Three Innovative Funding Sources for Creative Brands
Raise your hand if you need dollah, dollah bills to invest in your business?
Yea, I thought so.
One of the advantages of engaging in daily conversations with makers + products designers is that I’m able to keep a finger firmly on the pulse of the daily struggles that we all face as creative entrepreneurs. If there’s one struggle that I hear more often than any other, it’s that we have a long to-do list of things we need: graphic design, product photography, professionally executed packaging, well-designed websites, trade show appearances, business classes, and more. And we typically have less cash in the bank than we need to tackle that to-do list. I feel you, friend.
For too long, securing funding for your business growth meant sitting through snooze-fest classes for drafting elaborate business plans, schmoozing with your local banker, laying your personal finances bare, and spending weeks-to-months jumping through hoops and praying for a loan. The times are a’changing, and I’m thrilled to say that those days are officially behind us. The maker revival and entrepreneurial renaissance have ushered in a variety of non-traditional funding options, and they’ve arrived none too soon.
Deciding to take on debt for your business is a deeply personal choice, and I’m keenly aware that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But the reality is that we can’t DIY everything about our brand while simultaneously steering its strategic path. While I’m certain that you look dashing in a leotard and red patent leather boots, you’re not Wonder Woman and neither am I. We’re not Jills-of-all-trades, and there are a finite number of hours in the day. Which means we need help. And that help usually has a price tag attached.
At some point, each of us will eventually need to hire staff, delegate specific tasks to the professionals, and invest in our business. Ideally, you have a trust fund from a wealthy grandmother or a cushy day job that’s enabled you to stockpile money for a few years as you transition to full-time entrepreneurship. Wait… no? Then we’ll just have to get a wee bit more creative. Here’s a quick snapshot of three innovative funding sources you can tag in to help grow your brand!
You might be familiar with Kiva as the microlending agency that serves people in developing countries around the world. And while that’s the backstory of this non-profit organization, there’s been a significant evolution in Kiva’s model of which you might not be aware. Since 2005, Kiva has been on a mission to alleviate poverty through microloans. A farmer in Peru or a shopkeeper in Uganda could apply for a loan to improve their home, send a child to school, or grow their business. Their story is profiled on the Kiva site and peeps like you and I can each pitch in $25 until the loan is fully funded. Over time, the recipient pays the loan back, and the funders receive the initial amount without interest.
A few years ago, Kiva launched a separate crowdfunding program which is designed to support American entrepreneurs. Now businesses like yours and mine can apply to receive loans between $25-$10,000. The process begins with a simple online application which collects information about you, your business, and your plans for the moolah.
Once approved, Kiva asks you to make a loan of at least $25 to another entrepreneur. You then appeal to your own community (private fundraising), asking them to fund a portion of the loan, $25 at a time. You have 15 days to secure a certain percentage of the loan through your own channels. Once you’ve crossed that threshold, Kiva posts the loan on its larger platform (public fundraising), effectively opening it up worldwide to lenders. You then have 30 days on the public platform in which to raise the balance.
Kiva’s process often taken 30-60 days from initial application to eventual disbursement. But if you move quickly through that initial fundraising stage, then it’s often quicker than a traditional bank loan. And funds are typically available 48 hours after successfully funding the loan, so the cash is in your hot little hands pretty quickly.
Did I mention that the loans are at 0% interest? My hand to God’s… I would never deceive you! Interest-free loans are a thing of rare wonder and beauty, but Kiva Zip makes that happen. And there are no hidden fees. They leverage a network of millions of everyday lenders and corporate sponsors to offset program expenses. A $10,000 loan paid back over 36 months would carry a payment of just $278 a month… pretty damn reasonable.
The loans aren’t based on your personal credit history, and the debt doesn’t appear on your personal credit record. Kiva does use, however, publicly-available information about you and your business to verify your identity and determine creditworthiness.
You’re going to have to gather the chutzpah to ask people you know for money. There’s absolutely no shame in that game, but some people get squeamish about money chats. Heads up: as an entrepreneur, you have a lot of “money chats” ahead of you, so the sooner you can overcome this inner hurdle, the better off you’ll be. Thankfully, this is low-pressure asking: simply post on social media that you’re fundraising and link to your private page at Kiva. No need to arm wrestle your peeps into submission. And Kiva has a full suite of email template and helpful resources to help you fundraise more quickly and with ease.
Loans which aren’t fully funded within the time allocation are moot. Your backers won’t be charged, and you won’t be collecting a check, so it’s a wash in the end. Partial loan disbursements aren’t possible, so you’ll need to raise the full amount of your goal to enjoy any benefit from the loan.
You won’t qualify for a loan if you’re currently in foreclosure, bankruptcy, or the subject of any liens. While Kiva doesn’t check your personal credit record, those precarious situations are searchable through public records and Kiva can’t extend a loan to you if they apply.
There are handfuls of Lucky Break clients who have successfully raised between $5,000-10,000 through the Kiva Zip program, including Zandra Beauty, Todos Organics, Outlaw Soaps, and Etta + Billie.
Have more questions? Kiva has answers.
PAYPAL WORKING CAPITAL
PayPal has developed one of the most accessible funding platforms on the planet. Their “Working Capital” service was launched in 2013, providing lightning-fast small business loans with heaps of flexibility. Here’s how it works…
You complete a quick online application and PayPal makes a decision in 90-seconds-or-less. Your borrowing power is tied to the sales from your business which are routed through PayPal as a payment processor, so the lender has instant access to a snapshot of your company’s revenue history. An offer is made, and you can elect to tap all or a specific portion of the available loan amount. Fees are charged based on the speed at which you choose to repay the loan… the quicker you pay it back, the lower the fees.
For instance: Let’s say that your PayPal sales over the last 12 months totaled $150,000. You would easily qualify for a $20,000 loan. You could earmark 30% of your daily sales to loan repayment and pay just $1,221 over the life of the loan. If you choose to set aside 20% of your daily sales to loan payback, then fees jump to $1,907. A 10% daily payback rate jacks those fees up to $4,393. The total payback amount for that $20,000 loan would be between $21,221 and $24,393.
You can tap as much as 18% of the total amount of sales you’ve processed through PayPal over the last 12 months, to a maximum of $97,000. And payments are automatic, too. If you tell PayPal that you’ll pay the loan back at 10% and you make $150 in sales tomorrow, then PayPal will deduct 10% (or $15) as a loan payment. No sales tomorrow? That’s a $0 loan payment. Have a ridiculously good day with $1,000 in sales? $150 of that slides over to PayPal.
Assuming you made sales of $365,000 last year and you take the full $65,700 (18%) loan with a payback rate of 20% of your sales, then there would be an $8,857 fee associated with the loan. Assuming your sales were flat over the next twelve months (no growth), then that 20% payback rate works out to an approximate 13.48% annual interest rate. That’s more attractive than many credit cards, less attractive than some others. Swing by the PayPal Working Capital FAQ to get the 411 on their program.
Approvals are shockingly quick… by the time you can saunter into the kitchen for another cup of hot tea, the decision has been made, and a final answer is displayed on your screen. Funds are instantly available in your PayPal account and- at your request- they can transfer over to your bank account for full availability within 48 hours.
I appreciate that payments expand or shrink in correlation to sales. Suffering from the Summer Retail Draught? No worries… since your revenue is lower, your payments are, too. And because payments are automatic, the system is pretty seamless. Three cheers for having one less thing to think about during a busy week!
The loan doesn’t depend on (nor impact) your personal credit score. Many users appreciate the autonomy which surrounds this kind of lending.
You must be a PayPal Business or Premier member for at least three months to qualify. You also need to process at least $20,000 in sales annual (Premier account) or $15,000 annually (Business account). Anemic PayPal sales? You may qualify for several relatively comparable options (keep reading!).
You can only have one “loan” at a time. Borrowed $15k and now you need an additional $5 grand? You’ll need to pay that first $15k back before you can have another bite of the apple.
Is there such a thing as a borrowing process that’s too easy? If not, then PayPal has likely invented it. With loans this quick and painless, it’s easy to borrow impulsively without crunching the numbers and understanding how the setting aside of a fixed percentage of daily sales will impact your cash flow.
I know a good bit about this program because I’ve used it myself. Lucky Break took a $46,000 loan in June, and we’ve repaid $39,000 of that in just four months. As a user, I find the platform to be deliciously simple to understand and I appreciate that I can log in at any time for a clear explanation of current loan stats.
Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has collected more than $2 billion (billion, with a b!) to fund 100,000 creative projects. The crowdfunding platform invites makers and product designers of all stripes to showcase products in development. Those projects are pitched to interested “backers” who might throw anywhere from $1-10,000 towards a single project. Brand owners create a rewards system in appreciation of the support. Those rewards range from simple social media shout-outs to early access to the products they’ve helped fund and innovative experiences reserved exclusively for backers.
Kickstarter is a public-facing platform, so it has the potential to spread news of your brand far and wide. This is easily the biggest benefit of the platform: the exposure brings with it significant opportunities. Campaigns sometimes go viral and are often featured in blogs, newspapers, and magazines. Unlock the secret to getting featured by Kickstarter staff, and you’re well on your way to not only raising dollars but growing an email list and attracting the attention of editors as well.
You can raise serious bank on Kickstarter if you play your cards right. I’ve seen campaigns raise as little as $2,500 and as much as many-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars. It’s wise to think of Kickstarter along the lines of a pre-sales platform rather than a lending platform, but the amount you can raise is essentially limited only by time, your imagination, and your ability to produce all those rewards.
Kickstarter fundraising totals may look impressive, but the campaign totals can be deceiving. Kickstarter claims 5% of each pledge in fees, in addition to 3% and $.20 per pledge in credit card processing fees. So that’s an 8%+ haircut right off the top! You’ll also need to produce and ship those tangible rewards, and those costs add up quite quickly.
The platform is dense with projects and you’ll need to do lots of outreach to rally the troops. Prepare for a media blitz with proactive pitching to editors and plenty of messaging to your own community. Frequent newsletter reminders, social media blasts, and FB ads are typically needed to help projects gain traction. If you haven’t yet amassed a significant number of email subscribers or social media followers, then getting that project seen is likely an uphill battle.
You’ll need strong product imagery, a well-designed video, and solid storytelling chops to cut through the noise and capture attention. Many brands spend months putting together their campaigns and the best campaigns represent significant investments of strategic thought… and often dollars, too.
Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” platform. You’ll set a goal for the amount of money needed, and you’ll have a limited amount of time in which to raise those funds. Projects which aren’t fully funded by the deadline receive none of their pledged funding, so time is of the essence, and smart fundraising targets are a must.
Makers should be planning to either launch their brand on Kickstarter or significantly expand their current product offerings. Projects along the lines of “We need money for rent/ to hire someone/ to attend a conference” tend to go nowhere fast.
The projects which traditionally perform best on Kickstarter are tech gadgets, games, creative projects such as films, and problem-solving products like this multi-purpose cooler. My personal favorite Kickstart campaign of all time? Organic kid’s clothes from Lucky Break client The Smallest Tribe. Kathryn raised $10,575 in 2015!
NEED MORE FUNDING OPTIONS?
You’re spoilt for choice, my friend!
• Along the lines of PayPal’s Working Capital program, Square and Shopify have recently launched funding programs. Think: instant funding based on your sales history and automatic paybacks that flex with your gross revenue.
• Kabbage is another option worth exploring. They provide quickly-dispersed lines of credit that range between $2,000-to $100,000. But beware: Fees range between 1.5%-12% per month, which is pretty rich for my blood!
• Indiegogo is similar in nature to Kickstarter, with a similar pricing structure as well. The predominant difference is that Indiegogo isn’t all-or-nothing. If your campaign is at 72% of your fundraising goal on the day it expires, you still earn that 72%.
Have you found an innovative funding source for your business? Have a positive or negative experience to share about one of the funding source mentioned in this article? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts below… I’d love to hear them!