10 Creative Ways To Get Your Business Funded

Short on startup funds? Try these alternatives to bank loans for surprising sources of funding.
September 13, 2011

Forget applying to banks to get a loan for your business. Most of them stopped being in the “give a loan to a small company who has no collateral” business in 2007. This does not, however, mean that you are out of options to fund the growth of your company.

In his new book, Get Your Business Fundedauthor Steve Strauss discusses creative ways to get the money that you need. Here are 10 options to try:

1. Factoring

 This method allows you to sell your accounts receivable to a third party (i.e. The Receivables Exchange) for immediate cash. It’s a $150 billion industry and goes back to the ancient time of Babylonia. Remember: Factoring is expensive since it can cost up to 15 percent of the receivable. This may work for a growing company, but is not a method of financing for a company that is shrinking or losing money.

2. Retirement accounts

 Borrowing money from your IRA or 401(k) can be tempting. First consider a 60 day interest free loan from it. There are no fees if it is paid back in this time frame. Remember: This is your retirement money, so using it is risky and potentially devastating if you lose your business.

3. Government grants

These programs require research at local, state and federal levels. According to Steve, these agencies include the USDA, the Department of Commerce, and the Treasury Department. They come with names like SBIRSTTR and SBICRemember: Typically they are very specific and technical in nature and come with reporting strings attached.

4. Peer to peer lending (P2P)

 It is now possible to go online and get funding from people you do not know at sites such as Prosper.com and Lending Club. The amount paid for the loan depends on your credit score, the economy, the length of the loan and “your story.” Remember: P2P loans are not easy to get and the interest rates can be very high.

5. Crowdfunding

A sister method to P2P, you can now get people to invest in “your cause” in exchange for something (other than money). This is a different source of funding since the money is not repaid. The rewards for donors range from receiving your first products to having a product named after them. Popular sites that facilitate crowdfunding include IndieGoGo and KickstarterRemember: Crowdfunding is very emotional and its success is based on the appeal of your idea.

6. Microfinancing

While this is relatively new in the United States, these small loans up to $10,000 are gaining popularity. Loans are based on your experience, passion, market opportunity and sales. Organizations include Accion USAGrameen Bank and KivaRemember: It is a good alternative if you have an appealing idea and need a small about of money.

7. Supplier or wholesaler financing

This method works with your supply chain to get the money that you need. It usually works best with a smaller, local supplier who really wants your business and is willing to work with you. Tony Hsieh, CEO at Zappos said this type of financing was critical to the company’s growth. Remember: Don’t personally guarantee this loan.

8. Business plan competitions or other contests

When all else fails, try to win the money! There are a lot of regional and national competitions giving away substantial amounts of money. These include the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Challenge, The GE Ecomagination Challenge and the Amazon Web Services Start Up Challenge. Remember: This is really show business that loves a great idea and very competent team. You also need to be a good presenter.

9. Business incubators

If your business is new, it can get seed money, mentorship and other similar services to get started. These types of organizations have a great track record of success which include Excelerate Labs and TechStarsRemember: There is a lot of competition to become part of an incubator these days so focus on a handful of organizations which match up best with your goals.

10. Barter

Swap products or services, not money. Before there was currency, there was only barter (trading). The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 25 percent of the world’s trade is still done this way. Barter can save money, move unused inventory and find new customers. Bartering can be done directly with another business or through a barter exchange like IMS BarterRemember: Barter selective goods and services. You still typically can’t pay your employees or rent without cash.

What creative ways do you have for funding your business?