And the realities (aka struggles) of raising capital to fund your business.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated or overwhelmed with the lack of options to fund my business. And how difficult it is to compete with the well-funded companies today. But this isn’t a post to complain about the state of capital for entrepreneurs. I found many options, the hard way. And as always, I’ve promised to pass the wisdom on, like Penny does for our women.
As a founder plugged into the start-up scene, I am constantly seeing friends and colleagues raising $1m, $2m, $3m, $5m and even $100m dollar rounds. Combine that with seeing the rich and famous launching companies and products like it is the easiest thing in the world. They amass these ridiculous social media followings in what feels like a week, land their products in big box stores in months, and go on their merry way.
But for the rest of the us, the ones who aren’t famous or rich or in the VC club, we have to grind … and nickel and dime our way.
I’ve officially gotten over the fact that there is soooo much money out there, controlled by a select few. It took me a year and half to accept that no matter how great your team is, your idea is, your product is, your conversion is — getting access to funding is a challenge.
I pitched 70+ investors in venture capital last summer (a couple months after we launched our beta app). I didn’t get one yes. Not one. I was crushed.
I had spent 2ish months of countless hours and energy on this first attempt at fundraising when I really should have been 100% focused on learning from our beta launch, tweaking the beta app, building our marketing tech stack, understanding the themes of where our customers were coming from, and leaning into organic growth channels. Instead, I thought we could super-charge the business before we had the metrics– nope!
It took me 6 months to feel ready to talk publicly about it…. Why? Who cares? Well, I was heads down trying to fund my business another way, and back operating my business.
Looking back, this was a major blessing, and not a major failure. We are growing, at our own pace, with a lower cost of capital. Not to say we will never bring on investors or look to partner with institutions, but there are multiple ways to fund your goals, and building a real business takes TIME!
Don’t give up. We did it, and so can you.
- Grants for women-owned businesses
- R&D Tax Credits
Specifically for companies developing new or improved business products, software, or inventions)
- 0% credit cards
There are tons of credit cards offering statement credits, cash back and 0% APR on new purchases for 9 months to 18 months. This is a great short term way to get access to capital to fuel your business.
Note: Your credit score will be impacted by doing this. Why? You have a higher outstanding balance of debt which is one of the major drivers of your credit score.
- Small business loan at ~3% fixed rate
Start with the bank you have your business and personal checking accounts, then try local credit unions, then the SBA.
- Margin loan on my investments at ~3% variable rate
If you have investments outside of a retirement account, instead of liquidating them and using the cash to fund your business, consider a “margin loan” so you can stay invested in the market, but get access to capital.
Yes, we have to pay these loans and credit cards back. Not a free lunch by any means. But the cost of capital is attractive right now with rates at low levels.
Other options on my radar
This isn’t a 0% card, gotta pay in full every month, but this can help you if you need to buy inventory one month.
You get a fast and flexible loan based on your revenue, and your daily sales pay back the loan.
PayPal and Shopify also offer these programs. You obviously need a decent amount of revenue to make this worth your while, but it could help during the phase when you are growing and don’t yet have enough years of financials to get a large traditional bank loan or equity investors.
Crowdfunding platforms where everyday people can invest in your company!
Other options not on my radar
- Accelerators or incubators
It is sort of too late for us at this point given we have a real product in the market and a large team in growth mode. But, if I were to do this all over again, I would consider doing programs that provide initial capital and resources at the start of your journey.
Options that should never ever be on your radar
- Using your 401k or IRA savings
- Mortgaging your home or your family members’ home
Yup, I’ve totally thought about this. NOT a good idea — you don’t want to leverage everyythinggg in your life.
I also highly recommend doubling your estimates of how much you think it is going to cost to run your business (I under-estimated initially), and be super intentional (almost frugal) with how you spend money. Instead of spending $5k to buy a list of email addresses, go try to acquire customers from free events and webinars. The hustle will almost always yield better results than the expensive marketing channels.
There are a ways to make it work. Slow and steady wins the race.