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“Funding Options was my mid-life crisis”

Posted by Octopus Group - December 3, 2015

In the second of our series of interviews with Everline Future 50 alumni, we spoke to Conrad Ford, founder and CEO of Funding Options, a one-stop shop for alternative finance for small businesses.

We talked to him about the advantages of being an entrepreneur, the impact of winning the Future 50 badge and his advice for other small business owners.conrad ford CEO of Funding Options

Funding Options is changing the way small businesses access finance by putting them directly in touch with viable lenders.

Why did you start the business?

I was first inspired to start my own business whilst working at a large bank during the credit crunch. I was so close to everything that was happening that I quickly realised that, contrary to popular belief, there were plenty of organisations who wanted to lend to small business, they just struggled to find the right ones. Plus (this is the less publicised reason) I wanted to do something more with my life than just work for a corporate. I always joke that Funding Options was my mid-life crisis – it came at just the right time!

What challenges did you have and how did you overcome them?

Wow – where do I start?! We have had no end of challenges! More generally, I would say that starting the business cost more time and money that we ever imagined. Despite being warned about this by almost everyone I spoke to – we were still unprepared. It took us 18 months to get to where I thought we would be in six months!

Another challenge I faced was that I presumed that the skills and knowledge I had built up working in a large business would transfer to my new business. Although some were undoubtedly essential, I wish we had got into the market a little quicker – you really need to put something in your customer’s hands before you can finalise your offering. Otherwise, it is very hard to know whether what you are doing is right.

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

To be honest, it’s being able to decide who you want to work with, therefore meaning I can avoid working with a********….not that I ever worked with any before, of course! On a serious note, it’s great to be able to recruit people and organisations that are forward thinking and really want to do something different.

What do you look for when recruiting new employees?

For me, raw materials will always win over experience for a start-up. The ideal would be both, of course, but raw materials are formidable when you are a new business. I am sure we will get to a stage when we will need to start hiring experience, but intelligence and a willingness to learn are integral at the moment.

How do you digest news and trends in your sector?

My employees have nicknamed me the Chief Twitter Officer – I am always scrolling through my news feed for the latest stories and trends. As a small business owner, I am a pretty busy man so Twitter allows me to keep an eye on the industry when I’m on the move. It’s good to see national newspapers championing the cause of small business. I have noticed a shift away from traditional bank bashing in the media which is great because I always thought that tactic was unproductive. It’s much more beneficial to be highlighting alternative sources of finance rather than simply attacking the more traditional routes.

Would you recommend entering the Future 50 to other small businesses?

Absolutely – it only takes an hour or so to apply and the free marketing your company receives is invaluable. You get a lot of bang for your buck with the support of some great businesses that are sponsoring the awards, and they can put some momentum behind the marketing and PR activity. It’s a great way to build your internet brand.

Do you know a disruptive British business that is transforming an industry? Real Business and Everline are on the search for talented young companies from across Britain for the 2016 Future 50 Awards. You can make your nomination (or nominate your own business) here. The deadline – 11th December – is fast approaching so you don’t have long!

Click here to nominate a disruptive business


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