In celebration of National Small Business Week, today's Guest Post comes from small business influencer, Barbara Weltman, who shares insights on finding funds to start a business.
Barbara Weltman (@BarbaraWeltman) is an attorney, a prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes and J.K. Lasser’s Guide to Self-Employment, and a trusted advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and Big Ideas for Small Business® at www.barbaraweltman.com as well as host of a monthly radio show. She’s been named one of the 100 Small Business Influencers five years in a row.
It takes money to start a business and get your idea off the ground. Depending on the nature of your business, you may require only a little bit of cash—your seed money—or you may need considerable funds. You can borrow money (debt) or find investors (equity) to meet your capital requirements. Here are some funding options to explore.
According to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), 82 percent of all businesses start with the owner’s personal resources. These can come in a variety of ways:
- Personal savings. This is the best source of capital because there are no strings attached—no repayments, no interest cost, no timing issues.
- Credit card borrowing. Using personal credit cards to start a business is pretty common. Sergy Brin and Larry Page did this to start Google in the 1990’s. The biggest downside: the high interest rate.
- Home equity borrowing. If you own a home that’s worth more than your mortgage, you can borrow with a home equity loan (the lender sets the borrowing limits). The downside: If the business fails and you can’t repay the loan, you could lose your home.
Caution: Don’t dip into your 401(k) and IRAs to start businesses. Doing this not only costs you in taxes up front, but if the business fails, you lose your retirement savings.
Loans and lines of credit
Don’t expect to walk into your neighborhood bank to get a loan for starting your business. Even SBA loans, which are commercial loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, usually aren’t available for startups. If you have an excellent credit score—680 or better—you may qualify for a personal loan, but interest on such borrowing is high, even in today’s low interest environment.
With a good credit score, your business may qualify for a line of credit; your personal guarantee can swing this financing. You only pay interest on the portion of the line you draw upon. For example, if you have a $50,000 line of credit and use $20,000, you pay interest on $20,000. NVCA reports that 41 percent of startup funding comes from loans and lines of credit.
Family and friends
A rich uncle or a fabulous friend may help you get started by either investing in your business or giving you a loan, as about a quarter of all business startups do. But ask yourself whether your relationships will sour if the business doesn’t succeed and your investor or lender loses money.
This relatively new way to find capital for a business can be done in a variety of ways: mere contributions (with no repayment by you), loans as discussed earlier, or, most recently, equity crowdfunding. All together this source of funding from strangers online accounts for about 3 percent of startup funds, according to the NVCA.
These are just the most common ways to find the cash to get started. You don’t have to choose just one resource; you can combine your options to raise the amount of money required. For example, you may have your friend invest some money and use your personal credit card to buy equipment or other items needed to open your doors for business. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into so you can succeed.