For many entrepreneurs, the minute they realise they need small business funding, they automatically panic and wonder, “How on earth am I going to get funding?”
The good news is that there are a number of ways you can get funding for your small business if you know where to look and do the right preparation.
How small business funding differs from big business funding
Basically, it’s a matter of scale. A small business isn’t likely to require R100 million in finance.
A small business can get started on as little as R1 000 – and with profits put back into the business – can grow organically and rely very little on external funding.
The other difference pertains to size in another way: Big business tends to refer to corporate entities with shareholders, boards of directors etc., while small business tends to refer to privately owned and operated business.
The dangers of running your business finances through your personal account
Say you want to start a small business crafting wooden furniture and you can buy most of the equipment on your credit card.
In one way, it’s the quickest and easiest way to get going, but running your business finances through your personal accounts come with risk.
Not separating your business from you personally sets you up for legal liability.
Related: Opening a Business Bank Account
If, for example, you default on credit card payments or fall into debt, your personal assets can be seized over and above your business assets.
The other risk is that of keeping clear records and distinctions of which expenses are business and which are personal. This can lead to tax complications come tax season and you can incur fines that can close your business.
Having a separate account for your business also lends credibility to it, and in the event you require finance from a bank, your clear financial documentation will aid the bank in assessing whether to grant you a loan.
Why a clean credit record is so important to small business funders
In order to qualify for grants or loans, the lending facility needs to assess whether you’ll be able to repay the loan, and your credit record is their way of checking. Even if you’re starting a brand new business, if you have a tarnished personal credit record or are blacklisted for bad/non-payment, your ability to borrow will be negatively affected.
Related: Small Business Start-up Guide
Every South African is entitled to a free credit report once a year. You can learn more about about your credit record through credit bureaus like TransUnion.
Various small business funding options available
If you’re not in the position to self-fund through use of personal credit and/or savings, you can investigate these following ways to get small business funding.
Small Business Funding Option 1: Angel Investment
An angel investor is typically a wealthy professional who is able to provide you with start-up capital in exchange for equity in the business or a fixed percentage interest on the loan. Angel investors can be individuals or form angel networks in order to distribute risk.
Angel investors can be hands-off, not wanting to be part of the business, while others may want to be involved in decision-making and/or act as a business mentor.
A rookie mistake made by many is to enter into verbal agreements with angel investors without terms and conditions written and signed by both parties.
Without a contract in place, conflict can arise; an investor can withdraw their funding, and the business’s future can be jeopardised.
Make sure whenever finance is involved, there is a written agreement in place.
Small Business Funding Option 2: Bank funding
If you choose to approach a bank for finance you need a number of things in place before you approach them.
First is a comprehensive and fully understood business plan complete with financial projections. You also need to provide a full set of financials for them to examine.
Then you need to understand the kinds of loans available and which kind is best suited to your needs.
Related: Business Plan Format Guide
If, for example, you need to buy equipment which devalues with age and use, it’s not advisable to take a long-term loan where you’ll be paying for it long after it’s served its lifespan.
Bank Finance Options for Small Business:
- Overdraft – is ideally suited to managing cash flow.
- Business revolving credit – this is a line of credit available as and when it is needed and repayments are typically fixed monthly instalments. The original limit is usually restored after a set percentage has been repaid.
- Medium-term loans – are ideally suited for capital expenses and repayable for a period of two to seven years, but can be longer. Interest and repayment tend to be linked to prime, how much collateral you have, and the value of the asset you need finance for.
- Business mortgage / Property finance – in the event you wish to buy or renovate property for your business or convert part of a residence into office space, this is the loan to investigate.
- Vehicle and asset finance – Whether it’s a vehicle or specialised equipment required, talk to your bank about vehicle and asset finance to determine whether its terms are suited to your business.
Small Business Funding Option 3: Crowd Funding
Relatively new to the scene, crowd funding is an exciting way to gather finance.
It works in a similar way to angel investment, except many individuals are able to pledge varying amounts to the business in exchange for equity, interest, or other more creative returns.
As an example, new products, music albums and films have been crowd funded in exchange for early releases, while restaurants have named menu items after benefactors.
Typically, however, a product or service is pitched and uptake in funding helps determine whether there is demand for it, and first releases help fine-tune it.
South African crowd funding platforms include:
The top international crowd funding platforms include:
Small Business Funding Option 4:
Funding for Previously Disadvantaged Individuals (PDIs)
Small Business Government Grants and Loans
The government is involved in small business development by providing funding to previously disadvantaged individuals. These can take the form of grants, loans and tenders.
A government loan, like a loan from a financial institution, is given to an approved business that is required to repay the loan. It usually has more lenient repayment schedules and interest rates.
A government grant, by comparison, does not require repayment by the awarded business.
The South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has a number of initiatives designed to improve business activity for previously disadvantaged individuals, women and youth.
You can read more at www.dti.gov.za > SMME development > financial assistance. Any business wanting to gain access to grants or funding needs to be BEE accredited and have a tax clearance certificate.
Enterprise Development (ED) Funding
This form of government mandated funding is devised as a means to create more jobs in South Africa through business development, and enterprise development is one of the elements of the BEE scorecard.
Large corporates are required to pay towards enterprise development or use an Enterprise Development beneficiary in their business supply chain as part of their BEE scorecard.
How a small business benefits from ED funding is by enrolling in a corporate’s ED empowerment programme that can include mentorship, incubation, becoming procurement ready, how to be commercially viable and sustainable, etc.
Small Business Funding Option 5: Bootstrapping your Small Business
If you’re not drawn to the previous examples of funding, you can bootstrap your business. Fundamentally it’s starting and growing a business without external help.
This is achieved through getting operational as quickly as possible; keeping fixed overheads as low as possible – even if you have to work in your childhood bedroom or understaff; reinvesting profits into the business; and keeping growth in check by maintaining steady growth over explosive growth.
Related: 6 Tips For Bootstrapping
What Elon Musk Can Teach You About Getting Funding for Your Start-up
Elon Musk has made some very smart start-up moves — but he’s also made mistakes. We can learn from both his successes and his failures.
If there’s one person who embodies the idea of ‘entrepreneur,’ it’s Elon Musk.
He has been responsible for the development of a large number of high-profile technology companies, which include Zip2, X.com (later merged with Confinity to form PayPal), SpaceX, SolarCity, Tesla and many others.
What’s remarkable about Musk is the way he funded his start-ups, especially SpaceX and Tesla. While he has relied on external funding, he nonetheless had to face many setbacks that almost brought his companies to an early end.
As an entrepreneur, Musk can teach you a great deal about how to get funding for your start-up. Here are the three most important learnings you can get from his experience.
Convince investors with your commitment
The mid-nineties remind us of an era of unprecedented economic growth and a feeling of prosperity toward the country’s future, something that stands in sharp contrast with our present.
The context in which Musk raised venture capital to fund his first start-up represents another drastic difference compared to the present. In 1995, there was slightly over $8 billion available in the global VC market, a small piece of the current $155 billion that was raised last year.
In that same year, Musk launched his first start-up, Global Link Information Network (which eventually got rebranded as Zip2), a company that provided directions across the San Francisco Bay Area. According to Ashlee Vance, author of Musk’s biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, his beginnings were humble. Musk, his brother Kimbal, and a small sales team initially pitched the new company door to door.
For the first few months of operations, Musk couldn’t rely on the large pool of available VC funding, or the experience or connections he has today. The only strategic advantages that set him apart were his passion and commitment.
Due to their lack of funding, Musk and his brother had to live on the little money they had, sleeping on futons at their office and using the showers of the YMCA that was located a few blocks away. To convince their investors, Musk and his brother relied on a creative trick: They built an elaborate casement around the computer that worked as Zip2’s server and put it on a large, wheeled base that made it look like “a mini-supercomputer.”
This trick, together with the frugality in which the Musk brothers lived, helped them become profitable soon. Their early profitability helped them raise money from a small group of angel investors, which would eventually lead to a $3 million investment from Mohr Davidow Ventures, and finally, a $307 million acquisition by Compaq.
Due to their lack of funding, Elon Musk and his brother had to live on the little money they had, sleeping on futons at their office and using the showers of the YMCA that was located a few blocks away.
The passion and commitment Musk showed goes beyond the funny tricks and futon nights. Musk didn’t waste the $22 million he got from Zip2’s sale on expensive cars and luxurious mansions. He reinvested — and risked — everything to build his second company, X.com, which would lead to PayPal. The sale of PayPal to eBay netted Musk $180 million, which he then used to fund SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.
If there’s one thing the beginnings of Musk’s journey show, it’s that he’s the kind of entrepreneur who works for the long run. When he’s involved with a company, he goes all in. He invests everything he has, putting all his energies into building them.
It’s hard for a venture capitalist to reject an entrepreneur with such a hard-working spirit. You don’t need to shower in a YMCA to show the sacrifice you are willing to make for your company (unless you are truly broke, like the Musk brothers were back then). Rather, you need to show you live and breathe your company, and that you are willing to do anything to make your vision happen.
Don’t give up control too soon
A hard fact about the tech world is that few start-ups get to grow to billions of dollars in valuation without any VC funding. This leads to dilution of equity and loss of control of the company.
Most start-up founders need to live with that situation, and many get to keep control, thanks to the high trust VCs have for the founder and executive team. The case of Mark Zuckerberg, who owned 28.4% of Facebook‘s shares at the time of its IPO, is a good example of this.
Yet, in some other cases, founders lose excessive control too soon, leaving them powerless against the more professional and experienced VCs. This is something Musk learnt early in his career.
Musk’s career in Zip2 had an abrupt and sad ending: The first funding round deeply diluted his equity, which left him powerless after his board of directors decided to bring on a new CEO and make Musk the CTO. While Musk was still on the executive team, he couldn’t tolerate the lack of control and the way the new CEO, Rich Sorkin, ran the company.
Musk met a similar fate with his second start-up, X.com. After Musk merged X.com with one of its competitors, Confinity, he ended up being the CEO of the new company, PayPal. Unfortunately, he was ousted from the CEO position after a rather trivial fight over the technology platform PayPal used.
The lack of control he had over his two companies had a significant impact on his future ventures. Nowadays, Musk prefers to start by investing as much money as he can, making sure he always has the upper hand in his company’s decisions. His obsession over equity control explains why, while he was going through Tesla’s funding, he maintained his ownership percentage.
The lessons are clear: Before you focus on raising as much money as you can, remember to keep some equity of your own (particularly if you are an inexperienced CEO). If you care about your company’s vision, you need to make sure you can carry it out. It’s hard to achieve such a feat if you hold little voting control over your company. Becoming profitable as early as possible can help you overcome this issue, especially if you get creative.
Elon Musk didn’t waste the $22 million he got from Zip2’s sale on expensive cars and luxurious mansions. He reinvested — and risked — everything to build his second company, X.com, which would lead to PayPal.
Lack of resources isn’t something that sits well with Musk. He has been willing to do whatever he has to do to have his companies prosper. What’s remarkable about Musk is that whenever he’s got all the odds against him, he turns the situation around by being resourceful.
To help you understand what I mean by this, let’s take a look at what he did with his latest venture, The Boring Company. Despite the fact he funded the company with his own money (as usual), the mission to build underground tunnels seems like an expensive task, making the company strapped for cash.
To raise money for the company, Musk decided to sell expensive flamethrowers at $500 each, which helped him raise over $10 million in just a few days. Instead of spending a long time raising money with the help of VCs (which would have diluted his ownership), he took one of his most significant advantages — his personal brand — and used it to make money for his start-up.
Being resourceful is an attitude shared by almost all successful tech entrepreneurs, as in the case of the founders of Airbnb. According to Leigh Gallagher, author of the book The Airbnb Story, when the founders were on the verge of bankruptcy, they decided to sell cereal prior to 2008’s Presidential election. Thanks to their PR-fueled campaign, not only were they able to extend the life of the company (which today is worth $31 billion), they were able to get accepted into Y Combinator, the famous tech accelerator, which would lead to their first funding round and the growth of the company. As Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator said, “If you can convince people to pay $40 for a $4 box of cereal, you can probably convince people to sleep in other people’s airbeds.”
The lesson you can learn from Musk is that if you lack funding (or any other thing that is essential to the existence of your company), it’s your job to do whatever it takes to get it. Life isn’t fair for risk-averse entrepreneurs, yet Musk has been able to make his companies work by getting creative, thinking on his feet and showing commitment right from the start.
Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds
Government grants and funding are a great source of finances when you’re trying to get your business off the ground or expand to new horizons.
A small business can on average employ 12 people. The drop in entrepreneurial activity over the past five years is equal to 2.3 million possible job opportunities lost. Small and micro business sectors are the main source of real employment in the economy.
South Africa’s economy needs to inspire entrepreneurship in order for it to grow. By creating an environment that is friendlier to small businesses and actively encouraging the sector, the country is in a better position to create jobs.
Two simple measures that would go a long way to support and develop entrepreneurs is access to finance and improvement of logistics.
The government created government funding to extend finances to previously disadvantaged South African’s in order to develop black economic development. Your much needed capital investment could come from government funding opportunities.
Financing a small business, whether you’re starting-up or trying to expand, is a challenge all entrepreneurs go through. Here are a few examples of government funding that focuses on black entrepreneurs:
Content in this guide
- National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
- Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Funding
- Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA)
- The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
- Khula SME Fund
- Black Business Supplier Development Programme (BBSDP)
- Incubation Support Programme (ISP)
- National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)
- PDF Download
Seed Capital Funding For South African Start-Up Businesses
Want to kickstart your business, but don’t have enough funds in the bank? You can unlock capital through seed investment from one of these local seed finance firms.
Access to early stage development funding for up-and-coming businesses in South Africa remains a key hindrance standing in the way of entrepreneurial development.
There are, however, numerous strategies to finance your business’s launch, or early stage development. One of these tactics is to secure seed finance or seed capital investment.
Seed Capital: How It Can Help Your Small or Medium Business
The money you need to launch your business (or conduct any early stage development of a product or service) can come from a bank, an angel investor, or friends and family. But these money lenders can be tough to secure when you don’t really have a track record or much profitability to show yet.
This is where seed capital funding can help you.
According to Investopedia, seed funding lives up its namesake – in that it’s the capital needed to ‘seed’ a business.
A portion of your seed funding could come from family members, friends, banks, or angel investors, but there are also a rising number of specialist firms out there that can provide you with specific capital or business finance to ‘seed’ your business.
The Difference Between Seed Capital and Venture Capital
The key thing to remember with seed funding is that investments usually range in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Other forms of investment, such as venture capital investments, can range into millions of rands. So, if you are an entrepreneur looking to fund a new idea with seed money, expect to receive smaller investments when compared to venture capital.
Related: How to Write a Funding Proposal
Sage Advice on Early Stage Funding from A Seed Funder
Geoff Ralston is a partner at YC, a seed funding organisation based in Mountain View, California, in the United States. More than two decades ago, he founded Four11, where he built RocketMail, one of the world-wide-web’s first web mail services.
In 1997, RocketMail became Yahoo Mail. Ralston has worked in engineering, then ran a business unit at Yahoo, and went on to become Chief Product Officer. After Yahoo, Ralston became CEO of Lala, which was acquired by Apple in 2009.
He says the ecosystem for seed (early) financing is far more complex now than it was even five years ago: “There are many new VC firms, sometimes called ‘super-angels’, or micro-VC’s, which explicitly target brand new, very early stage companies. There are also several traditional VCs that will invest in seed rounds.”
The Pros and Cons of Early Stage or Seed Funding for A Business
PROS: Seed funders can invest much needed capital and they can provide expertise and back-end assistance, which could be helpful in the early stages of business. If you are seed-funded, you also earn credibility in the marketplace should you wish to take a loan or seek further investment at a later stage. Ultimately, any seed funders you take on could open up proverbial doors to a vast network of like-minded entrepreneurs and future business partners or investors.
CONS: Seed funders require a return on investment, like any other investor. Some might be more focused on the money (returns) and could push you to take necessary steps to see a return on their investment – including ousting you from your own company, according to Under30CEO magazine.
A seed funder could potentially steer your business in a direction that you don’t agree with, but this could be because of their experience in the game.
If you are ready to take the step and talk to firms about seed funding for your company, here’s a list of organisations that can help you kickstart your business operations with early stage capital investment:
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