With a new year comes new opportunities, and that includes new ways to fund your small business. This is the perfect time to review what you've done in the past and see if there are any new ideas that you can implement in 2018. Here are 10 small business financing ideas that you might want to try in the coming year.
1. Federal Government Grants & Funding
A great place to look for funding is through government grants. But rather than staring at a long directory where you won't qualify for most of the opportunities, start with a more narrowed search. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Small Business Innovation Research Program: Focused on small businesses involved in research and development that might be commercialized.
- Small Business Administration: The SBA offers a variety of funding programs, including help finding loans, surety bonds and investment capital.
- Challenge.gov: The federal government periodically issues public service "challenges" for businesses and individuals. These are wide ranging, such as prizes for building your own robot, creating sensor technology for septic systems or even developing ways to eradicate invasive mussels.
2. Annual Grants from Private Companies
Many large private companies offer grants annually. Here are just a few to help you start your search.
- IdeaCafe Grants: IdeaCafe gives an annual $1,000 grant, but also has other opportunities.
- Miller Lite Tap the Future: Every year, Miller Lite lets owners pitch their business ideas to Daymond John from Shark Tank. Winners start with $20,000 and then move on to a national competition.
- FedEx Small Business Grant: Fed Ex holds a $25,000 grant contest every year.
- 37 Angels: This firm funds startups every year, starting with an online application and then offering pitch forums to select participants.
3. Funds Tailored for Specific Groups
What makes you unique might also be what helps fund your business. If you're a woman business owner, for example, consider the $3,000 Amber Grant for Women. Are you a veteran? Maybe a Street Shares award for a veteran-owned business is a better fit. Or consider opportunities for a minority-owned business, such as the Business Consortium Fund, which offers consulting and loan programs.
4. Grants from Business & Trade Organizations
When you're looking for funding, consider grants from business organizations. You can start broadly with general business organizations and then look more narrowly in your specific niche. For example, the National Association for the Self-Employed offers small-business grants to help with a particular need, such as computers, hiring part-time help, creating a website or developing marketing materials. These are worth up to $4,000 each.
But don't forget the smaller organizations that focus on your particular trade or niche. The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Center for Business Journalism, for example, offers fellowships and grants to journalists every year. Just search online for your particular specialty and the word "grants" to see what's available.
5. Funding from Friends & Family
Of course, small business grants aren't easy to win, so you might prefer to talk to your friends and family. This can sometimes be tricky, as it can be tough to separate your personal and your business life. You might not want to make this your first option, but don't rule it out either.
6. Small Business Bank Loans
These aren't easy to get, but they're a good option if you qualify. You'll need to have a steady income, good credit and you'll likely be asked to put an asset up as collateral. You can learn more about the process here.
7. Traditional Crowdfunding
If you have a lot of friends who can get the word out quickly, then consider crowdfunding from sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe or IndieGoGo. You'll need a product to presell and incentives for different contribution levels. You may need to reach a specific financial goal within a short time period in order to get the funds. That's why marketing is essential.
Incubators can work with your team and help you get your business idea off the ground and to the market fast. They'll typically require part of your equity, but this also incentivizes them to work hard. You can find incubators at local SBA offices or places like the International Business Innovation Association or 500 Startups.
9. Angel Investors & Venture Capital
Angel investors and venture capital provide funding and management, but at different stages in the life of your business. Angel investors give funding for startups. Venture capital firms typically want more-established businesses or someone they know well. (Hint: Venture capital is tougher to get.) For either arrangement, you'll want a lawyer to draw up your agreement. Where do you find investors? Try networking at business meetups or look at AngelList.
10. Social Media Funding
Social media funding is a newer trend that's growing in popularity. Instead of posting a campaign on a crowdfunding site, you can raise money through a social media platform. For example, Facebook has a personal fundraising option that you can use. Or you can try something even more innovative and post on social media sites that pay you, and use that money for your business. Steemit is an example of a social media site that pays you for every upvote you get on comments and stories.
As you can see, if you need funding for your business, there are numerous routes that you can take. Whether you apply for a small business grant, seek help from family, or look for an investor or even try social media, all you need is creativity and a good dose of perseverance. Even if your first attempt doesn't work out, don't give up. Sometimes you have to try multiple funding paths before you find the one that works for you.