Even the most straightforward business idea needs some dough to get off the ground. Overhead, electronic equipment, cloud services, advertising — the list of non-negotiables goes on.
Those expenses, seemingly manageable in isolation, add up quickly.
And if your idea requires special equipment, inventory or physical real estate, forget it. There’s no way you’ll successfully self-fund without draining your life savings, unless you’re independently wealthy (or have a lifetime supply of aluminum cans).
Don’t despair, frugal entrepreneur. These six business funding ideas are designed for go-getters like you. They won’t negate all the hard work it’ll no doubt take to get your idea from the drawing board to the big board, but at least they’ll keep you in your home. That’s a start, right?
- Traditional Crowdfunding
It’s weird to call something that’s been around less than a decade “traditional,” but that’s where we’re at. Traditional crowdfunding, also known as rewards-based crowdfunding, is a great way to source lots of small, non-debt, non-equity contributions from sympathetic supporters. Crowdfunding is competitive, so campaigners usually need to offer juicy rewards — free product, swag, meet-and-greets with founders — to drum up support. Popular platforms include GoFundMe and Kickstarter.
- Equity Crowdfunding
Why mess with a good thing? Because it works. Equity crowdfunding applies the crowdsource-your-capital principle to the wide, wide world of private equity — on a very small scale, of course. Basically, lots of small-time shareholders chip relatively small sums (fundraisers usually set a low four-figure minimum), grab a few shares, and hope things pan out. Rules governing equity crowdfunding may vary by jurisdiction, so check with your state securities regulator before you jump in.
- Small Business Administration Loans
SBA loans aren’t for very early-stage businesses without any collateral, but they can be very useful if you’re just a mite farther down the growth path. Can you say “favorable interest rates and terms”? Yes, you can.
- Home Equity Loans & Lines of Credit
Also not for everyone: home equity loans and lines of credit. You obviously need to own a home, with substantial equity (at least 20%, and a lot more if you want to borrow enough to really get your business off the ground), and be willing to use it as collateral for something that might not work out. On the other hand, home equity loans and LOCs are among the cheapest forms of debt around — far less expensive than putting everything on the ol’ business credit card.
- Structured Settlement
If you’re relying on regular settlement payments to fund your business (or life) anyway, it’s logical to ask, “Should I sell my structured settlement”? Depending on the size of your settlement, this one move could dramatically improve your nascent company’s financial prospects and put you on a sustainable path to growth — without awkwardly asking your friends and family for just a little bit more time to pay back their loans.
- Entrepreneur Contests/Prizes
Business incubators, research universities, private foundations, government entities and super-rich private citizens are getting into the “idea contest” game. These contests and prize competitions come in all shapes and sizes, but the basic premise is simple: you compete against a variably sized cohort of your entrepreneur peers, usually in a broad category (e.g., clean energy), in a pitch competition that culminates with one or more prize awards. The downside: you’re not guaranteed to win. The upside: you could win a pretty nice chunk of funding.
How are you funding your small business idea without putting yourself in the poorhouse?