Many small businesses and potential entrepreneurs in our downtowns struggle getting the financing they need to start or expand their business. We asked guest blogger Christina Cain, executive director at Staunton Creative Community Fund, to share some strategies for how her organization has been able to help small businesses gain access to capital.
The biggest obstacle to small businesses that want to start or expand is access to capital. The answer for many is not a traditional business loan. There are several common reasons traditional loans are not for all small businesses: cost, availability, too much current debt and fear of failure. As a micro lender, what do we do? Diversify how we get access to capital for our clients. Here are three examples of how we are addressing diversification:
- Our Virginia Individual Development Account (VIDA ), through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), provides a matched-savings program for individuals to save money and build better futures for themselves and their families. Upon qualifying, they will earn $2 for every $1 they save, for a total of up to $6,000, that can be used for post-secondary education or to start or expand a business. (Editor’s Note: VIDA funds may also be used to purchase a home.) Additionally, they receive financial literacy training to help them save money wisely, create realistic household spending plans and set their saving goals and values. This program is a powerful combination of access to capital, education and support that so many of our clients need. This program helps people manage their debt and gives them the flexibility to take the risk of starting a business where they may not have done so before. Check out the info about our VIDA program at http://stauntonfund.com/programs/vida/.
- Crowdfunding can be an amazing vehicle for micro businesses to get the dollars that they need. This can be great for the project that is being funded, but what about the backers? I have to be honest, crowdfunding is not a panacea for businesses that are tight on cash. SCCF has found a way to use the crowdfunding platform for small businesses that puts accountability on the owner and the backers get their money returned. Kiva Zip Loan enables individual lenders around the world to ‘crowd fund’ interest-free loans directly to small business owners and entrepreneurs in the U.S. SCCF is a trustee of Kiva Zip, meaning we have the ability to endorse borrowers who seek financing through Kiva Zip. For more information on this, visit http://stauntonfund.com/programs/loan-funds/.
- SCCF’s newest venture allows us build a deeper community relationship, as well as keep our dollars local. SCCF, with support from DHCD, has launched a local investing project. Why invest locally? Invest local is the simple choice to place some of our investments in local businesses, neighbors or communities. From crowdsourcing to peer-to-peer loans to joint investment clubs, there are many ways to keep our money local. Some of the reasons why individuals are choosing to invest in their local businesses and neighborhoods include building a strong local economy, supporting friends and neighbors and aligning values with investments. Take a look at our newly-launched website at http://invest-local.org/ for more information on the project.
Small businesses make our towns amazing places to live. It is up to us to be creative and innovative in finding ways to help them thrive. I would love to hear your thoughts on ways to get access to capital for our business!