#SWAAYthenarrative
BETA
Close

Alternative Funding Options To Get Your Dream Business Off The Ground

Securing the necessary funding can be the hardest part of pursuing any type of dream business. Without initial capital, you might not even have good enough credit to take out a business loan from your bank. The good news is that there are a number of alternative paths you can take to launch your business.


Microlending/Microloaning Programs

As bank requirements make it increasingly difficult to secure loans for business purposes, microlending programs are becoming increasingly popular for entrepreneurs. Case in point, at the start of the year, a microlending program in Illinois announced expansion plans in order to reach out to more lower-income people who either want to start their own business or stabilize their finances. Microlending programs can be found all over the country and are usually run by non-profit organizations who offer flexible and low to zero-interest terms if they know that the loan is for business.

Crowdfunding

Apart from getting you the money you need to get your business going, crowdfunding also doubles as an early way to reach out to and build trust among potential customers/clients. The Muse details how crowdfunding websites are all about getting the right people involved. The popular Kickstarter for instance allows you to create and offer certain perks for donors, depending on how quickly they follow you or how much they 'donate' to your fund. And since crowdfunding happens online where it's easy for anyone to get involved, it also makes sharing your vision for your dream business easier.

Angel Investors

These are the high net-worth individuals who might want to be part of the development and growth of your potentially successful business. By investing anywhere from $10,000 to millions of dollars — depending on the current scope of your strategy— angel investors are hoping to rake in much more than what they invested later down the line. Apart from approaching established entrepreneurs and tapping personal contacts, you can also use the Angel Capital Association to find and meet angels that are amenable to doing business with you. As long as you can present a business plan that's more profitable than it is risky, you're bound to get an angel's attention.

Title Loans

This increasingly popular loan option is named such because their providers require just the title of a borrower's car —and not the car itself— as collateral. It's an option that's especially useful if you need to acquire capital fast for your dream company. Every city and state will have their own terms for title loans, so it is best to be thorough in your research to find a loan that best suits your requirements. Often cities will also offer special deals for citizens of a specific location with residents in Columbus, Ohio able to receive their title loan funds within one business day. Many other cities will offer a similar deal for locals, which is why it would pay to search close to home first. This is a valid option for those who need to inject some immediate cash into their venture. Just remember to always read the fine print before you sign any loan contracts, especially for new loan types that you're not already familiar with.

Friends & Family

While it's not always ideal, there are healthy and potentially productive ways to mix money with friendship. "Take a hard look at the history of your friendship. Have you had a conflict before? If so, how did you resolve it?" Our own Jodi Meltzer Darter asks the hard questions that need to be answered if you're going down this path. "Differences of opinion are inevitable when dealing with money and business partnerships. Is your friendship strong enough to overcome challenges and weather storms while remaining intact? Do you really trust her or are you taking a leap of faith?" If you're going to source seed funding from friends and/or family, weigh these questions well before making any decisions.

Starting any business is a risky venture and it can be hard to raise the funds you need through traditional loans. Hopefully the above tips will help you find the cash you need to develop your dream business.

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
Business

Why Mentorship Matters + Funding Tips for Women Entrepreneurs

Quilt host Zeina Muna explains why it's important to seek out a mentor, and shares tips on how to get started. To join a Quilt chat with a leader like Zeina, click here.


There are several different ways to approach mentorship, whether you're an entrepreneur seeking advice, an experienced person looking to share, or an employee looking to deepen your relationship to your work and your professional community. Whatever way you approach it, however, there's no denying its importance. Among entrepreneurs and professionals, mentorship is consistently touted as a crucial piece to the success story.

Zeina Muna is the director of business development at iFundWomen, an organization that works to facilitate funding and investment for women-owned startups. In her role, she mentors women on how to obtain the dollars that primarily — and consistently — tend to favor white male-owned businesses. For Zeina, the relationship between obtaining funding to get a business off the ground and mentorship is inextricably linked.

Zeina says that a whopping 48 percent — almost half — of the women she works with say that a lack of available mentors and advisors hold them back. Companies like iFundWomen are one approach to the solution. Others are more individually-based.

"Co-working spaces, communities, and organizations specifically for women, like Quilt, all help to break down those barriers that leave female entrepreneurs feeling isolated and disconnected from their resources," she says.

Finding a Mentor

Zeina believes that most women are naturally social creatures — and it's likely that that percentage increases when considering success-driven or professional women specifically.

Seeking out a mentor isn't just about the benefits; she says—"it's absolutely critical that you don't attempt any growth journey alone."

A mentor doesn't have to be a completely formal arrangement. Zeina likens a mentor to a professional "bestie," who hones in on the professional aspects of your life. This ranges from conversations about your career or business path to advice on what to invest in.

"Really," says Zeina, "you are looking for peers, people who have done what you are about to do, as well as people who have not yet started the journey." That's right — Zeina recommends having both mentors who are more experienced AND less experienced than you. "You can absolutely learn from both," she says.

In no way is this limited to fellow women. "Rather than considering the gender of the mentor," says Zeina, "it's more important to have a mentor that's in your industry or knows very well the particular challenges you are currently facing."

Still, there's something to say about seeking out advice and professional community from and with other women. Most women, Zeina says, are good connectors. "There are lots of opportunities now to get advice from other women through a community — whether it's IRL or virtual," she says.

A Personal Mentorship Journey

Zeina has several people in her life that she considers to be mentors. "I have a couple of go-to people that I talk to about my trajectory on a periodical basis, and I have people that I look up to and follow without them even knowing it," she says. It's important to remember — especially when considering online interactions — that you can absolutely learn from others without them knowing your story.

Group conversations — like Quilt chats and gatherings — are a great way to find mentors, and to flex the muscle of being a mentor to someone else, says Zeina. She considers this to be a major secret in the mentorship process. "Sometimes listening is the best way to learn," she says. "If someone is asking for help, absolutely give it — but sometimes we can help each other in ways that are more subtle and invisible."

Mentorship Bonus: Tips for Women Seeking Funding from Zeina Muna

  1. Don't go looking for VC or angel investment until you have solid proof of concept, proof of demand, and a successful working MVP (minimum viable product).
  2. Crowdfunding can be a low-risk, highly-efficient path to getting your startup, small business, nonprofit, or side hustle off the ground without going into debt, and without giving up equity.
  3. Practice a confident and results-based pitch before having a conversation with an investor.
  4. Get advice from other women who have been through the process — utilize all the coaching and mentorship you can get from others!

iFundWomen is helping to close the funding gap to female entrepreneurs by guiding them through their fundraising journey. For more information, click here.

Quilt is a mobile app that offers a deeper sense of connection in the modern world by making it easier for women to come together for real conversations online and offline. Download the app and join us for a chat, gathering, or house party!