Jay Turo is CEO of Growthink, a consulting firm that, since 1999, has helped over 500,000 entrepreneurs and business owners develop business plans, raise funding and grow their businesses.
The old adage that banks are really only in the business of providing capital to those who don’t need it has never been more true than it is today. These days, most commercial and neighborhood banks only lend against quickly “liquidatable” assets or at a small multiple of historical cash flow. Given that most startups and small businesses have neither of these, for them, attaining traditional bank financing has such a low probability of success that it is rarely even worth the time to pursue.
So, where should the creative and committed small business owner go for funding when the banks say no?
Here are three places to look:
1. Crowdfunding. Popularized by donation-based platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Rockethub, crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to efficiently raise capital in small amounts from one’s social and professional networks. Important timing note here: While equity-based crowdfunding was approved by Congress in the recently passed JOBS Act, it is still working through the process of SEC rule-making. See crowdfunder.com — a startup that is developing one of the best platforms for equity-based crowdfunding — for the most timely updates in this regard.
2. Family and Friends. Since time immemorial, by far the most popular funding source for new and small businesses is to ask those who know you best to stake your entrepreneurial journey. For sure it is emotionally loaded, as so many of us don’t want to mix our personal and professional lives, but it does provide a great “gut check” as to how serious, committed, and “sold” you really are on your business. Why? Well, it is one thing to lose the money of strangers, quite another to do so of Uncle Jed who you’ll be seeing each holiday season. A way to “reverse the frame” in these family and friends dialogues is to recognize that while yes, a relative or friend is doing you a big favor by investing in your business, you in turn are returning the favor and more by providing an opportunity for an outsized investment return along with the unique excitement of being a stakeholder in a small business.
3. Sell Services. Especially for technology and consumer-product companies, the long pathway of research, product development, and establishing distribution mean that often years can go by in the dreaded “pre-revenue” stage. So as opposed to relying solely on investment capital to “deficit finance” this gestation period, how about generating some cash through selling consulting services in the interim? As examples, a company building a new and proprietary mobile application could in parallel build apps for others, a new restaurant could do catering, or a consumer product business could sell research services regarding their market niche. And, if structured right, in addition to paying the bills, consulting projects like these can also be utilized to iterate one’s product development forward.
Use these three strategies — and do so as with all matters related to starting and growing a business with creativity, determination, and persistence — and soon you will be laughing all the way to the bank.