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Arbor Capital Tell You Which Funding Is Smart – And Which Is Not

If you want to grow your business, chances are you need finance. But there’s smart funding and funding that could do more harm than good. You need to find the right solution for your needs.

Nadine Todd




Vital stats

  • Players: Michelle Krastanov and Marthinus Erasmus
  • Company: Arbor Capital
  • What they do: Provide a comprehensive range of integrated corporate finance; capital raising and listing-related advisory services.
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Imagine you are the owner of a business that has been operating successfully for almost two decades. Your turnover is over R50 million, and you’re established in your market.

Now imagine you’re heading towards a wall. Your cash flow is going to run out before a big cash injection in four short months, and you’re desperate to keep the business running until that happens. That desperation leads you to a less-than-scrupulous lender and you agree to incredibly onerous terms: You loan the cash you need at an exhorbitant interest rate, you give a portion of your business away for free, and you hand over all of your securities. You even relinquish management control over the business.

No doubt you’re thinking this could never happen to you. And yet it happens to more established businesses than you’d think possible.

Related: New Ways SMEs Can Find Funding

In this particular case, by the time the owners of the company came to Arbor Capital for assistance, they were weeks away from signing over their business to their funders. Their desperate measures had placed them in a worse position — which had been their lenders’ intention from the beginning.

Had there been a different solution available to them? Absolutely, say Marthinus Erasmus and Michelle Krastanov. Unplanned debt or equity funding can be very expensive. Planned funding on the other hand is structured to suit the business’s real needs.

In this case, the business’s owners could see that their cash flow showed they would hit a wall within four months, but that there was a big influx of cash thereafter. The business was solid but they were affected by seasonal issues. Instead of almost signing the business away, they could have structured a funding package to suit the business’s needs.

The sustainable solution would have been a mix of short term bridging finance and long term debt and equity finance. Their cash window was four months — they just needed bridging finance.

Arbor Capital was able to help them get out of their onerous funding contract, and then secure the correct finance for their business needs, and helped them avoid losing everything.

The lesson? With proper planning and realistic assessments of the business, the correct funding solutions can be found that avoid situations like the one outlined above.

How often do business owners choose the incorrect funding structures for their needs?


Unfortunately it happens more often than you’d think, but it’s not always because of unscrupulous lenders. Far more common is a situation where business owners just don’t do their homework and end up securing the wrong capital for their needs.

We’ve seen a lot of businesses that secured funding from equity investors or companies looking to expand through acquisitions, and after a few months both parties realise that their values or objectives aren’t aligned, or their expectations of each other weren’t clearly stipulated. The entrepreneur now has a 30%, 40% or even 50% shareholder in their business who isn’t happy, and they’re under even more pressure than they were to begin with.

Related: How to Write a Funding Proposal

How can situations like this be avoided?

Business owners need to carefully assess their business needs before choosing a funding or financing structure. There are so many ways to inject cash into a business, but what you choose should align with your specific needs.

In cases like the one mentioned above, everyone usually did the right thing and followed through with due diligences and so on, but it’s still not working out because it was the wrong funding structure to begin with.

What options can people choose from?

There are so many options for business owners to consider when raising finance. This depends on the size and nature of the business, the short and long term objectives and includes equity, debt, mezzanine finance (such as convertible preference shares), trade finance incentive funding or a combination of different types of funding.

This depends on the business’s needs, what repayments it can afford, how much equity the business owner is willing to give away, and so on. Combination solutions in particular are overlooked by business owners, and yet they’re often the best solution. The sources of such funding include the banks, private equity (includes private wealth) investors, BEE investors, listings and the DTI and IDC.

How can business owners determine which funding solution is best suited to their needs?

Start by answering very specific questions about your business: What type of money are you looking for? How much do you need? For what purpose do you need it? Are you looking at long or short term debt? Long and short term debt in particular serve different purposes.

The next step is to critically evaluate your own answers. How much money do you actually need? We find that business owners often believe they need more cash than they actually do, either because there’s cash sitting in their business that they can unlock, or because they actually need the cash in different stages and not all at once. The converse of not securing enough funding can be equally damaging.

Related: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses

Similarly, perhaps you’re looking for debt funding but the business won’t be able to sustain the repayment plan. If you can’t afford the repayments you can’t take debt funding. Interrogate your cash flows and forecasts. Can you afford the interest? What will the cash achieve? Will cash flow and profits improve? Higher sales lead to higher working capital requirements, and costs go up too. On the other hand, you might be averse to equity funding and unwilling to dilute your shareholding. It’s important to be realistic.

For example, a business approaches us and says they need assistance securing R70 million in debt funding. After going through this process, we realise that they actually only need R40 million now, and an additional R20 million in 18 months’ time.

The business cannot afford R60 million debt funding, but it can afford R30 million. By understanding these factors, the business owners are able to secure a loan of R30 million, and find an equity partner for R10 million now, and an additional R10 million in 18 months’ time, at which time the business could take an additional R10 million loan.

The owners don’t give away too much equity, they don’t take a bigger loan than they can afford and they secure the correct amount of capital for their needs. This can all mean the difference between a rewarding growth experience and a failed growth attempt.

What are the most important red flags that business owners should be aware of?

The incorrect financing solution can do irreparable harm to a business. So many owners fall into the trap of believing that money solves all business problems. This isn’t true. Business owners who need equity funding take debt and end up struggling with repayments, or the opposite happens and too much of the company is given away too soon for too little.

On the flip side, too much cash too early and you may start spending for the sake of spending, burning through cash and irreparably damaging your business.

Find the right solution, only take as much money as you need, and remember that all funding comes with strings attached — always. There are no exceptions to this rule. If someone has invested in your business or given you money, you’re reporting back to them, whether it’s a bank manager, a private equity investor or shareholders in a listed company. Any external funding comes with someone who wants to track how the business is doing.

Related: 10 Tips for Finding Seed Funding

How can business owners make growth funding work to their advantage?

Evaluate your business and choose the correct financing structure. This should be a practical and objective decision, not a subjective one. Similarly, look far enough into the future to make financing preparations as early as possible.

Match your funding structure to your growth curve. If you are comfortable with annual growth of 10% to 15%, you can save the finances you will need and internally fund your growth. If you’re looking for 40% annual growth, you will need external funding.

Remember that long-term capital never comes back. It sits in the business, working. You’ll only unlock it when you sell the company.

Most importantly though, run a good, clean business. Funders and financiers alike will evaluate your business with a fine-tooth comb.

Do This

Match the right growth funding to your needs to ensure your solution doesn’t become your biggest stumbling block.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.


Company Posts

SAB Transforms Supply Chains

Supplier Development Programmes grow black-owned suppliers and create jobs.

South African Breweries (SAB)




The South African Breweries (SAB) has invested more than R200 million into creating an inclusive supply chain that incorporates black-owned and black women-owned SMEs through its supplier development programmes, SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive. In addition, more than 100 jobs have been created through these efforts.

SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive aim to create a diversified and inclusive supply chain by supporting the growth of black-owned suppliers through business development support and funding. The programmes are two of four entrepreneurship development programmes run by SAB to help create 10 000 jobs in South Africa by 2022 — SAB KickStart, SAB Foundation, SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive.

SAB’s agriculture programmes also contribute towards the aim to create jobs by growing emerging farmers.     

Related: SAB-Commissioned Research Shows SA Poised To Reap Entrepreneurship Rewards

“From rural entrepreneurs to big business, SAB has laid the foundation to support entrepreneurs and to contribute towards government’s efforts to grow the economy and reduce unemployment in the country,” says Ricardo Tadeu, Zone President, SAB and AB InBev Africa.

“We recognise that one of the major hurdles for SMEs in South Africa is the ability to gain entry into big business and form part of their supply chains. This requires a symbiotic relationship with big business working alongside smaller suppliers.”

SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive cohesively solve the challenges of creating a healthy pipeline of suppliers that represent the demographics of the country. SAB Accelerator has piloted ten businesses that have created 29 permanent and 79 part-time jobs in a period of just six months, and is currently incubating 24 businesses as part of the official post-pilot intake. SAB Thrive has invested R100 million in seven businesses, which have created 46 new jobs. In addition, the programme has contributed R140 million in new B-BBEE preferential spend.

The SAB Accelerator is an in-house programme dedicated to developing black-owned and black women-owned suppliers. Geared towards fast-tracking participants’ growth, the programme employs ten highly experienced business coaches and ten engineers, offering both tailored business and deep technical coaching to the participants.

It has a three-phased approach consisting of:

  1. Diagnostic: Screening the business’s current situation and systematically identifying gaps and opportunities for growth.
  2. Catalyst: Proposing an intensive three-month coaching intervention addressing key business functional and technical areas of improvement or growth.
  3. Amplify: Providing additional business development to support graduates of the Catalyst Programme.

The SAB Accelerator strongly focuses on enhancing market visibility and access of its participants.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Existing black-owned or black woman-owned suppliers currently servicing SAB’s supply chain at the time of application.
  • Existing black-owned or black women-owned businesses that have potential to join the SAB supply chain based on their product or service.

The SAB Thrive fund is an enterprise and supplier development (E&SD) fund set up to transform the company’s supplier base. The fund was established in partnership with the Awethu Project, a black private equity fund manager and SME investment company. The aim is to invest in and transform SAB suppliers to represent our country’s demographics. SAB Thrive investees benefit from 100% black equity capital and business support.

Related: 6 SAB Entreprenurship Programmes That Provide Business Management And Support

The fund invests growth equity capital into SAB’s existing high-growth black-owned suppliers, furthering their profitable expansion into the SAB supply chain without diluting the black-ownership of these businesses.

Existing white-owned suppliers are provided equity capital to support the enhancement of their black ownership, while facilitating the introduction of black entrepreneurs to their business. The intention is to apprentice the individual to take over the business in the near future.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Black-owned suppliers in the SAB supply chain that want to grow their business through access to black-owned growth equity capital.
  • Existing white-owned suppliers in the SAB supply chain that want to transform their B-BBEE ownership.

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Company Posts

Alternative Finance – Filling The Gap

Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding.






Vital stats

Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding. It does not replace traditional finance but rather functions as a complementary and additional form of funding.

Alternative financers are specialists – they focus on a particular need and on a specific audience. As a result their ‘how’ is customised to deal with their chosen target market and for this targets unique needs. This applies to the funder’s processes and to their level of flexibility around things such as collateral. An example of this is that a SME may have an existing R1 million overdraft (their traditional finance) secured by R 1.5 million collateral but suddenly they need R5 million for some kind of contract or bridging finance – they need it fast and don’t have that extent of collateral.

The traditional funder cannot provide what they need, their process is too long and their flexibility is too low. An alternative financier providing bridging finance and specialising in SMEs is ideally positioned to fill this gap.

Related: 5 Key Questions To Answer For Raising Funding

One of the most significant differences between a traditional funder and an alternative financier is in their process. In the case of the alternative financier, they have often chosen to deal exclusively with a particular customer base, for example SMEs. As a result, this funder has both an affinity and contextually relevant empathy in working with SMEs.

Not only do they speak the same language the funder also has an appreciation for the time and material constraints of the SME and has developed their processes to cater to this market. This applies most notably to the turnaround time of the funding need and to the assessment aspect – where flexibility around things such as collateral is vital in making the finance happen for the SME.

A traditional funder is unable to meet the deadline of a bridging finance need, submitted on an urgent basis, where the finance is needed as soon as 2-3 days from time of application. A specialised or alternative funder is able to do exactly this. A traditional funder is also unable to find creative methods in solving the SMEs lack of high-value collateral in applying for finance.

This SME has generally already used their high-value collateral for traditional credit facilities but now needs funding for growth or resolution of a temporary cash flow challenge. An alternative financier is able to look at such an application in a different way, and has most likely already established alternative ways to make this happen for the SME.

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How to Guides

6 Money Management Tips For First-Time Entrepreneurs

That R25 coffee every morning isn’t taking you to the next level any faster than brewing a pot at the office.




How many times have you been told that saving money is a good thing? Financial specialists recommend that you save a bit of money every month, but that’s easier said than done. After all, it’s not uncommon for people to live paycheck to pay cheque.

However, if you want to start a company, you’ll need to break away from this cycle and start budgeting and saving. At times, this will be a trying task, but it must be done if you want to invest in your future as an entrepreneur.

If you want to start managing your money more effectively and set yourself up to become an entrepreneur, follow the six tips below. With these techniques in your arsenal, you’ll start so see immediate changes, and you’ll set good behaviours in motion that’ll serve you throughout your career as an entrepreneur.

1. Prioritise organisation

When you are organised, you can track every facet of your finances. Record all of your financial information in one place so you can refer to it and keep track of your progress.

When you chronicle all of your financial information, you may want to try and organise it by category. For example, when you are recording your current costs, you can categorise them as “urgent” and “future.”

Not only will this system help you stay on top of your personal finances, but it’ll prepare you for entrepreneurial success because it’s a directly transferable skill.

Related: Smart Money For Small Businesses

2. Check your credit

According to a recent MoneyTips survey, nearly 30 percent of people don’t know their credit score. If you are among this group, it’s time to request a free credit report. Once you know your number, assuming money’s tight, feel free to use a few do-it-yourself credit repair techniques to quickly improve your score.

Understanding your credit score and improving it to the best of your ability is paramount when it comes to money management. A little-known fact among aspiring entrepreneurs is that the funding a new business receives is often dependent on the founder’s credit score.

3. Save where you can

People often cringe when they think about cutting back. Fortunately, there are several painless ways to save. Look at your daily habits and see if you have any spending trends. For example, if you spend $5 every day on lattes, you might consider cutting back and only having the expensive latte every other day. Slowly, you’ll get used to this new habit, and your bank account will reap the rewards.

Related: Time Is Money: Tips To Help You Use Yours Well

4. Search for additional information

The Penny Hoarder

Have you heard of The Penny Hoarder or Dough Roller? These are just two personal finance blogs that can help you better manage your money, but there’s a whole lot more out there.

Subscribe to websites and follow podcasts that offer advice on money management. Also, keep your eyes peeled for informative outlets that speak directly about entrepreneurial finances and follow them, too.

5. Set long- and short-term goals

Have you ever noticed that people want to reach their goals in as little time as possible? If you pick up almost any given health magazine, it’ll claim that it can help you achieve extreme results in little to no time.

Unfortunately, crash diets are often ineffective, and “get rich quick” money management techniques often lack substance.

It’s hard to accept that your goals will take time to accomplish, which is why you create short- and long-term goals. In either case, aim to make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Ideally, accomplishing your short-term goals will give you the positive feedback that you need to continue striving for your long-term goals.

Related: If You’re Trying To Raise Money, Doing Any Of These 9 Things May Scare Off Investors

6. Find a mentor

If you manage your personal finances and entrepreneurial finances, one thing is certain – at times, it will feel like you can’t keep up with everything. Financial planning can be difficult, and it’s not uncommon for it to feel overwhelming.

As an individual, you can seek out mentors that can help you with personal finances. As an entrepreneur, you can continue to work with these people or seek out more established financial consultants that provide you with guidance you need to run your business.

Managing your finances is a trying and rewarding experience. It will feel messy at times, but the more you practice, the more you’ll improve your personal finances and set yourself up for entrepreneurial money management success.

This article was originally posted here on

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