One of the biggest challenges a startup faces is finding the capital to get off the ground. Traditional lenders want to see a track record of a couple of years, and even online lenders typically want to see at least a year. Nevertheless, there are more options available today than ever before for entrepreneurs looking to fund their fledgling companies.
Here are a few of them:
- Friends and Family: Reaching out to friends and family remains one of the biggest sources of capital for early-stage businesses. According to Pepperdine’s Private Capital Access Index, a loan from family or friends isn’t at the top of the list for most entrepreneurs looking for capital, but it’s one of the top places they actually find it—and this applies to small businesses of all ages and size, not just startups.
- Crowdfunding: If you can mobilize a large group of supporters to each contributes a small amount of money to your business idea, you might be able to access significant funding. Premium- or gift-based crowdfunding has been around the longest. In exchange for early access to products or some other premium, supporters “invest” in your company. A relatively new form of crowdfunding allows an entrepreneur to offer a true portion of ownership equity to potential investors in exchange for investment.
Regardless of which platform you choose, it would be a mistake to think of this as easy money. It requires a solid business plan and a product people can get behind to be successful.
- The SBA: A small business owner with a good business plan, a personal credit score of 650 or better, and appropriate collateral may find success with SBA-guaranteed loans that carry low rates. Earlier this year, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet also launched a new online tool called LINC, to help streamline the application process and connect business owners to the SBA-affiliated lenders in their area. And, in an effort to make small-dollar loans more available to business owners, they’ve increased the number of participating credit unions to fill that gap.
- Non-Profit Lenders: Many non-profit lenders are looking for opportunities where a small amount of capital can yield big social or community results. And many non-profit lenders are mission-based, so if the mission of your company matches their mission, you could be a fit. Non-profit lenders typically offer very low-interest or no-interest loans ranging from $5,000 to upwards of $50,000.
- Vendor Credit: Many startups find a lot of success establishing credit relationships with vendors or suppliers. This enables them to not only establish a positive credit relationship with those they purchase materials and supplies from, it also helps them build their business credit profile, making it easier to qualify for a small business loan down the road.
These are a few of the options available to startup entrepreneurs looking for capital—but this list isn’t all-inclusive. Some businesses (think high-tech) are able to find equity investors from an angel or venture firms willing to offer capital for ownership equity. And some entrepreneurs fund the early stages of their businesses with home equity or borrowing from their 401K, to offer a few more examples.
The good news is that you have options. The challenge now is to determine which of these options makes the most sense for your business.
Ty Kiisel is a contributing author at BusinessLoans.com, a new resource full of content addressing all aspects of business financing for small business owners. Ty has over 25 years of experience in the trenches of small business, and provides personal anecdotes and valuable tips to help small business owners become more financially responsible.