Whether you’re laying the groundwork to start your own business or looking for ways to grow your current business, there are a wide variety of funding options available—from crowdfunding to microlending to grants and everything in between. Below, Kayricka DuPree offers some tips and tricks for assessing your funding needs, as well as four key ways you can fund your business.
First Ask: What’s Your Funding For?
The first step to securing funding—well before you begin filling out loan or grant applications—is to evaluate exactly what you need your funding to do. This is especially important in the grant context, as many grants are designed to help with specific categories of expenses (like payroll, equipment, or inventory).
Some of the most common categories for which funding may be needed:
- Payroll expenses
- Employee benefits (including paid time off, 401(k) plan administration fees, and health insurance)
- Liability insurance
- Rent and utilities
- Equipment and infrastructure
- Advertising, website, and marketing expenses
- Travel costs
- Legal fees
- Consulting expenses
By giving some thought to what needs will be most critical at the startup stage, you’ll be better able to allocate funds as you receive them—no matter the source.
Types of Small Business Funding Available
We’ll explore four broad categories of small business funding—traditional lending, grants, self-funding, and outside investment.
Traditional lending may not be an option for all new small businesses—at least unless the owner is willing to put up their personal credit and collateral. When you have a fledgling business, this business doesn’t have its own credit score or profile, which can make it harder to qualify for credit through more traditional means.
However, once you’ve been in business for a year or two and have some earnings to show for it, you’ll be in a much better position to qualify for business loans, personal loans or lines of credit, or even microloans. Additionally, government organizations like the Small Business Administration (SBA) may guarantee loans or offer their own loans, providing more paths toward funding.
A wide variety of government bodies, corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations have grants available for people to start, grow, or pivot their own small businesses. Many of these grants are targeted toward certain demographic groups, like women, veterans, or minorities; others are designed to benefit specific business areas or to fund innovation in certain parts of the country.
Some examples of these grants include:
- The U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) offers loans to minority-owned businesses
- The Farmers Market Promotion Program is targeted at businesses in the agricultural sector
- The Small Business Innovation Research Program provides grants to businesses that can perform research for the federal government
- USDA Rural Business Development Grants provide financing for small businesses located in rural parts of the U.S.
- The Program for Investors in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME) is a government grant program that provides funds to microenterprise development organizations to help microentrepreneurs in local communities
- The SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) helps small businesses cover the costs associated with expanding into international commerce
This source of funding doesn’t require much red tape—by relying on your own funds to grow your business, you’ll avoid taking on additional debt or subjecting yourself to a stringent loan or grant conditions.
What’s more, funding your business on your own can be a good sign for lenders in the future—it shows that you have confidence in your business acumen and are able to make things happen even on a limited budget.
Entrepreneurial groups often attract angel investors and venture capitalists—those individuals and groups who are willing to take a risk on a small business in exchange for a share of the business or an agreed-upon interest rate.
Be sure to thoroughly research any outside investors before agreeing to take on a partner—even a so-called “silent partner.” It’s also crucial to have any business agreements in writing and agreed to by both parties. Having an attorney look over your agreement can give you an additional layer of protection.
About the Author:
Evolve & Elevate, Inc. is proud to have Kayricka DuPree as its CEO since 2021. Her robust management experience and rich expertise in logistics, operations, finance, and human resources have positioned her as a natural leader. She graduated from MIT with honors and holds a double major in finance and human resource management. Kayricka’s acumen for operations and logistics management is supported by her knowledge of LEAN practices. She is fluent in multiple languages.