle Co-founder and UK MD.

VIDEO. Meet the Yorkshire businesses who grew with finance

Spanning from the Pennines to the North Sea and from Sheffield to Whitby, Yorkshire is by far the largest county in the UK. It encompasses empty moorland and crowded cities, high fells and low plains.

On August 1st each year Yorkshire celebrates its own day. Starting out as a military holiday in 1975, it has been held and enjoyed ever since. Steadily evolving over time, it’s now a day to remember and celebrate the local traditions, culture and people of God’s own country.

To join the celebrations we visited three Yorkshire businesses. Teasdale Motors, The Yorkshire Gelato Company and The Great Yorkshire Gift Shop have all been able to progress thanks to loans from Funding Circle. They’ve been able to buy more stock, employ more staff and increase turnover by up to £1 million per year.

In this short video, meet business owners Andy, Dave and Aeneas. They talk more about being a Yorkshire business owner how Funding Circle has helped them to grow.

Looking for finance to grow your business?

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Want to lend to businesses like this?

Lend alongside 78,000 investors and support small businesses across the UK by signing up online today. You can use our investor information guide to help you get started and there are thousands of loans which you can be a part of, making it quick and easy to build a diversified portfolio. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

5 ways to treat your Dad this Father’s Day

Trying to think of something to get your Dad this Father’s Day? Instead of giving him another pair of socks or a coffee mug, we have come up with a variety of ideas for all the different Dads out there. All these businesses have been able to flourish thanks to your lending.

Organise a trip away

Does your Dad love being outdoors? How about organising a short trip away to the rural village of Alves in Northern Scotland? Here you’ll find North Alves Holiday Park. The company is run by a passionate couple who have come up with their very own unique style of “glamping”. When visiting this park you have the opportunity to stay in a SKARA central-BBQ cabin, which allows you to enjoy the pleasure of socialising and cooking at the same time. In order to continue to cater for the ever-growing needs of their customers, the company borrowed £31,000 on two separate occasions in 2017 and 2018.


Get ready for a fishing trip

Does your Dad reckon himself as a bit of an angler? If so head down to Top Tackle for his Father’s Day supplies this year. These guys offer a range of fishing tackle and other accessories. They deal with a number of major fishing tackle manufacturers, such as Korda and Preston Innovations. The company borrowed £5,000 at the beginning of the year. This funding helped to introduce even further ranges to their online portal and renovate their store in central Oxford.

Have some throwback fun

Get the flares out of the cupboard and break out the Dad dancing with at Razza Roller Disco! Razza was created by dance champion Gary Newley in 2012 with the purpose to deliver an incredible customer service for all. You can also book a skating lesson at Razza Skate Academy. The company was able to expand into other areas of the country after they borrowed £47,000.00 at the beginning of 2018, purchasing new DJ gear, safety equipment and uniforms.

Watch an extreme sports performance

Is your Dad more into adrenaline action? Check out Inspire Shows, who provide unforgettable extreme sports performances. You may recognise their team of highly skilled stunt individuals from the popular TV show “Don’t Tell the Bride”, where they conducted the world’s first ever extreme sports wedding. Thanks to your lending, the company purchased more stunt ramps for their nail-biting shows, enabling them to host multiple bookings on the same day.

Get a luxury grooming set

Finally, if your Dad is needing some R&R then you could always spoil him rotten with a gift set from Debonair Male and Fitness Grooming. Whether it’s their Deluxe Beard Oil Gift Box or Daily Shampoo Moisturising Conditioner Set, this luxury British brand provides a range of high-quality products with an innovative approach. Their aim is to make men of all ages and backgrounds feel good about themselves. The company was able to purchase new salon equipment after borrowing £13,000 at the beginning of 2018.

Are you interested in lending to businesses like these?
Lend alongside 79,000 investors and support British businesses by signing up online today. You can use our investor information guide to help you get started. There are thousands of loans which you can be a part of, making it quick and easy to build a diversified portfolio. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

The world needs small business

Small businesses play a vital role in driving prosperity around the world. They create jobs, provide essential services, develop exciting new products and support local communities. In the UK alone they account for 50% of GDP and 60% of private sector employment. In short, small businesses are the unsung heroes of our economy, so we decided to do some singing.

Funding Circle was founded to help small businesses get the finance they need to thrive. Having worked with thousands of businesses, we’ve seen first hand how access to funds allows them to keep progressing and achieve even more. To celebrate the contribution they make, we’ve partnered with Oxford Economics to produce an in-depth report looking at the economic impact of lending through Funding Circle.

Below you can find the key findings from the report, a summary video and the report in full. Watch it, read it, share it and help spread the news of our amazing small businesses up and down the country.

Download the full report – The Economic Impact Report of Lending Through Funding Circle.

You can also find more information in our blog – Digging into the data: How your lending helps the UK economy to grow.

Figures taken from the FSB. By lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

Yoga, Pilates or Bodybarre? How will you stay in shape this year?

The decision to become fitter is usually top of people’s new year’s resolutions and for good reason. Many of the world’s most well-known and successful entrepreneurs consider yoga, pilates and other forms of physical fitness as an essential ingredient for their continued success. These 5 local businesses are helping the UK get in shape, so where will you start?

Record your every move at Be X Fitness

Established in 2013, this Barnsley-based fitness center offers team workouts using high tech equipment so you can get the most out of your workout. Thanks to My Zone, the connected tracking technology, users can record their every move, analyse performance and receive personalised training advice from coaches.


To support growth, Kevin Yates applied for a business loan through Funding Circle in November 2017. They accessed £106,000 in less than one week, meaning they could take on the next opportunity quickly.

Physio by Pea Green to keep you energised

Stephanie Smith launched Oxfordshire-based Pea Green Physio back in 2008. Eight years on she decided she wanted to expand into yoga and pilates and needed a business loan to open a studio. Pea Green now offers yoga and pilates classes alongside sports massages and rehabilitation therapy after raising £25,000 through Funding Circle.


Rediscover fitness with Paola’s Bodybarre

Forget what you know about traditional fitness classes and embrace Paola Di Lanzo’s multidisciplinary workout methods. From light sessions focusing on technique, alignment and flexibility, to high intensity training and weight-lifting, the wide range of classes will help you find the exercise you’re looking for. After opening her first studio in Fulham in 2014, Paola’s BodyBarre is now available in 7 other pop-ups, affiliated studios and private members clubs around London. Paula expanded the business with a £53,000 loan to open a new flagship studio in Sloane Square.

Paola's Bodybarre Studio

Yoga gets you in the right headspace

The meditation classes at London-based Yogacentric are said to improve your mental focus by connecting your mind and body. If meditation isn’t for you and you’re looking for something more active, try their hot yoga or one to one sessions. All levels are welcome.


Daniel Percival came to Funding Circle in 2016 as he wanted to grow his London studio. He secured £53,200 over 5 years to finance working capital and the fit-out of a second location.

Keep moving at Alderley Pilates

Jan and Peter Bowen founded their pilates business in Cheshire 15 years ago. The studio brings talented teachers and enthusiasts of all levels together in a friendly and relaxed environment. All of their trainers are certified by Body Control Pilates, the largest European professional pilates’ organisation.


Alderley Pilates first came to Funding Circle for a business loan in 2014. Finance from Funding Circle has helped them refurbish their premises and upgrade their website to grow the business.

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.

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.


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.


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.


Are you Made to do More?

made to do more

Small business owners have a restless spirit. They have the courage to stand up and go their own way and say “I can do this”. We’re here to help them go further, and we want to support everyone who has that vision. Over half of Brits (56%) think they have the skills to run their own business, but only 13% believe they’re entrepreneurial. If everyone really believed they were Made to do More, we could boost the economy and ignite even more opportunities.

Time to believe

We want to celebrate the big thinkers and the tenacious workers, the people who get up and decide to tackle something new, to give them the belief to take that leap and go their own way.

By realising your own unique attributes and perspective you’ll find the seeds for your future success. If you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur, you’re in good company, as only 26% of business owners consider themselves entrepreneurial. You don’t need a vision for an empire, just a spark, an idea, and the belief to see it through.

Life would be boring if we all saw things the same. See how your perspective shapes your potential.

From determination and hard graft to passion and creativity, everyone has unique personality traits which give them the potential to succeed. Do you know what yours are?

Our personality test on Facebook can tell you where your talents lie. It’ll help you decide if you’re more of a Business Creative than a Planner, and understand how you can use your attributes to thrive as a business owner.

Head to our Facebook page to take the test

What do you see?

Look at these images and tell us what you see.


Now have a look again – do you see something different? What about your friends, family, colleagues? You’ll be surprised what they say.


made to do more


Do you see a skull first? If so, you’re a Business Creative. You have an exceptional ability to adapt and react to any business situation. You’re intrinsically motivated to succeed within the workplace and will be at the forefront of how a company develops. Your ideas are ready to take you to the next step.

Or do you see a light bulb? If so, you’re a Big Picture Thinker. You’re reliable and always have a plan in place to get the job done. You solve complex problems by using your instincts to work towards your end goals, and don’t necessarily worry about all the details. No business can truly succeed without this type of thinking.

made to do more


Do you see cloth? If so, you’re a Big Picture Thinker. You’re reliable and always have a plan in place to get the job done. You solve complex problems by using your instincts to work towards your end goals, and don’t necessarily worry about all the details. No business can truly succeed without this type of thinking.

Or maybe you see a dog? If so, you’re a ‘Go To’ Person. As everyone’s best friend you’re able to get your colleagues to achieve heights they thought they never could. You’re emotionally intelligent and energetic, so naturally fall into a leadership role.

made to do more


Do you see a crocodile? That indicates you’re a Business Creative. You have an exceptional ability to adapt and react to any business situation. You’re intrinsically motivated to succeed within the workplace and will be at the forefront of how a company develops. Your ideas are ready to take you to the next step.

Or do you see an island? If so, that might mean you’re a ‘Go To’ Person. As everyone’s best friend you’re able to get your colleagues to achieve heights they thought they never could. You’re emotionally intelligent and energetic, so naturally fall into a leadership role.

made to do more


Does a lynx jump out at you first? If so, you’re likely to be a Big Picture Thinker. You’re reliable and always have a plan in place to get the job done. You solve complex problems by using your instincts to work towards your end goals, and don’t necessarily worry about all the details. No business can truly succeed without this type of thinking.

Or does a bird stand out more? If so, you’re a ‘Go To’ Person. As everyone’s best friend you’re able to get your colleagues to achieve heights they thought they never could. You’re emotionally intelligent and energetic, so naturally fall into a leadership role.

made to do more


Do you see a mother? If so, you’re a Big Picture Thinker. You’re reliable and always have a plan in place to get the job done. You solve complex problems by using your instincts to work towards your end goals, and don’t necessarily worry about all the details. No business can truly succeed without this type of thinking.

Or do you see a baby? If so, you’re a ‘Go To’ Person. As everyone’s best friend you’re able to get your colleagues to achieve heights they thought they never could. You’re emotionally intelligent and energetic, so naturally fall into a leadership role.

Looking to expand your business?

More than 30,000 businesses in the UK have accessed finance through Funding Circle. You could boost your cash flow, refurbish premises, hire staff and much more. Check if you qualify for a business loan in just 30 seconds.

Want to lend to businesses across the UK?

Make a return and a difference by supporting small businesses. It’s quick and easy to open your account and build a diversified portfolio. Lend alongside 73,000 investors and support the UK economy by signing up online today. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

Revisiting the first business to borrow through Funding Circle

Dr John Henry Looney is passionate about helping the world do more with less

With a PhD in Physiological, Community and Statistical Ecology, John Henry has over 30 years’ experience in delivering environmental and sustainability projects for businesses and organisations. In 2007, he decided to take the plunge and founded Sustainable Direction Ltd. John Henry and his team help businesses work with the natural world in order to increase their sustainability, efficiency and ultimately their prosperity.

Sustainable Direction Ltd is helping Alderney improve the efficiency of its energy infrastructure

The first Funding Circle borrower

John Henry also opened the way for small businesses back in August 2010 when Sustainable Direction Ltd became the first business to access finance through Funding Circle. They borrowed £12,000 from 53 investors to help demonstrate the viability of an outdoor air source heat pump.

Progression over 7 years

Sustainable Direction Ltd is now improving the energy efficiency of places like the Isle of Alderney, while investors lending through Funding Circle have helped a further 25,000 UK businesses to access finance.

Since 2010, we’ve worked tirelessly to improve our customer experience, as John Henry found when he borrowed a further £54,000 in October 2016 to hire two new members of staff and develop the business’s resources. John Henry said “We found it even easier this time…and it happened so fast, within a day or two the funds were in our account”.

Funding Circle co-founder and UK Managing Director James Meekings visited John Henry to see the development of Sustainable Direction Ltd— watch the video to find out more.

Are you interested in lending to businesses like Sustainable Direction Ltd?

Lend alongside 63,000 investors and support small businesses across the UK by signing up online today. You can use our investor information guide to help you get started and there are thousands of loans which you can be a part of, making it quick and easy to build a diversified portfolio. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

Looking to expand your business?

More than 25,000 businesses in the UK have accessed finance from Funding Circle, helping with cash flow, refurbishment, hiring staff and much more. You can check if you qualify for a business loan online in just 30 seconds.

Take 10: 3 simple ways to manage an overwhelming workload

Quick and simple ways to boost your business in just 10 minutes

There’s never enough hours in the day, especially for small business owners. So, for the latest in our Take 10 series, we’re looking at 3 simple ways to help you stay on top of that never ending to do list.

busy workload

Managing your workload effectively can help keep you happy and healthy

Managing your time effectively helps you control of your day-to-day workload and keep a clear view of longer-time projects. In turn that can help you achieve your career goals more quickly and avoid stress.

Although a bit of stress is normal and can even be channelled into positive energy, being highly stressed over a longer period of time can be problematic. It can affect your sleep or even cause more serious illnesses, so controlling your workflow for a peaceful mindset is really important.

1) Is the task urgent, important or both?

When we’re busy rushing around it’s easy to prioritise those quick, urgent items to simply tick them off your to do list. It’s always tempting to reply to an email as soon as it pops into your inbox.

However, it’s important to understand the time constraints of the task in hand and whether it will have a high impact. The below Importance vs Urgency matrix can help you prioritise competing tasks:

Important vs urgent

For example, depending on your role, emailing a supplier about a change in your team might be important but not time sensitive. Whereas organising a looming invoice payment might be urgent and important.

2) Categorise tasks with the 4D’s

When looking through your inbox, try categorising tasks into the 4D’s: Delete, Delegate, Defer or Do.

Set yourself free from an exploding inbox and delete it

Consider whether the email requires your attention or is worth your time. If it’s not, keep your inbox uncluttered and delete it. This will help you focus on prioritising important items. And there’s always the deleted items folder if you realise you need it back!

Learn to delegate

You might be responsible for the task, but think whether it’s important or necessary for you to do it. Experts in your business might actually be better at performing the task. Just remember to ensure you put in time to check the item has been done by the person you’ve delegated it to.

If you don’t need to do it straight away, defer it

Think about whether the task is important or time sensitive, and whether you can afford to defer it. It might be an item that you’d like to do, but doesn’t need to be done for a hard deadline like a meeting or print deadline. Deferred tasks can sometimes become obsolete as goals move, meaning you also save yourself some time.

Just do it

If it’s a task that’s important to you and you have time to do it, get it done. Achieving these tasks, especially if business critical, can help you bookend your day or week and stay in control.

3) Prioritise using the MoSCoW matrix

If you’re managing a project and have a clear set of requirements, the MoSCoW matrix can help you rank tasks and deliver the most important items.


Must: Any items that must be achieved to complete a successful project

Should: The project success doesn’t rely on this item, but if possible within your time and resource constraints you should include

Could: Items you could have as long as they don’t impact on other items to ensure you deliver a successful overall project

Would: If you had unlimited time and resource you would include this item. It might be included in future edition, but won’t be delivered within the current project scope

We hope you found this post useful. In the next instalment of Take 10, we’ll be looking at how to motivate your direct reports.

The Funding Circle team

Paralympian goes for gold with a Funding Circle loan

Peter and Linda Norfolk are no strangers to success

The husband-and-wife team are well-experienced in achieving excellence. Nicknamed ‘The Quadfather’, Peter Norfolk OBE is a double paralympic gold medal and multiple Grand Slam winning wheelchair-tennis player, while Linda was Head of Physio for the Paralympic GB team at the Athens Games.

Not content with just winning medals, together they also own and run Equipment for the Physically Challenged (EPC), specialising in providing high-performance wheelchairs and powerchairs. Founded in 1989, EPC imports specialist equipment from all over the world, providing their clients with a personalised service to ensure they get the chair best suited to their need. Their focus is to give customers more freedom, creating innovative chairs that are easier to dismantle, transport, and fit a wider range of uses.

To hire two new members of staff, upgrade their website and purchase new computer equipment, Peter and Linda borrowed £30,000 through Funding Circle in December 2016.

In this short video, meet this inspiring couple and hear more about their story.



Are you interested in lending to businesses like EPC-Wheelchairs?

Lend alongside 60,000 investors and support small businesses across the UK by signing up online today. You can use our investor information guide to help you get started and there are thousands of loans which you can be a part of, making it quick and easy to build a diversified portfolio. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

Looking to expand your business?

More than 22,000 businesses in the UK have accessed finance from Funding Circle, helping with cash flow, refurbishment, hiring staff and much more. You can check if you qualify for a business loan online in just 30 seconds.