Unless you’re incredibly lucky or good at saving, chances are you need money to get started with your business. But where do you get money?
You face a tougher challenge than most entrepreneurs. Unless you’re 18, you can’t legally sign any binding documents. And the running joke with banks is “You can get all the money you need… as long as you don’t actually need it.” This means that banks largely only lend money to people who have an established history of taking care of their money and paying back the money they borrow (this is called credit). You haven’t had the time to do this, and most banks won’t be able to work with you.
However, if you have a parent who can help you sign, or if there are other circumstances, this could be a decent option for you. The most important thing to know with banks is to shop around. Not all banks are built alike, and different banks can make different offers at different rates. Visit at least three banks in town, talk with a loan officer about what you’re doing, and see what they say. You will need a business plan to work with a bank.
If the banks can’t help you, there are some alternative lending options that exist to specifically help people like you.
There are local lending groups like Whidbey Island Local Lending, a group of people who live here and decided they wanted to invest their money in the local community instead of some Wall Street company. It is a loan, and you do have to pay it back.
You’ve heard of the sites. Maybe you’ve even given money on them yourself. Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe. Each platform has different terms. Be sure to pay attention to how much of your raised money the site keeps, and make sure you’re asking for enough to actually start your business.
Crowdfunding is a different kind of hard from working with the banks. It takes constant work, self-promotion, promises, and advertising on your part to get people to donate enough money to reach your goal. If you set too unrealistic of rewards, you might overwhelm yourself or lose all of the money you raised for your business. And if you don’t meet your promises, you will have a lot of unhappy friends and family who donated to you. Before you ever approach crowdfunding, be sure you have worked out all the details of your business, have a solid crowdfunding strategy, and have a good support base to help you out.
Friends & Family
Friends and family are your most likely option. They already believe in you and what you’re doing. You know them, and know how to make the best case.
It’s up to you and them to draw up the terms of your agreement. Will you set out a loan with a contract promising to pay them back? With or without interest? Will they give you the money as a gift? Will they get to own part of your company, and have a vote in the decisions you make? This will take careful negotiating on your part. A business plan helps prove that you’ve thought it through.
If you’re passionate, organized, and smart enough, you don’t have to go through any of these structured systems to get the money you need to start. Going through family, your mentor, a business owner in the community, or anyone else you know, you can set up an arrangement to get a direct loan from them.
You’ll need a strong business plan, a good pitch, and the research to know who has the money to help you. The library has tools in their Legal Information Reference Center and Small Business Reference Center that can help you write up a loan contract.