No doubt, startups can be very exciting, but the challenge of raising capital for it to get some footing can be discouraging as building a real business requires capital. But for most startups, what they have is only an idea they feel is marketable. For some, they have designed a business model already and just cannot stop dreaming about this idea of theirs and how it will blossom into something big. Another thing is, not all businesses are a great fit for angel investors or venture capital funding. Sometimes your startup is really good, but getting to convince investors is another hurdle, because like it or not, looking for investors is an investment in itself, and your first thought afterwards is to get some money to build your idea into reality, and what is on your mind is… Crowdfunding!?
Okay… That works, but it is not always smooth. It may happen that you actually got funds, but only a fraction of it. This is not to say there are way better options; rather, it is to offer other alternatives to go alongside your crowdfunding, or to just ignore it totally and face the ones we will be listing, for there are a couple of ways of actually getting funds for your small business that you may never have considered, or even heard of, like…:
Networking should really be the first option people with a startup should consider before any other, and the reasons are these: it will allow you to put out your business in a less formal and a very organic fashion. Going out and meeting people within the local startup and community of investors can be a great way of stumbling into someone who will pick interest in your idea or what you have already set up but are lacking funds to grow. Gatherings like these are good for promoting your business. An example is the Startup Grind – a global community of entrepreneurs, designed to educate, inspire, and connect with one another. Superficially, it may seem quite off, but at the end of the day, you are selling your business without losing a dime. Another thing is, if they seem to be interested in your startup, they will keep the conversation going. It is now left for you to market yourself the best way you can. While this is an art in itself, when done right, investors will be more likely to consider your business.
The best way to go about this is not to meet them and start talking about your business and begging them to invest in it; you should consider playing with their psyche instead, like first asking them for some advice. This way, you are able to build a relationship with them which will grow into a more willingness to invest in your startup. Asking for advice gives them a chance to point out some visible flaws in your business and also shows that you value their thoughts.
You just cannot do without networking, because in the long run, you will be doing it without even knowing. Flopping here is not the end, there are still other options.
- PRIVATE FOUNDATIONS/CONTESTS
There are a few contests out there where winners get funds for their businesses. These contests allow entrants to submit a business plan and the best plan(s) submitted to get to win some prizes, which among other things include funding their startup. Also, most private foundations do not fund startups that are profit-oriented; some do offer a grant if a startup is targeted to empower women and youths. If your startup is one which engages in social activism, your chance of getting funded by these foundations will be greater. A leading private foundation offering grants yearly to startups and entrepreneurs is the Tony Elumelu Foundation which was founded in 2010 by an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist called Tony Elumelu. This organization is very passionate about Africa’s economic development. So far, over 7000 entrepreneurs and businesses have been empowered through their grants.
- THE GOVERNMENT
You are probably asking yourself why the government is listed. It is because governments at various levels put in capital into growing businesses. No doubt, if the system was transparent, more people would see this as a viable option. Nevertheless, we do not have to count it out. Truth is, it is pretty hard for a startup to secure funds through the government, and it is still as tougher for establishments which have stood the test of time.
Before picking this option, it is important you ask yourself if the startup is one that will create jobs and grow the economy, and if it is very clear it will, the government will be more likely to consider it.
- CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE
Members of Chambers of Commerce get to enjoy loans given to them at a very low-interest rate. You can take advantage of it to grow your startup. These chambers are made up of business owners, and to benefit from these grants, one must be an active member. In Lagos, there is the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry which has been promoting and protecting the interests of members and the business community at large. They have also created and facilitated commercial and industrial opportunities in Lagos State. Becoming a member is quite tasking and demanding as requirements are a provision of Certificate of Incorporation, a valid office address, and financers among other things.
- ONLINE LOAN SERVICES
As much as there are many platforms to get loans from, none is as transparent and fully secured with friendly rates as Fundall – a platform of investors for investors. In fact, and with the exception of Fundall and a few others, online loan platforms are centred on personal grants than for business development. And even when they support Micro-Businesses, the procedure is not as smooth as they put out.
In the digital world, we have lots of opportunities right in our palms. Startups that have founders that are young and smart will be the biggest winners, as access to loans to fund their businesses and goals will be available for them all day, all week and all year round.
On Fundall, there is a specific loan for startups (Small and Medium Enterprises to be precise), but it is important you know about the other options like ‘AgileCash’ and ‘Payday Loan’ as well. AgileCash lets you borrow money (up to ₦30,000) within a few minutes, and without collateral. Payday Loan is, particularly for salary earners. They can access loans to the tune of ₦2,000,000, still without collateral, and at a very low-interest rate.
Our concern, however, is on loans for startups, and that is covered by ‘SME Loans’. Fundall allows Small and Medium Enterprises access to loans to as high as ₦2,000,000 – an opportunity for them to kickoff, sustain and grow their business while still generating more income. If your target as a startup is simply to get financial support to achieve your business goals, then Fundall will be your best bet.
In the meantime, you have to thoroughly investigate these five alternative sources of business capital. Each has its own unique challenges, but succeeding will be well worth the effort.
By the way, for most investors (it will do you well to get this right before going on an exploit for the above options) it is better if you approach them with your results before they consider your startup. Getting to show results first can be quite difficult, because as a growing business, you first need money to get customers, and it is through your customers that you get money. Therefore, it is worth every effort to first acquire customers or users before you approach an investor, instead of seeking funds first before getting customers. This is very important as it is far easier getting investments on good terms (particularly from non-institutional investors) if your startup has some traction and customer base first. Most investors like to see some proof that your idea or business has potential, and the best proof is having customers that are real and also paying. Because actually demonstrating that people like and are even patronizing your business is going to be one of your biggest assets when it comes to attracting investors.
Kator Tarkaa is a budding investment writer. He enjoys writing about real estate, businesses and finances, especially as it concerns youths. He loves marketing products and services via social media.
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