Whether you’re looking to start a business or want to expand an existing one, finding the cash to do so can be tough. While the most traditional option is to go to the bank for a loan, there are many other choices that you may not know about.
To help you secure the capital you need for your business, we’ve compiled a list of the funding resources that every entrepreneur should look into.
Crowdfunding has become more and more popular in the last few years. These sites allow business owners to create a fundraising campaign online and collect donations. Dozens of crowdfunding sites exist, but we’ll highlight the most beneficial options.
Kickstarter is the most popular crowdfunding site out there; since its inception in 2009, the site has raised $1.7 billion dollars, which funded 85,000 projects.
Like most crowdfunding sites, business owners create a profile page that outlines the business and sets a fundraising goal. Those who donate are promised some sort of reward, like being the first to try out the new product.
However, it’s an all-or-nothing scenario on Kickstarter. In other words, you have to hit your fundraising goal to keep the money. If you fall short, your donors get their money back. Even if you do reach your goal, Kickstarter takes five percent as a fee. Learn more about Kickstarter’s guidelines here.
Kickstarter has the name recognition, but it also has a lot of campaigns. Everything from art projects to business ventures are actively competing for funding, so you’ll want to evaluate the site to make sure it’s the right fit for your business.
Another option for crowdfunding is Indiegogo. Similar to other crowdfunding sites, you create a profile, tell your story, set a fundraising goal, and ask for donations. However, Indiegogo’s fee structure is a little different—it’s not an all-or-nothing scenario. Indiegogo takes nine percent of your earnings if you don’t reach your goal, and four percent of your earnings if you do reach it. Here’s the fee structure.
Equity crowdfunding takes the crowdfunding process to the next level. These sites function a lot like the sites listed above, but investors get equity in your startup.
Crowdfunder is another crowdfunding option, but this site is geared more toward entrepreneurial startups. It still runs on a fundraising premise, but the site boasts a large pool of investors as its main audience. It has a history of working with businesses and has some high-dollar deals under its belt.
Its fee structure is different as well; rather than taking a percentage of your earnings, Crowdfunder charges a monthly fee of $299.
Onevest takes Crowdfunder one step further. This site vets both small business owners and investors before anyone can ask for or accept money. The idea is that everyone who participates is serious; there aren’t any half-thought-out business projects or tire-kicking investors.
You create a profile page to intrigue investors, but Onevest also sends investors and owners introduction emails to open the lines of communication. Fundraising goals are typically higher than you’d find on other crowdfunding sites. You wouldn’t go to this site if you want to raise $1,000, you’d turn to this site if you’re looking to launch your company and need $10,000+.
Onevest takes a 7.5 percent cut of the funds raised. Plus, there are some high fees for the company to investigate your business. You’ll want to look into the fees before you move forward.
Entrepreneurs can also look into various grants to support their budding idea. Here’s a list of places to find that perfect grant for your business.
5. Business USA
Let’s start with a website that functions like a grant search engine. On the Business USA website, you work through a series of five multiple-choice questions and the site gives you a list of possible grants at the federal and state level that apply to your business.
There are thousands of grant options out there, but most have specific purposes and qualifications. For instance, many of the federal grants listed on this site focus on minorities, disaster relief, and farming assistance. The state grants are also specific. For instance, the Delaware Brownfield Assistance Program offers funding for a small business that plans to develop environmentally distressed areas in the state.
It may take some time to find a grant that fits your business needs, but that shouldn’t discourage you from looking.
Since 2006 the National Association for the Self-Employed has given out $650,000 in grant money. Applicants can receive up to $4,000 and must use the money for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, or expanding facilities. You do have to be a member of the association to apply, which costs $120 a year.
One of the more lucrative federal grant programs is the Small Business Innovation Research Program, which helps businesses with research and development projects.
The program, which is coordinated through the U.S. Small Business Administration, offers several kinds of grants: open, closed, future, and solicitation listing. You’ll want to research which option is best for your company.
Expect a lengthy qualification process and, if selected, a strict measurement plan to ensure the money is going to good use.
8. Nav’s Small Business Grant
Female business owners can take advantage of the Amber Grant. This grant was launched in 1998 by Womennet to help entrepreneurs succeed. Each month, one woman is selected for a $500 grant. At the end of the year, one of the winners is selected for a $2,000 grant.
It’s a simple application process. You just have to answer a few short-answer questions through an online form and pay a $7 application fee.
It’s not always easy to explain your business concept to a banker, but explaining it to your peers is a whole different concept. A lot of startups chose to borrow money from their peers, but rather than asking your college buddy to cough up a few grand, try these websites instead.
Prosper is a well-known peer-to-peer lending site. It has the name recognition in the field, with $3 billion given out in loans.
With this resource, you’re given an interest rate based on an evaluation. You create a loan listing so investors can see what you’re all about and what you need the money for. Once an investor commits to funding your loan, you’ll get the cash and set up a payment plan. Rates start around seven percent but can go as high as 35 percent.
If you’ve been in business for a few years, but need some additional capital, check out LendingClub. With LendingClub, loans are financed through investors. You need two years of business history, at least $75,000 in annual sales, and have a good personal credit score. There’s a five-year cap to pay back your loan, and as with any loan, you’ll face interest rates and additional fees.
12. Funding Circle
Funding Circle connects your small business with investors. Loans range from $25,000 to $500,000; you’ll speak with a loan manager who will walk you through the process, and you could get funding within two weeks.
Interest rates vary from six to 20 percent, depending on how quickly you pay back the loan. Plus, there are origination fees and late fees if you miss a payment. Check out the rates and fees before you apply.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to secure a loan, check out these online options.
In need of some quick cash? Kabbage can help. This online site can offer you a line of credit ranging from $2,000-100,000. Unlike traditional banks, Kabbage evaluates things like your eBay account and QuickBooks records, rather than your credit score. There are some unique fees that Kabbage employs, so you’ll want to do your homework before applying.
SnapCap allows small business owners to borrow money for general purposes, which allows for a lot of flexibility. From expansion plans to equipment needs, SnapCap can help you finance it. You’ll need at least $1,000 in the bank, at least one year in business, and you must have $100,000 in annual sales to prequalify. Unlike a bank, the approval process can happen within 24 hours. As always, check out the interest rates and fees.
If your startup is in a cash crunch, you could qualify for a short-term loan from FundBox. You create an account and enter your outstanding invoices, and FundBox will give you the money for your outstanding invoices, so you don’t have to wait for clients to pay. Here’s the fee structure.
BlueVine is another site that does the same thing, with slightly different fees.
Angel investors and venture capitalists
Finding an angel investor or a venture capital group to support your business idea isn’t easy. To help startups find people looking to invest, use these two websites to make connections.
Startups create a profile on AngelList and administrators pair your startup with like-minded investors and make an introduction via email.
Your profile is similar to a social page. There’s an activity feed and you can interact with others on the site. It’s important to keep an updated profile on the page so investors always have the best information available as they browse the site.
AngelList is a little more complicated than a social media site or a crowdfunding profile. Forbes has an article on how to navigate the site and get results.
Similar to AngelList, Gust connects startups with investors. The platform allows for owners and investors to get to know each other and discuss funding, and all conversations and possible deals are tracked through the platform.
This site also functions like a social network, where you can interact with investors and build relationships through a secure channel.
All of the startups and investors are vetted, so it’s a serious choice for startups looking to court financial backers.
Looking for a fun way to get your hands on some business capital? Enter a contest. There are several contests that happen throughout the year. If you miss the deadline this year, bookmark the site for a shot next year.
If your business is in need of some marketing help, you can check out the Love Our Local Business Sweepstakes sponsored by Intuit. The sweepstakes gives 15 businesses a $5,000 marketing package. You have to write about your business and get people to vote for your business through social channels, but the application process is fairly simple. Check out the guidelines to learn how to apply.
Chase hosts a contest each year that gives entrepreneurs a chance to win grants, and twenty business owners will take home $100,000. In addition to an application, there’s a social media component to the application process.
20. Hatch Pitch
If you’re creating a product or service based on innovative technology, you can pitch your idea during Hatch Pitch, an event that takes place each year at the South by Southwest (SXSW) event. You have four minutes to pitch your startup to judges. Learn more about how it works on the Hatch Pitch site.
This article is part of our Small Business Loan Guide, visit it to find expert advice and tips on loans.
Have you had success with another funding source? If so, please add it to our list by sharing it in the comment section below.