10 Things You Need to Know About Small Business Funding

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Every small business finds itself looking for small business funding at one point or another. Finding the business start-up funding or money to expand your established business can be a tricky, time-consuming process – and you still may not find or secure the small business funding you need.

Here are ten things you need to know about Canadian small business funding that will prevent your funding search from turning into a wild goose chase.

1. The main sources of small business funding are banks and credit unions.

The most popular source of small business funding is the entrepreneurs' own pockets, but traditional sources such as banks and credit unions are next. That makes your own bank a good place to start your search for small business funding, especially as the Canada Small Business Financing Program is delivered locally.

That doesn't mean, however, that getting small business loans in Canada is easy. As part of an SME Financing Study done by Industry Canada, a survey found that traditional small business loan suppliers (such as banks) are becoming ever more conservative in their evaluations of prospective small business loan customers. As always, new businesses are having the hardest time finding the business start-up funding they need.

To counteract this trend, you need to spend some time putting together an attractive small business funding proposal.

Learn more about how to meet a lender's expectations and increase your chances of securing the small business financing you need in How to Get a Small Business Loan.

2. Small business grants in Canada are few and far between.

There are very few small business grants out there and most of the grants that do exist target specific groups, activities or even areas of the country.

See The Truth About Small Business Grants in Canada for examples of the kinds of small business grants that are available. There seem to be more business grants available for businesses related to arts or culture or specific environmental issues.

Also, be aware that there are very few pure, no-strings-attached small business grants available in the first place; many Canadian "grant" programs involve matching contributions or subsidies, meaning that you have to put out money to get money. My advice is not to plan on anyone giving you money. Base your plan instead on how you're going to get people to loan you money.

If, however, you want to research whether or not there are any small business grants in Canada that your small business might apply for, 5 Tips for Finding Small Business Grants in Canada will help you launch your search.

3. You have to have a solid business plan.

There is no way around this and no shortcuts; anyone who might seriously consider giving you small business funding will want to see one.

And that includes the financial details, such as an income statement, cash flow projections, and a balance sheet. (How to put all three of these together is covered in The Financial Plan Section of the Business Plan.)

Fortunately, there is more help for putting together a business plan than ever before. Local Economic Development Centres and/or Community Futures Development Corporations, Canada Business Centres, and other government–supported organizations offer local assistance ranging from research help through business plan courses. Some people find business plan software useful.

And there are many models and how-to articles online. My Business Plan Outline, for instance, will lead you through the process and explain how to research and write each section of the business plan.

4. There has to be something in it for your lender.

And your business plan or pitch has to reflect this. If you're trying to get a small business loan, the 'what's in it for them' is obvious - a percentage rate of return. But some potential investors might actually want to stick their fingers in your pie, demanding an ownership percentage or at least a say in how your business is run.

Angel investors, in particular, often want to play some sort of active role in managing the company. Typically, these types of investors are also looking for higher rates of return than they could realize with more traditional investments.(How to Find an Angel Investor tells how to find prospective angel investors for your company if you're interested.)

When you're putting your small business funding proposal together, know what type of lender you're trying to entice and tailor your business plan accordingly to meet that lender's needs and answer all his or her questions.

5. Be ready to contribute financially.

Assets help, especially assets that lenders will see as collateral. But making your own financial contribution of some sort may be necessary to secure the small business funding you're trying to get. Many government-sponsored small business loans and grants demand an applicant contribution, often of a set percentage of the small business funding sought.

Business start-up funding is not exempt. Even The Self-Employment Program, as administered in some provinces, calls for applicants to make their own financial contribution to starting a business.

6. The size and age of your business matter.

I'm sure you know already that new businesses have a harder time finding small business funding than businesses with established track records. But the size of your business matters too in terms of how much your small business funding will cost you.

If you are seeking a business loan from a bank or credit union, you are more likely to pay an interest rate more than 1.5% above the prime rate if you are asking for a small loan amount (under $100,000) or have sales of less than $500,000 (Banking Matters, CFIB Research Report, November 2007). The report also says that you are more likely to pay these higher interest rates if you have a business with less than 20 employees and/or less than ten years of business experience.

7. Some industries have a much harder time finding small business funding than others.

You are at a disadvantage if you're looking for small business funding for a business in the retail, service or hospitality sectors, especially if you're looking for business start up funding. I personally think there's nothing wrong with starting such a business, but lenders perceive these businesses to be more of a risk than businesses in other sectors.

Businesses in the financial, insurance, real estate, wholesale and agriculture sectors are least likely to have their small business loan applications rejected (Banking Matters, CFIB Research Report, November 2007).

8. You are your business from a financial point of view.

Your personal financial history will be carefully scrutinized by any potential lender you approach. You may find that the lender is only willing to give you a personal loan rather than a small business loan or that you are expected to sign a personal loan guarantee.

Worse, any flaws in your personal financial history, such as bad credit or lack of collateral, may knock you out of the running for small business funding entirely. It's important that you take steps to clean up your personal financial record, such as repairing your credit rating, before you try to get small business funding.

There are some small business funds available for those who don't have perfect credit ratings though. If you have no credit history or collateral because of divorce, because you're a new immigrant or because you're young, or if you have a poor credit rating because of repayment issues, your local Community Loan Fund may be willing to give you a small business loan. See Where to Get a Small Business Loan When the Banks Turn You Down.

9. There is small business funding, especially for women.

There are more sources of funding earmarked specifically for helping women start and grow small businesses than ever before. If you are a woman looking to start a business or expand an existing small business, small business loans are available - and even the occasional small business grant. Small Business Loans for Women in Canada provides details of small business loans coast to coast that only women can apply for.

10. You don't need a fortune to start a small business.

Just because a business starts out really small doesn't mean it has no shot at becoming a huge success.

Brian Scudamore, for instance, started 1-800-GOT JUNK? with a single used pickup truck when he was a university student in 1989.

Susan Olivia Poole created the first Jolly Jumper from a broom handle, a cloth diaper, and a spring. The Jolly Jumper went on to become a world wide seller.

Do you really need as much small business funding as you think you do?

"...the first rule of financing," says Rick Spence, "is to get by on as little funding as you can because searching for capital can drain valuable time that may be better spent taking care of business".

Particularly if you are looking for business start-up funding, consider how you might scale back your small business idea or break it into parts so you can get your new business up and running without a large infusion of small business funding.

Keeping the points above in mind will save you time, make your search for small business funding easier and increase your chances of securing the small business funding you're looking for because if you apply these ten points about small business funding to your own funds search, you'll be much better prepared to find lenders who may be interested in financing your business and you'll be better equipped to meet their expectations when you do.

For more about small business funding and where to find small business loans and small business grants in Canada, visit the Small Business Financing section of this website.

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