Is lack of capital holding your idea from take-off and you need other sources of funding? If YES, here are 4 best alternative ways to finance your small business.

How do you raise capital to start a business when you don’t have the money? How do you start a business when no one wants to support you with capital? How do you finance your small business start up without money? Raising capital is one of the most challenging tasks of starting a business and the challenge never ends. Before your business is launch and even after you’ve established your business; capital will always be a problem.

I have written extensively on how to finance a business start up but I will dig deeper into it again in response to an email I got. Few days ago, I received an email from a budding entrepreneur. Below is an un-edited transcript of the email with some important key point highlighted.

“Good afternoon Dear Bro. Martins,

I have successfully completed my Entrepreneurial Development Training at the EDC. It was indeed an eye-opener. My major challenge however: is how to raise the Start-Up Capital required to start my business? I intend going into the aquaculture industry (catfish farming). I have already been trained at the EDC to write a business plan, which I have already done and submitted.

Initially I thought I could just start the business with maybe N600,000 (approx $4,000) but during my training, I discovered that I would have lost that money, because I did not put into consideration the following:- Pre-Operating Expenses, Initial Operating Expenses (for the 1st 4 months of business) and Opening Stock (for the 1st month of business). The aforementioned details would form what we call the Start-Up Capital.

Now I have a (2 years) business plan with a Start-Up Capital of about N4.9Million (approx $32,000) (including money to lease a land, where my farm will be situated and other things). I seriously do not know how I can raise this sum but I also know that I can start small. But the question is how do I start small in this business, without a land of my own?

Bro. Martins, I am not a lazy person and I only wish I have the aforementioned sum of money, so that I can start off. I seriously need to start doing something, so as to raise the funds needed for my business and realize my dreams and goals of been a successful entrepreneur. What do I do now Bro. Martins? I need your advice. I anticipate your positive response. Best Wishes.” – (Name withheld)

After reading this email, I decided to write a reply but not just to this individual; I intend to use this reply as leverage to reach out to other entrepreneurs who are also in this same situation. This is the sole reason why I wrote this article. After critically analyzing the email above, I noted three positive things:

  1. The person in question has a burning desire to be an entrepreneur; and he’s prepared to put in the required effort.
  2. He/she has taken the pain to get trained on the fundamentals of starting and building a business. A move which I applaud and recommend for those who want to start a business.
  3. He/she has invested time in writing a business plan; and that business plan became an eye opener for him because it highlighted some unforeseen challenges.

But the problem now is: how will this person raise the needed capital to pursue his dream project? There are several ways to raise capital but each has its upside and downside. So in this article, I will be critically analyzing ways to raise capital using this person’s situation as case study.

Raising Capital for your Business – 3 Sources That Almost Never Work

a. Raise Capital from Family and Friends

One thing about life and business is that you will never know what works and what doesn’t until you try it. If you are in good relationship with your family members and friends; then you can approach them and tell them of your plans. But don’t go about telling everyone of your plan; identify those who you feel have the capacity to provide you with the needed fund and approach them.

But as a side note, you should be prepared for disappointments. Family and friends might tend to look down on you, scorn you or despise your plan. This is because they will feel you don’t have the capacity to execute your plans but don’t be deterred; keep your dreams alive.

b. Investors and Venture Capitalists

The problem with going this route is that these fund providers are mean and tough. And the chances of you been kicked out are high. Also, they often don’t invest in yet to be established business, they will demand a higher stake in your business and they will want their money back faster.

So for someone wanting to start a business with just a plan and no money; investors and VCs are often the wrong choice because they know that plans are often beautiful to behold on paper. But its execution is not a piece of cake.

c. Banks

Commercial banks don’t provide equity or capital, except on special cases; they only provide loans. And for your business to qualify for a loan, you will have to pass through stringent measure. Now if you are a start up entrepreneur with nothing but a business plan, then forget about getting funds from the banks.

Now since the three options above proves to be a herculean task with very high odds, what’s the next option. Well, just read on.

4 Best Alternative Ways to Finance your Small Business

Most entrepreneurs started business without external financing; meaning they financed themselves. The harsh truth about raising capital is that no one believes in your dream; no one will ever understand your plans like you do and no one can grasp your vision like you. So that means you are on your own.

Secondly, only few investors will be willing to invest in a yet to be established business and they will only do it if the entrepreneur behind the proposed business is credible and has a proven track record. Since you are a new entrepreneur with no track record and you are just starting your first business; that means you are on your own. Now that the odds are high and the chances of raising capital from external sources or investors is slim. What do you do?

“When no one wants to invest in your business idea; when no one wants to fund your business plan, don’t go hitting your head against the wall. Don’t sit on your plan; instead, finance yourself. Do anything you can to raise the minimum amount needed and start small. Keep providing your own capital and keep moving until you breakthrough.” – Ajaero Tony Martins

The answer above is simple but tough to implement. Fortunately, self financing is not impossible. In fact, that was how most successful entrepreneurs kick started their business. Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos, Robert Kiyosaki, etc all financed their business themselves before they were able to attract outside investments.

The point I am trying to stress here is that you don’t need the exact amount on your business plan to start your business. If you are waiting to raise the exact amount on your business plan, you might wait forever and still end up dying with your dreams. What I will advice is that you calculate the minimum capital you can kick off with; cross check your plan for things you can do without or get for free and get started.

I did not start my business with millions of dollars in capital; and even up to this moment, I still self finance my new businesses. Another important point to note is that none of the business I started was sufficiently funded; they were always underfunded and I occasionally run short of cash but I always find a way to survive.

Now how was I able to pull through? How was I able to start my business without outside support and how can you do the same. You will find the answer you seek below.

1. Assess your personal traits

Do you really possess what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Starting a business is not all about the money to be made or the capital to be raised; it has to do with the mindset. What I am trying to say in essence is that your mindset, your perception is more important than money. To successfully raise money and start a business, you must be tough as a nail. You must develop a tough skin and learn how to take disappointment without losing your enthusiasm.

Nobody is going to give you his/her hard earned money on a platter of gold and in fact, nobody really cares about you or your plans so you must be prepared mentally to weather the storm. Your will to succeed must be so strong that it can’t be deterred by negativity, criticism and disappointments. Your will to succeed is more important than money especially when you are starting without money. Life is not a bed of roses.

2. Enter for entrepreneurship contests/competitions

Just like I said earlier, life is not a bed of roses. Your quest to raise capital might require you to fight or compete for it. If no one will lend you money, then you can as well get the attention and fund you need by fighting for it. I prefer to use the word “fighting” rather than “competing” because the no one is going to give you money on a plate of gold; no one is going to spoon feed you. Like I stated earlier, you are on your own, so you have to fight for yourself.

Look around you and see if you can find an entrepreneurship competition or even any competition you think you are competent enough to compete in. Participate in entrepreneurship contests; if you have a skill or talent, see if there’s a competition locally or nationally that require such talent and join. After all, there’s no formal rule or pattern for raising capital. Anything goes.

3. What can you do to raise money?

No one is willing to invest with you, so what do you do to raise money? My answer is that you can do anything legit to raise the kick off capital you need. Anything at all; as long as it gets you the needed capital and you are not breaking the law or hurting someone. If you have a skill or talent, then use it to make money. For instance, if you are skilled in bookkeeping, web design, writing, speaking, playing football or whatsoever; then use it to raise the capital.

Now what if you don’t have a skill or talent? Then you should get a job and work on your business part time. Most people, even my close friends never knew that I did some menial jobs just to raise capital to start my first business. I worked in a biscuit production plant, a thread milling factory and a plastic manufacturing factory.

I have worked in sachet water manufacturing firm; bagging and stock piling bags of sachet waters. I have been kicked out of several casual jobs because I was either lazy or couldn’t meet up with the needed working speed or capacity my employers wanted. Yet, I never gave up. I bounced from job to job until I got the little capital I need.

The question now is: are you willing to work hard today, to live a better life tomorrow? Are you willing to sweat it out today, so that you can be an entrepreneur or an employer of labour tomorrow? Now I am not asking you to follow my steps. No. I think there are easier ways to work to raise capital but you will have to find yours.

4. What can you sell to raise capital?

Do you have any tangible asset you can sell to raise money? That is a question you must answer if you are really serious about starting a business. I have seen entrepreneurs who sold off their belongings and kick started their business. The truth is that sometimes, you just have to make sacrifices now for a better tomorrow. Anything you think you can sell now to raise money, sell it.

In the process of building my first business, I invested everything I’ve got in my business and I ran out of cash. What did I do? I rented out a space in my room to a friend for two years; just to raise money to keep food on the table, while struggling to get my business. I also had to maintain a low profile those two years just to keep my personal expenses low. It was tough and un-conducive but I did it. Why?

I did it because I had in my mind; a picture of the future. I knew where I was going and what I wanted in life but unfortunately, nobody shared this ambition with me. I got to where I am today all alone without outside support or investors. I even had to give up my education just to pursue my dream and it wasn’t really a funny stuff; in fact, it made me cry back then.

“Where the mind is willing, it will find a thousand ways. Where the mind is unwilling, it will find a thousand excuses.” – Anonymous

In conclusion, I want to re-state the fact that there is no formal rule, protocol or pathway to raising capital. You just have to do it anyhow. If that business is important to you; if your dream to become an entrepreneur is strong, then you just have to find a way. Remember, your will to succeed is more important than money.