You’ve spent the past few years establishing your business, and the time has come to expand. There’s only one problem: The necessary funds to take operations to the next level simply aren’t available. Must you turn to a bank for a loan, or should you explore other options? The answer depends on your personal financial situation, but these nontraditional sources of funding are worth considering:
Does the idea of asking strangers to fund your expansion leave you a bit unsettled? It shouldn’t, as it could be exactly what you need to get things off the ground. There are many people around the world with the same core values as you who are willing to support your cause. Plus, it won’t cost you anything out the gate to put your vision out there. Just be sure to read the fine print to determine the fees that accompany successful and failed campaigns. Also, inquire about any funding restrictions that may apply; select platforms have stringent barriers to entry, while others are open to the public. For a list of the top crowdfunding platforms, read this Forbes article.
This is another viable funding option, assuming you have the resources on hand. In fact, third-party lenders may ask, “What do you have to lose?” before considering your application, to see how much you believe in your business. And the first consideration may be the contributions you’ve made from your personal assets. Consider borrowing against the cash value on your life insurance policies, retirement fund or taking out a home equity loan. It’s important to note that not repaying an IRA or 401(k) account in a timely manner could result in an early withdrawal penalty of 10 percent and assessment of taxes. Before you borrow against your 401(k), ask yourself these four questions from U.S. News & World Report.
Structured Settlement Payouts
Are you receiving distributions from a structured settlement? Although the proceeds may be generous, it may not be enough to fund your business’s growth. Consider selling your future structured settlement payments for a lump sum to help fund your expansion. To learn more about selling your future structured settlement payments, visit JGWentworth.com.
Venture Capitalists & Angel Investors
If your company is growing at a good clip, venture capitalists may be willing to take a chance on you. But there are definitely a few risk factors (and if you watch “Shark Tank,” these should could as no surprise). Along with the laundry list of stipulations to get them on board, venture capitalists will want their piece of the pie—and it could be in the form of a chunk of ownership. Simply put, they’re in it to win it, and money is the motivation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as you’ll more than likely have access to their brain and network.
Angel investors provide funding to entrepreneurs, whether they know them are not, who exemplify a willingness to do whatever it takes to attain success. Simply put, they derive pleasure from giving back to up-and-coming entrepreneurs—with few strings attached. For more on the difference between venture capitalists and angel investors, read this post from Business Insider.
This last option isn’t that nontraditional, but it’s still worth mentioning. The most common among these federal offerings is the 7(a) Loan Program for small, U.S.-based for-profit entities. Applicants must be able to prove they’ve attempted to self-finance their operations and a funding gap still exists. Businesses in select industries aren’t eligible for inclusion, so review the guidelines to determine if you qualify. Visit the Small Business Administration for more information.
[repost from SBA]
33 Creative Ideas for Small Business Holiday Marketing
The holidays are coming, and we all know what that means for retailers. But retailers aren’t the only ones who can get in on the holiday shopping game. Whether you own a store, restaurant, service provider or even a B2B company, smart marketing can boost your holiday sales, too. Here are 33 marketing ideas to get your holiday sales sizzling.
- Invite B2B customers to a thank-you dinner or other special event.
- Invite B2B prospects to a “getting to know you” party.
- Stand out by holding your holiday party before Thanksgiving, or after the New Year when customers are more business-minded and thinking ahead to 2015 budgets.
- Stand out (and save money) by holding a holiday breakfast or luncheon instead of a full-scale evening party.
- Join forces with other small business owners in the area to hold a weekend “sidewalk sale.”
- Cross-promote your business with cards, brochures and flyers in complementary businesses’ locations.
- Put discounts or coupons for other nearby businesses’ products or services in customers’ shopping bags, and have them do the same for you.
- Hold a special sale for your best customers only, at a time when you’re normally closed.
- Choose a charity to get involved with, and get customers involved too. Offer a discount or free gift card for customers who volunteer a certain amount of time to the charity or donate a certain amount.
- Join other businesses to host a gift-giving tree. Find a local charity, put a tree in the business district or shopping area, post Christmas wishes on the tree, and have customers pick a wish and buy the desired gift.
- Exhibit at holiday shows. See if local crafts fairs or gift shows accept commercial vendors and, if so, rent a booth.
- Hold a Black Friday sale for your B2B business. (It doesn’t have to be on the real “Black Friday”—pick another Friday during the holiday season.)
- Send real holiday cards, not e-cards. They’re more likely to get noticed.
- Send Thanksgiving or New Year’s cards. They’re also more likely to get noticed than cards sent during the Christmas season.
- Hold a holiday open house for prospects. More relaxed than a regular party, it offers an opportunity for them to drop by at their convenience and learn more about your business.
- Capture customers through their kids. Hold a kids’ contest like a make-your-own-ornament contest or holiday coloring contest. Give a big prize or just give everyone small prizes, like candy canes.
- Make any business kid-friendly by providing a kids’ space with toys or books to keep tired, fussy children occupied while parents shop.
- Get listed in local bloggers’ holiday gift guides. It’s too late for most print gift guides, but there’s still time to get your products or services spotlighted by relevant bloggers. Reach out with a free sample.
- Feed the crowd. Hand out free cookies or beverages to energize tired shoppers.
- Make them comfy. Provide seating so shoppers’ companions can sit down if they don’t want to shop.
- Give it away. If your business is located in a mall or shopping area, station an employee outside to give away free samples of your product or service to passersby.
- Hire masseuses to give shoppers free foot or shoulder rubs in your store if they buy something.
- Have Santa come to your business. If you’re in a shopping district, join with other businesses to hire a Santa. You can even set up a photo booth and have photos taken with Santa and ask for donations.
- Hold a “12 Days of…” sale, event or contest. Give away a different prize every day, offer a different discount every day or spotlight a different product every day.
- Give away useful items with each purchase, like good-quality tissue paper or ribbons for gift-wrapping. Put your business’s name on it and you’ve got a marketing tool, too.
- Give away gifts with purchase. Offering items that can serve as stocking stuffers makes customers more likely to buy so they can get the gift.
- Try a two-for-one sale. This works great for subscription items; offer customers a free gift subscription or half-price gift subscription when they renew their own membership or subscription.
- Get personal. Instead of holding a big party for clients, take them out to lunch individually during the holidays (or early in the New Year if they’re too busy).
- Provide entertainment. Hire musicians to play in your store or restaurant, or right outside to attract customers in.
- Display holiday-themed art by local artists in your restaurant, coffee shop or bar and offer it for sale.
- Sell gift cards for shoppers who can’t make up their minds. Be sure to keep them by the point-of-sale as a last minute impulse buy.
- Create personalized food gifts by printing your business logo on M&Ms, candy bars, cookies or candy wrappers.
- Print a personalized 2015 calendar to give out to your clients. A restaurant could include photos of popular dishes; a dog wash could showcase cute dog breeds.
About the Author: