No matter what kind of small business you run, access to funds is likely the major impediment you face when it comes to your ability to grow. Whether you need that money for marketing, product development, purchasing real estate, or any other purpose, there are a number of avenues to explore that can enable you to get the funds you need without taking on an outsized risk.
Small Business Administration
One of the greatest resources for accessing funding for your small business is the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA operates a variety of programs geared towards helping small companies compete and expand, and it also acts as an intermediary between lenders and small businesses looking for funding.
The SBA loan programs don’t involve borrowing money from the agency directly. They do make loans from major lenders easier for small businesses to procure, however, because the SBA guarantees part of the loan, making it less of a risk for the lender. There are several categories of loans available through the SBA, and the one that’s right for you will depend on the details of your business, as well as what you’d like to use the money for.
Some of the most popular programs include:
- Microloans – These are available to small businesses and certain non-profits in amounts up to $50,000, and they can be used for the purchase of new equipment, supplies, or as working capital.
- 7(a) Loan Program – This is the most popular loan program available through the SBA, and the maximum size of these loans is $5 million, with no minimum. There are a number of specific factors that could disqualify your business, but in general, your company must be for-profit, satisfy the SBA’s definition of a small business, have a sound business purpose, and demonstrate a need for the funds.
- Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIRP) – If you operate a high-tech or high-growth company, and you’re interested in a loan to fund research and development, the SBIRP program may be a good place to start. This program provides funds in the form of loans and grants to help small businesses compete with large firms, as research and development costs are often prohibitive. It also helps the federal government to meet its own needs in the areas of healthcare, defense, environmental protection, and more.
Credit Cards and Lines of Credit
If your funding needs are relatively small at the moment, credit cards and lines of credit may provide just the level of financial flexibility you’re looking for. Lines of credit in particular are a great alternative to loans for modest amounts because you only pay interest on the current balance. With a loan, on the other hand, you receive a lump sum up front, but then you have to pay interest on a much larger total as you pay it back.
Another great source of funds for small businesses is crowdfunding. This is available through a variety of sites including Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdfunder, Equity Crowdfunding, Onevest, and more.
This type of funding is usually used to finance a new product or service, or to raise the money necessary to launch a new business. In order to have success on one of these platforms, you do need to plan ahead, starting your campaign at least 6 months before you plan on needing the money. You also should set your goal as low as possible while still being a viable amount to let you accomplish what you’re setting out to do, as these tend to be all-or-nothing endeavors.
Depending on the details of your situation, a business incubator can open up all kinds of opportunities for you to grow your business. Some of these operate a physical space to facilitate in-person networking, while others are exclusively online. Finding one that’s the right fit for your company can provide access to vital resources, including accountants, lawyers and potential investors.
Some other sources of funding for your small business to keep in mind are:
- Prepayment – Asking customers to prepay for their goods or services is a good way to get yourself some working capital to devote to their order while freeing up funds in other areas to reinvest and grow your business.
- Supplier Credit – Similarly, asking your suppliers to allow you to pay up to 90 days after receipt of an invoice rather than 30 is a good way to get yourself some breathing room and expand your capability.
- Factoring Companies – While it’s standard practice for many larger companies to pay invoices 30 to 60 days after receiving them, it can create a huge cash flow issue for smaller businesses. Factoring companies allow you to receive the total due on an invoice immediately, with the bill being settled once the customer pays.
Not all of these funding sources will be appropriate for your business, but it’s important to remember that there are many resources out there if you know where to look. Even a small infusion of cash can go a long way towards getting you over the hump and enabling your company to grow and flourish.