5 Creative Financing Tools to Kickstart Your Business

Traditional banks today aren’t typically willing to lend to startup ventures, unless you have a stellar track record and money already in the bank. Only 30 percent of businesses are bank-funded, according to Linda Jenkins, CEO of the Gold Alliance Group, so odds are good that you may need to get creative in order to get the financing you need to start your business.

Fortunately, there are both new and old tools for finding the money you need.

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Here are five you’ll definitely want to explore:

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P)

If you’re looking for a loan, consider peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. Online platforms like Prosper, CircleBack Lending, Peerform and Funding Circle, the latter of which is specifically for small business loans, have emerged within the last decade as a tool to facilitate lending between individuals. These and similar P2P sites connect borrowers and lenders.

If you’re an entrepreneur in need of funding, set up an account at a P2P site, select the purpose of your loan and share personal financial information so that lenders can assess your strength as a borrower. Lenders can then choose whether or not to lend money. The better the odds are that you’ll be able to pay the lender back, the lower the interest rate you’ll be charged.

Depending on the platform, loans can start at around $1,000 and go up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A decision on your application is made quickly and, in some cases, the cash can be deposited in your account immediately. Repayment terms range from six months to five years.

Related: The 3 Best Financing Options When Buying a Franchise


If you have an idea for a product and need funding to support production, such as buying raw materials or paying for manufacturing, you should consider crowdfunding.

Unlike lending sites, crowdfunding sites like iFundWomen, Kickstarter or Indiegogo allow you to ask potential customers to pre-order your new invention.

You ask for the amount of money you need to go into production (i.e. $15,000 to cover the costs of your new food truck) and those who want to will pay in advance. To do this, you’ll need to figure out what your cost per product is and then mark it up to ensure it’s profitable.

Most crowdfunding campaigns have several different levels of support customers can choose from, such as $5 for a “thank you” on social media, $10 for a branded item, or $25 for two special edition items. You can limit the number of items available at each level, too, to create a level of exclusivity.

Here are a few examples of successfully crowdfunded startups: the game Exploding Kittens started out as a Kickstarter campaign, as did the Gravity weighted blanket and 3Doodler 3D pen. On Indiegogo, the Flow Hive was one of its most successful campaigns, as was the BauBax travel jacket.

When going this route, be sure to check the fine print regarding how and when you can withdraw funds from various crowdfunding sites. Some platforms allow you to withdraw whatever you raise after your campaign ends (which is usually 30 days), while other sites only disburse money if you hit your revenue target; otherwise, it is returned to your backers.

Equity crowdfunding

Equity crowdfunding sites are similar to other major product and service crowdfunding sites in that people provide the company with the money it needs to produce its goods and services.

However, instead of pre-ordering products or lending money, equity crowdfunding sites connect businesses with potential investors. Investors then become part owners in the business in exchange for a particular sum of money, depending on what is needed.

If the company does well and is ultimately bought by a larger venture, all investor/shareholders could then profit, as well. Meaning, you and the investors earn a return on their investment. But if it doesn’t do well, investors lose what they invested. Unlike a loan, you don’t have to pay back what they put in.

Sites like Crowdfunder, AngelList and EquityNet were created to connect small businesses in need of equity investors (shareholders) with people willing to bet on their success.

Business pitch competitions

Many college and university business schools sponsor annual competitions among students to spark new business ideas. However, even if you aren’t a current college student, there are a number of business pitch and business plan competitions you can apply to participate in. Not only will completing the application help hone your pitch and business concept, but winners frequently take home prize packages that can include cash, mentoring, business services and advisors.

WomensNet published an article on the best business plan competitions for startup entrepreneurs that may give you a head start.

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Incubators and accelerators

Startups with significant revenue potential may be candidates for incubators or accelerators, which are communities of fast-growth companies typically in a particular industry, such as technology, education technology or food.

Incubators often provide workspace at below market rates, as well as networking opportunities, mentoring and professional development all under one roof. Accelerators are typically for more established or fast-growth ventures ready for a level of funding and are given a short timeframe to participate, such as six months.

Another option, if these financing alternatives don’t work for you, is bootstrapping your startup—meaning, funding it yourself by keeping expenses extremely low and reinvesting revenue earned.

Yes, without a large infusion of cash your growth may be temporarily limited, but the upside is that you won’t owe anyone anything down the line, and you can reap all the rewards of your hard work yourself.

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