Whether you’re starting a new business, or growing one, you will turn a corner where funding the venture from your savings account is no longer an option. So where do business owners go after they exhaust savings and are on the brink of turning a profit? Here are a few alternatives, outside of a costly initial public offering, for you to consider.
Have a Plan
Before taking any path, don’t forget to make a plan. A detailed business plan that lays out a road map of where your business intends to go will come in handy when talking to people. This plan can be a flexible work in process, but needs to be in place before you talk to anyone about raising money.
Determine Capital Needs
Even if you are not a numbers person, you have to figure out what baseline needs for your business to run. Do it on a 1, 3, and 5 year trajectory. Have a few different scenarios. You don’t need to show these to others. Once you find an avenue that fits your business plan sit down with an accountant to make sure your bases are covered. After you know what you need and how you’ll spend it, then you can find the money.
Family and Friends
The first people new business owners inevitably turn to when looking to raise money is their family and friends. Even if these people don’t bite, it is good practice. Take your pitches seriously. Create a pitch deck and present it even. You can either take on debt financing at a reasonable interest rate or sell a (small) portion of your business interest for their cash input.
Be wary of extending the “friends” circle too far or talking in public because of securities rules. Take the time to find a trusted advisor, like an attorney, to talk to about your plans and to help with company documents. Ask what you missed and what you need to look out for when raising money. They will help find answers specific to your situation and goals.
Banks and other lenders may have great terms for a company that has established a little bit of history. There are also many options for startup and small business loans and ways to personally secure a loan for your new business. Establish a relationship with a good business banker, maybe start at your personal bank, so they can talk to you about different options and programs. Also consider opening a business account with a local or regional bank that might have more flexibility in evaluating your business’ creditworthiness.
Another option is a private offering of debt or equity in your business to accredited investors – based on things like net worth or total assets owned. As a side note, there are offering types for up to 35 non-accredited investors -people who don’t meet minimum requirements- which require more caution to do properly.
Once you’re considering whether to do a private offering, be sure you have a solid business banker, advisor, consultant or broker dealer (who you hire depends on your needs and size), a knowledgeable attorney, and a good tax professional or accountant on board- also find a PR or marketing person to help boost your business presence. Your team is critical in helping you figure out a valuation, structure an offering, identify avenues to find potential investors, and administer the overall offering, especially if these things are new to you. Private offerings are a great way to raise money when state and federal securities rules are followed. There are also quasi-public options like crowdfunding and Regulation A+ that your team can talk with you about.
Although angels, sharks, hedge funds and investment companies can be great sources of capital, it comes with a price. You will often be faced with selling off a chunk of your business based on a valuation you don’t agree with. But it might be worth it to get to the next growth phase. Going through the points above before approaching these investors allows you to learn how to best position your business to make it more attractive and build value.