Whether you are just formulating a business plan for launch or you already have a company that is in need of a cash infusion, bank loans are often unattainable if you don’t meet the proper requirements. Fortunately, there are a variety of creative ways to fund the growth.
If your banker turns you down, instead of becoming discouraged, consider one of these 10 alternative financing options:
Before there was currency, there was only bartering. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 25 percent of the world’s trade is still done this way. Bartering can save money, move unused inventory and find new customers. Think about how you can trade or exchange your products or services. Bartering directly with another business can be done through a barter exchange like IMS Barter.
If your business is new and technology-based, then it may be a good candidate for seed money or a mentorship program that will help connect to capital. Organizations like Excelerate Labs and TechStars have a great track record of success. While there is a lot of competition to become part of an incubator, it is good to focus on a handful of organizations which match up best with your goals.
Business plan competitions or other contests
When all else fails, try to win the money! There are a number 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. This is one of the toughest ways to raise money, but if you have a very competent team, a great idea and a stand-out presentation, go for it.
A sister method to peer-to-peer, you can now get people to invest in your cause in exchange for something other than money. This is a different source of funding because the money is not repaid. The incentives for donors range from receiving your first products to having a product named after them. Popular sites that facilitate crowdfunding include IndieGoGo.com and Kickstarter.com. Crowdfunding is very emotional and involves gathering cash from many people. The success in raising cash is based on the appeal of your idea, but if you don’t raise your goal amount, in some instances, you don’t receive any money from the people that pledged to invest.
There is money to be found in government grants, but these programs require research at local, state and federal levels. Agencies such as USDA, the Department of Commerce, and the Treasury Department offer some attractive programs, but they are very specific and technical in nature, and each comes with reporting strings attached.
Receiving an immediate cash advance against invoices or accounts receivable from asset-based lenders called factors can be an optimal solution for securing cash needed to grow. The factor advances most of the invoice amount, usually 70-90 percent, after reviewing the credit-worthiness of the billed customer. When the bill is paid, the factor remits the balance, minus a transaction or factoring fee. Factoring can be a good source of capital for high growth or start-up companies, but not a method of financing for a company that is shrinking or losing money.
While this is relatively new in the United States, small loans up to $10,000 are gaining popularity. The loans are based on your experience, passion, market opportunity and sales. Organizations offering microfinancing include Accion USA, Grameen Bank and Kiva. If you have an appealing idea and only need a small about of money, it can be a good alternative.
Peer-to-peer lending (P2P)
It is now possible to go online and get funding from people you do not know on sites such as Prosper.com and LendingClub.com. P2P loan amounts will depend on credit score, the economy, the length of the loan and the business’ story. The downside here is P2P loans are not easy to secure, and the interest rates can be very high.
Before borrowing money from an IRA or 401(k), first find out if you can get a 60-day interest-free loan from your retirement account. The benefit here is there are no fees, if the loan is paid back in the 60-day time frame. Remember, this is your retirement money, so using it is risky and potentially devastating to your livelihood — if the business fails.
Supplier or wholesaler financing
Supplier or wholesaler financing secures money needed through a business’ supply chain. This method works best with a smaller, local supplier that really wants business and is willing to work with you. Factors can be a big help in this area, as they can offer vendor assurance letters which can help garner additional credit from a vendor.
The key is to think beyond the traditional and to research various avenues to determine what may work for you. Although these options may not all be long-term financing solutions, they can definitely help bring in the cash you need for growth, until you qualify for a traditional bank loan or can appeal to investors.