So you have a great idea for a startup, but your checking account is emptier than JC Penny after Black Friday. What do you do? If you are like most over-eager, first-time entrepreneurs, you’ll have a good cry. But, inevitably, you should recognize that there are other ways to finance your startup besides cutting a personal check. In fact, most entrepreneurs look outside their personal accounts for funding because they can get more money faster to achieve their business dreams.
In this post, we’ll look at five ways to gain the capital you need to launch your startup, small-business loans, home equity loans, credit cards, investors, and crowdfunding. Without a doubt, one of them will fulfill your funding needs in no time.
1. Small-Business Loans
Most lenders are more than willing to learn about your startup concept and consider granting you the capital you need in the form of a small-business loan. Prominent institutions, local financial centers, and even online services provide enterprising startups with necessary funding — as long as you provide the right information. To apply (and ideally attain) a small-business loan, here’s a sampling of what you’ll need:
- A fully formed business plan
- Personal and business credit reports
- Financial statements
- Personal background information
The most reliable provider of small-business loans is the Small Business Administration (SBA), which is a government entity tasked with looking after the health of the nation’s small enterprises. In 2014, the SBA doled out nearly $20 billion in the form of 53,000 loans to small businesses looking for extra capital. The SBA operates on a regional basis, which means you should seek additional information on loan programs (as well as guidance from SBA-approved startup mentors) from your area’s SBA office.
2. Home Equity Loans
If you are paying a mortgage, you have an alternative opportunity for small-business loans. Using your home’s equity — which is the difference between your house’s value and the amount you still owe — you can borrow a rather sizeable amount of funding for your startup.
Many entrepreneurs prefer home equity loans to others due to their notoriously low-interest rates and welcome flexibility. Yet, you might find the risk too much to bear; after all, if your startup fails, you could lose your home, as well.
3. Credit Cards
If you anticipate your business to start small and stay that way for a while, using credit cards to fund your startup might be a smart choice. After all, you likely already know how easy credit cards are to apply for and use. A business credit card will grant you access to an unimaginably high line of credit to help you gather all the supplies you need to get your business going fast, which is exactly what most startup entrepreneurs hope for.
However, like with personal cards, there are right and wrong ways to use credit for your business. When you are just beginning in business, most lenders will ask for a personal guarantee for your business cards, meaning your credit score will feel the pain of delinquent business payments. Of course, your personal and business finances are interrelated in many ways, so connecting your personal and startup credit isn’t necessarily a big leap.
4. Angel Investors
Praying won’t help you get funding for your startup — unless you are praying to an angel investor: a wise, benevolent individual (or organization) interested in working with you to make your dreams come true. Angel investors aren’t entirely altruistic; they usually ask a 20- to 30-percent return on their investment. However, they also provide invaluable support and advice to new entrepreneurs.
A few years ago, crowdfunding was the cool, exciting way to gain enough money for your startup. Instead of pandering to daunting, indifferent investors, with crowdfunding, you have the opportunity to flaunt your idea directly to your intended consumers, who you hope will respond enthusiastically with small monetary contributions to your dream.
Today, plenty of crowdfunding platforms still exist to help you connect with a generous audience, but most entrepreneurs have discovered that crowdfunding can be exceedingly hard work. Unlike loans, crowdfunding requires diligent marketing before, during, and after the campaign, and unlike investors, it can take years to accumulate enough capital to move forward.
Crowdfunding certainly has the potential to exceed your funding goals with absolutely no repayment obligations from you, which is precisely why so many entrepreneurs are drawn to the idea. However, it also has the potential to produce no income whatsoever while wasting valuable months of prep time, and it is impossible to tell which outcome to occur.