Potential Sources of Money to Start or Expand Your Small Business

This chapter helps your writing process because it gives you an idea of what lenders and investors want to see in a finished plan. Your ability to understand your financiers’ motives can mean the difference between getting a loan or investment and coming up empty-handed. If you already have financial backing, you can skip this chapter.

Many people and institutions are looking for sound loans and investments. From their side of the fence, it can often seem extremely difficult to find a good one. Many potential financiers have been frightened by news stories about small business financial problems, con artists selling phony tax shelters, business bankruptcies, and so on.

Ways to Raise Money

Before you can sensibly plan to raise money, you need to know how it’s commonly done. A loan is a simple concept: Someone gives you money in exchange for your promise to pay it back. The lender could be a bank, friend, family member, or anyone else willing to lend you money. The lender will almost always charge interest, which compensates the lender for the risk that you won’t pay back the loan. Usually, the lender has you sign some papers (called a note and loan agreement) spelling out the details of your loan agreement. (See Chapter 10 for examples.)

Unsecured Loans

Loans without collateral are called “unsecured” loans. The lender has nothing to take if you don’t pay. However, the lender is still entitled to sue you if you fail to repay an unsecured loan. If he wins, he can go after your bank account, property, and business.

Lenders typically don’t make unsecured loans for a new business, although a sound business plan may sway them. Remember, the lender’s maximum profit from the loan will be the interest he charges you. Since he won’t participate in the profits, naturally he is going to be more concerned with security.

Equity Investments

An equity investor buys a portion of your business and becomes the part owner. The equity investor shares in your profits when you succeed. Depending on the legal form of ownership, she only shares in your losses up to the amount of her initial investment. Put another way, most equity investors’ risk is limited to the money they put up, which can be lost if the business fails

Return on Equity Investments: What’s Fair

Every investor has her personal requirements and every deal is different. The important thing is that both parties understand the risks and think it is a good deal. Here are some suggestions that have worked well for others in situations where the potential investors weren’t well acquainted with the entrepreneur. Obviously, if your investors are family members, close friends, or people who wish to support your business for political or personal reasons, they may be willing to accept a lower rate of return.

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