Peer-to-peer lending opens up new fund-raising opportunities in the franchise sector

Tim Cocking, franchise owner of Bright Care, the Edinburgh and Glasgow-based domiciliary care provider, has provided a valuable object lesson in fund-raising for entrepreneurs who want to become involved in the franchise sector.

Tim, whose franchise already employs nearly 80 people and has a turnover of £1 million, showed people worried about raising investment capital how it's done by raising £30,000 in three weeks using peer-to-peer lending.

The remarkable exercise - on which he embarked when his normal bank funding became unavailable - will allow him to press ahead with the opening of a new, company-owned branch of Bright Care in Perth, one of Scotland's most prosperous cities.

He said: "There is a great buzz about alternative financing methods and this demonstrates to franchisors and franchisees that, if the business model is sound, there is a huge appetite among investors both large and small.

"I know that many people would like to take on a franchise but have issues around raising the necessary capital. In a climate in which mainstream lending is becoming more restricted, this kind of investment route is a viable and affordable alternative."

Peer-to-peer lending is a relatively new concept in the UK that allows individuals to lend to each other and to small businesses. It aims to provide better returns for lenders than from a bank deposit account while offering easier access to credit for borrowers.

Since it was established in 2010, Funding Circle has provided nearly £287 million of investment capital to almost 30,000 businesses. The government-backed British Business Bank already has lent £20 million through Funding Circle and is making a further £40 million available this year.

Tim Cocking said: "Potential investors on Funding Circle were able to interact with me and ask me questions about the business and its future direction. There was a mix of ordinary people looking for a reasonable return on their money and professional investors.

"Over the three-week fund-raising period, I was able to watch the different sums come in and they ranged from £20 to £2000. We were able to hit the time target with some margin to spare."

Tim will use the investment cash to prepare the ground for a new start-up in Perth, his first venture outside the Central Belt of Scotland.

He said: "It is a further opportunity to demonstrate that the business model, which has been so successful in Glasgow and Edinburgh, is easily transferable. Perth has a demographic which is just right for us and the market is currently substantially under-serviced."

Bright Care's staff of carers look after older people who have chosen to live independently at home rather than in a residential or nursing home. The service includes everything from assisting with the linen and laundry to intensive live-in care for complex needs.