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Beyond Banks: Financing Options for Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners

October 3rd 2021

Many entrepreneurs are disappointed to find that banks generally won’t lend money to startups and early-stage ventures unless the business owner already has funds available, collateral, a solid business plan, and a solid credit rating. When you’re just starting out, there aren’t many women business owners who can check all the boxes that banks frequently require.

For many women, that can mean the end of trying to start or grow a business.

However, there are several options—some appropriate for startups and others for existing businesses—that don’t involve banks or credit unions and that may be able to provide business financing.

Startups

True startups are in the first year of operation, or are in the process of opening their doors. That means the company doesn’t have much of a track record of sales or a solid client base yet, in most cases, at least. But there are a couple of potential sources of capital.

Grants. In addition to the Amber Grant, there are other companies, government agencies, and nonprofit foundations that have grants that can be used to start and run a business. A few are specifically focused on helping small businesses recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Microloans. The US Small Business Administration has a program that guarantees loans of up to $50,000 to companies (meaning the bank lends the money but the SBA assumes the risk of repayment. The SBA backing makes banks more likely to lend.). These smaller loans are termed microloans and are typically easier to qualify for than traditional business loans.

Existing Businesses

If you have a business history, meaning you’ve been up-and-running for a while, you have a few more options for securing funding. These can include:

Factoring. If you have unpaid invoices that are squeezing your cash flow, factoring, or invoice financing, is one option. Granted, it’s expensive, because you essentially sell your unpaid invoices to a lender, which gives you a percentage of what you’re owed in cash today. As clients pay, the lender gets to keep most or all of it. It’s a solid option if you need money now, however.

Merchant cash advance.

If you accept credit cards from customers, who pay through a merchant services service you use, you may be able to get a cash advance based on your customers’ buying habits. For example, if you borrow $10,000, a portion of that debt is paid off daily based on your credit card sales. The amount you pay back each day is based on a percentage of your daily sales, so when things are slow your merchant provider takes a small percentage, and on busy days, it takes a larger chunk. Businesses with customers that typically pay via credit card, like restaurants, may find this is a convenient solution.

PayPal Working Capital loan.

Businesses that rely on PayPal for online payment processing may qualify for a working capital loan, which PayPal makes based on the amount of business you do on its platform. Like a merchant cash advance, PayPal makes loans based on the amount of business that is processed on the platform and structures repayment with that in mind as well.

Line of credit. Much like a credit card, which allows you to charge up to a certain amount and then pay it back over time, a line of credit provides the same flexibility. You have a maximum amount you need to stay below, but you can pay for things you need using your line of credit, paying it down as you’re paid.

Private investors. Also known as “hard money lenders,” these investors are willing to provide loans that are backed by hard assets, such as real estate, equipment, vehicles, etc. The expected payback is quick, however, and typically ranges from 18 to 24 months. This should not be a long-term strategy simply because it’s very expensive.

Leases. When you don’t have the cash or credit to purchase something you need outright, consider applying for a lease, which will allow you to effectively rent it. However, rather than having to come up with a large lump sum, you’ll pay a fixed monthly fee in order to use it. When the lease is up, you can renew for a set period of time, opt to lease something else, or put the money down and buy it outright.

It can be very discouraging to be told “no” by potential lenders or investors, but if you can find out what’s holding them back from giving you what you need, you can put together a game plan to improve your odds next time. For example, it it’s your credit score that’s knocking you out of qualifying, spend a few months getting that score up. Or if it’s your business revenue, put together a plan to dramatically increase your sales over the next 90 days, and then try again.

Outside financing can be a turbo boost to business growth, but it is certainly very possible to continue to grow your business on your own, with the resources you have now. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep trying.

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