Remember back in the day when your business needed financing?
Your choices were few. You could go to a traditional bank for a traditional bank loan. Or you could look for money from a family member. Or an investor. Or, if you were hoping to go public maybe an investment from a venture capital firm. You could try to wiggle financing out of your suppliers or get a cash advance on your credit card at a usury rate. In a worst case scenario, you could factor your receivables too. All of these options are still available. But, in just the past few years, a bunch of new financing options have cropped up for your company. Are you fully aware of these four?
Private Company Loans. Last month, Staples, Inc. announced that "Staples Business Loans" had surpassed a million dollars of funding for small businesses. According to the company's press release, "the quick and easy access to capital has helped more than 43 small businesses nationwide, ranging from a lunch wagon in Virginia to a medical writing company in Georgia to a construction service business in Ohio. The $1.5 million in loans is helping businesses expand, hire new employees and build for the future." In its latest effort to shore up business from a key constituency (that's you), warehouse operator Sam's Club is offering a new service to help its small business members gain access to loans of up to $350,000. And just last week investment banking firm Goldman Sachs announced they were getting into the consumer (and small business) loan market - the moves are "part of a broader Wall Street shift toward consumer and business lending. At big banks, those businesses are growing more important as regulation and capital rules crimp profit at other units, most notably trading."
Crowdfunding. Recently, new rules for crowdfunding were greenlighted by the SEC which now allows your business to raise equity of up to $50 million from both accredited and unaccredited individual investors with many less restrictions than before. Depending on the type of investment, advertising, financial audit and state filing requirements have been relaxed. Growing frustrated with the delays at the SEC, many states have also acted (or plan to act) on their own to provide crowdfunding options for local small businesses too. Now you can raise money to acquire property, other businesses, inventory and enter into other ventures by giving away some equity without having to go through the complicated and expensive initial public offering process. And yes, you can still make potato salad if you want.
Grants and Prizes. Want some money for your business and don't want to pay it back? Over the past few years there's been a proliferation of cash grants and prizes being offered in contests and programs from big companies looking to cozy up with small businesses like yours. Chase's Mission Main Street program is giving away $100,000 grants to small businesses. The winner of FedEx's grant program walked away with $25,000. Miller Beer's Tap the Future campaign is giving away $100,000 to its winner. Competitor Sam Adams is helping small food, beverage, craft brewing, and hospitality businesses nationwide by combining expert business coaching and advising with access to small business capital through its Brewing the American Dream program. Software maker Intuit is returning this year with another Small Business Big Game contest where you've got a chance to get a fully paid Super Bowl commercial for your business. Some of these contests may not continue next year but rest assured, there are always big contests sponsored by big companies looking to give big money away to small businesses like yours and mine in return for just a little PR.
Online Lending. The Internet, big data, cloud applications and a lot of money from Silicon Valley has fueled an explosion in new companies offering small loans to small businesses with higher interest than traditional banks but, in many cases, easier requirements and even better service. Small businesses can choose from micro-financers like CAN Capital ($743 million raised to date), Kabbage ($465 million raised to date) and OnDeck ($428 million raised to date), peer to peer lenders like Prosper ($355 million raised to date) and Lending Club ($393 million raised to date) and even get working capital from payment services like PayPal and Square. These companies are using technology and social media to streamline credit research and stay on top of their small business customers' finances while also being a great resource of capital for you.
It's a whole new world of financing, isn't it? A little different than back in the day, right? Sure, all the traditional means of raising money are still there. And approval rates at big banks and institutional lenders have hit new highs according to a popular monthly credit index report. But banks and those traditional financing options are no longer the only game in town. In this new day your small business has lots of alternatives to choose from when trying to raise capital.
A version of this column previously appeared on Inc.com.