One of the most difficult parts of starting a business for many entrepreneurs is figuring out where to get the capital needed to get the business up and running. If you don't have the money saved up, can't or don't want to take out a loan, and don't want to rack up credit card debt on start-up costs, how can you fund your business?
Believe it or not, there are financing options other than loans and credit cards for those of us working with a bootstrap budget. Explore these four options to decide which is the best way to fund your business with very little start-up capital.
There are certain things you have to spend money on when you start a business, and there's no negotiating it. Filing fees, fees for permits and licenses, and safety precautions, for example. But there are plenty of start-up business expenses that are much more flexible.
Think about it. Do you need brand new state-of-the-art equipment, or can you get by with your existing or other pre-owned equipment? Do you need to immediately launch a direct mail campaign, or can you get started with marketing activities that require less of an investment, such as social media?
Start by making a list of all of your potential start-up costs, then come up with less costly alternatives. You may be surprised how many expenses you can cut or at least postpone until you are making some sales. And don't ignore the power of technology; there are many ways you can reduce start-up expenses in your business and do more with less by using technology.
If you have been approaching your new business as a solo endeavor, you might want to explore expanding into a partnership. Teaming up with a colleague can not only double your manpower, but it can also help you provide new and complementary products and services to your existing target market. You may even find that it helps you break into a new niche.
Before entering into a partnership, you should make sure that you take time to research your potential partner to ensure he or she is a good fit for your needs, has a positive reputation and can commit to the partnership. And make sure you work with an attorney to create a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of your partnership before getting started.
Apply for a Small Business Grant
Small business grants are available from a number of resources including state governments and private groups. Although the grant application process can be a time-consuming one -- from finding a relevant grant opportunity, to conducting research into the opportunity and specific requirements, to investing the time necessary to complete and submit your application -- it will be well worth it if you win the award.
To get started, explore this list of small business grant programs by state.
Crowdfunding is when a business, organization or individual asks the general public for donations and monetary support for a project. Unlike peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding is a form of microfinance that does not require repayment. Many times, the organization in question will provide other perks, such as free products or discounts, as a thank you for donations, but these terms can vary widely.
There are several different ways you can open your business or specific projects up for crowdfunding; one is through the popular website, Kickstarter.
If these options don't work for your situation, you can explore small business loans, venture capital investors and debt financing. The most important thing to remember is to do your research so you don't end up losing time, and essentially money, by being unprepared.
For more on working with a bootstrap budget, read this article that includes tips for running your business on a bootstrap.