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.

Look out for small business present and future

Over the next two weeks we’ll have more great articles on the present and future of small businesses. Get the latest posts by following us on social media, or come back next week for more info.

Win £2,000 for your Christmas party

To give a small business the celebration they deserve this Christmas, we’re giving away £2,000 to spend your Christmas party. Check out our competition and share a photo of your team to enter.

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 interested in lending to businesses like these?

Lend alongside 74,000 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 30,000 UK businesses have accessed finance through 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.

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.

MoSCoW

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.

Preparing for your financial year end

Whether you carefully track everything all year round, or sort it all with two weeks to go, preparing for your financial year end is important for every business. If you’re about to get things in order for your business, we’ve put together a short guide to help your year end go as smoothly as possible.

What is a year end?

A ‘year end’ is the term used to describe the accounting documents you need to complete at the end of your financial year. What you need to submit depends on your business, but for a limited company you’ll at least need to file a corporate tax return to HMRC, and abbreviated accounts to Companies House.

Your year end accounts are publicly available, and will be checked by potential partners or investors you want to work with, or by lenders if you want to get a loan.

  • Corporate Tax Return – details the income you’ve received and any expenses or tax allowances. It’s important to get these figures right, as the remaining profit will be used to decide how much corporation tax you need to pay.
  • Abbreviated accounts – gives a broad view of your company’s finances, including your profit and loss, cash held, assets, creditors and debtors.

Key steps to get ready

Before you can file your accounts, you’ll need to do a lot of work to get all the information and documents you need. Here are a few key steps you can take to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Chase unpaid invoices

You want your books to be as accurate as possible, so you need to know exactly what you have and what’s missing. Chase down any outstanding invoices, then check the final amount matches with your records. If there’s any discrepancies you should investigate these before submitting your accounts.

Count your stock

If you have stock this should be handled in a similar way. Complete a full inventory of all your stock and log if there’s any discrepancies with your records. If there’s stock missing you can try to chase it down, or count it as a loss if it can’t be traced.

Get your expenses in order

Collecting expenses and receipts from all your staff is a crucial and often time consuming job. Business expenses are deducted from your profits which means you’ll have less tax to pay, so it’s worth putting the time in.

HMRC defines an expense as something ‘wholly and exclusively’ for business use. They can often be small amounts like lunch or transport, but can add up and make a difference over the year.

There’s a host of apps available to help track expenses and accounting. Read more in our Top Business Apps blog.

Check your employee data

Double check all your employee data is accurate. You as the employer are liable for any mistakes in income tax or national insurance contributions, not the employee. So to avoid having to ask your employees for some of their wages back later on, make sure it’s all up to date.

File your paperwork

Accounts need records to back them up, so make sure all your paperwork is organised and filed so that you can access them easily. This could be either hard copies or online. If you don’t have a record of something, this is the time to get statements from your bank, or statements of account from suppliers. Get everything in order before filing your year end, so if HMRC ask questions you’ll have evidence at the ready.

Work together to get prepared

Don’t leave it up to one person to chase down everything. Everyone in the business should be helping get the documents you need, whether it’s receipts for expenses, supplier contracts, or missing invoices. Get the word out early so that everything is submitted in plenty of time. Then whoever manages your accounts can bring it all together.

Not your average small business

We think small businesses are pretty special. From butchers to bakers, IT consultants to accountants, small business owners and their employees across the UK are doing extraordinary things on a daily basis.

Finch House
To open a new cafe and bakery, Finch House borrowed £125,000 back in 2015.

Small companies make big business

Small businesses aren’t actually that small. When it comes to driving the UK economy forward they pack a pretty impressive punch. Small businesses in the UK, usually defined as any business with less than 250 employees, make up half of our GDP and 60% of private sector employment. You can find more small business facts in our Small business, Big impact infographic.

Tri dosha
To create a new product range of skincare products, Tri-Dosha borrowed £21,060 from 152 investors.

Under the umbrella term small business is an incredible array of exceptional people and industries. You can meet borrowers from a range of sectors in our industry insights series, including retail, hospitality and manufacturing. As you’ll see, the average Funding Circle borrower is usually someone quite remarkable.

While we love telling individual stories, in this post we’re taking a step back and looking at the numbers behind the businesses. Not including property specialists, here’s what the average of all our Funding Circle borrowers looks like….

The significance of the number 8

Our average borrower employs 8 people — enough to make a netball team and have a super sub. To apply for a loan, businesses need to have a minimum of 2 years trading history. However, the average Funding Circle borrower has been around for much longer — 8 years. This means our average business was established in 2009, the year Matt Smith was named as the new Doctor Who, Michael Jackson died, and Barbara Windsor retired from Eastenders. It also means many started life during the worst financial crisis for a generation, so our small business owners are clearly made of stern stuff!

Mill View Plant Centre
To expand and open a coffee shop, Mill View Plant Centre borrowed £100,000 in 2015.

 Helping businesses unlock their potential

There’s a variety of reasons businesses need finance. Whether it’s simply to get a cash boost or unlock their potential we’re on hand to help. Our simple application form can be filled out in just 10 minutes.

Over half of businesses take out a loan through Funding Circle to expand, including hiring staff or opening new premises, like Andy Walker from Teasdale Motorcycles. Being able to expand his business when the time was right helped Andy triple his turnover and grow the team by 10!

Teasdale
To expand and move premises, Teasdale Motorcycles borrowed £167,000

The second most popular reason for borrowing at 34% is working capital. This might be businesses buying stock for a busy season ahead or keeping up with increasing demand like Beech’s Fine Chocolates in Preston, who’ve been manufacturing high quality gourmet chocolates in Lancashire since 1920.

Beeches chocolates
To keep up with demand, Beech’s Fine Chocolates borrowed £250,000 in 2016.

As well as covering a wide range of industries, our borrowers are also based all over the country. 24% are in the South East, 14% in Midlands and 12% in North West.

So will 2018 be the best year for small businesses?

We’ve been championing small businesses since 2010, helping more than 20,000 UK businesses access over £2 billion in finance. Now we’re planning how we can help even more in the years to come. We’ve seen businesses are seizing new growth opportunities in 2017, however, with their affinity to the number 8, 2018 could be an even better year for our Funding Circle business community. Watch this space!

Grow your business with a Funding Circle loan today

We offer unsecured loans up to £350,000, with a personal guarantee, for a range of business purposes including expansion, refurbishment, cash flow and stock purchases.

Key loan features include:

  • Rates from 4.9%
  • Loans from 6 months to 5 years
  • ​Funds in as little as 1 week​
  • No early repayment fees​ — if you pay back early you pay back less

If you’re looking for business finance, check your eligibility online in just 30 seconds.

The data in this blog is correct as of February 2017

Business apps we love for small business owners

Business apps

Whether they’re saving you time, increasing your productivity, or making you more secure, installing amazing new business apps is the workplace equivalent of opening presents on Christmas day. Those “How did we manage before?” moments give everyone a lift, and mark another step forward in the evolution of your business.

There are lots of fantastic business apps around that could help. Here are a few that we think could make a big difference to small businesses everywhere.

LastPass – keep all your passwords in one place

We use more online programs and services than ever before. They make our lives easier, simplify business processes, and improve productivity. Until you forget your password — then you’re stuck.

If you’re tired of resetting forgotten passwords then LastPass is an essential. It stores all your passwords in one place, so you only have to remember one. LastPass will log you straight into sites in just one click, and let you share passwords simply and securely across teams.

It will even add to your online security by creating complex passwords for you, so you don’t have ‘childsfirstname86’ as the password on all your accounts.

Slack – the messaging app to save you from your inbox

Ever had days where all you do is look through, read and send emails? If your inbox is an exasperating drain on your time, then Slack could be the answer to your prayers.

Slack is an internal messaging app that lets teams, departments and whole businesses speak to each other easily. As well as direct messages, you can set up channels for specific topics (industry news, customer feedback) to keep everyone informed. Then if you start a new project, you can create a channel for the people involved.

The big difference is being able to easily navigate to the conversation you want, rather than digging through old emails. You can also share files and images, and set up channels with suppliers or partners if they have it too. There’s a whole host of useful plugins as well — for example you can set up a report to pull in performance data every week so it’s shared with your team automatically.

Intuit Quickbooks – simple, straightforward accounting

Managing your financial accounts and keeping your books up to date is vital for making informed business decisions. If you struggle to keep track there are lots of different tools around to help, but even if you have a dedicated accounts team, Intuit Quickbooks could make the whole process easier and more efficient.

Quickbooks gives you a real-time view of your financial accounts so you can make up to the minute decisions. It simplifies expenses and invoice tracking, helps you calculate tax and can be used to run your payroll. Bringing together essential features at reasonable costs, this easy to use business app will save you heaps of time, and probably a few headaches too.

Wunderlist – organise your life

Are you a list maker? Do you get kicks from crossing out completed tasks? Or do you just keep everything upstairs and back yourself to remember? Either way, Wunderlist could help you.

Wunderlist helps you track all your tasks on its straightforward interface. It has features you would expect like setting reminders and making notes, but also lets you share items with friends or co-workers and allows them comment, so you can see any feedback right there in your workflow. And it syncs across all your devices so you never miss a task again.

For more tips on managing your time more effectively, read our Take 10 blog.

Salesforce – the easy way to manage your sales leads

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems can be complex and confusing for everyone except the guy who installed it. However, tracking all your customer prospects, leads, and existing customers is crucial to keep those sales coming in. Salesforce is the king of CRM and sales pipeline tools, and although it’s seen by many as an enterprise level solution, it has a range of plans to suit different budgets and needs.

The basic package comes with the lead tracking essentials. You can then upgrade for extra data capabilities and campaign management, or go for the premium package for deep integration and customisation.

It’s functionality makes it the leading CRM tool for small businesses globally, and it has the options you’ll need as your business grows.

If you’re looking for a loan to help grow or better manage your business, you can check if you qualify for a Funding Circle loan in just 30 seconds.

Unsecured loans vs secured loans and what is a personal guarantee?

Unsecured loans explained

Welcome to our new Explainer series, where we’ll be helping you understand common phrases in more detail. We want to help clear up any terms you’re not familiar with, so you can make informed decisions on which loan is right for you.

First up we’re taking a look at personal guarantees and the difference between secured loans and unsecured loans. Looking from a borrower’s point of view, below we outline what the terms mean in general. We’ll then go into more detail on what to expect at Funding Circle.

For the most part, secured and unsecured business loans are very similar (although property loans can differ). You get a lump sum, then pay it back in installments with added interest. The key difference comes if you are unable to pay off the loan:

Secured Loans

With a secured loan, you put forward something of value as a ‘security’. This could be property, land, equipment or other assets. If you stop repaying your loan the lender could take this asset and sell it to recover the unpaid amount. The loan is secured against the asset or assets chosen.

Unsecured Loans

With an unsecured loan, you do not put forward any assets as a security. That means you don’t have to give up your property, land, or other assets if you can’t make the repayments. The lender may ask instead for a personal guarantee, or simply trust you are creditworthy enough to repay the loan.

What is a Personal Guarantee?

A personal guarantee is an agreement that the person(s) involved will cover the cost of the loan if the business is unable to repay it. Typically this is the Director(s) of the company. They become the guarantor of the loan, meaning their personal assets could be taken if the business fails or is otherwise unable to repay the loan.

Pros and cons

Unsecured loans are usually quicker to apply for as they require no valuation of assets. They are also a useful option if your business doesn’t have any high value assets that you can use as a security.

However, sometimes unsecured loans can have a higher interest rate as the lender is taking a greater risk. Being creditworthy enough to qualify can also be very difficult. Providing a personal guarantee can counter both these problems.

If, however, you would like to keep your personal finances completely separate, a secured loan may be your preferred option.

How does it work at Funding Circle?

At Funding Circle businesses borrow directly from our range of investors, including people, local councils and institutions. They provide all the capital for our loans, and if the loans they fund are not repaid, they could lose part or all of their investment.

So, to help us give investors greater peace of mind about the money they lend, we ask for a personal guarantee from company shareholders on almost all of our business loans.  

Unlike some other lenders, at Funding Circle the interest rate you have to pay on your loan will not be affected whether you choose to get a secured loan or an unsecured loan with a personal guarantee. For business loans our interest rate is determined by your risk band (although again property loans can differ). This is worked out using a number of factors such as your credit history, turnover and company finances.

All decisions regarding risk bands and the type of security required are taken by Funding Circle’s Credit Assessment team.

Looking for a secured or unsecured business loan?

You can check your eligibility for a business loan from Funding Circle in 30 seconds.

Behind the scenes: How the Funding Circle process works

We understand that when you need finance for your business, speed is crucial. Whether you want to hire a new member of staff, stock up on seasonal products or make the most of a new opportunity, a slow application process will hold you and your business back.

Get funding for your business within a week

At Funding Circle we’ve streamlined our processes so you don’t need to compromise your time to get the funding you need.

You can check your eligibility online in just 30 seconds. It takes only 10 minutes to fill out our simple application form, and we’ll give you a decision typically within just 2 working days. We let you focus on running your business, and before you know it, you could have the funds in your bank account within a week.

Combining the best of finance and latest technology

We’ve helped more than 20,000 UK businesses like yours access close to £2 billion in the last 6 years, and we want to help even more in the years to come. Our London team includes more than 350 specialists, from legal to risk, payments to marketing, and of course an extensive technology team, bringing together the best finance practices and innovative technology. We give businesses across the UK fast and affordable access to finance, helping them to flourish, grow and drive the economy forward.  

Find out what happens when you apply for a loan through Funding Circle and take a sneak peek behind the scenes in this short video:

We’re committed to helping businesses access the finance they need to grow with business loans up to £350,000 unsecured, with a personal guarantee. Our loans are highly flexible and can be used for a wide range of business purposes, including buying stock, expansion, refurbishment and much more. You can check if you’re eligible for a business loan online in just 30 seconds.

Picture story: Home sweet home in South London

Last year, we visited London property specialist HWJ Developments Ltd who were in the midst of refurbishing a 1930s detached house in South London. Business owner Henry Jamieson has over 15 years of experience, and his previous projects include a range of residential and commercial buildings, from Red Dog Restaurants in Hoxton and Clapham to art galleries in Mayfair and residential properties throughout central London from Wandsworth through to Camden.

The brand new 3,487sqft 5 bedroom house is situated in suburban London just 20 minutes by train from London Bridge or Victoria. Henry explained he was particularly excited when he found the house for sale on the internet as ‘the proportions of the building are very rare, it’s as wide as it is deep.’ However, the property had been affected by subsidence due to an overgrown oak tree and so the foundations needed completely redoing.

After acquiring the property and receiving planning permission late in 2015, Henry and his team of 15 full-time staff spent just under a year re-configuring the house. The building process went smoothly — Henry told us his philosophy for any development is “Aim for the best, but assume the worst, so that if the worst comes up you’re ready and will still make a profit.” Once the building was complete, the property was ‘dressed’ to bring it to life. This gives potential buyers an idea of how they might use the space, including a laid table and beautiful hand blown glass lighting in the kitchen diner.

To extend and refurbish this new family home in South London, HWJ Developments Ltd borrowed in December 2015. In this picture story, take a tour of the property and meet Henry:

Home sweet home

Property developer Henry

Property space

Henry quote

Stairs property

Development

Bathroom

Taps

Garden

Dressed property

Kitchen

Living room

Front of house

Thank you to investors

property finance contact

Accessing flexible finance allowed Henry to keep working and moving forward with his project. He added Funding Circle were a “joy to work with” and “made everything exceptionally easy to understand.” If, like Henry, you need property finance for your business, then you can email our property finance team directly to start your application.

Alternatively if you’re looking to lend to companies like Henry’s, then you can join 50,000 people who are already lending. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

Small businesses ready to seize new growth opportunities in 2017

Small business growth

After saying goodbye to an unpredictable 2016, small business owners across the country are stepping up their growth plans for the new year. According to a poll by insurance firm Zurich, the average business looking to get a loan plans to borrow up to 22% more compared to a year ago.

This is partly thanks to the continued growth of consumer spending in Q4 of 2016, and with the predicted downturn after the Brexit vote yet to materialise, around 36% of businesses are planning to borrow in 2017.

Rise in confidence

The rosier than expected outlook has led to a sharp rise in confidence among small business owners. In the Q4 Small Business Index (compiled by the Federation of Small Businesses) the confidence measure rose from -2.9 in Q3 to +8.5 in Q4 – returning almost to the pre-referendum level at the start of 2016 (+8.6) – meaning more small businesses feel confident than those that don’t.

Changes in the currency markets are having a more mixed impact on UK companies. While exchange rate and import cost rises are problematic for many, small exporters are benefiting from the weak pound and becoming more competitive overseas. A net balance of 18% of small businesses now expect to see export growth over the next three months.

With the uncertainty around Brexit negotiations set to continue over the next two years, the role of small businesses in the UK economy will be vitally important. Policy makers are being encouraged to support the sector, and the recent announcement that the British Business Bank will be lending an additional £40 million to small businesses through Funding Circle will be fantastic news for owners looking to borrow.

While numerous challenges remain, we’re excited to see small business owners feeling positive about the year ahead, and look forward to helping them capitalise on the new opportunities it brings.

If you’re hoping to expand your business this year or would like extra finance to help with working capital, you can check your eligibility for a loan at fundingcircle.com/businesses.

Funding Circle raises further £80 million in equity funding

We’re excited to announce that we have raised a further £80 million in equity capital, which will allow us to continue to invest in building a technology platform that delivers the best customer experience to investors and borrowers across the world.

This investment was led by Accel, alongside existing Funding Circle investors including Baillie Gifford, DST Global, Index Ventures and Temasek. It follows a ~£100 million investment in 2015, and means that Funding Circle is now the best capitalised small business direct lending platform in the world.

You can read the full press release in our media centre. We’re also delighted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to provide a statement on today’s news:

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said: “Funding Circle has become a real success story for British Fintech and news that it has attracted £80 million of investment is further evidence of the growing importance of this industry. This is another vote of confidence in a UK firm that plays an important role in our economy – helping businesses to grow and create jobs.”

This new investment follows a successful 2016 for investors lending through Funding Circle. Over the past 12 months, investors have lent over £1.1 billion globally to small businesses globally, with approximately £400 million lent in the last three months alone, a record-breaking amount for any small business direct lending platform. The last quarter also saw Funding Circle UK reach profitability. By lending directly to small businesses looking for finance, you are helping to create jobs and lead the way in building a better financial world.

We’re expecting 2017 to be another year of growth, and we will continue to invest in providing retail investors like you with an even better lending experience. You can expect to see some exciting improvements over the next 12 months, so watch this space!

Enjoy lending,

The Funding Circle team

Your Funding Circle Guide to Christmas 2016 – Pt 4

Another Christmas has come and gone, and we’ve all had a great time seeing family and friends, singing carols, and eating our body weight in turkey and chocolates. The big day may now be over, but we hope you’re still very much in the holiday mood. In our guide so far we’ve already looked at ideas for presents, Christmas supplies, and stocking fillers. Now for the final part we’re showcasing ideas from our marketplace for amazing things to do over the rest of the holiday season.

Christmas activities

Wookey Caves & Winter Wonderland

Are you looking for a seasonal spectacular to cap off your holidays? Alongside their world famous caves, at Wookey Hole in Somerset you can pay Santa a visit at their Winter Wonderland. With live reindeer, a Christmas Circus show, and a 4D theatre, you can really have a trip to remember. To open up new caves and help with working capital, Wookey Caves borrowed £260,000 in 2015.

Butterfly Jungle Experience

Leave winter behind with a trip to The Butterfly Jungle Experience at Hall Place in Kent. You can walk among the free flying butterflies and exotic flowers in this slice of rainforest, learning about their lifecycle and observing them at their special feeding stations. With hundreds of butterflies to see, this is a experience to remember for all the family. To expand into new premises, Butterfly Jungles borrowed £50,000 from Funding Circle in 2016.

Xtreme Karting

If you’re after a more high octane day out, then Xtreme Karting could be the one for you. Based in Edinburgh and Falkirk, they offer both junior and adult karting as well as simulated combat experiences, so there’s plenty of adrenaline pumping action to wake you up from your food coma! Xtreme Karting used Funding Circle to help grow their business.

Kidz About Play Park

If the kids are getting restless and you’ve gone through all your favourite Disney films four times already, why not take them out to Kidz About Play Park in Swindon? They can play on the giant play frame and bouncy castle assault course, plus there’s a separate section for babies and toddlers. Kidz About borrowed £95,000 over two loans to invest in a new adventure golf course.

Are you interested in lending to businesses like these?

Lend alongside 55,000 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?

We’ve helped more than 19,000 businesses access finance for a range of finance needs, including hiring staff, opening new shops and working capital. Get your instant quote today.

Enjoy lending. The Funding Circle team

Highlights from 2016

As the new year approaches, we wanted to take a moment to share with you some of our highlights from an incredible 2016.

Together, you have now helped over 24,000 businesses access nearly £2.4 billion across the UK, US, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. In the UK alone, you have lent £725 million to over 8,000 businesses in 2016.

We have connected with our colleagues from across the US and Europe to bring you this short video. You’ll be able to hear from members of the team, their personal highlights and some of the borrowers you may have lent to.

 

From everyone at Funding Circle, we would like to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and thank you for helping to build a better financial world.

Enjoy lending,

The Funding Circle team

Your Funding Circle Guide to Christmas 2016 – Pt 2

Are you in the festive spirit yet? Have your tree up and presents sorted? What about food and drink for the family feast? If there’s still a few things left on your checklist then never fear, our guide to Christmas 2016 will give you everything you need for a truly unique holiday this year.

Christmas cookies

Last week we showcased some of the best present ideas from our marketplace. For part 2 we’re looking at your essential Christmas supplies, covering food, drink, and decorations.

Cable & Cotton

Want to take your Christmas lights to the next level? Cable and Cotton let you personalise their beautiful hand-made lights. They have 49 colours to choose from, so you can create something unique for your home or office (Funding Circle purple sadly not available). To fund stock levels and expansion into Scandinavia, Cable and Cotton borrowed £50,000 back in 2012.

Crackers Ltd

Officially the funnest way to scatter small toys and paper hats across a dinner table, no Christmas would be complete without a set of Christmas crackers. Crackers Ltd hand fill their crackers with gifts for all the family, providing a more unusual selection than mass-produced alternatives. To improve stock levels and manage cashflow across different seasons, Crackers Ltd borrowed £40,000 in 2014.

Dopson Butchers

Stuffing yourself silly is top of everyone’s Christmas list, and if you’re after some beautiful cuts of meat and poultry then Berkshire-based Dopson Butchers will have what you’re looking for. They use locally sourced, high quality produce, adding cheese and condiments to their raw meats range. You can get your turkey in store or even order it online — just make sure you order in time! Dopson Butchers borrowed £10,000 from Funding Circle to help with working capital.

Ashridge Cider

If you’re after something slightly different to compliment your seasonal drinks cabinet, then why not try Ashridge Cider? They’ve created a Mulled & Spicy Artisan Cider especially for winter, and their Sparkling Vintage Brut Cider was featured on the Daily Telegraph’s ‘50 Foods to Try Before you Die’ list! In order to invest in a new cider mill and press to keep up with growing demand, Ashridge Cider borrowed £76,000 from Funding Circle.

Leeds Brewery

Pick up a selection of delicious ales from Leeds Brewery, including our Christmas favourite Gingerbread Stout. Founded by two university friends, Leeds Brewery first opened its doors in 2007 and has since become the largest brewery in the city. They’ve borrowed over £240,000 over 3 loans from Funding Circle since 2015.

That’s all for this week. Next up on our guide we’ll be showcasing ideas for some last minute stocking fillers.

Are you interested in lending to businesses like these?

Lend alongside 55,000 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?

We’ve helped more than 17,000 businesses access finance for a range of finance needs, including hiring staff, opening new shops and working capital. Get your instant quote today.

Enjoy lending. The Funding Circle team

Industry insights: 90 seconds with an expert

No one knows more about the day to day running of a business than the Funding Circle borrower community, so each month we ask an industry expert to share their expertise.

Industry insights (3) The pet industry

Recently we spoke to Helen from Glogg, to hear her thoughts on designing and manufacturing a range of drinkware products. This month we caught up with Candy, founder and owner of Suffolk Canine Creche, to hear her advice for growing a business in the pet industry. Since 2014, Candy has borrowed £84,000 from 644 investors through Funding Circle.

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Find out more about Candy’s award-winning canine creche with this short video.

Candy opened Suffolk Canine Creche in 2011 and the business has been hugely successful, winning Pet Service Business of the Year at the National Pet Industry Federation Awards 2015 and employing 22 members of staff. Candy also featured in the Telegraph’s business column, which discussed the rise of pet hotels and specialist nutrition for our furry friends.

Watch our short video to find out more about the pet industry

Candy’s three insights for managing a canine creche are:

  • Using real photography in your marketing is one of the best ways to differentiate your business
  • To provide a premium care experience, make sure you don’t underestimate how many people you need
  • The pet industry is not heavily regulated yet, so it’s important to set high standards

Are you looking to grow your business?

19,000 UK businesses like Suffolk Canine Creche have accessed finance with Funding Circle, helping with cash flow, refurbishment, hiring staff and much more. Get your instant quote and start growing your business today!

Competition: Win £1,000 towards your Christmas party!

Christmas is upon us, which means it’s time to celebrate another fantastic year with your colleagues, friends and family. At Funding Circle we’re big believers in celebrating your team’s achievements. So, to help you look back on 2016 in style, we’re running a competition to win £1,000 for your Christmas party!

win-mas-party

Entering is easy, just get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and tell us why your team should win, using the hashtag #MyTeamWinsXmas. We’ll pick a winner on Monday 19th December 2016.

The competition is open to all businesses across the UK, so enter now for a chance to treat your staff and colleagues to an extra special Christmas this year.

How to enter

 

1. Write down why your team should win, using the hashtag #MyTeamWinsXmas in your post. If you can, attach a picture of your team to your post. 

2. Decide where to share your post. Tweet it to @FundingCircleUK, share a post on our Facebook timeline, or tag fundingcircleuk on Instagram.

3. Ask your customers, friends and family to share and like your post.

Remember to post from your company’s social account! We will pick a winner on Monday 19th December 2016 (updated).

Give yourself the best chance of winning

The winner will be chosen by Funding Circle and our judges will consider your reason, your photo and how many people engage with your post.

Terms & conditions for the Funding Circle Christmas Promotion apply. 

Industry insights: 90 seconds with an expert

No one knows more about the day to day running of a business than the Funding Circle borrower community, so each month we ask an industry expert to share their expertise.

Industry insights (2) The drinkware industry

Recently, we heard from Darren Goldfinch, owner of Finch House, to gain insights into the cafe and coffee shop industry. For the second in our series, we caught up with Helen Smith, owner of Glogg, to hear her thoughts on designing and manufacturing a range of drinkware products.

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See Helen’s stainless steel cup being manufactured in our short video.

Helen started Glogg in 2007 to plug a gap in the market for stainless steel, BPA-free water bottles. To help meet an order for 200,000 stainless steel pint cups for this year’s Glastonbury festival, Helen borrowed £40,000 in January 2015.

In this short video, Helen shares her insights into bringing a successful range of products to life:

  • Lease your products to customers at events such as festivals
  • Invest in getting the right legal advice from the start
  • Carefully plan how much it will cost, and how long it will take to create a product
  • Plug any gaps in your skill set by partnering with experts

Looking for funding for your next project?

If, like Helen, there is a product you want to bring to life, you can check if you qualify for a business loan online in just 30 seconds.

We’ve helped more than 17,000 businesses access finance for a range of purposes, and you can read more stories like Helen’s here.