In my experience working with women, what keeps many of them from starting or growing their own company is the fear of not having the money to do it. The truth is, there is plenty of money out there to fund your business, especially for women. The problem has been that the bridges connecting potential women business owners to these funds, hardly exists.
This holds true especially for women who have chosen to take time off to raise families, then re-enter the workforce as entrepreneurs. They often believe that with a lack of professional work history, or enough credit in their own name, that they will be unable to get business loans through banks. While this is true, there are many ways to get funding outside of traditional bank loans that are widely available and viable options for women seeking funding for their new business venture.
Here is a list of various, non-traditional sources of business funding, along with some useful information on each type, and resources on where to find them:
1. ONLINE LENDING
– Beginning to replace traditional bank loans, online lending currently accounts for only 2% of small business loans, but is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years up to 15% or more.
– Easier application process than bank loans, and can be approved within an hour.
– Easier to qualify for compared to traditional bank loans.
– May offer line of credit, which is more flexible and easier to pay back.
– Grants are like free money (woohoo!). While there is criteria that needs to be met in order to obtain grants, they do not need to be paid back the way loans do.
– There are many grants available specifically for women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses, from government and non-profit organizations to for-profit companies. You can research government-funded grants on the SBA website to gather information, but the SBA does not offer grants, themselves. They can, however, tell you where to look.
– Corporate grants are offered to women-owned businesses by many large corporations, including many Fortune 500 companies. Kellogg, GE, Cisco, Microsoft, Google, just to name a few. If there are particular corporations that are in the same industry as you, contact them and see what they have to offer regarding business grants for women.
– Private grants offered through professional organizations, and some even offered through trusts and individuals. Spend some time doing research and you will find an enormous amount of free money for the right entrepreneur.
3. STARTUP COMPETITIONS
– Many competitions are offered through industry-specific associations, as well as professional organizations and groups, giving startup founders the opportunity to submit a proposal for their business idea and compete for free money.
– These competitions offer more than just prize money, but often include mentoring and networking opportunities as well.
4. ACCELERATOR PROGRAMS
– These programs are great for those still trying to clarify their business idea, or at the early stages of a start-up.
– In addition to a small cash investment (typically less than $50,000), they offer workspace in a shared work environment to help foster a community of entrepreneurs who can share resources.
– Mentoring is included.
– Designed for fast, early growth and are typically limited in a time frame of less than 4 months.
– Accelerator programs usually take a percentage of the company, around 5-10% ownership.
– Similar to accelerator programs, but with a few differences…
* There is no capital investment, therefore no ownership is taken
* Longer period of time, with slower growth.
* Often funded by universities and other research-based facilities.
– It is based on the principle that by taking your idea straight to the marketplace, people will want to support you and your business ideas. They invest in the entrepreneur as much as the business idea. The average person can invest in your campaign for as little as $5, and with enough interest, your campaign can get fully funded.
– Crowdfunding works well for companies with a social entrepreneurial focus or with products that can benefit the investors.
– There is no need to payback your investors, but typically campaigns offer some form of reward for investing, whether it be a free product once launched or a gift of some kind (ranging from small items to more expensive ones).
7. ANGEL INVESTORS
– Angels are typically individuals who invest in small startups.
– The investment is smaller than through venture capital, and the business owner maintains more control. Often, angel investors are looking for ROI rather than control or involvement. They want to invest, make a profit, and move on.
– With this type of investing, it is important to go through a reputable angel investor group.
8. VENTURE CAPITAL
– Unlike angel investors who invest in the beginning stages of a startup for a small investment, venture capital comes from investor groups that are typically interested in investing once there is some revenue and growth already happening within the company.
– Amounts are usually larger than angel investors, ranging in the $ millions.
– Venture groups may or may not offer mentoring, but do expect equity in the company.
– Venture funding is specific to scalable businesses.
9. FUTURE EQUITY
– If you’re open to the idea, you may consider bringing on an employee or two, someone you know you work well with, and who has the skills you need to get the business off the ground. They waive an initial salary (so you aren’t getting funding, per se, but free labor and expertise), in exchange for future equity in the company.
– You may also gain a potential partner that can help the business grow more than it would without them.