Ways to Fund Your Business

question-markStarting and planning a business can be fun as well as a daunting experience, especially when it comes to being able to pay for all the equipment, inventory and payroll that goes along with it. How am I going to pay for all this, you may ask.  How much will a bank loan me, or who is likely to be an investor in my company?  I offer some solutions to these questions which further discusses these options mentioned in my August 23, 2016 essay on Funding Options.

For a start-up business it will be difficult to get an investor interested in it unless you have a hot, trending business and the personal skills and background that goes along with your ability to run the business.  An investor focuses on your product and proven market demand for it indicated by sales growth and the cash flows that can be generated.  Growth from year to year of say,  20% to 50% would pique his interest.  He wants to be able to get a return on his investment for a period of years and then he may sell out in 5 to 7 years. He will determine your commitment to the business by asking how much of your own money is invested.

If you get an offer from an investor, he will most likely want preferred stock in the business. Preferred stock is stock in the business but with some differences. It has a maturity date and there is interest or  dividends paid on the amount of the issue which is paid semi-annually.  Here the investor is getting interest paid on the use of his money, and the maturity date indicates that the principal amount is repaid at the maturity date.  The investor also has a higher claim on the business because of his position as a “preferred” stockholder.

Bonds are another instrument to consider.  However, they are used to fund projects.  If you are considering purchasing a building, for example, you could get a bond from your municipality issued for this purpose which will have a benefit of being tax-free to the investor and a lower tax rate for you to pay.

Bank loans are difficult for a start-up to obtain, but if you are in business for a few years and have growing sales and good cash flow, then a bank would consider you.  Of course, there are the issues of collateral, character, capacity and economic conditions which will be considered.  You can apply for a small business loan guaranteed by The Small Business Administration at banks in their program. The SBA loans feature interest rates that are below market.

Equipment can be purchased with an equipment loan and the equipment will be collateral for the loan.  The beauty of this kind of loan is that the manufacturer may work with you on the amount of interest to be paid.

Of course, there is the Crowdfunding route you can take.  Prepare a presentation of your product or project and the amount of money to be raised.  Different crowdfunding platforms have different requirements and features for hitting your target amount.  Read their requirements carefully and make sure the particular platform is right for you.

The above are considerations that must not be weighed lightly.

 

 

Startup Funding Options

So, you want to start a business; you have this great idea for one; or, you have a product that you want to introduce to the marketplace.  But what is holding you back?  Money?  Well, there are several options for you to take advantage of.  Let’s take a look at them.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs will say that they will take the money out of their savings.  According to a recent study funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, nearly 70% of entrepreneurs rely o their personal savings. About a quarter of entrepreneurs rely on venture capital and “angel” or private investors (see my earlier essay on Angels vs. Venture Capitalists), while only 15% rely on friends and family. An even smaller percentage — about 7% — received funding through corporate investments. Crowdfunding is also a popular alternative. According to Fundable, a small business crowdfunding platform, crowdfunding raised $5.1 billion in capital in 2012.

There are other options other than those indicated above.  Depending upon the state you live in, you will want to reach out to an economic development agency.  There you will be able to find financing through tax-free bonds.  For example, in New York State there is the New York State Industrial Development Agency, which issues double tax-free bonds.  That is, the income earned from the bond interest exempted the purchaser from both New York State and federal income taxes.  These will offer a much lower interest rate to you from those in the market.

If you are contemplating a manufacturing-based business, you may consider leasing equipment, the supplier of the equipment will finance the purchase of the equipment.

If you are looking to purchase an existing business, the seller may be willing to fund at least a portion of the sale with a mortgage.  This is true especially in the restaurant business and other small businesses. The seller will usually stay with you in the business for about three months to make sure that everything is going smoothly for you and to introduce you to suppliers and other vendors.

Your success in this regard is to think about other financing sources and to think outside the box.

 

 

The Advantage of a Diverse Product Portfolio

 

Recently, I attended a conference on small business funding given by Launchpad LI.  There were three entrepreneurs on the panel who discussed various topics in establishing and funding a small business.  The moderator had asked one of them about the sale of one of his businesses and what had made it attractive to the buyer.

He responded that it was because he had developed a sustainable business, one that would last for a long time.  What did that mean? He developed a good management team.  He advocated continuous improvement in his manufacturing. He developed many products, not just one, that would carry the business. And, the business was profitable.

The lightbulbadvantage of having several products is one of the products would be able to carry the business as a “cash cow” thus providing funds to be able to develop and market a new product.  The “cash cow” would provide enough profits or cash flow surplus that introducing a new product would not require outside financing.

If a product were to go out of demand or was replaced by technology, the new products would fill in the gap left by the outdated product.  Thus the company would not suffer the loss from the discontinued product.

This discussion reminded me of when I was with an investment bank.  The owner of a business, who created an
anti-theft device for automobiles, wanted to bring his business public.  The business was doing quite well making over $250 million in sales with a gross margin of 50%. The business was not only in the United States but the owner had expanded to markets in the Far East and Australia.  What a business!

After much investigation on this company, we decided that the company was not a candidate to go public.  Why?  This company only had one product; there were no other products being developed at that time.  Surely, when the product saturated the markets it was in, his demand would decrease, sales would fall, and he would become unprofitable. And because he had only one product, the business was unsustainable!

What do Venture Capitalists and Angels Have in Common?

Have you often wondered what the difference is between an Angel investor and a Venture Capitalist?  There really isn’t much difference except for the size of the investment in your business.

Angels are private investors who are looking for a better investment and return than traditional investment schemes, like in the stock or bond markets.  The age of the company and other specifics are on their checklist: early or formation stage and they look for a payback and a return on their investment where revenues are between $2 million and $10 million.  They would usually expect preferred stock in return for their money which would pay semi-annual interest for the use of their money.  After 5 to 7 years they would expect to be paid back and exit.

Venture Capitalists are on a higher plain than Angels and can be private equity funds or hedge funds.  They invest in early stage companies expecting a high return for the high risk involved where revenues are in excess of $10 million.  Venture Capitalists look for companies with a defensible market position, strong management team, positive EBITDA and discernible growth characteristics.

So what do these Angels and Venture Capitalists look for, you may ask?  Think about the program Shark Tank seen on ABC-TV.  You may have seen Angel investor Kevin O’Leary quizzing the presenting owners of small companies.  He asks, “How am I going to increase my investment?”  “What are your goals for the business?”  “I don’t like your valuation!” “What are your margins?”  “What are your sales and in what time period did these sales occur?”

What is making him salivate or not over the company’s products?  These attractions are not unlike what the Venture Capitalist looks for.  Take a look at the following:

  1. Unique or proprietary products or services.  A patent owned by you is a plus.
  2. Existing sales are evidence of consumer demand where revenue growth is greater than 20% to 50% year to year; gross margins are over 40%; and with a lean management team.
  3. Increasing sales would be the result of their investment by marketing or hiring additional personnel, which they will oversee.
  4. Realistic valuation based on your sales and profits
  5. Exit strategy must be included in your plans, like selling the company or merging with another company.

While some of you may say that seeking funding from these people is not worth it.  Think about this.  If you did not have their investment you would not be able to grow your business faster, gain market share and have the benefit of their expert opinion and management expertise.  Their contacts and relationships would help you gain clients and suppliers for increased revenue and growth.  So it is worth it, but make sure that you benefit from the relationship as much as the investor would.  It is a two way street — the investor is making money on his investment, and you are gaining a person who can direct you in your business with his expertise, open doors to business partners and add to the valuation of your business.