In a nutshell: Now that you’ve gotten your business off the ground, where do you find the funding for growth and expansion? Here are two options.
You were able to secure funding to start your business, but how should you approach raising money to continue growing it?
Success is certainly not guaranteed once you’ve made it past your first year; in fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 51.2% of businesses failed after five years in business (between 1995 and 2015). And one of the most significant reasons companies fail is due to lack of funding; 29% fail because they ran out of cash, according to CB Insights’ “The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail.”
For businesses that have operating experience and have proven ability to earn revenue, there are usually two viable options for funding your business: loans and grants. But there are some nuances you should know about each to determine which route will yield the best results for your company.
While the Small Business Administration (SBA) does not provide loans directly, the organization is the first stop you should make when considering loan options. Through its Lender Match tool, it can refer you to participating SBA-approved lenders.
For many small businesses, the SBA’s 7(a) loan program may be an ideal option. (It’s SBA’s primary and most popular program, according to the organization.) There are size and operational requirements you must meet, but the program can help you secure up to $5 million to purchase new land, buy or expand an existing business, refinance debt and buy equipment, furniture, fixtures or materials. The SBA even offers a 30-minute training course: Financing Options for Small Businesses to learn more.
While conventional bank loans are an option, SBA-guaranteed loans typically offer longer terms and lower down payments. Even so, you’ll have to go to a bank or credit union to receive the funding. While each lender may have different criteria to evaluate you and your business, most institutions will look at your personal credit score, collateral and time in business. Be prepared to provide the following information and documentation they need to approve your loan:
- Business plan
- Business financial statements
- Business and personal tax returns
- Information on other business loans
- Personal financial statements
- Business leases
- Financial projections
While grants may be challenging to obtain, they don’t need to be paid back (like loans). There are three categories of grants worth researching: federal, state/regional and private level. Additionally, specialty small-business grants may be available to you if you are a woman, veteran or minority — these grant programs are focused on spreading entrepreneurial success across demographics.
Government agencies are a major distributor of grants that offer funding for a range of sectors. The application process can be grueling, but, if you’re awarded, it will be worth the work. Grants.gov, a comprehensive database of grants from government agencies, is a great place to start. Two other federal programs, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), connect small businesses, universities and research centers with federal grants and contracts.
While each state and region is going to offer different grant options, there are some places to search for help. Each state’s economic development agency can refer you to pertinent state or regional grant opportunities that will fit your business. Local small business development centers (SBDCs), which are often associated with universities and state economic development agencies, will also help you seek out grant opportunities.
Private grants will be the most time-consuming to search, but there are many opportunities here. Large corporations often offer grants to small businesses (both non- and for-profit) through their philanthropic efforts. Some companies known for their small-business grant programs include FedEx, Miller Lite, LendingTree, Chase, Visa, ExxonMobil, West Elm, Intuit, Wells Fargo, Marriott International, Walmart and Coca-Cola.
The information above should give you a good starting point in obtaining the appropriate funding to keep your business growing in the right direction.