You've got a great idea for a business that you want to start, but have no collateral and not enough money in your savings account. Are you out of luck? Not necessarily.
Where do you go to find funding for a new business? Learn all about small business funding options in this helpful tutorial.
How to Get Funding For a Business (Example)
Let's start with an example. Here's what one entrepreneur did to get funding.
Vladimir Gendelman, Founder and CEO of Company Folders, used no-interest rate cash advances from multiple credit cards to raise $50,000 to fund his business because he couldn’t borrow money from banks.
He adds, “When the promotional period for the credit card ended, I would transfer the balance to another card so I can pay the debt without incurring interest.”
While it’s a creative way to raise funds, it’s not for everyone. Not all business models have a healthy cash flow that'll allow you to pay debts regularly on a monthly basis (as in the case of businesses with 30 to 60-day net payment terms).
Although some banks are more lenient now compared to how they were during the 2018 Great Depression, more businesses are seeking alternative funding methods knowing they might have a harder time getting approved for a traditional loan.
What Is Business Funding? Debt vs. Equity Funding for New Businesses
You can get capital funds for your new business in a variety of ways, including money from:
- your savings
Wherever the money comes from, it'll fall into one of the two main types business funding: debt or equity. But what do those terms mean?
- Debt is money borrowed that'll be paid at a pre-determined schedule at an agreed interest rate.
- Equity is money given in exchange for ownership of your new business.
Unlike getting a loan, taking on equity isn’t a one-time transaction because the money you take includes a long-term working relationship with investors who've got a vested interest in the success of your business. That means you can’t make business decisions on your own, as your investors will want to weigh in on how you run things. If you’re not ready for that, you’re better off with loans.
These articles can help you learn more about equity financing:
- How to Raise Money From Venture CapitalistsAndrew Blackman11 Mar 2014
- The Pros and Cons of Having Private Equity Firms Invest In Your BusinessAndrew Blackman20 Apr 2022
Alternative Small Business Funding Options
If you’ve been declined by banks or clueless how to get funding for a business, the options below should give you a broader idea of the alternative funding options available:
1. Peer to Peer (P2P) Lending
A 2017 poll from SmallBizTrends show that 13% of respondents prefer online loan marketplaces. Digital platforms are still not as mainstream as traditional loans, but they're gaining momentum.
Jimi Shabir, Managing Director at Bootcamp Media likes P2P lending because:
“P2P platforms like Funding Circle helps small businesses to quickly raise money to meet short-term goals such as working capital for your new company’s first project.”
P2P platforms work like banks, except in this case the money you’re going to borrow will come from different individual investors. They don’t require collateral and the documentary requirements aren’t as strict as bank loans.
But that doesn’t mean they'll loan money to just about anyone. After all, they also need to protect their investors, so expect some platforms to require a certain credit score or sales volume.
Here's a list of some P2P lending options:
Unlike banks, however, the decision to approve your loan isn’t made by one person. Instead, it’s up to the individual investors of the P2P platform to decide whether they'll fund your loan or not. The good news is the application can take as little as 10 minutes, and most platforms will post your loan request within 24 hours.
2. Government Grants
Governments usually allocate funds for the creation of new businesses, especially those targeting worthy causes such as education, medicine, technology, and social needs.
The requirements to apply for a grant vary, as these are given by different government agencies that in turn have their own goals and requirements.
While grants aren’t typical equity investments, the government agencies that distribute these funds will require you to report on your progress. They'll monitor your results because they either have to show proof that the funds were given to a legitimate business and weren’t corrupted, or they've got a plan to use your idea (which is typical for military, medical, and educational grants).
Here are some examples of where to find government grants:
3. Angel Investors
Angel investors are like Venture Capitalists (VC) who invest money in exchange for a share of your company’s ownership. Angels are often wealthy individuals who've got successful businesses of their own. They're looking for new business ideas that have potential so they can help them grow and earn a profit in return for their investment.
Unlike VCs though, an angel investor could get more hands-on because they’re risking their own money. Angel Resource Institute’s 2016 report also shows that they prefer businesses in the Healthcare, Software, and B2B industries.
You can find angel investors at Angel Capital Association or Angels Den.
Micro loans are small, short-term loans with a low interest rate. They’re often used by self-employed business owners and new startups with minimal capital requirements. The loanable amount varies per organization, but it usually ranges from $500 to $50,000.
Requirements vary per lending organization, but this is one of the most lenient options for aspiring entrepreneurs who need start-up capital and have no revenue history. Some organizations also prioritize loan applications from women and minority groups.
Below are some of the micro lenders operating in the U.S.:
- Grameen America. Provides microloans of $2000 to a group of four women after they complete one-week of financial training.
- Justine Petersen, A non-profit that provides a microloan of $10,000 as an intermediary of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Check out this guide if you’re interested in other business startup capital loan options:
Crowdfunding platforms allow you to raise funds from individual contributors (a.k.a. “backers”) who love your business idea. It’s a great option for entrepreneurs who've got a creative product, but have no funds to manufacture it yet. It also works for those who want input on a prototype they designed, since backers often give design suggestions when your campaign is actively raising funds.
This funding source can’t be directly classified as debt or equity, since backers give funds in exchange for early-access to your products, or what crowdfunding platforms call “rewards.”
While there are no credit checks or sales volume requirements for crowdfunding, it requires a fair bit of creativity and marketing know-how to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign.
A typical crowdfunding campaign includes:
- videos and images of the product or business idea
- a story about you and your company
- product description and technical specifications
- production timeline
Here's a list of crowdfunding platforms:
6. Payment Portals and E-Commerce Platforms
Do you think your business won’t qualify for a government grant or P2P loan? If you’re using payment platforms like PayPal or Square, you might still be eligible for a loan.
Here are the current terms for a PayPal Working Capital loan:
- Loanable amount. up to 35% of your annual sales, but not more than $125,000 for your first loan
- Requirements. Business or Premier account that’s at least three-months old
- Sales volume. $20,000 and $15,000 in annual sales for Premier accounts and Business accounts respectively
- Payment terms. loan repayments are deducted from every sale processed, but you need to pay 5% to 10% of your total loan every 90 days.
- Credit check. no
Application time. five minutes
Here are the current terms for a Square Business loan:
Square doesn’t have an application process per se, because they only offer business loans to customers they deem eligible. Because of this, there’s not much info on their website about the loan requirements but below are some information from Merchant Maverick, a marketplace for credit card processing and point-of-sale (POS) machines.
- Loanable amount. $500 to $100,000
- Payment terms. 1.10 to 1.16 factor rate or $01.0 to $0.16 for every dollar borrowed
- Sales volume. $10,000 a year
Here are the current terms for a Shopify Capital loan:
Shopify isn’t a payment platform or POS, but as an e-commerce software they work with millions of small businesses around the world. Like Square, they don’t accept loan applications and only offer funding to users that meet their criteria.
- Loanable amount. $400 to $500,000 according the Shopify Capital’s FAQ page
- Requirements. low risk profile, Shopify Payments are enabled, and the business is based in the United States, and a certain gross merchandise volume
Note: These terms are at the discretion of the lender and may change.
How to Decide How Much Business Funding to Get
Robin Parets, CEO of Pretzel Kids, a company that offers kid-friendly yoga training and merchandise, used iFundWomen to raise funds for their online training program and scholarship. Here’s what Parets has to say on deciding how much funds to raise,
“I carefully chose the amount I needed based on how much these projects (online training program and scholarships) needed, and based on the amount I felt I could achieve via crowdfunding.”
You might be tempted to get as much as you can possibly get, but this approach poses considerable risks both for debt and equity financing. Huge loans can turn lead to payment challenges and huge interest rates that can affect your cash flow, while huge equity financing means ceding more control and ownership of your company.
It’s true that there’s no specific formula or number for the perfect funding amount, so the key is to find the balance between asking for too much and too little. The questions below can help you determine how much funding you need:
- What do you plan to use the money for? Do you need it to hire people, buy materials, or launch a marketing campaign?
- How much profit are you expecting in six months? What about in one year?
- What expenses will you incur as you run the business?
The amount you need will also depend on the manufacturing costs of your product, so consider the costs of your materials and whether you’re manufacturing locally or outsourcing the production abroad. Read this guide from Shopify to help you pick a manufacturer before you decide on an initial funding amount.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Different Business Funding Options
There’s no rule that says you've got to fund your new business solely with loans. You can combine your personal savings, money from different lenders, and even take on equity financing if your business needs it.
The success of your funding application, however, depends on several factors. So instead of wasting your time applying for all available options, it’s better to concentrate your efforts where you’re likely to succeed.
Think about the following factors before you apply for financing:
1. Target Market Size and Growth
How big is your target market? How big is it going to be in a few years?
These are just some of the factors banks and angel investors consider when approving funding requests.
Some investors also prefer certain industries, like how angels and VCs prefer tech startups, while some government grants prefer businesses that tackle challenges in the energy and educational sector.
2. Time Frame
It’s easier to get debt financing compared to equity financing because investors and grants can take several weeks before deciding on a certain business idea.
Loans from alternate lenders like PayPal and Shopify can be processed in just a few days, while P2P loans can take a few weeks or a month to get fully-funded depending on how much you need.
3. Control of Your Business
Are you willing to give someone partial control of your business?
If you’re not open to listen to someone else’s input on running your business, then you shouldn’t take equity investments. Investors will also hold you accountable on manufacturing timelines, sales quotas, and other metrics that affect your revenue so make sure you're comfortable reporting to someone else.
4. Amount of Funding You Need
You can’t expect to get hundreds of thousands from micro-loan providers, and you’ll be wasting your time talking to investors if you’re only looking for $5000 or less.
5. Marketing and Application Materials for Funding
Do you have a proposal ready that'll entice angel investors?
Do you have a video demonstration and website landing page that accurately describes your product while talking up its main vantage points?
You’ll need these and more to get the buy in of both lenders and investors. You can find thousands of the best Business Proposal templates on Envato Elements, with a great offer: download as many as you want for one low price!
Each of the many proposal templates from Envato Elements has hundreds of creative proposal options. While feature-rich, they're also quick and easy to work with.
You can customize each template with your inspiring business proposal ideas and present your business proposal format with style and clarity to potential investors. That way, each page tells your story—helping you change minds, influence key decisions makers, and make deals.
If you can't make up your mind about which proposal template to choose, here are some of our best to choose from:
- 35+ Best Business Proposal Templates: Ideas For New Client Projects in 2023Marc Schenker01 Apr 2023
Legal Liabilities and Ramifications of Failing to Deliver to Investors
Not paying your debt can land you in jail—that much is clear. But not delivering on promised returns to investors? That’s a bit tricky.
Investors can sue business owners for all sorts of reasons, including when your business fails to take off. In some cases, an angel investor will even file a legal complaint if their takeover attempts don’t work (from growthbusiness.co.uk).
“The exact grounds for a valid lawsuit varies according to the state you chose to incorporate in, the setup of your business (Corporation or Limited Liability Company), and whether you have the right language in your business’s governing instruments which includes your Certificate of Incorporation, Term Sheet, and Operating Agreement,” says Criminal Defense Attorney Vikas Bajaj.
With all the possible scenarios and all the different laws out there, it’s virtually impossible to protect yourself against all potential lawsuits. So the best thing you can do is get a good legal counsel to draw up your documents before signing on any financing agreements
Do Your Homework: Avoid Regrets From Choosing the Wrong Small Business Funding
The time you spend researching available financing options and the obligations that come with them is time well-spent. It'll save you from a ton of headache, which can be anything from dealing with unwanted interference from an investor or pesky repayment terms from a loan you didn’t fully understand.
Now that you understand your small business funding options, you're ready to find the funding you need for your new business. And don't forget to make use of a business proposal template from Envato Elements to make the best impression on potential investors.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2019. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.