How the Funding Circle helped to grow Suffolk Canine Creche
I’ve had countless sleepless nights over the last year that have been fuelled by the anxiety of funding my business.
Until quite recently, almost everything for the City Girl Network has been funded by my rather small (and getting smaller) pocket.
Whilst our basic costs are quite low, in order to get to the level that we want to reach, we need more money than my freelancing, our advertising rates and our paid events can afford.
I bond with so many other business owners over this anxiety, too.
With that in mind, this year the City Girl Network’s COO, Imogen Benton, and I have been looking into funding options: bank loans, crowdfunding, investment, grants and any “think outside the box” options that spring into our heads and feel the need to voice message at silly o’clock in the morning.
It’s no surprise that I was quite excited, intrigued and a little spooked out that the Funding Circle reached out for a blog collaboration on a day when I was tearing my hair out at the number of obstacles there are for funding your business.
Mostly because it was an option that I hadn’t heard of, but one I so desperately wanted to know about after reading through their website.
For those of you who are new to the Funding Circle, it’s a small business loan platform, who have helped over 40,000 small business across the world and lent £3 billion, creating over 100,000 jobs.
And it seems fairly simple - you share your business idea, investors decide if they want to invest.
I felt like the best way of collaborating with the Funding Circle was to speak to the founder of a business who had used their service in order to grow.
With that brief in mind, they put me in touch with Candy, founder of Suffolk Canine Creche.
A few days later, I snuck into the little cinema room at Presuming Eds and gave Candy a call.
Our conversation started as these things always would, with her founding story.
The story of Suffolk Canine Creche
“I was sat on the M25 - day in, day out - and had an array of dog sitters, whose service I always found to be lacking. It never really came up to the standards of what you’d call a ‘service’, because that sort of thing didn’t exist then.”
“I was a career person but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want a pet. Dogs were the family that I wanted.”
“I was introduced to doggy day care in the states, which set the acorn and nudged away at me. It was a service that if I slightly de-americanised then I thought it would take off in the UK.”
“I had a year making people redundant and feeling low when my husband said ‘go for it’.”
“We were in a recession but it was 6 years ago that we started trading. It was a bit of a bonkers thing to do. Barking mad, actually. Lots of people thought I was crazy because I was creating a service at a financially unstable time.”
“I was very much like how you feel setting up a new kind of business - I had no idea how it would go, but I had to try it.”
She went on to explain that animal care is in the top 3 for growth in the states and a huge vast growth industry. People really care about the wellbeing of their pets, and a lot of dogs are treated like children or replacement children.
In fact, she says, 24% of UK houses own a dog.
This vast level of growth has opened up a whole new world of services and business opportunities: doggy bakeries, doggy yoga, doggy clothes.
Oh, how I dream of having a dog one day.
Why Suffolk Canine Creche had to seek investment
“Within 18 months of opening my first premises, I was full with a growing waitlist and needed new premises urgently,” Candy continued to explain.
“It sounds great but it created a whole new set of problems.”
The premises that they wanted to move to was a big leap - the size of a B&Q, in fact. They wanted to evolve the business from daycare, to providing lots of different services.
“So, went to the bank,” Candy continued. “It was an unusual situation, having only been going for 18 months. I’d paid the money back into my savings and made a profit - people say that’s unheard of.”
“I went into my meeting with the bank manager feeling very positive. I thought they’d roll over and let me tickle their bellies.”
“But they didn’t really get what I was doing and they just weren’t lending. It was too higher risk.”
“I was shocked. That’s when I looked elsewhere.”
The Funding Circle experience
“I was working with a business coach and she’d worked with Funding Circle. So I got in contact.”
Candy went on to explain that the whole process took around 5-6 days. The bank statements and year-end figures came back very swiftly, and the bid to lend her money took 2 days.
“I couldn’t fault the process. I got the funding, was able to sign the lease and convert the building. I was so chuffed. I knew I’d find the money somehow but after going through all these hoops. I was so shocked it happened that quickly!”
In comparison, the bank took 4 weeks of jumping through hoops for Candy to only be met with a no.
The stand-out benefits of working with Funding Circle
Out of all of the different funding options that I explained Imogen and I were looking through at the beginning of this post, my pressing question was why should we be looking at Funding Circle?
The compelling reasons are simple: time, swift decision making and straightforward processes.
“At the end of the day, even when I’m trying to get funding, I’m trying to run a business,” Candy explained. “And as much as I need that funding, I don’t have hours and hours to spend on business plans.”
“The Funding Circle really suited me. I could sit down whenever and wherever to make the applications.”
“The also had the human touch, which was really great. They’re upbeat funky people to understand. And I still own all the business.”
Candy explained that you pay back the money monthly, like you would a bank. It’s a set fee per month, based on the level of lending and the level of interest. She hasn’t had any issues so far.
How Funding Circle has impacted Suffolk Canine Creche
“The Funding Circle took my business to a new level. We had 6 members and now we’re approaching 30. We’ve been in the new premises for 3 years, which start to finish took just over a year to complete,” Candy explained.
But that’s not all. By being able to prove the potential of Suffolk Canine Creche, Candy has been able to launch a franchising project, under the umbrella company, Canine Creche Group. She’s sold 12 sites, with 2 more to go through in February.
Advice for other businesses looking to use Funding Circle
“Research, go on their website, pick the phone up and talk to them,” Candy shared.
“They’re great people and want to hear about your exciting business ideas. It’s really worth getting that point of contact, you’ve got nothing to lose.”
Thanks to Candy for taking the time to share your story with me and offer advice on getting funding for not only the City Girl Network, but so many other businesses that I know and love.
And thanks to the Funding Circle for being so helpful and supportive during this collaboration.
If anyone reading this has used the Funding Circle, I’d love to hear your views - whether positive or negative. Or if you used another method to fund your business, I’d love to hear about it.
And, for the record, I’ll be picking up the phone to Funding Circle very soon.
You can find out more about Funding Circle over on their website. And if you're as intrigued as I am (for my future dog), there's lots of information about their creches and their franchise opportunities on their website, too.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by the Funding Circle. However, I’d like to make it clear that my views are my own.
Also, all photographs in this post belong to Suffolk Canine Creche.