Understanding funding options for small businesses

Sources of finance for UK SME businesses include banks, crowdfunding, equity finance and government funding. How do you choose the right one?

After several years of limited access to finance, the funding situation is gradually improving. “The current climate is more positive in the business lending sector with the growth of the challenger banks and less traditional funders such as crowdfunding services providing both competition for the major banks and real choice for businesses,” says Lee Tillcock, editor at financial analysis business Moneyfacts.

But numerous options will need to be explored before the right funding lines are found, says Tillcock. “Businesses should discuss their requirements with commercial finance brokers and/or their accountants to ensure that all lending possibilities are being considered.”


Banks are the most obvious place to start, although they can still be reluctant to lend to smaller firms.

“There are various ways banks will lend, such as invoice discounting or lending against your assets,” says Rob Donaldson, head of corporate finance at accountant Baker Tilly. “These ways are perceived as safer than something like cashflow lending, which is the equivalent of an unsecured personal loan.”

The rate of interest can vary significantly depending on what level of risk you are assessed as having and how much you want to borrow.


Online lending and investment platforms are becoming a more acceptable way of helping businesses obtain debt and equity funding using money from individuals. These peer-to-peer (P2P) networks include the likes of FundingCircle.com and often prove less risk averse than the banks.

On equity crowdfunding platforms, you publish details of your business, how much money you need and why, and what investors will get in return.

P2P lending, on the other hand, involves your company being given a risk rating, which dictates the interest rate you pay. A pool of private lenders will then provide your firm’s finance – the riskier you are, the higher their returns will be.

Recent figures from FundingCircle.com show the platform lent £46 million to small firms in the third quarter of last year. In comparison, Lloyds Banking Group – the UK’s biggest lender to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – lent £304 million over the same period.

Equity finance

Other equity options include venture capitalists and private equity firms, which can inject money into your company in return for some form of a share of ownership in your business. “This means the investor gets a share in the upside for your business,” says Donaldson. “But giving up equity doesn’t always mean giving up control.”

Contact the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) for more information.

Government funding

A number of Government-backed programmes aimed at funding growing businesses are available but these vary by sector and region. The Business Growth Fund, for example, aims to channel bank money to growing firms and will give you some ideas of what opportunities are available.

Related Articles

DCP228 and Business Electricity

What is DCP228? DCP228 is a regulation to be introduced by Ofgem in April 2018 which will change the way busin...

Read More
energy news

DCP 161 – Excess Capacity Charges

If your business uses a Half Hourly (HH) meter for its energy supply, make sure you’re ready for DCP 161...

Read More
Scottish Power logo

Total Gas & Power

Total Gas & Power is a business energy supplier, wholly owned by Total SA. It has been a leading business ...

Read More
Excellent, 9.8 / 10

energy supplier

"Everything was explained clearly by the representative, Mark Weeks, and it made the renewal of our utility supplier painless. Prices quoted were competitive and we were able to secure a better price than expected. The process was quick and efficiently dealt with. Jim, owner of Four Seasons Greengrocers, Crediton, Devon"

This review was posted by Jim Bond on the 21st of March 2018


"Lorraine, the agent who attended to me, was extremely efficient and professional. The quotations obtained were very competitive and presented in an easily understandable format. All queries were attended to and replies forthcoming speedily. As a representative of the organisation, I could only present the proposals I obtained and, unfortunately, the committee elected to use another company. From my point of view, Lorraine made my task to gather all relevant details very easy and her attitude was professional and courteous throughout. I have no reservations in recommending SmB to other businesses who seek to change energy suppliers."

This review was posted by Two Locks Church on the 20th of March 2018

Can not recommend highly enough

"Can not recommend highly enough. Pamwan was an absolute delight to deal with. Very thorough and patient which made the whole experience easy and straightforward."

This review was posted by Kirby Marie on the 20th of March 2018

Business switch

"Thank you Nicole for your efficient, friendly and patient service and returning paperwork so quickly to start the process."

This review was posted by Rita Westwood on the 19th of March 2018

thanks Mr Pamwan Johnson excellent service

"thanks Mr Pamwan Johnson excellent service"

This review was posted by kashif ahmad on the 19th of March 2018