Sharing the voice of British small businesses

We wanted to make the views of British businesses heard, so we asked thousands of you for your thoughts on the year ahead. In the space of four days, more than 2,300 of you told us about your investment intentions, turnover expectations and also your position on the upcoming general election.

What we discovered is that small businesses are going for growth, unfazed by the uncertainty caused by last year’s referendum result and the snap election. Nearly 70% of UK small businesses expect their turnover to increase within the next 12 months – half of whom expect a steady increase of between 6 and 20%, and only 6% expect turnover to decrease.

Small businesses, who already account for 60% of private sector employment, will continue to drive much needed job creation this year. More than half of the businesses we spoke to are planning to hire at least one new full-time member of staff over the next year. With more than 5 million small businesses across the country – this could mean the creation of millions of new jobs in the next 12 months!

Ahead of the election, small business owners told us that they’re three times more likely to vote for the Conservative Party over the Labour Party. In total, 41% said that they plan on voting Conservative, whilst 13% said Labour and 9% said they intended to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

Support for the Conservatives comes despite 49% saying they voted Remain in last year’s EU referendum, demonstrating a level of confidence in the party to deliver Brexit regardless of how business owners voted in the referendum.

When asked what their one policy priority is in the run up to the election, tax was by far the most important issue. With business rates mentioned specifically nearly 300 times, 40% said that they want the new Government to focus on this area after the election. The second most important policy area, according to a quarter of businesses, was of course Brexit.

Investors at Funding Circle include 60,000 individuals, local and national government, the European Investment Bank and financial institutions such as pension funds. By opening up small business lending to a wide range of investors, Funding Circle has improved competition in the market, supported job creation and reduced small business dependency on bank lending.

To date investors have lent £2.2 billion to more than 23,000 UK small businesses. Businesses funded through the platform typically access the capital they need in seven days, and independent research found that 94% of businesses would come back to Funding Circle first in future.

 

If you’re a small business looking for finance, visit our website to check if you qualify 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.

We’re celebrating £2 billion lent to UK businesses

It’s been six and a half years since Funding Circle was launched with a big idea, to revolutionise the way small businesses access finance. This week we’re proud to announce that we’re celebrating £2 billion in lending to small UK businesses.

£2 billion lent to UK businesses including Celia's

The numbers behind £2 billion

21,000 businesses have benefited from Funding Circle finance since 2010, and an estimated 40,000 jobs have been created as a result of this. Job creation makes a real difference to the economy, showing the direct impact Funding Circle investors are having on the UK. A total of £107.5 million* has also been earned in interest by 58,000 investors, after fees and bad debt.

What it really means

Reaching £2 billion is more than just a milestone. It means investors can get a good return on their money — whether they’re saving for retirement, a new house or for a rainy day.

And it means more business owners can go on to do extraordinary things; like Celia pictured above, who used her loan to open an award-winning cafe in Somerset. Find out what other extraordinary things our borrowers have achieved after accessing finance in this short video. 

 

If you’re interested in lending to companies like Celia’s, you can earn a current estimated return of 7%* per year^. Join the 58,000 people who are already lending.

If you’re looking for business finance, our fast, hassle-free loans can be with you in just one week. You can check your eligibility in 30 seconds. 

Your actual return may be higher or lower as your capital is at risk when lending to businesses.

*Correct as of 16 February 2017

^Correct as of 23 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.

Take 10 – How to engage users and manage reputation on Social Media

Take 10 blog banner

With an estimated 2.3 billion users worldwide, social media provides huge opportunities to grow your customer base and build powerful relationships. According to Time magazine, 81% of consumers would have more faith in a company if they use social media, and millennials (those born from the early 80s to early 2000s) will be more likely to listen to social media users when making a purchase decision than anything said by government, business, or religious institutions.

However, making effective use of your chosen social media platforms isn’t easy. In our Take 10 series we’ve already looked at how to get started on social media, and how to take advantage of Facebook advertising. Now we want to look at some simple tips on how to build engaging relationships with your customers while managing and protecting your reputation.

1. Speak naturally

No one wants to talk to a robot. Social media is about connecting with people and building relationships, so don’t be afraid to let your personality come across in your posts. Getting a stock reply can make people feel unvalued, whereas being personal will help build trust in you and your brand. Engage with people and talk to them directly by using ‘you’ and ‘your’, and make sure you keep the tone consistent if more than one of you are posting.

2. Replying is more important than talking

Any opportunity to speak directly with a customer is important, whether it’s on social media, email, phone, or on your website. The difference with social media is that your response is in the public domain, so you can quickly gain or lose fans depending on what you do.

If you hide away from replying to a complaint, people will speculate or get more frustrated. If you try to challenge them, it could escalate and get worse. Take comments seriously, show empathy and apologise. Even if it wasn’t your fault, say you’re sorry they’ve had a bad experience. Provide information if possible and ask for details so you can call or message them directly.

Think of it as any other customer service channel. If you take time to respond to people and give them a great experience, you’ll add to your reputation and customer loyalty. Remember to use their tag (@name on twitter, name on Facebook etc) so that your post then appears on their network. Then if they like or share your response, you get a free advert of your great service!

Social media reputationHaving invested time and effort into their Twitter profile, Newton Farm Foods now have customers tweeting about their visits to their cafe and posting pictures of their flower displays.

3. Turn everyday events into content

Creating content doesn’t have to be time consuming. Capturing everyday events is an easy way of adding content for your social channels, and can help promote your products to your customers.

When anything gets you excited, take a photo and share it. It could be some fresh stock in your store (It’s strawberry season and these have just arrived fresh from the farm!), a new van for your fleet (Meet Terry, the newest member of our crew), or hiring a new staff member (We have a new Pastry Wizard joining our kitchen today – say hello to Jenny!).

If you’re setting up a seasonal display, or have filled your warehouse with 10,000 boxes for your peak sales period, let people know. These ‘behind the scenes’ posts help customers get to know your business better, building on your relationship while promoting your product or service. Always remember to tag users and use hashtags to reach a wider audience.

4. Curate content, start discussions

You don’t have to come up with everything yourself. Sharing articles, news, and photos from other sources is a great way to add variety to your posts and bulk out your content.

Think about what your customers are interested in that relates to your business. If you’re a bakery maybe that’s pictures of superhero cakes on instagram. If you’re an IT company it could be an exciting new technology launch. You can then use those posts as the starting point of a discussion — ask for people to share some favourite cake examples of their own, or for opinions on the news article you’ve posted.  

By adding content from elsewhere you avoid talking about yourself all the time and coming across as too salesy. Your followers will then get more value from your social channels, be more likely to engage with you, and be more likely to return.

Social media engagement
Pampeano ran a competition asking their followers to post pictures of any Pampeano gifts they received at Christmas, getting customers to talk about their products and creating a buzz around their brand.

Remember, engaged customers will advertise your business for you

Whether you’re one man band or have an in-house marketing team, managing social media can seem too time consuming to be worth the hassle. However, with a little effort, social media can turn your customers into brand ambassadors, building stronger relationships with them and giving you free advertising all at the same time.

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.

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

Your Funding Circle Guide to Christmas 2016 – Pt 3

A quick look at the advent calendar tells us that the main event is now only days away — where did December go?? Hopefully you’ve been getting stuck into the mince pies and mulled wine, and have already sorted everything for your Christmas holiday. We’ve been helping out with suggestions for presents as well as food, drink and decorations, but if you’ve still got some shopping left to do, this week we’ll be sharing some great ideas from our marketplace for last minute stocking fillers.

Christmas stocking fillers

Psychobabel & Skoob Books

We all have at least one friend who loves to read, the one who’s already read every suggestion you’ve ever given them. Now you can surprise them with one of the rare books from Psychobabel & Skoob. They have over 110,000 rare, used, and out of print books in their London store and available online, so you can find a truly unique gift this Christmas. Psychobabel & Skoob borrowed £25,000 from Funding Circle to improve their warehouse facilities and online ordering.

Crocodile Toy Shop

Whether it’s Lego, a magic set, or your new favourite stuffed penguin, opening up new toys on Christmas morning is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Cirencester’s Crocodile Toy Shop has been supporting play times for over 30 years, and they could help you find that missing piece for the stocking this Christmas. To help improve stock levels, Crocodile Toy Shop has borrowed £150,000 over two loans from Funding Circle.

Nothing But Tea

Coming in from the cold to a warming brew is one of winter’s great pleasures, so why not up your game with a delightful box of loose leaf tea from Nothing But Tea? The family-run tea shop have a wealth of experience in tea and stock over 200 different types! We’d recommend their Dessert Tea Collection, which includes a Rooibos Creme Brulee, Pear Marzipan Tart and a Honeybush Chocolate Cake tea. To increase stock levels to ensure prompt service, Nothing But Tea borrowed £10,000 in February 2011.

Farm & Pet Place

Is your cat lord of the household? Do you love your dog more than your in-laws? If so, you need to make sure they don’t miss out this Christmas. Farm & Pet Place have a huge range of pet toys and treats, as well as equine, agriculture and garden ware, so you can give your animals some extra love this year. Farm & Pet Place borrowed £215,000 to refurbish their flagship store in Abergele.

Swagger & Swoon

Do you know a man who prides himself on looking sharp? Whether he’d love something for his carefully sculpted beard or his ever growing range of dashing cravats, Swagger & Swoon can help you out. They’ve been supplying high quality men’s accessories and grooming products for 12 years, and are taking online Christmas orders up until 22nd December! To expand their product range and improve their online experience, Swagger & Swoon borrowed £10,000 from Funding Circle in 2016.

That’s all for this week. Next up on our guide we’ll be showcasing ideas for great things to do over the Christmas holiday.

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

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.

_60a7251

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!

Your Funding Circle Guide To Christmas 2016

Everyone loves Christmas. Whether you’re celebrating with friends, family, or colleagues, we all look forward to the festive fun. Even Clive, the office grinch, is secretly waiting to put on his paper crown and start telling some jokes. The only downside is there’s a lot to organise. That’s where we come in.

christmas lanterns

Over the next few weeks our guide will give you everything you need for a cracking Christmas. We’ll be bringing you unique ideas from our marketplace, covering stocking fillers, decorations, food and drink, and things to do over the holidays. Not only will they help 2016 be a Christmas to remember, you’ll be supporting local businesses from across the country.

First up, it’s presents. Here are a some of our recommendations for gifts this year.

The Cashmere Centre

The Cashmere Centre have an amazing range of high quality products, from cardigans and jumpers to socks and scarves. All made from the finest Grade Mongolian cashmere, they’re the perfect cosy gift for Christmas. In order to increase stock and improve their online presence, The Cashmere Centre borrowed £40,000 from 507 investors back in 2010.

Rattle & Drum

Know any aspiring musicians, or perhaps someone looking to make the leap from guitar hero legend to a bona fide pro? Rattle & Drum have been kitting out wannabe rockers since the 90s, adding a wide variety of instruments and equipment to their core drums and percussion range. To open an in-house teaching facility and increase cash flow, they’ve borrowed £125,000 over several loans since 2013. They now teach over 400 children a week from their shop in Derby.

Brag Vintage

Brag Vintage are a Sheffield based company dedicated to retro clothing for men and women. They compliment their extensive denim range with hand picked shirts, jumpers, and dresses, and they’ll help save some money for mince pies with free delivery on all UK orders! Brag have borrowed £80,000 from Funding Circle over two loans since 2015, moving to a larger warehouse to increase the range and quantity of their stock as they continue to grow.

Countryside Ski & Climb

Have an adventurous friend? Countryside Ski & Climb specialise in outdoor equipment, so there’s no better place to look for ski jackets, rucksacks, or outdoor and climbing apparel. To update their website and improve their customer experience, Countryside Ski & Climb accessed £20,000 from 172 investors in 2011.

RC Geeks

Christmas morning wouldn’t be complete without some new gadgets to play with, and RC Geeks have the gear to appeal to kids of all ages. Create some serious excitement with a quadcopter or a self-assembly remote control car, with plenty of accessories to add on too. RC Geeks borrowed to increase their product range and grow their business further.

Next week we’ll be taking a look at your essential Christmas supplies, covering food, drink, and decorations.

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 (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.

_60a2491

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.

Take 10: Is your business cyber secure?

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

 
Cyber security

For the seventh in our Take 10 series, we’re looking at some of the most common cyber security threats facing small businesses in the UK today, and outline 5 simple measures to help protect your business from cybercrime.

One in four businesses reported a cyber breach or attack last year

The internet has revolutionised the way businesses interact and attract customers, and many business owners feel it’s a critical part of their success. However, despite the internet’s many benefits there are security risks involved too – particularly around online security.

Government statistics warn that one in four businesses reported a cyber breach or attack in the past 12 months, and the latest Security Breaches Survey found the average cost of a severe security breach for a small business was between £75,000 and £310,800, up from £115,000 in 2014.

Statistics like these and the invisible threat of cyber crime can make it seem daunting. However, just like installing a security system in a high street shop, there are simple measures you can take to help safeguard your business against online criminal activity. To adequately protect your business, it’s data and reputation, it’s important to first have an understanding of the different types of online threats.

What is a cyberattack?

A cyberattack is any type of attempt to damage, destroy or gain unauthorized access to a business’s computer network or system. The perpetrator is often referred to as a ‘hacker.’

There are many different types of cyberattack, including:

Cyber fraud: attackers impersonate legitimate entities in order to commit fraud. An example of this would be an attacker impersonating a senior member of staff in an attempt to convince an employee to transfer company money for a seemingly legitimate business purpose.

Denial of service attack: DoS occurs when an attacker floods a website with more requests than it can respond to at one time so the website becomes unavailable. If customers cannot access your site, they may not be able to do business with you.

Hack attack: an attacker may compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of a business’s network or data by exploiting a vulnerability in their cyber environment.

Ransomware: a type of malicious software, typically received by phishing email, which blocks access to computer systems until a ransom is paid.

Any combination of these cyberattacks could cause significant damage to a business of any size. Although unfortunately it’s thought that small businesses are seen as an easier target by cyber criminals, as they have more digital assets than an individual, but traditionally less security than a larger company. To help keep your business cyber secure, we’ve put together the below top 5 tips.

5 ways to ensure your business is more cyber secure

1) Use strong and unique passwords

It’s tempting to use an easy-to-remember password, like your birthday or mother’s maiden name, across multiple accounts. However, using a strong password, which includes both uppercase and lowercase letters, a number and a symbol, and unique passwords for each system, can help slow or even prevent unauthorized access to your computer or business systems. Password manager tools can help you generate and remember complex passwords.

2) Install and run antivirus or antimalware software

Antivirus or antimalware software is designed to detect viruses and malware and can help protect against or quickly identify viruses and malware on a computer system. Not every type of cyberattack can be prevented with antivirus or antimalware software, however installing and maintaining it can help minimise the risk of compromise.

3) Cultivate security-conscious staff

I’m sure we’ve all at one point sent an email to the wrong recipient accidentally, and although in some cases it might just cause embarrassment it could also have serious security implications for a business, if data were to land in the wrong hands for example. It’s important to establish a security-conscious culture as your employees have a critical role in maintaining business security. To assist, the Government provides free online cyber security training courses, which take between 45 – 75 minutes to complete, specifically designed for staff at small businesses.

4) Have a plan for when problems arise

However prepared you are there will be security incidents that arise from time to time, whether it’s your internet going down or an employee losing their work phone on a train. Having a plan in advance could help reduce the incident’s impact, support business continuity and will improve customer and stakeholder confidence. To help you put together a policy, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills have put together 10 steps for incident management.

5) Mitigate potential losses with cyber liability insurance

As part of your risk management plan, businesses can purchase cyber liability insurance which can mitigate losses from a variety of incidents, including data breaches, business interruption and network damage. Before you buy, it’s important to investigate which risks are covered by insurance packages, including your current policies, and that any new policy covers your true cyber exposure.

The overwhelming message from experts is that businesses should be prepared for a cyber security breach at all times. To help businesses stay one step ahead, the UK Government publishes a wealth of information including:

51% of businesses are yet to achieve a Government Cyber Essentials badge

There’s also a new Government-backed scheme, the Cyber Essentials badge, to guide businesses in protecting themselves against cyber threats. This typically costs around £300 to complete and provides customers that do business with you confidence that you’re taking important steps in protecting the cyber security of your business.

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

The Funding Circle team

Reusable drinkware supplier rocks Glastonbury

Helen Smith started Glogg in 2007 after spotting a gap in the market when looking for a durable reusable water bottle. Producing a wide range of styles and sizes, it wasn’t long before Glogg became one of the leading UK suppliers of stainless steel, BPA-free water bottles.

When Glastonbury needed a business to produce 200,000 stainless steel pint cups for this year’s festival, Glogg was ready for the challenge.

Meeting such a large order was no easy task steel had to be sourced directly from Sheffield, and Glogg teamed up with APS Metal Pressings LTD to help manufacture the new cup.
_60a3031

To fund the design of the tooling used in the manufacturing process, Helen borrowed £40,000 from 533 investors. The new product was a major success, and a number of other festivals around the UK have placed follow up orders.

In this short video, meet Helen and find out how Glogg is helping events and festivals to be more sustainable.

 

Are you interested in lending to businesses like Glogg?

Lend alongside 53,000 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.

Do you want to grow your business?

More than 16,000 businesses in the UK have accessed finance from Funding Circle, helping with cash flow, refurbishment, hiring staff and much more. Get your instant quote today!

Take 10: How to be smart with your time

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

Time

For the sixth in our Take 10 series, we’re looking at how to manage time effectively so you can make the most of your day and effectively drive growth for your business.

We’re all busy rushing around, juggling work and other commitments, and it’s easy to feel there isn’t enough time in the day. We understand that time matters to our business community, so to help you boost productivity when time is of the essence we’ve put together the below 5 top tips.

1) Stay in control with a to do list

Whether you prefer to write one at the beginning of the week, the night before or each morning, a handy to do list will help free your mind to concentrate on the task at hand. And, there’s no better feeling than crossing a completed task off a list!

To help focus your mind it’s important to write down achievable tasks, as according to a LinkedIn study, 63% of us create to do lists but only 11% admitted to completing all the tasks on their list in a given day. We’re all guilty of re-writing the name of a larger project on every new to do list, but writing manageable goals will help you make progress and ultimately finish the project more quickly.

For example, if you’re looking to implement a new email marketing system, you could break down this task into manageable chunks: do research one day and aim to ring your two favourite providers another.

Top tip: Wunderlist is a free to do list planner which works across iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire and the Web, helping you to sync your personal and professional to do lists online.

2) Become more effective by considering the impact of each task

You’ve got your to do list and you’re ready to get cracking, but it’s important to take a moment to think about the impact of each task. Before getting started, we’d suggest prioritising your list by looking at:

  • whether the task will drive growth for your business
  • approximately how long it might take
  • is it urgent or could it wait if necessary

It’s always tempting to do the easy, quick or more enjoyable tasks first, but prioritising your list by looking at the impact it’s likely to have will help you use your time more effectively. It will also help manage expectations should a colleague have an urgent or last minute request, as you’ll be able to say which items you are prioritising and reorder if necessary.

3) Make time to get things done

You now know approximately how long tasks will take, and which you want to prioritise, so why not block out time in your diary. It could be half an hour each morning to plan out your day, a couple of hours to focus on those accounts you never seem to get to, or 5 minutes before or after a meeting to type up your notes or prepare.

Scheduling time, as you would a meeting, will help you understand what’s achievable and minimise interruptions.

4) Beware the exploding inbox

Research by Warwick Business School found that office workers deal with 10,000 emails a year, and that figure is only rising as we’re becoming more and more connected. Whether it’s colleagues, clients, marketing emails or family and friends it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of emails in your inbox. However, having a succinct email filing system or tagging urgent emails can help you take back control.

Emails can also be extremely distracting when you’re trying to focus on a particular task or project. Don’t be afraid to minimise your email window and focus your attention completely on the task at hand!

5) You’ll be more productive if you take a break and perhaps have a kit kat

Whether it’s a cup of tea, a walk round the block or just doing something else for a few minutes, regular breaks which take you away from work can be revitalising. Research by app DeskTime found the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes.

It’s impossible to be productive constantly for many hours without taking little chunks of time to re-energise. You’ll find yourself much more effective as a result, and the time can often help you become more creative, or even solve that difficult problem.

Similarly if you have a daunting task, for example updating lines of a spreadsheet that will take a long time, intersperse these larger projects with short and easily achievable tasks to help keep you focused and boost morale.

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

The Funding Circle team

Oktoberfest: Raise a glass to these 4 glorious breweries!

Cheers! Prost! Salute! Toast your friends with exceptional beer this year to celebrate Oktoberfest. Ignite your taste buds and try something new with our recommended selection of pale ales, dark ales and lagers – all from fantastic businesses across the UK that have flourished thanks to Funding Circle investors.

1. Hackney Brewery

Hackney Brewery was established in 2011 to bring top-quality, locally-produced beer to the thirsty drinkers of London. The brewery produce a range of beers including a Golden Ale, an American Pale Ale and a fruity Raspberry Kristallweizen – brewed with real berries! In order to buy a new fermenter and increase production, Hackney Brewery borrowed £30,000 from 451 investors. We visited the team last year to see their new fermenter in action.

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 14.16.08

2. Leeds Brewery

Leeds Brewery, founded by two university friends, first opened its doors in 2007 and since then has become the largest brewery in Leeds. Using only the finest possible ingredients, the brewers produce an array of unique beers such as Monsoon Pale Ale, Gingerbread Stout and our autumn favourite, American Pumpkin Ale. To help with working capital, Leeds Brewery have borrowed £250,000 across 3 loans from 981 investors.

3. Ashridge Cider

Fancy a refreshing cider instead? Ashridge Cider brew a lovely selection of organic ciders such as an Elderflower cider, a Devon Blush and their famous Sparkling Vintage Brut Cider which 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 has accessed £86,000 from Funding Circle.

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 17.53.06

4. Roosters

And finally, born in 1993, Roosters Brewery is run by a father and his two sons in beautiful Yorkshire. Having invested in their own canning line in 2014, the company now stock their beer in casks, kegs, bottles and cans for their customers to enjoy. Whether you prefer a pale ale, an IPA, or something a bit different such as their traditional coffee porter, Rooster’s have a beer to suit you. Due to the growing popularity of their products, Rooster’s Brewery borrowed £150,000 across 2 loans to help meet this demand.

Are you interested in lending to businesses like these?

Lend alongside 50,000 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 15,000 businesses access finance for a range of finance needs, including hiring staff and opening new shops. Get your instant quote today.

Enjoy lending. The Funding Circle team

Take 10: How to use Facebook advertising and best practice (part two)

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

For the fifth in our Take 10 series, we’re looking at Facebook advertising, how it works and how it can help drive traffic to your website.

Continuing from part one

In part one, we focused on how to set up and get started using Facebook advertising, where businesses pay to target customers with a specific message. There’s a huge opportunity for businesses to target potential customers on Facebook, as it’s the most established social media advertising tool with 1.13 billion active users.

Once you’ve set up your advertising account, there are hundreds of items you could consider and test. However, we’d suggest focusing on targeting, bidding and testing to get you started.

Use common interests to target potential customers

It’s important to fine tune who you’re targeting with your advert, as users browsing on Facebook lack the intent you might experience on Google adverts, for example. This is because on Google, users are normally searching a specific keyword, whereas on Facebook, potential customers might see your advert amongst their News Feed which is filled with information from friends and family. This is why creating eye catching adverts is a must!

When you set up your advertising account, there’s a list of targeting criteria to choose from, including any items users ‘like’ on Facebook, from food and drink to activities and brands. You can think about the common interests among your customers and target these segments, or if you own customer data you can upload this to Facebook to create a lookalike audience to target.

For example, Funding Circle borrower Suffolk Canine Creche could target dog owners within a certain radius of their premises in Woodbridge, or Facebook users that look like their current customers.

Make the most of your budget with a clear bidding strategy

A bidding strategy helps you decide how to spend your budget so your advert the best chance of success, whether that’s more visits to your website or increased brand awareness. Depending on your objective and budget there are 3 main bidding strategies you could use.

  • CPM will help you increase brand awareness: If you’re looking to spend a specific budget and increase your brand awareness, then choose CPM (cost per 1000 times an advert is shown to users – this is known as ‘impressions’). It’s important to remember, though, that you’re paying for quantity, not quality.
  • CPC will help you drive traffic to your website: Use cost per click (CPC) to ensure that you’re only charged when a customer clicks through to your website. You can choose the amount you’re happy to pay for each lead using this method.
  • Use oCPM to target 100,000 customers: When looking for ultimate efficiency, and only really on audiences larger than 100,000, we think the best strategy to use is optimised cost per 1000 impressions (oCPM). This method means Facebook will display your advert to users who they believe are most likely to click through to your website.

Test to understand which advert works best

Do lots of testing! Once you’ve created a captivating advert and chosen your target audience, it’s important to constantly test different content, messaging and landing pages to ensure you’re always improving.

While you’re getting started, we’d suggest refreshing your advert once a week so your audience don’t tire of the same content, but try not to make changes too frequently. Give yourself time to understand the metrics and whether the advert has been successful.

Top tip: To measure the impact of your adverts, and specifically how many people are clicking through to your website, add a Google Analytics tracking code to your URL. For example, if you were the Suffolk Canine Creche looking to target users that look like your current customers with an image of a Labrador you might use:

https://www.example.com/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Advert&utm_campaign=LookalikesSept2016&utm_content=Labrador

The link includes unique identifiers, such as ‘Labrador’ and ‘LookalikesSept2016’ in the example above, which are sent to your Analytics account to help you identify which adverts are most effective in attracting potential customers. Google Analytics have created a handy step by step guide to help.

We hope you’ve found this post useful. Come back for the next instalment of Take 10, where we’ll be looking at how to manage time effectively.

The Funding Circle team

 

Brandscape: the cryptic puzzle from Funding Circle

Ready for a challenge?

In the landscape below you will find cryptic clues for 60 globally recognised brands and companies. To become a Brandscape GrandMaster, all you have to do is guess what they are.

Some clues are really very simple – can you see the apple? Some however, are extremely hard. If you get stuck you can tweet us @FundingCircleUK and we’ll try to give you a helping hand.

brandscape image

How to play Brandscape

1.Go to www.fundingcircle.com/uk/featured/brandscape

2.Click “play the game”

3.Use your mouse to find each clue

4.Click on a clue and take your guess

Using your mobile?

controls brandscape

Use the white controls in the top right to zoom in and move around on your phone. Tap the image to find your clues.

Saving your progress is easy

Save your progress by logging into Facebook, which will also allow you to complete the game on different devices.

We hope you enjoy it – ready, set, play!

The Funding Circle team

Enjoyed this? Play the Brilliant Minds quiz and see how you compare against the world’s best business brains.

Back to school: 5 ideas to kickoff the new academic year

No dreary back to school feelings here. As the summer months come to a close, get ready for the brand-new school year with our back to school list. From new stationery, to books and a cookery school, your lending has helped these creative UK businesses grow and prosper.

papermash

1. Stationery

Head back to school or the office in style with unique notebooks, pens and planners from Papermash. Choose from an array of beautiful prints, such as the bright and whimsical designs of US designer, Anna Bond. To increase their stock and add brand-new items to their popular online shop, Papermash borrowed £5,000 back in 2014.

2. Books

Stock up on a selection of new books to help kick-start your September at Browsers Bookshop. The bookshop, based in Suffolk, carries a wide range of history, biography and business-insight books – whatever you may need to help you flourish in your studies. Browsers Bookshop were able to fit out a new space in their shop to expand their collection of books after borrowing £12,500 from 248 investors.

bookshelf01

3. Children’s books

Are your little ones starting school this year? Get them excited to start learning with Kids IQ Books’ excellent selection of educational books, including sciences, mathematics and foreign languages. In order to add new stock to their shop, Kids IQ Books borrowed £52,000 through Funding Circle. With all those new books you’ll have, Tidy Books make the perfect book boxes to keep them neat and organised. To help with international expansion and growth, the company borrowed £64,000 across 2 loans.

4. Bags

If you’re child is joining sports teams this year, make sure to grab them a trendy new rucksack from Sporty Kids Wear, who launched their website after borrowing £10,000 in 2014. Or you could look at fashionable book bags from The Stripes Company – their Pointe Tote Bag is not only the perfect size for all day-to-day school supplies, it looks great too! The Stripes Company were able to expand their product range using their Funding Circle loan.

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 09.38.57

5. Cookery school

And finally, September doesn’t always have to be all about the kids, it could also be the perfect time to join that cooking class you’ve had your eye on. With over 40 cookery courses to choose from to suit beginners as well as experienced cooks, Ashburton Cookery School will help you take your skills to the next level. To expand their facilities in order keep up with the growing popularity of their courses, Ashburton Cookery School borrowed £175,000 across 2 Funding Circle loans.

Are you interested in lending to businesses like these?

Lend alongside 50,000 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.

Enjoy lending. The Funding Circle team