In the startup world, capital, or a lack thereof, can cause a lot of problems for a budding business. Without it, employees can't be paid, marketing campaigns can't be launched, and the startup effectively can't be run on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, with supportive ecosystems across the country, there are dozens of options for founders that don't want to bootstrap their way to success. And they're on display at Denver Startup Week.
During a talk titled Access to Flexible Capital, Training, and Technical Assistance, a number of lenders and training providers based in the Denver area talked about the importance of providing avenues to capital for underserved entrepreneurs. Panelists included:
- Monique Lovato, CEO and Executive Director of Mi Casa Resource Center
- Alan Ramirez, Director of Lending of the Colorado Enterprise Fund
- Gwendolyn Bonilla, Market Manager and Senior Regional Loan Officer at Accion in Colorado
- Brian Burke, Vice President of Business Lending of Community Reinvestment Fund, USA
During the talk, the panelists gave a wide range of helpful advice to entrepreneurs in search of capital. Check out what they had to say below:
Capital doesn't grow on trees. Lenders, investors, and VCs are in the business of giving it away, but they aren't easily impressed. If you want capital, you're going to have to prove you deserve it by having a business plan in place and a financial statement that will show potential investors that you mean business.
“Business owners are going along and they don't really stop to think about what they need until someone asks for it,” said Bonilla. “You need to be prepared.”
As many of the panelists brought up, personal credit can seriously impede the pursuit of capital for your business. However, while personal finances can effect your business, you should avoid allowing the inverse to occur. If you can, keep your business finances separate from your personal accounts, for fear of turning a failing business into a personal financial crisis.
“Separate your business [finances] from your personal,” said Lovato.
Be Open to Help
Entrepreneurs are nothing if not proud. And while this character trait likely gave them the confidence to start a business, it can be a detriment to keeping your startup alive. There are dozens of programs, hundreds of organizations, and thousands of people that are out there willing to help you grow your business. You just have to willing to accept the help.
“The sooner we can get involved, the sooner we can help you,” said Ramirez.
When capital finally becomes available, it can be easy to overlook where it's coming from. After all, the prospect of moving on from the bootstrapping phase of your company's history is an exciting moment, and the last thing you want to do is poke holes in it. Unfortunately, there are avenues to capital out there that won't help your business, and you need to know the difference.
“There are lenders out there that are willing to throw money at you, but is that really going to set your business up for success?” said Burke. “The last thing we want to do is provide a loan to a small business that they can't pay back.”
If you have a lender offering $500,000 without seeing a business plan, you need to do a little research to make sure this capital is worth the trouble. Let's be honest, you know how much your company is worth, whether you're willing to admit it or not. And if someone is offering too much, there's probably a reason.
“It's important to be realistic with yourself,” said Ramirez.
Read more about advice on running a business on TechCo