Find a Way to Pay
Every business — even the one you plan to operate from your computer at home — will require money just to get off the ground, and later, more money to remain afloat and prosper.
If you haven’t yet given much thought to how you’ll pay for the business you want to grow, now is the time to do so and these are the two primary sources you’ll want to consider:
Traditional funding: typically gleaned from self-financing; commercial loans; and public sector opportunities such as SBA loans and Enterprise Florida support programs.
Innovative funding: available through venture capital and angel investors; targeted financing opportunities related to race, ethnicity, gender or military service; grants; crowdfunding.
Use your own money
Start by assessing your own personal financial assets. How much money do you have, really? Can you tap into your savings account? Cash out your stock? Trade your luxury SUV for a less costly ride? If none of these are options, consider a low-interest credit card. Many small businesses have survived a year or two on credit, but it’s a risky path. Be sure to read the fine print before you sign anything and be extra vigilant about making every payment on time.
Apply for a commercial loan
This is where the business plan we spoke about in Step 4 — and that you should be close to completing — will come in handy. Commercial loans are typically approved based on the borrower’s capacity to repay as determined by past business experience, personal credit rating and collateral — some of which, as a new entrepreneur, you may not have. In their absence, a stellar business plan could be just the extra leg up you need to seal the deal.
Sources for small businesses commercial loans:
- Commercial banks, many of which have entire divisions devoted to small business lending and convenient online banking options.
- Credit unions, offering small business loans and online banking options with an emphasis on personal service.
- Commercial finance companies, often willing to take higher risks than banks, but likely to charge higher interest rates as a result.
- Digital banking platforms, typically providing many of the same services as commercial banks and credit unions but with a twist — all transactions are digital.
Tap into public sector programs.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) does not lend money directly to small business owners; rather, it sets guidelines for loans made by its partnering lenders, community development organizations and micro-lending institutions. SBA-guaranteed loans generally have rates and fees comparable to non-guaranteed loans and typically feature lower down payments, flexible overhead requirements and, in some cases, no collateral requirements. Demonstrated ability to pay the money back is the primary consideration for acceptance, and approval rests with the lending institution rather than SBA.
Florida-based financial support programs facilitated by Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) match qualifying small businesses with lenders that can provide financial assistance and lines of credit. Available options include:
- Capital and Microfinance Guarantee Programs
Consisting of EFI’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) and Microfinance guarantee programs, these tools help small businesses small businesses obtain loan approvals and leverage private capital for use in startup costs, working capital, business procurement, franchise fees, equipment, inventory and/or the purchase of owner-occupied commercial real estate.
- Florida Opportunity Fund
The EFI-sponsored Florida Opportunity Fund provides venture capital for startup and early-stage businesses taking one of three forms: (1) a clean energy investment program for businesses to increase the use of energy-efficient and/or renewable energy technologies, equipment or materials; (2) a state-run venture capital fund that invests directly in businesses; and (3) a program to invest in seed or early stage companies in order to realize significant long-term capital appreciation.
Attract a private investor.
Venture capital firms or private individuals called “angels” may be willing to invest in your business if they see high potential. Venture capital firms are typically controlled by banks, insurance companies or large corporations; angels, on the other hand, are wealthy individuals looking to support “hot” ideas and untapped investment opportunities. In return for backing your business, these entities typically expect some level of control and/or a percentage of future profits. See list of Florida venture capital firms or visit Florida Venture Forum.
Seek targeted financing.
Your unique race, ethnicity, gender and/or military service may open doors to targeted funding and educational opportunities.
Are you a person of color?
The Black Business Loan program provides loans, loan guarantees and/or investments through loan administrators to Black business enterprises that cannot otherwise obtain capital through conventional lending institutions.
Are you a female?
Despite recent surges in the number of women-owned businesses across the U.S., men still have the upper hand when it comes to approvals for small business loans. But that could easily change. In 2023, U.S. women-owned businesses generated a healthy $1.8 trillion with the opening of 1,821 net new businesses every day. Who knows what 2024 might bring? In the meantime, consult the list of women’s business centers in our “Ask an expert” guide for helpful contacts.
Obtain a grant.
Almost no federal grant money is available to launch for-profit businesses. However, some businesses engaged in scientific R&D may qualify for federal grants under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs if their projects meet federal objectives and have a high potential for commercialization. For details, visit SBIR.gov. And for information about grants available through state and local programs and nonprofit organizations in Florida, visit floridagrantwatch.com.
Give crowdfunding a go
If a lack of money is the only thing keeping you from realizing your entrepreneurial dreams, consider crowdfunding as a way to raise small donations from many people. Just be sure to do your research. The SEC has specific rules about what you can and cannot do, and you will need a platform such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe to accomplish the job. If crowdfunding interests you, look to the specialists at your local Florida SBDC office for advice and do your homework before signing on to anything.