4 Business Loan Alternatives You’ve Never Heard Of

4 Business Loan Alternatives You’ve Never Heard Of

4 Business Loan Alternatives You’ve Never Heard Of

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Getting funding for your business is essential if you want it to succeed. But to get the get the best financing option, you need to know all of your options.

While you probably know about SBA loans, commercial bank loans, online loans, lines of credit, and credit cards, there are specific financing options within and beyond those categories that you might not yet know about.

To give you a better idea of what’s out there, here are some financing options that don’t get enough love.

1. Crowdfunding

Borrowing money or taking on investors can help you build your business, but neither option is ideal. You’ll either need to pay back a debt with interest or give up some of the control in your company to get the capital you need.

With crowdfunding, though, you go straight to your customer base. In exchange for small investments, you typically give them first dibs on your product or service once it launches. Not only is it an excellent way to get cash fast, but your only obligation to your funders is to give them what you were planning on selling to them anyway.

To give you an idea of the potential opportunity, here are some of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter:

  • Pebble Time smartwatch: Received more than $20 million
  • Coolest Cooler: Backers pledged more than $13 million
  • The world’s best travel jacket: Received more than $9 million

Of course, the majority of crowdfunding campaigns don’t come near to this kind of money. But if you have a solid product or service and the creativity to make a compelling video to showcase it, you’ll have a good chance of getting the money you need.

2. Microloans

If you’re just starting out, you’ll have a hard time getting a small business loan, even if you don’t need a lot of money. Microloans are loans of up to $50,000 — the average is closer to $6,000 — and are typically provided by non-profit organizations.

You’ll typically pay a higher interest rate but, in exchange, the eligibility requirements are much less strict, and there’s usually no collateral requirement. This means you may have an easier time getting approved if your credit isn’t in the best shape.

Also, you may have access to some mentoring from the organization offering the loan — after all, it’s in their best interest to help you succeed.  

One of the more popular microlenders is Kiva. Instead of getting the loan directly from the organization, though, you invite lenders in your community then the Kiva community to lend you money in $25 increments. As you pay back the loan, individual lenders receive their portions back with interest over time.

3. Invoice financing

If you already have customers, but your cash flow is irregular, invoice financing can help you get the money you’re already owed a little bit sooner.

Note that invoice financing is different than invoice factoring, which has you sell your accounts receivable to a lender or other third party at a discount. With invoice financing, you’re simply using your accounts receivable as collateral until you get paid and can pay off the loan.

You’ll still be responsible for collecting what you’re owed from your customers, and if they don’t pay you back on time or at all, you’ll still be on the hook to pay what you owe.

Invoice financing is a great option if you need money fast and want minimal paperwork. Keep in mind, though, that APRs can range from 15% to 35%, making it best only in emergency situations.

4. Your 401(k) or life insurance policy

Borrowing from your future is generally not a good idea. But if you don’t have any other options, it may be worth considering.

If you have a 401(k) plan, your plan administrator may allow 401(k) loans. You borrow from your account, and as you pay it back, the money goes back into your account over time or all at once when the loan is paid in full.

Keep in mind, though, that you can only borrow up to the greater of $10,000 or 50% of your vested account balance, or $50,000, whichever is less. Also, if you leave your job for any reason, the loan could come due immediately. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, 86% of 401(k) loan borrowers with an outstanding loan when they leave the company default on their payments.

Another option to consider is a cash-value life insurance policy. If you’ve had the policy for a while and built up enough cash value, you can borrow from it tax-free without needing to surrender the policy as a whole.

While you’re not obligated to pay back the loan, the principal amount plus accrued interest could end up exceeding the cash value and terminating your policy. Also, if you die before you pay it back, the remaining loan balance is deducted from the policy’s death benefit.

Both your 401(k) and cash-value insurance policy can be a great way to get capital for your business. But it’s important to know both the benefits and drawbacks before you go through with it.

The bottom line

There’s no single best way to get funding for your business. Because every business and its owner are different, one may be better for you than for your friends or family members who have also started businesses.

As such, it’s crucial that you take the time to research all of your options, including ones that you might not be familiar with. If anything, the time you spend can help you eliminate certain financing options from the running in favor of more traditional business loans and credit cards.

This article was originally written on December 18, 2018 and updated on October 20, 2020.

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