So many dreamers are held back from achieving their goal of business success because they lack the necessary funds. Starting a business and then keeping the lights on once it’s up and running can cost a pretty penny, and the financial risk associated with pursuing this path can be enough to shy anyone away from actually accomplishing their hopes and dreams. Throw in a pandemic, an economic crisis, or both, and you have the makings of a very difficult situation for any small business owner.
Maybe you have already explored some of the more traditional options when it comes to business funding. Or maybe you are just saving your dollars in a mason jar and hoping it'll be enough to sustain your business. But there are plenty of ways that entrepreneurs can fund their business.
Acquiring the right funding can help grow your business or at least keep it on life support during difficult times. Look into these unconventional (and conventional) business funding ideas provided below to help you get started and keep you going. Sometimes you need to think outside of the box and take the risk in order to give your business a chance to find solid ground and a path toward success.
Business Funding Ideas
Government Support and Assistance Programs
The United States Small Business Administration, more popularly referred to as the SBA, is a federal agency that provides assistance to small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to expand or those in financial need. One of the options offered by the SBA is its guaranteed loans that provide business owners with reduced risk and easy access to capital through lending partners that offer long- and short-term working capital and fixed-term rates and microloans.
The SBA also has grants and investment programs for small businesses that meet their requirements. Find out if your business is eligible for a grant, and if so, consider applying. Grants.gov is another way for small businesses to find funding. This is a database of federally sponsored grants that you can peruse based on certain eligibility requirements.
In addition, there are three dedicated SBA investment programs that can help provide business funding. The first program is the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC), which is run by a private equity company that is regulated by the SBA and manages funds that provide small businesses with low-interest, government-backed money. The second and third investment offerings come from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These last two options help fund startups and small businesses across technology fields by encouraging technological innovation and supporting research and development (R&D) needs that meet federal requirements.
There are plenty of organizations out there eager to help a startup business receive funding. Business incubators programs — also referred to as accelerators — help nurture young businesses and offer seed money in exchange for an equity stake in your business. In addition to the needed funded, incubators also provide mentor programs and networking opportunities. Many higher ed institutions, such as Draper University, offer business incubator programs. Make sure to search local and national universities and see what is offered.
To gain access to this type of funding, you’ll need to apply and get approved. Startup incubator or accelerator programs can range from 3–6 months or longer, depending on the program that you apply for. Venture capitalists are groups of investors that operate under an LLC and provide money for a financial stake in the startup. Funded, an online accredited investor network, can assist you in connecting to potentially interested investors or venture capitalists.
Tapping into Your Resources and Self-Funding
If you are not willing to let go of shares or a portion of your business to investors or take up a partner, you can always look into raiding your savings and even withdrawing money from a retirement account, such as a 401(k). The risk of tapping into retirement funds can include hefty early withdrawal fees and penalties, as well as tax payments. This move can also endanger your plans for retirement, forcing you to work longer than intended. Another option is to utilize available credit on your credit cards, but that also comes with the risk of high interest payments and the possibility that you may not be able to pay back the borrowed funds.
Raising Money and Thinking Outside the Box
If the options above don’t pan out, there are even more unconventional business funding methods you can try:
Ask your friends, family and/or networking connections for money.
Reach out to customers or even your vendors to help invest and support your business.
Downsize your personal assets (e.g., sell your phone, old clothes, jewelry, furniture, etc.). You can sell your unwanted items online or even go to a pawn shop where you have the option to either sell or borrow money.
Get a side hustle and put all your income toward your business.
In addition to tapping into your 401(k) account, another unconventional option is to access funding by getting a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or just cashing out if you've already built equity in your home.
Desperate times require desperate measures, so before you sell the title of your car or get rid of irreplaceable family heirlooms, look at all the options offered above. Hopefully, one or more will pay out, literally, and help keep your business and your dreams going.
Peter Mavrikis is an author and editor with over 25 years of experience in publishing. He has worked as the Editorial Director for Barron’s Educational Series, as well as Kaplan Test Prep, where he ran the test prep, foreign language, and study guide divisions. Peter has also written several books on history, exploration, science, and technology.