A business loan isn’t the only to cover the costs of your new business
— it might not even be the best option. Before you take out a loan, consider your choices to find the right combination of funding.
1. Unsecured business loans
An unsecured business loan doesn’t require any collateral. These can be hard to come by if you haven’t opened your business yet, and it can be expensive since lenders tend to see startups as a risk. However, they have a number of benefits: You won’t risk losing any of your business’s assets if things don’t work out and can’t pay back the loan. But you could still lose some of your personal assets if it requires a personal guarantee.
Unsecured business loans don’t necessarily have to be term loans. Lenders like Kabbage and BlueVine offer lines of credit that your business can draw from as needed — but newer startups are unlikely to meet the time in business requirements set by most providers.
2. Secured business loans
A secured business loan is backed by some of your business or personal assets as collateral. They can be easier to come by as a startup since the collateral offsets the risk for the lender. They also tend to have more favorable rates and terms than unsecured business loans. But you risk losing your collateral if you or your business isn’t able to repay the loan.
Compare secured and unsecured business loans
3. SBA loans
These government-backed loans come with some of the most competitive rates and terms out there. While not all programs are available to startups, your business might be able to qualify for a microloan or other small loan, which typically run up to $350,000. But they’re not always easy to get — only 54% of SBA loan applicants were approved in 2016, according to a Federal Reserve survey. You should also be prepared to spend at least a month working on the application and even longer waiting for an approval decision.
Microloans are small-dollar financing available to all types of businesses, including startups. They are designed to help you cover the little things when you’re just getting on your feet — like buying office supplies or stocking up on your first set of inventory. Microloans, like those offered by Kiva and Accion, typically start around $500 and come with shorter terms than your typical unsecured loan, but they also tend to have higher rates.
5. Personal loans
If you have strong personal credit and a steady source money coming in, personal loans could be a better deal than a business loan when you want to start a business. Your lack of experience won’t hurt your application, and many states don’t allow lenders to charge more than 36% APR. However, personal loans rarely go above $100,000 or come with terms longer than seven years, so it might not be able to cover all of your startup costs.
6. Equity investments
One of the more common ways to fund a startup is to take on investors in exchange for equity, or partial ownership of the company. Typically, small businesses can get an equity investment through a venture capital firm or an angel investor. There’s no limit to how much money you can raise through this method. And while you won’t have to pay back any of the money you receive from an investor, you could lose partial control of your company.
Entrepreneurs that have an pitchable idea might want to look into equity or rewards-based crowdfunding. With equity crowdfunding, your company starts an online campaign to receive funding from multiple investors in exchange for partial ownership. With rewards-based crowdfunding, your business offers prizes in exchange for donations. Like a personal loan, crowdfunding might not cover all of your startup costs, but could be great for funding a project. And although slightly different, peer-to-peer lenders like Funding Circle offer similar loans, although your business will have to pay interest on any funds it receives.
8. Business grants
Startups with a mission — especially nonprofits — might want to look into business grants to get off the ground. Like an investment, you don’t have to repay a grant. However, they can be highly competitive and require a lot of work. They also typically don’t get much higher than around $15,000, so it will likely need to be supplmented by other funding methods.
9. Credit cards
A credit card can be a great way to cover smaller expenses and manage your company’s spending since multiple people can have cards from the same account. Some of the top startup-friendly business credit cards have a 0% APR promotional period, making it a viable option for businesses that expect to be able to pay off what they spend within the first year. Other types of business credit cards offer rewards on office supplies, Internet and other costs you might incur during growth.
10. Rollover for business startups (ROBS)
If you’re willing to borrow from your retirement plan, a ROBS might be a worthwhile investment for your startup. It involves taking advantage of a tax loophole that allows your business to access these funds without paying a penalty if it’s the right type of corporation.
You need to have at least $50,000 in your retirement account to qualify and could face heavy fines, so many business owners opt to hire a third party to handle the complicated details. But if it works, you won’t have to pay any interest, early withdrawal fees or lose equity in your company.
11. Friend and family loans
Borrowing from your friends and family is sometimes the easiest way to get a good deal on startup funding — and there’s a chance you might not have to pay interest or sell any equity. Want to make it official? Use a service like LoanWell to whip together a legally binding contract with interest fees and late penalties.