I asked for topics that you would like to discuss, and you came through! Below is a question from Shannon- an entrepreneur and awesome event planner on a grand scale.
“One thing I am trying to learn more about is grants and funding besides loans for new businesses- including investor funds! I would love to grow my conference/event, but I do not really have the funds. I would love to be able to find some funds/or investors that would allow me to hire some help and in turn grow the reach of my conference/event – but I do not know where to start. That is what I am working on now!”
Thank you for submitting this question, Shannon. Many entrepreneurs don’t realize they can access funds from Venture Capital firms, Foundations, Government Organizations, friends, family or business incubators/ accelerators. Some people even receive funding through forums like Kickstarter. I’ve explained a few options below.
Securing a loan from friends or family can be tricky and put your relationship at risk if your business idea does not work, but it’s one of the fastest ways to get money. If you take this approach be clear about how long you anticipate you will need the money, what the contributor can expect in return and put everything in writing!
Most major cities have business accelerators or incubators that provide space for you and your team to work and offer limited funding – typically enough to get a prototype out the door. At that point, the accelerator/incubator will often have “pitch days” where the entrepreneur can pitch her ideas to potential investors and/or strategic partners. A strategic partner is typically a company that is willing to commit to using your product or service in addition to making an investment.
A foundation that is focused on a specific market segment (e. g., women-owned businesses, healthcare) may offer grant opportunities. In addition, Federal, State or City Governments may have funding available (or conversely reduce or waive taxes). Sometimes the funding is tied to a commitment of relocating your business to or growing jobs in a specified area.
Public and private companies that hold contracts with the Federal Government (think Boeing) are required to work with a minority owned business as a subcontractor. For example, the company may use the printing service of a minority owned business. Check out the top 100 Federal Government contractors.
Venture Capital (VC) companies invest in startups and small companies and help them get to a point of commercial viability. You don’t have to limit yourself to VCs that are in your city, VCs invest in companies in many different geographies, but often there are VCs that do like to keep their dollars local.
Finally, think about getting a strategic partner that compliments your services and can help you scale. Perhaps you could partner with a national restaurant chain that also caters events. The arrangement would guarantee that you would use the restaurant’s catering services for each event in exchange for investment dollars. You could do something similar with a national hotel chain. These companies might also want an ownership stake in your company.
What’s important is that you put yourself out there and ASK for funds. Have a well thought out business plan ready for review. Be persistent and it will pay off at some point. Readers, what other ideas would you share with Shannon? Send me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org