Obtaining funding to start your business can be a difficult process, but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances. Here are some tips on how to get your new business funded:
1. If you are seeking only a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, you should first look to friends and family and then to the banks.
If you have assets to back it up (such as cash in your bank account, a house, or a car), you should be able to obtain a loan with relative ease.
2. If you do not have an adequate credit history or assets to back up the loan, the bank may ask you to find someone (such as a parent or friend who does have adequate assets) to cosign the loan.
Remember, the less risk the bank thinks it has, the greater the chance you have of being approved. If you have an existing account, a good credit history and credit score, and a relationship at a local bank, the process may not be any more complicated than meeting with a loan officer, discussing your plans, filling out a short form, and waiting a week for approval. However, if you have not established these relationships and history, now is a good time to start.
3. If you are serious about raising more than a few thousand dollars of funding, you’ll need at least some form of business plan.
The more funding you are trying to raise, the more professional and complete this plan will need to be. At its core, you’ll need to explain what you will be providing, what need or gap it fills in the marketplace, who you will be working with and who is on your team, your plan for making sales and marketing, and your financial projections including the time to breakeven. You may want to read some of the articles on developing a business plan on www.zeromillion.com for additional guidance or obtain a book on how to craft your plan.
4. In general, you will be more successful obtaining financing if you have formed an entity (LLC or corporation) for your business.
While it may still be possible to obtain a loan for your sole proprietorship, you will be taken more seriously and have many more avenues open to you as a corporation or other type of limited liability company.
5. If you are under 18, you will generally have to have a parent or guardian cosign the loan.
You should still be able to obtain a personal loan, provided you have a well-thought-out plan, an established relationship, and assets to back it up, or parents, relatives, or friends who are willing to cosign and secure the loan with assets of their own. If you can learn the language, talk in terms of the bank’s interest, reduce risk where possible, and show you have a grasp of accounting and general business knowledge, you very well may be able to obtain the loan you need.
6. In the United States, another way to increase your chances of having your loan approved is to go to the Small Business Administration.
If you can have your loan backed by the SBA, and, hence, by the federal government, it will be fairly easy to have your loan approved. One of the ways iContact was able to grow early on was through a $10,000 line of credit that the SBA backed.
7. When applying for a loan, especially one for a larger amount or one intended to finance a large investment or expansion, be prepared to meet with the loan officers and underwriters for your bank.
In short, expect to be drilled from every angle by these persons, and have your answers ready. It is the underwriter’s job to reduce risk, so expect hard questions.
8. In general if you are looking for U.S. $1,000 to $50,000 in debt funding, a bank should be able to help you.
With the right relationships and assurances, you may be able to raise more and at better terms. If you are looking to raise more than U.S. $25,000 (and aren’t willing to take out a home equity loan) you may wish to look into equity financing.
From the book Zero to One Million: How I Built A Company to $1 Million in Sales . . . and How You Can, Tooby Ryan P. Allis Published by McGraw Hill; December 2007
Ryan P. Allis is CEO of iContact Corp., a venture-backed marketing and online communications firm that has grown from nothing to over $10 million in annual sales and 80 employees. He is also the Chairman of the web marketing firm Virante, Inc. For more information on Ryan Allis and Zero to One Million, visit www.zeromillion.com