After pursuing all of the bootstrapping options, what if you decide you really do need more money than you can self-generate?
In that case, you have a couple of options. You can borrow money, or you can sell off part of the potential equity. The most common place to look for money is the bank. But, in today’s tough lending environment, especially when so many people have had their credit scores decimated by business and real estate downturns, a bank loan can be hard to come by.
Friends and Family
The challenge with borrowing from friends and family is that it becomes doubly important that you pay it back, on time (or earlier). The loan can also create tension in an otherwise good relationship. You may get some negative reaction from other family members if you approach an elderly, wealthier family member.
If you do decide to pursue that route for financing, here are three guidelines to follow:
Friends & Family Rule #1: Even though you already have an informal relationship, keep the business angle very formal. Present a full business plan, along with past financial statements, and future projections.
Friends & Family Rule #2: Use a fair interest rate. This isn’t the low prime rate or a government-subsidized loan. There is a risk associated with the investment, and the interest rate should be higher to recognize that risk.
Friends & Family Rule #3: If you are borrowing a larger amount, it’s common practice to offer your lender a small equity position in your company. There’s no exception if you get your loan from friends and family.
High Interest Lenders
There are companies that will make you loans based on your existing cash flow. Expect to pay a lot for these kinds of loans, because they’re taking a big risk. It’s not uncommon to pay 20% or more.
You can also get a loan against your credit card receipts. That’s another very expensive form of loan. The interest rate is high, and the merchant service company will take their portion right off the top.
Finally, there are angel investors. These are high net-worth individuals who invest in a company at an early stage. They take equity positions in the company, and are often the next step after friends and family financing has been exhausted. Sometimes the most important asset an angel investor can bring to your business isn’t the money, as much as it is their contacts and resources.
Think carefully before you borrow money. If that really is the next best step for you, there are options, even if the bank says no.