A Unique Way of Investing in Small Family Businesses

Interview with Composer Christopher Gunning, Lendwithcare Supporter

A Unique Way of Investing in Small Family Businesses

Interview with Composer Christopher Gunning, Lendwithcare Supporter

It’s no secret that Christmas, traditionally associated with goodwill and generosity, has over the years become a festival of gluttony and excess. Waste, too, is slowly creeping up: this year an estimated £2.4billion will be spent on unwanted gifts in Britain alone. Charity gifts are on the rise as Christmas shoppers seek an alternative to what is increasingly seen as gratuitous consumerism. Poverty-fighting charity CARE International is suggesting we give Santa a long overdue year off, and instead give gift vouchers through its innovative microfinance platform Lendwithcare.org

Composer Christopher Gunning, known for his scores for La vie en Rose and Poirot, was among the first Lendwithcare.org supporters to try the voucher scheme as an alternative to Christmas gifts for his family last year. He explains why he firmly believes Lendwithcare.org is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’.

What made you decide to lend to an entrepreneur through Lendwithcare.org?

Lendwithcare.org came to my attention when I was involved in the ‘Concert For Care’ at the Royal Albert Hall a couple of years ago, organised by fellow composer and CARE ambassador David Arnold. I immediately thought it was a really useful way of helping others to help themselves.

It offers lenders an unique way of investing in small family businesses – you visit the website and choose exactly which person benefits from your loan. You can lend them anything from £15 towards their small business and see how successful their businesses are as they pay you back in instalments.

I selected which entrepreneur to support by looking at the nature of possible businesses to invest in, and the people behind them. There is a large variety of businesses and people to choose from, and I personally mostly went for clothing – everybody has to wear something!

Why did you decide to give each member of your family Lendwithcare.org gift vouchers last Christmas?

I have four daughters, and wanted to find unusual gifts that simultaneously appealed to their generosity. If everyone with a modicum of spare cash were to subscribe to schemes like this, much poverty in the world could be eliminated. I’m so glad I made that choice. My four daughters and my wife have expressed great enthusiasm for the scheme, and they have continued to support it by relending their repaid money to new entrepreneurs. It was also a lovely activity to do as a family and it certainly enriched our Christmas. We always try to spend Christmas together, and there was great excitement as my daughters logged onto Lendwithcare.org and started to choose who to invest in, and which kind of businesses in various countries to support.

How does Lendwithcare.org fit in with your ideas about what Christmas means to you?

I don’t need to remind everyone that Christmas has become extremely commercialised, and yet part of the Christmas message is to be kind and generous to others. So yes, Lendwithcare seems to fit well with the whole spirit of Christmas, and the idea that you are helping good people in a really useful, practical way appeals.

Your family started off with £1500 in gift vouchers; by recycling your loans your family have now lent over £3400 through 88 separate loans to entrepreneurs. How do you feel about Lendwithcare as the ‘gift that keeps on giving’?

When loans are repaid, you can choose to draw the money to use yourself if needs be, or you can reinvest if you don’t need the cash straight away. And that’s one of the beauties of the scheme – the money is yours but it’s put to very good use until such time as you need it. I hope the scheme continues to be successful and grows in popularity- I do think it is a marvellous antidote to the excess of Christmas.

Pollyanna Gunning , Christopher’s daughter, received a Lendwithcare.org voucher from him as a Christmas gift along with her three sisters.

Was this an unusual gift to receive from your dad?

I’d say it was an unusual gift, but actually just the kind of gift Dad would give. He is one of those people who seems to be really aware of what’s going on in the world. He brought my sisters and I up with a real appreciation of what we have, and an understanding of how lucky we are. As anyone who has ever looked at his Facebook page knows, he’s a real supporter of many charities and helps keep everyone around him aware of causes close to his heart!

Did you enjoy making the loans?

I loved it. And I have loved returning to the website to see the new entrepreneurs that are looking for support, and re-lending to new entrepreneurs once my loans have been paid back.

I particularly enjoy looking for people whose area of work I am interested in supporting, for example arable farmers as I’m a vegetarian. But I also make decisions on quite an emotional level once I have read the entrepreneurs’ profiles. It’s very rewarding making that loan when you know it will mean they can go ahead and purchase the equipment, supplies or whatever it is they need to be able to take their business forward.

Lendwithcare is also really easy to use, and it’s great that you can keep track of every loan you’ve made, every entrepreneur you’ve helped, your current account balance and so on. It’s very straightforward.

How does Lendwithcare.org fit in with your ideas about what Christmas means to you?

I absolutely love Christmas, but it can be excessive in terms of the amount of money spent on things we don’t really need. I think that the concept behind Lendwithcare can counterbalance some of this; I found that I really took the time to look through the site over the Christmas holidays after getting my voucher, and read every single one of the entrepreneurs stories. I think it’s important to take some time out to think about how other people live, and the challenges they face on a daily basis. It made me reassess my own life and feel grateful for the easy lifestyle I have in comparison.I actually enjoyed my voucher so much that I asked Dad for another one for my birthday rather than a ‘regular’ gift! The fact that you can re-lend in perpetuity means you keep returning to the site, and remembering the gift.

For a Christmas gift with no packaging, no High Street stress and no missed delivery times that can be ordered and given as late as Christmas Day itself, visit www.lendwithcare.org/vouchers.

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