After the recent financial crisis, traditional banks are more reluctant than ever to fund small businesses. Entrepreneurs need not be discouraged though, as a new trend has emerged in the world of finance: “alternative lending.”
What exactly is alternative lending and is it right for your business? Here are some resources to help demystify the latest options in small business financing.
“Alternative Lending” defined
You may walk through open doors of your local bank only to hit a brick wall. According to SCORE’s Alternative Lending e-guide (www.score.org/resources/alternative-lending-101), traditional banks decline up to 80 percent of small business loan applications.
Enter the “alternative lenders,” also known as non-bank lenders. With faster underwriting and shorter decision processes, alternative funders have grown increasingly popular.
They lent approximately $3 billion in 2013, double the amount from 2012. Banks tend not to loan amounts less than $200,000, so alternative financing appeals to small business owners in need of smaller loans.
Types of alternative funding include term loans, merchant cash advances, factoring and equipment loans, and you can apply for alternative financing online.
Beyond brick-and-mortar banks
It seems like you can find everything online, even money for your small business. In the SCORE online workshop, “An Insider’s View: Securing Capital to Grow Your Business,” Ty Kiisel, Contributing Editor at OnDeck, explores these new financial options in depth. This workshop is available here: www.score.org/workshops/insiders-view-securing-capital-grow-your-business
Applying for online business loans requires less paperwork with a shorter wait period. You can often learn your fate in five minutes and receive funding in 24 to 48 hours. However, interest rates are often higher than those of traditional bank loans.
Sources of online financing include:
- Nonprofit lenders
- Invoice financing
- Online business loans
- Loan matching sites or aggregators
Get the crowd behind you
Another buzzword has hit the world of financing: crowdfunding. This is the funding of a business or project by raising money from a large number of people. Individuals can commit as little as $5 and receive a reward for their donation.
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are popular options, but the list of crowdfunding websites grows every day.
In the SCORE Small Business Success podcast on Crowdfunding, Maryann O’Neil and John Montelione, co-founders of a crowdfunding website called MsGenuity, detail the process. They explain the two types:
- Reward based crowdfunding: A person contributes money and receives a reward in exchange
- Equity based crowdfunding: A person contributes to become an investor of the business
The podcast is available here: www.score.org/resources/podcast-crowdfunding
Why is crowdfunding so popular now? The great recession and high unemployment rates inspired the Jobs Act of 2012. The new law encourages small business financing by relaxing securities regulation so entrepreneurs can raise money from the public.
Alternative financing may seem like the perfect answer for a small business owner, but every loan comes with risks. A SCORE mentor can help weed through your financing options, so you can decide what’s best for your small business; get connected with a mentor today by visiting https://www.score.org/mentors.
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy. Find out more: SCORE.org