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Three Popular Start-Up Financing Options

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: May 21, 2014

Thinking about starting a business? Recent studies and reports have shown that entrepreneurs are more optimistic than in recent years when it comes to the state of their businesses this year, and that’s great news! But always high on the list of concerns for starting a business – even in optimistic times – is financing. Here’s a roundup of some ways, aside from avenues such as SBA-backed loans, to finance your business.

Credit Cards

According to expert Marco Carbajo, credit cards are a major source of financing for small business owners, with statistics even showing that more than 65% of small businesses using them on a frequent basis. It’s a popular approach, but you should be sure to do your research to determine if it’s the right one for you. Here are some tips from Entrepreneur.com to help:

  • Unless your business is incorporated – so if yours is a sole proprietorship, for instance – you are guarantor of all debts. So if your sales are slow and you fall behind on payments, you risk your personal credit rating and ability to borrow.
  • It varies by state, but your credit-card issuer might still require that shareholders with significant ownership guarantee the line of credit – even if your business is incorporated.
  • Potentially bringing on partners? Make sure your agreement states that they’ll accept personal guarantees on all existing business debt. You need to address this specifically because in many states, new partners aren't automatically responsible for previous debts.
  • Read the fine print. Don’t accept an offer without checking into the details, understanding the terms of use and evaluating risks. Don’t hesitate to ask a professional for guidance.

Friends and Family

Asking friends and family to borrow funds to help finance your business sounds like it could get awkward, but it doesn’t have to. Treat the process just as professionally as you would an engagement with a bank. If you done right, you can potentially gain quicker access to the cash you need and jump through fewer hoops – after all, your friends or family already know you. Read more about borrowing from friends and family in our article here, but think about these highlights as you consider this option:

  • Think carefully about who you’ll approach and make sure they understand the risks (and rewards) of getting involved. Keep in mind if your business doesn’t work out and you can’t repay your obligations, relationships could suffer.
  • Be realistic about how much money you need. Instead of asking for the maximum, consider what you need to get you to a certain point in your business plan. Once you show you can repay that initial investment, you’ll be in a better position to ask for more money if you need it.
  • Write it down. You might think a verbal agreement with your friend or relative is sufficient given the personal relationship, but this is business. Consider this advice from Entrepreneur.com: "Any time you take money into a business, the law is very explicit: You must have all agreements written down and documented. If you don't, emotional and legal difficulties could result that end up in court. And if the loan isn't documented, you may find yourself with no legal recourse.”
  • Communicate. Show your business progress and share updates along the way, even if it’s correcting mistakes you’ve made with your business strategy. Checking in and sharing information shows that you’re taking seriously the role others are playing in your venture and demonstrates professionalism.

Crowdfunding

Increasingly, crowdfunding is becoming a popular way for people to get startup financing for their businesses. You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter campaigns – that’s crowdfunding. It works through a collective cooperation of people who network and pool their money and resources together, usually online, to support efforts initiated by others. So it gathers multiple, smaller investments as opposed to a single source of funding. You can read more about the details here, but here are three other key considerations from Entrepreneur.com:

  • You should begin working on your crowdfunding campaign six months before you want to launch your project. When your campaign starts, you should’ve already made a significant effort in letting people know about it collecting email addresses so you can really hit the ground running when you open the gates for your campaign.
  • Set your funding goal as low as you can manage because some crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter, are “all or nothing.” For instance, if you set a goal of $1,000 and you meet it, then you get the money. If you raise only $500, you won’t get anything. Read the fine print about the platform you choose so you can be strategic about your funding request.
  • Don’t forget to award your donors. You’re asking people to take a risk on your business venture – there are no guarantees. So thank them and show your appreciation by offering your product or service at a discount when the time comes.

You can also learn more from our online Learning Center course, “Introduction to Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurs.”

Beyond a “traditional” track of securing a loan from a bank, there are quite a few avenues to consider for financing your business. And with passion, professionalism and planning, you’ll establish a good foundation for success down any of these paths.

Related Resources

About the Author:

Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

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Investigating Feel-Good Franchises

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: May 20, 2014

We all want to feel good. We all want to have pleasant experiences. And, we’re willing to pay for them. We’re willing to pay to ensure we get our fair share of the good things in life.

If you’re looking to become a franchise owner, have you thought about targeting opportunities that provide feel-good products and services?

Feel-Good Franchise Opportunities

Opportunities that make people feel good run the gamut from franchises in the spa industry to franchises that promote fitness.

Here are some examples of franchises in the spa category:

·        Massage Heights

·        Massage Envy

·        Hand And Stone Massage

·        The Woodhouse Day Spa    

·        Seva®

·        Planet Beach Automated Spa

Credit must go to the people at Massage Envy for putting spa franchises on the map. In addition to helping energize a not often-mentioned franchise category, the executives at Massage Envy came up with a membership model. For a set monthly price, clients are entitled to receive one massage and can purchase additional ones at discounted prices.

Read this from the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals website:*

After 30 years in the fitness industry, John Leonesio saw the opportunity massage offered and in 2002 designed the Massage Envy concept in Scottsdale, Arizona, to resemble the health club membership model. Now owned by Sentinel Capital, a middle-market private equity firm, Massage Envy’s original concept—to make the health benefits of massage both convenient and affordable—remains and has earned the company several distinctions

Fitness Franchise Examples

Fitness franchises have been around a long time. Jack LaLanne, considered to be the “Father of Fitness,” opened what is thought to be the nation’s first health club in Oakland, California in 1936.

Today, people want to get in shape and stay in shape, but there’s a big difference between doing so in the 1930’s and now.

That difference is time. We just don’t have as much time to get physically fit as we used too. We have too many constraints…time constraints. We’re all busy, busy. Sometimes, it’s really difficult to go to a fitness club and work out on a regular basis.   

A few entrepreneurs – innovators, really – have been able to capitalize on the problem…the issue of not having a lot of time to get in shape and stay in shape.

Chuck Runyon, Dave Mortensen, and Jeff Klinger founded Anytime Fitness* in 2002. They realized that consumers were starved for time and were having problems finding fitness clubs that were open when they needed them to be. Anytime Fitness was born, and they, along with several others in the space, have been able to serve those clients, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Below, you’ll find several fitness franchises to investigate if you’re interested in these types of feel-good franchises.

·        Snap Fitness

·        Koko FitClub

·        Title Boxing Club

·        FitZone® For Women

·        Fitness Together

·        The Zoo Health Club

Feeling Good About Feel-Good Franchises

A lot of the people I work with share their desire to provide products and services that bring positive change to people’s lives.

Franchises that make people feel good provide positive things that today’s busy consumers want.

If you’d like to own a franchise that makes people feel good, you have lots of choices. Narrowing those choices involves serious research. Thoroughly investigate franchises you’re interested in. Talk to existing franchisees. They’re the ones who have already invested their money and their time into the franchises you’re thinking of buying. That way you’ll feel good about what you may end up doing.

Here are a few articles which include dozens of tips designed to help you do great franchise research.

Entrepreneur Magazine: Researching Franchises*

SBA.gov: Researching That Franchise

Franchise.org: How To Investigate A Franchise*

*Non-US Government links

 

About the Author:

Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and is a franchise ownership advisor. He shows people how to carefully choose and properly research franchises.   

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My Inspirational First Month at SBA

By Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator
Published: May 9, 2014

One month ago, I took my oath and was given the opportunity of a lifetime to be a champion for America’s small businesses.

In my first public statement after my swearing-in, I talked about my intention to support our job creators and build the U.S. economy from the middle out; to promote lending that reflects the diversity of America by getting capital to the areas that need it the most; and to use technology and best practices in customer service to make it easier for borrowers to borrow and lenders to lend.

Then, I immediately embarked on a listening tour to send a signal to entrepreneurs that I wanted a robust dialogue and open lines of communication to understand the range of challenges that America’s small businesses owners face.

It has been an exhilarating first month. On my third day on the job, I defended our FY15 budget before the Senate. I went to to the Pentagon to meet with transitioning service members taking an SBA course on how to apply their military skills to civilian entrepreneurship. And I visited Washington state to accelerate the deployment of disaster aid to businesses and families impacted by the devastating mudslide.

I testified at a field hearing that explored how small business R&D can create more high-growth, high-paying jobs. Then, I met with military leaders to make sure the Department of Defense is making procurement decisions that harness the incredible innovation happening at small firms. I traveled to Baltimore and Boise to talk to emerging leaders and women-owned businesses about how to plug into federal contracting opportunities and earn business from the world’s top buyer of goods and services: the United States government.

I sat down with women and minority entrepreneurs to hear about their challenges in getting access to capital, and I shared their stories this past week at two major lending conferences to explain SBA regulatory changes that will make it easier to get capital to neighborhoods the recession left behind.  We dropped the so-called “wealth test” and “nine-month rule,” and we announced more collateral flexibility for our borrowers. These important technical changes will all increase the number of small businesses that qualify for SBA assistance.

At each stop, I’ve evangelized the SBA message of “three Cs and a D” – our work to deliver capital, contracts, counseling and disaster assistance, which comprise the core of this agency’s mission.

My listening tour continues Monday with the kickoff of National Small Business Week at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Soon, I’ll sit down with our exceptional SBA staff and begin the process of taking the insights gleaned from my time on the road to develop an action plan to take our agency to the next level.

But as I reflect on an eventful first month, the word that stays in my head is “inspirational.” As our field team knows so well, our work does more than help America’s small businesses succeed and our economy grow. So often, what we’re really doing is empowering our entrepreneurs to give back and lift up entire communities.

We’re helping women like Dr. Carla Thomas serve generations of families in her hometown of Inglewood, California. Less than four percent of this nation’s dentists are African American, but with a real estate loan backed by SBA, Dr. Thomas now has her own building and a thriving practice three miles from the house where she grew up. She stayed “home” to provide dental care to local children and generations of families who need her. Dr. Thomas calls her practice “The Smile Studio.” Watch the video above, and you’ll see why her unique commitment to give back in Inglewood gives us all a reason to smile.

About the Author:

Maria Contreras-Sweet

SBA Administrator

Maria Contreras-Sweet is the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.

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5 Keys to Angel Investment

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: April 29, 2014

With this post I’d like to give my personal answer to the frequent question, “What do angel investors look for in a business plan?” I can’t promise that what I think applies to anybody else. But I’ve been in an angel investment group for five years now, and I’ve seen a lot of businesses evaluated. Here are five things I say matter.

1. A believable market definition

It’s not just the numbers. Especially not huge numbers that lack definition. Too many of the several dozen business plans I’ve read this year lack a good market-defining story. Market numbers are useful, yes, but they don’t stand alone. Investors want to believe the story first, then get the numbers.

The story is about the use case, also called “why to buy,” and market need.

I like the business pitches that put a picture on a slide and explain how that person has a problem that this business solved. For example, one recent pitch starts with a picture of a middle-aged woman and explained how this new business creates a channel for her to sell her craft goods effectively. Another pitch I saw showed a picture of the garbage area behind a restaurant to pitch a system to save unused food and make it available to people who need it. Then they go to the numbers, after explaining the need.

2. Believable growth plan

Startups become good for the early stage investors by growing. While there are some extremely rare cases where traffic and position alone created value (such as Amazon in its early days, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), for most of us it takes sales growth.

Investors want to see and believe the growth plan. For example, if it’s a physical product to be sold in retail stores, there should be a plan for getting the product into distribution, and a sales forecast based on sales per store and stores’ growth by year. Or if it’s a mobile app, then sales growth based on potential user base and ways to drive traffic to the app via the various download stores.

Sales forecasts based on details are more credible. I liked a plan I saw recently that presented a forecast of sales of a product related to bars by showing actual sales in the first four bars and extrapolating those to all bars in the U.S. The methodology made sense.

3. Defensibility

Defensibility is whatever quality keeps a startup from being overwhelmed by competition that stunts its growth. Most investors look for proprietary technology, such as patents — when they are good patents that experts say will be reasonably defensible — or trade secrets. This is also called “barriers to entry.” There’s limited value to an idea that any other business can just copy.

4. Scalability

The lack of scalability in most service businesses is why investors generally prefer product businesses and why the classic service businesses aren’t as attractive. The test is whether it can double sales without doubling fixed costs and employees. Most service businesses don’t scale: the classic consulting business, for example, or attorneys, graphic design, programming for hire… these service businesses are hard to scale.

With product businesses, when a widget starts selling in most cases you can make more widgets with automation.

And there are some service businesses that are scalable. Generally, they relate to software services over the web. The travel buyer sites are services, but they scale.

5. Potential exit

Angel investors make money by investing money in a business today and getting money back from that business in a few years when it grows, increases its value and sells out to a larger company or registers its stock for sale on a public market.

What many people don’t realize is that outside investors don’t make money just from owning a small portion of stock in a successful business. Theoretically, there could be dividends eventually, but growing companies don’t normally generate dividends. Angel investment assumes that the businesses create some way for the investors to sell their shares.

Having a minority share in a healthy, happy company – one that doesn’t need any more outside investment and has no reason to invite a larger company to purchase it – offers no return on investment for the early investors who aren’t employees.

About the Author:

Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 44 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including The Plan As You Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press, 2008.

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