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In today's credit crunch, big banks are tightening up more than ever, and venture capitalists are becoming more careful with their investments. So now's the time to get creative with entrepreneurial finance and seek out sources you might not have thought of before. From credit card schemes to handouts, we've got your guide to unconventional funding sources.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Some of these ideas are for the truly insane entrepreneur. It'd be a good idea to speak to a financial advisor first if you're considering any of these.
- Title loans: If you've paid off your car, you can get a title loan against its value, similar to a home equity loan.
- Credit card consolidation: Use a credit card consolidation service to free up your existing credit so that you can use it again.
- Whole-life insurance: You can borrow against your whole-life insurance policy, but be careful not to default, terminate your policy, or die.
- Get an advance: Many credit cards offer cash withdrawals, so you can take full advantage of your credit limit, albeit at a very hefty price in interest.
- Home equity: A lucrative funding source just might be where you rest your head at night. Of course, if you screw up, you just might end up not living there any more.
- Retirement accounts: Raid your 401(k) to put the money into a more here-and-now investment.
- Credit card debt: The guys at Google did it, and so can you. Using credit cards to cover gaps in funding can work, as long as you're diligent about repayment.
- Gamble: If you're talented at the tables, put your skills to work to raise funding.
- Cosigners: If you can't be approved for a big bank loan, call in a cosigner to boost your credit rating.
- Overdraw your checking account: Many checking accounts have an insured ceiling, so you can write yourself a “rubber check.” Just plan on using your mattress as a bank for a while, because no one's going to want to touch you after this sort of stunt.
- Credit card companies: Many credit card companies offer outright loans to businesses who otherwise wouldn't qualify for anything through big banks.
- Payday loans: These evildoers of the credit world just might be your ticket to success if you can pay them back quickly.
- Family and friends: Getting a loan from someone you know works, but make sure to put it all down on paper, and never waver on your payments unless you want to ruin your relationship.
- Borrow from education funds: Your kid is only 10, so you've got a good 8 years to pay it back, right?
- Credit card arbitrage: Turn all of those annoying credit card offers into cash for your business.
- Negotiate delays: If you've already got credit card debts, and could use the payments for business cash flow, negotiate a hold on balance payments until things take off.
Get creative with your personal accounts and assets to find money for your business.
- Liquidate assets: Sell anything you have that's valuable to raise funds. This can be your house, car, or firstborn.
- Downsize costs: Find money in your own personal budget by cutting back on entertainment, clipping coupons, and tightening up your finances.
- Keep your day job: Keep a steady income while you're earning from your business so you'll always have a dependable source of funds.
- Get a second job: If one job isn't enough, take on a part time job and earmark the funds for your business.
Low Level Lending
Who needs a huge corporate bank? Turn to smaller banks and individuals to get the money you need.
- Bartering: Income doesn't have to mean cold, hard cash. Trade with other businesses for the equipment and services you need.
- Amateur shares: Write small shares to budding capitalists and promise to pay them back at a profit, such as 1.50 on the year.
- Microloans: These startups offer microloans to entrepreneurs.
- Prosper: To get a loan funded by regular joes, check out Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending site.
- Industry leaders: Ask individuals and businesses that are leaders in your industry for a loan. They're more likely to be sympathetic to your needs and understand your goals than big banks.
- Ask for advice: Advisors often want to put money behind their involvement, so find loan opportunities by seeking out help.
Check out these ideas for truly creative ways to find extra cash through innovative programs and even more risky lending.
- Vendor financing: Discuss payment and leasing options with your vendors so you don't have to buy supplies and equipment outright.
- Assign a CD: Get instant gratification on a certificate of deposit by assigning it.
- Revolving loan funds: Get a loan through a revolving loan fund, and once you've paid it back, it can be used by another budding entrepreneur.
- Susu: Susus are just like a revolving loan fund, except the system is managed among a group of peers. Use a susu to pool your money, and you'll each get a turn to use it and repay it.
- Asset sales: Sell an asset like computer equipment to someone you trust, and have them lease them back to you for a fair price. You'll get a nice amount of capital that you pay back over time.
- Commercial finance lines: Often used by franchisees, commerical finance lines are similar to vendor loans and are used for small-ticket equipment.
- Advance pay programs: If you have the potential for strong credit card sales, you can sell a fixed amount of future credit card recievables.
- Purchase order financing: Just like advance pay programs, purchase order financing gives you a loan based on projected future earnings.
- Supplier guarantees: Use a financial institution to guarantee that any receivables will be paid directly to your suppliers.
- Margin loan: Margin loans aren't just for buying securities. You can get these loans with flexible repayment terms, but you have to be careful not to default, or your brokerage firm can sell your securities.
- Investment bank: Many investment banks like Merrill Lynch have loan products that cater to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Factoring: Account receivables factoring companies leverage your account receivables into cash, allowing you to sell open invoices.
- Community Development Financial Institutions: If you're in an underserved market, you can get financing and development services from a CDFI.
- 504 Loans: This underutilized program from the SBA offers assitance to entrepreneurs acquiring commercial property.
- Royalty financing: Sell the rights to a percentage of revenue from your business to get funds upfront.
- Community loan: Ask for microloans from members of your community if your business will fill a need, like a supermarket.
- Securities-based lending: Put your securities up on the block for short term funding.
- Venture leasing: Instead of venture capital, consider venture leasing, which is secured by equipment and doesn't require equity in the business.
- Online credit search: Online credit search services can often uncover creative sources of funding you may not have considered before.
- Customer financing: If a potential customer has a lot to gain from the existence of your business, ask them to finance your startup.
- Asset-backed loans: Get a loan by putting up collateral, whether it's your home or existing business equipment.
- International banks: Banks outside of the US are often interested in profitable investments, and can benefit from exchange rate fluctuations.
Make your assets go to work for you, and find funding in places you probably haven't considered before.
- Sell off excess inventory: Clean out your equipment cabinet with a fire sale to raise some extra cash.
- Sell expensive equipment: If you've got expensive equipment that you don't really need to own outright, lease equipment like it instead.
- Timeshare equipment: If you don't need access to certain pieces of equipment all of the time, share it with others for a cost.
- Spread out large expenses: Spend slowly, and you just might find you have more funds than you think.
- Discounted gift certificates: Offer $25 in free products for every $100 in gift certificates purchased, and you'll raise capital while expanding your customer base.
- Sell your customer list: Other businesses would love to be able to locate your customers, so sell them this information for funding. Just make sure you haven't specifically promised not to sell customer information.
- Sell office space: If you've got excess space, sell it or rent it out to another business.
- Sell intellectual property: If your business has unused patents or licensing, sell them off.
Use these ideas to get by with a little help from others.
- Strategic alliance: Create a joint venture with a complementary business to share costs and generate more business.
- Merge: Allow your business to be acquired by another, at a price of course.
- Sell shares to employees: Your employees have more faith in your success than you think. Sell them shares, and you'll not only generate funds, you'll have harder working employees as well.
- Capital intermediary: Get a capital intermediary to give you seed money and let them go when you've reached maturity.
- Get a financial partner: Marry your idea with a partner's cash to raise funds, even if it's just a “silent” partner.
- Use a partner's equipment: Save money on the basics by partnering up to share space and equipment with another business.
Use other people's money to grow your business with these contests and programs.
- Entrepreneurship programs: Many colleges and other organizations run entrepreneurship projects that offer development assistance, and sometimes even monetary rewards.
- HUD: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers grants to small businesses.
- Area residents: If your business plan includes revitalization of an area, ask for help from residents who would benefit from it.
- Municipality: Check in your municipality to find out if there are any small business support programs.
- Grants: Read this article to discover options for getting grants for your startup.
- County: Many counties offer small business development assistance. Even if you can't get financial support, they may be able to advise you on tightening up your books and other methods for raising money.
- Chamber of Commerce: Often, local chambers of commerce offer assistance to members and small businesses in the area.
- Idea Cafe: Get a grant from Idea Cafe, or just find one in their directory.
- Donation jar: If you often find yourself doing favors for others, like fixing computers or retouching photos, kindly refer them to your donation jar.
- Economic Development Directory: Check out this directory to find more than 2,000 agencies and other groups that want to help you out.
- Business plan competitions: Enter a business plan competition-if you win, there's usually a generous cash prize, and it's good exercise anyway.
- Business incubators: Get hooked up with a business incubator for support like office space, administrative services, and networking.
- Found money: Take any inheritance, lottery winning, or cash you find on the street, and invest it in your business.
- Contests: Don't forget about non-business contests as well. Try to go on TV, enter the lottery, or participate in a sweepstakes for a chance at a quick financial shot in the arm for your business.
- Local development: Many organizations offer grants to local businesses in order to foster growth in the area.
- State small business grants: Lots of states offer grants to individuals who want to develop small businesses.
- Grants.gov: Apply for more than 900 different grants from 26 government agencies on this site.
- Social entrepreneurship contests: Just like business plan contests, great social entrepreneurship plans are heavily rewarded.
If you're still working a regular job while building your business, take advantage of these ideas to get funding.
- Overtime: Take on overtime as supplemental income to fund your venture.
- Take an overseas assignment: By going overseas, you may be able to get a raise, and save money due to cheaper living conditions and favorable exchange rates.
- Bonuses: Don't blow your bonus on a trip to Vegas or a brand new TV. Instead, invest it into your business.
- Contract: Turn your employer into a client by working as an independent contractor, and you can make up the difference through strategic choices in taxes and insurance.
- Advances: Ask for an advance from your employer, and turn it into a profit.
- Severance pay: If you've been laid off, turn your severance pay into entrepreneurial gold.
Borrow some of Uncle Sam's money with these government loans.
- Department of Agriculture: Through the Rural Business Investment Program, companies who are located in a small rural community can get early stage funding.
- SBIC: The classification of Small Business Investment Company is bestowed upon investment firms that provide startup financing to small businesses, and they're regulated and licensed by the SBA.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology: Get a loan through the Advanced Technology Program by proving that your project has scientific and technological merit, and will impact the national economy. These are great because they don't take stake, and they don't ask for interest.
- SBIR: A number of government departments have Small Business Innovation Research programs that offer grants to entrepreneurs with innovative businesses. These include clean energy, intellectual property, and more.
- STTR: Small high-tech businesses can participate in the Small Business Technology Transfer program.
Find money in your own books by running a tighter ship.
- Lower costs: Find any way you can to lower your overhead, whether it means cutting back on hiring or putting off equipment purchases to scrimp and save.
- Shorten your terms: Make customers pay faster, and you'll have more funds to work with, faster.
- Charge interest: Charge interest on receivables that sit dormant, so customers will have an incentive to free up your cash flow situation.
- Ask for deposits: Deposits are great for dealing with up front costs, another method that's great for cash flow.
- Discount up-front payments: Offer a 10% discount for customers who prepay and you'll get faster cash.
- Negotiate discounts: Talk to suppliers, and offer a profit percentage for discounted invoices.
- Find unusual sources: Get materials from closing down shops, junkyards, and anywhere else you can find what you need.
- Use cheap staff: Hire your punk little brother, a virtual assistant, or answering service to help you out.
- Work at home: Cut overhead costs by avoiding rent and maintenance in a commercial property.
- Find unconventional space: If you must have a physical presence, think outside the box when it comes to your location, and you just might find yourself with a cost savings.