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Starting A Business

8 Best Kickstarter Alternatives for Business Funding

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As an entrepreneur, you’re likely of the mind that coming up with a great idea is much more exciting than having to raise the funds to make it happen. It’s tough to get a good idea off the ground, particularly if you’re a newly minted entrepreneur without a ton of experience with business financing. This paradox leads quite a few small business founders to platforms like Kickstarter, where they can appeal to individuals for the money they need to start their business, without needing to navigate the traditional business loan process.

But Kickstarter isn’t the only platform out there: in fact, there are several Kickstarter alternatives for business funding that offer similar (or even better) perks for both you and your backers.

No matter why you might want to consider Kickstarter alternatives, there are plenty of options from which you can choose. We’re not just talking about other fundraising platforms, either. In fact, there are several conventional loans that you may not have considered—each providing a distinct advantage for your business, depending on why you need funding.

Best Kickstarter alternatives for small business

Although Kickstarter has the most brand recognition in the world of crowdfunding, there are several Kickstarter alternatives out there that may provide you with a better bang for your buck. Plus, it’s getting tougher for small projects to get Kickstarter funding: the platform has seen an uptick in the number of projects with pre-existing investors, as well as the proliferation of projects that are managed by third-party crowdfunding agencies.

Check out these five Kickstarter alternatives. All of these platforms offer a competitive advantage over Kickstarter, which may end up providing more value for you in the long run.

1. Indiegogo

Indiegogo began as a crowdfunding platform for creative endeavors, such as film or music projects. The platform now allows a wider array of projects to use its platform, however, and includes small business funding as well.

Indiegogo is different from Kickstarter in that it lets you create two different kinds of campaigns: an all-or-nothing fundraising campaign (akin to the Kickstarter model); or a keep-whatever-you-raise option, which lets you keep the cash you’ve raised even if you don’t reach your funding goal. The platform also doesn’t require projects to come with perks for backers, unlike Kickstarter, although Indiegogo recommends you include them for better results.

Indiegogo also offers free sign-up and campaign creation. You only pay for the money you raise as part of your campaign, with the site taking a 9% cut of the money earned. If you hit your funding goal, the take drops down to 4%, which provides an added incentive for fundraisers to hit their target figures.

2. Patreon

Patreon is a relative newcomer to the top online crowdsourcing platforms. The site lets you raise funds on an ongoing basis, rather than for specific efforts and initiatives. For example, you could set up an ongoing Patreon fund to help finance your company’s expansion without having to raise funds all at once. People who support your efforts provide you with a recurring payment, akin to a subscription model for funding your project.

Patreon is a great fit for companies that might benefit from recurring funding. But if you’re using crowdfunding to support a project with a specific end date (such as buying equipment, for example), it might not offer your backers an ideal way to help finance your efforts.

3. Fundable

Fundable is a great Kickstarter alternative since it doesn’t charge a percentage of your overall fundraising take. Instead, Fundable charges a flat fee of $179 to sponsor your fundraising campaign.

It’s a significant up-front price, but one that may work in your favor over the long term, especially if you’re looking to raise a significant amount of money. For example, say you’re raising $200,000 through crowdfunding. A 5% cut of $200,000 means you’re only getting $190,000 of the campaign’s total. Paying $179 for a few months’ time ends up costing significantly less in the long run.

4. GoFundMe

GoFundMe allows a wider array of individuals, businesses, and projects to raise funds. The company began as a charitable platform, rather than a means for businesses to raise capital. But GoFundMe is open to business efforts now and is particularly useful if you’re looking to do something notable for your community (akin to something charitable, but there doesn’t need to be an actual charity component involved).

If you’re not launching a venture with a social or charitable angle, GoFundMe shouldn’t be your go-to crowdfunding platform. You won’t get a ton of momentum if you’re looking to fund general business objectives, and you might find other platforms to be a better fit in these scenarios.

5. Crowdfunder

Crowdfunder is a unique Kickstarter alternative, as this platform is designed to offer backers with equity in the company itself, rather than perks and products in exchange for their funds. Of course, that means you’ll need to give up a portion of your stake in your company, but you may benefit in the long run from recruiting a pool of engaged investors as a result.

Giving up equity is not without its risks, however. You’ll have more obligations to your shareholders and may need to take on additional management work as you communicate your company’s performance to your backers. Be certain that you can make this model work for your business before you pursue Crowdfunder over other options.

6. Fundly

When searching for alternatives to Kickstarter, you might be interested in finding a crowdfunding platform that allows you to keep the money you raise, even if you fall short of your fundraising goal. Fundly, an easy-to-use crowdfunding platform, does just that. It offers users an easy way to raise funds without minimums, limits, deadlines, or other requirements standing in the way of accessing funds. Fundly also lets you access your donations as soon as they’re posted.

Fundly charges a 4.9% platform fee, as well as a 2.9% credit card processing fee. In addition, Fundly charges a $0.30 fee for each transaction.

7. Facebook Fundraiser

If you want to draw attention to your cause, nonprofit, or fundraising campaign via social media, Facebook Fundraiser might be the perfect Kickstarter alternative for you. The Facebook Fundraiser tool is designed specifically for nonprofits, so if you don’t fit nonprofit criteria, we suggest turning elsewhere. However, if your business is a nonprofit, it’s worth exploring this fundraising tool to bring attention to crowdfunding campaigns using your existing network.

Facebook’s fundraising tool currently charges a 5% transaction fee on all donations made to a nonprofit using the Facebook website or app. This platform also charges a 6.9% payment processing fee and a $0.30 transaction fee.

8. FundRazr

This Canadian-based crowdfunding app is one of the top Kickstarter alternatives available. The FundRazr app integrates with Facebook, making it easy for users to embed fundraisers or crowdfunding pages across Facebook or on individual Facebook pages. This makes sharing specific campaigns fast and convenient.

Fundrazr charges a 5% fee, which is lower than other crowdfunding platforms. However, Fundrazr also charges a 2.9% fee on all transactions made during the fundraising campaign. They also have a 0% platform fee.

The pros and cons of crowdfunding

Here are some advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind when exploring Kickstarter and Kickstarter alternatives for crowdfunding.

Pros:

  • Crowdfunding is convenient. Kickstarter and its alternatives for business funding offer something that most small business loans don’t: convenience. A conventional small business loan requires a good credit history, detailed financial records, and additional documentation that proves your creditworthiness as a borrower. It might take a while before you can demonstrate all of these credentials.

  • No need to repay crowdfunded money. Crowdfunding can help you avoid these pitfalls. With Kickstarter and Kickstarter alternatives, you don’t have to repay the money you raise—you get to keep what you get and not worry about how repayments might affect your balance sheet.

Cons:

  • Strict crowdfunding requirements. Almost every crowdfunding platform has requirements about what kinds of businesses may use their services. You typically have to provide your backers with a tangible product in exchange for their money, which might pose a problem if you offer services instead of goods.

  • No guarantee of funds. Some also use an “all-or-nothing model,” which means that you’ll only get to keep your money if you hit your fundraising goal.

The bottom line

No matter which funding option you’re initially seeking—be it a Kickstarter or Kickstarter alternative campaign, or conventional funding—the best first step is to do your homework. Understand the ins and outs of your business, whether it’s in the conceptual stage or has already been launched. This will pay for itself in terms of saved money and strategic decision-making about how to get the money you need to move ahead.

You may have already decided that crowdfunding makes the most sense for your funding needs. But if you’re on the fence or haven’t looked into the wide variety of business loans out there, you might want to consider alternatives before you start your campaign.

There are so many business loan options out there, so your best financing method depends on what you qualify for and what you intend to use your funds for. Here are just a few options to explore:

  • If you can qualify, shoot for small business grants that can help you finance your next big initiative. A major plus? Like crowdfunding (and unlike a loan), you don’t need to repay the money.

  • You may also qualify for an SBA loan if your company’s been in operation for a while and has a sturdy credit history.

  • Consider equipment loans if you’re considering a crowdfunding campaign to help buy specific pieces of machinery to propel your business forward (and don’t want to fork over collateral in exchange for borrowing the money).

  • You may be able to turn outstanding invoices into cash by way of invoice financing, which gives you fast access to funds in exchange for interest payments.

  • Consider a business line of credit if you would benefit from a revolving pool of funds from which you can pull anytime you have a need.

  • For a more traditional form of financing (but with much more forgiving eligibility standards than you’d find at your bank), look into a short-term loan from an alternative lender.

It’s important to explore all of your options before you commit to anything—you may find that your first option isn’t necessarily your best.

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How to Find the Right Business Coach — and Avoid the Wrong One

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At its best, business coaching can connect you with a mentor and supporter who helps you generate ideas, make plans and execute on them.

But at its worst, a business coaching offer can cost you time, energy and money — without much to show for it.

Here’s what to expect from a business coach, how to find a coach that suits you and how to spot red flags.

What a business coach can do

Business coaches draw on their professional experience to help you set and achieve your own business goals.

“I’m here to help you, and I’m here to raise your level of knowledge in whatever way I can,” says Gary Robinson, who chairs the Memphis, Tennessee, chapter of SCORE. SCORE offers free business mentoring for entrepreneurs nationwide.

Some ways a business coach or mentor might do this include:

  • Offering feedback on your ideas and suggesting new ones.

  • Giving you templates and other tools that help you make plans.

  • Connecting you with resources in your region or your industry.

  • Giving you deadlines and holding you accountable to them.

Some business coaches may also offer coursework or group training sessions on particular topics, like sales.

Working with a coach should help you identify opportunities you hadn’t seen before or develop new strategies for pursuing those opportunities, says Sophia Sunwoo, who coaches women and nonbinary entrepreneurs through Ascent Strategy, her New York City-based firm.

“[Coaches] don’t necessarily have to have all the answers,” Sunwoo says. “But they are the people that know how to maneuver and create a bunch of different thinking paths for their clients.”

What a business coach can’t do

A business coach isn’t the same as a consultant, whom you would hire to perform a specific task. A coach or mentor could look over your business plan, for example, but they wouldn’t write it for you.

“If you were to hire me as a consultant, you would expect me to roll up my sleeves and pitch in and work with you to get things done, and you would pay me for that,” Robinson says. Coaches, on the other hand, “try to show you how to do things so that you can do them [yourself].”

Business coaches are also not therapists, Sunwoo says. Entrepreneurship can be emotionally and mentally taxing, but it’s important that coaches refer clients to mental health professionals when necessary.

Business coaching red flags

If a business coaching opportunity “promises guaranteed income, large returns, or a ‘proven system,’ it’s likely a scam,” the Federal Trade Commission warned in a December 2020 notice.

In 2018, the FTC took legal action against My Online Business Education and Digital Altitude, which purported to help entrepreneurs start online businesses. The FTC alleged these companies charged participants more and more money to work through their programs, with few customers earning the promised returns.

In both cases, these operations paid settlements, and the FTC issued refunds to tens of thousands of their customers in 2021 and 2022.

To avoid offers like these, the FTC recommends that you:

  • Be wary of anyone who tries to upsell you right away or pressures you to make a quick decision.

  • Search for reviews of the person or organization online.

  • Research your coach’s background to see if they’ve accomplished as much as they say.

Sunwoo says to also be skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions. A coach should customize their advice to your personality and skill set, not ask you to conform to theirs.

“The moment that a business coach pushes you to do something that is really not compatible with your personality or your beliefs or values,” Sunwoo says, “that’s a huge problem.”

How to find the right coach — maybe for free

Here’s how to find a coach that will be as helpful as possible.

Determine whether you need advice or to hire someone. A coach isn’t the right fit for every business owner. If you need hands-on help organizing your business finances, for instance, you may need a bookkeeping service or accountant. And take legal questions to an attorney.

Seek out the right expertise. A good coach should be aware of what they don’t know. If they’re not a good fit for your needs — whether that’s expertise in a particular industry or a specialized skill set, like marketing — they might be able to refer you to someone who’s a better fit.

Consider free options. There may be some in your city or region:

  • SCORE offers free in-person and virtual mentoring in all 50 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

  • See if your city has a Small Business Development Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center or a Women’s Business Center. All are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and offer free training and advising for entrepreneurs.

  • Do an online search for city- or state-specific programs. Philadelphia, for example, offers a business coaching program designed for entrepreneurs who want to qualify for particular business loan programs. Business incubators often offer courses or coaching.

Make sure your coach is invested in you. They should take the time to learn about you, your business and its unique needs, then leverage their own experiences and creativity to help you.

“I’m on your team now,” Robinson says of his clients. “Let’s do this together and make this a success.”

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Are There SBA Loans for the Self-Employed?

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Many of the same SBA loans are available to both self-employed people and more formally structured businesses, such as limited liability companies and corporations. However, self-employed individuals, like sole proprietors and independent contractors, might face a higher barrier to entry for having limited credit history, inconsistent revenue or no collateral. If they can’t qualify for an SBA loan, other business financing options are available.

Who qualifies as self-employed?

Sole proprietors, independent contractors and partnerships all fall under the self-employed category. In these cases, there is no legal distinction between the business owner and the business itself. Sole proprietors, for example, are solely responsible for their business’s gains and losses, while LLCs and corporations are legally distinct from their owners. This distinction helps protect the owners’ personal assets if their business runs into legal or financial issues.

Are self-employed SBA loans hard to get?

While a sole proprietorship is much easier to set up than an LLC or corporation, lenders may be more hesitant to finance them for a few reasons:

  • Self-employed business owners are legally responsible, as individuals, for any debt and liabilities that their businesses take on. If someone sues their business, for instance, their personal assets — not just their business — could be at stake. This makes it riskier for lenders to finance them.

  • Sole proprietorships and independent contracting businesses may have lower revenue or less collateral to offer since they’re often a business of one. This could make it more difficult for them to prove that they can pay back the loan, plus interest. And it may require more paperwork.

  • Some banks set lending minimums that surpass what a self-employed business owner is looking for, either because the business owner doesn’t need that much funding or doesn’t qualify for it.

  • Since there is no legal distinction between the self-employed business owner and their business, they may lack business credit history. To establish business credit, you’ll want to register the business, obtain an employer identification number and open a separate business bank account and credit card to keep your business and personal finances separate.

SBA loans for the self-employed

SBA microloan: Best for small loans and more lenient requirements

Applying for an SBA microloan is a great option for self-employed business owners, especially if they’ve been turned down by traditional banks and don’t need more than $50,000 in funding. In fact, the average SBA microloan is around $13,000, according to the SBA. SBA microloans are administered by nonprofit, community-based organizations that can also help train applicants in business practices and management. And because the loans are small, the application process may be easier — applicants may have limited credit history and typically don’t need as high of a credit score as they do for an SBA 7(a) loan.

SBA 7(a) small loan: May not require collateral

Funds from the SBA’s most popular 7(a) lending program can be used for a variety of business-related purposes, such as working capital or purchasing equipment. While the maximum SBA 7(a) loan amount is $5 million, SBA 7(a) small loan amounts don’t exceed $350,000. And if the 7(a) small loan is for $25,000 or less, the SBA doesn’t require lenders to take collateral.

SBA Express loan: Best for quicker application process

SBA Express loans are a type of 7(a) loan for businesses that need quick financing and no more than $500,000. The SBA responds to these loan applications within 36 hours as opposed to the standard five to 10 days, which may speed up the process for borrowers working with non-SBA-delegated lenders. Additionally, borrowers might not have to fill out as much paperwork — the SBA only requires Form 1919. Beyond that, lenders use their own forms and procedures.

SBA loan alternatives

Online lenders

Self-employed business owners turned down for SBA or traditional bank loans may be able to qualify for financing with an online lender. These lenders offer options such as term loans and lines of credit, and they often process applications faster and have more lenient requirements. However, applicants should expect to pay significantly more in interest than they would with an SBA loan.

Business credit cards

Not only can business credit cards help build your business credit history and pay for everyday business purchases, but they can also help finance larger purchases (within your approved credit limit). And if you qualify for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer, you’ll have multiple months to pay off the balance interest-free. Just make sure you’re able to pay off your purchase before the intro offer ends and a variable APR sets in.

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9 Best Factoring Companies for Trucking

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Factoring companies for trucking, also called freight factoring companies, give trucking companies cash in exchange for outstanding invoices. They can be helpful to trucking companies that need working capital quickly or don’t have the staff to manage invoicing and collections, but be cautious about potentially unclear costs and contracts.

Here are our picks for freight factoring companies, as well as additional information to help you decide whether this kind of small-business loan is right for your business.

Best trucking factoring companies for funding speed

These factoring companies for trucking offer some of the fastest funding times.

Apex Capital

Time to funding: Minutes via its proprietary Blynk payment service; otherwise, same-day and next-day funding.

Good to know: Company factors freight invoices on nights, weekends and holidays. Its proprietary Blynk payment service, launched in 2020, allows customers to get paid via debit, Zelle or bank transfer. Apex specializes in small and midsize trucking companies.

Headquarters: Fort Worth, Texas.

TAFS

Time to funding: One hour during the week.

Good to know: Company’s mobile app allows customers to submit invoices to be paid right from a smartphone. TAFS is a recourse-only factoring company, meaning that if the customer ultimately doesn’t pay your invoice, you pay the factoring company. In other words, you bear the risk of nonpayment. TAFS does factoring in several other industries too.

Headquarters: Olathe, Kansas.

RTS Financial

Time to funding: Within 24 hours.

Good to know: Offers discounts to veterans. Also does factoring in distribution, staffing, oilfield, textiles and manufacturing industries. The company’s RTS Pro Factoring app lets customers upload invoices, submit invoices in bundles, use the camera to scan invoices and access reports. It also helps find fuel, tire and maintenance discounts.

Headquarters: Overland Park, Kansas.

TBS Factoring

Time to funding: The same day you deliver your load.

Good to know: TBS offers a program in which you can finance 50% of your truck insurance down payment through eight weekly payments from your factored invoices. The company also offers bookkeeping services.

Headquarters: Oklahoma City.

Best for trying freight factoring for free

These factoring companies for trucking offer customers a chance to use the service before fully committing.

eCapital

Time to funding: First funding takes up to 48 hours but subsequent invoices process faster.

Good to know: Customers get an automatic, preapproved line of credit of up to $2,500 per truck. Transferring money from eCapital to your bank account is $10. The company also offers a 90-day free trial. Fees start at 2%.

Headquarters: Aventura, Florida.

Thunder Funding

Time to funding: Typically within 24 hours.

Good to know: Company says a $1,000 invoice will likely cost $25 to $40 (2.5% to 4%) in factoring fees. It also waives the factoring fees for your first invoice as sort of a free trial.

Headquarters: Carlsbad, California.

Best for upfront factoring pricing

Few factoring companies for trucking disclose their prices. These companies offer at least a peek.

OTR Capital

Time to funding: Within 24 hours.

Good to know: Company does recourse and nonrecourse factoring. OTR Capital says it funds 96% of the invoice value, implying a 4% fee.

Headquarters: Roswell, Georgia.

Porter Freight Funding

Time to funding: Within 24 hours and sometimes sooner.

Good to know: Discounts available if you sign a six-month or one-year contract. Recourse factoring fees start at 3%.

Headquarters: Birmingham, Alabama.

CoreFund Capital

Time to funding: Same day.

Good to know: Fees start at 2%. Works with startups and trucking companies with one to 100 trucks. No mobile app available.

Headquarters: Weatherford, Texas.

What is freight factoring?

Freight factoring is a process in which a factoring company buys your invoices at a discount and collects payment from the customers on those invoices. The arrangement creates a source of fast cash for the trucking company.

There are two types of factoring companies for trucking:

  1. Recourse factors. If the customer ultimately doesn’t pay the invoice, the trucking company pays the factoring company. The trucking company bears the risk of nonpayment.

  2. Nonrecourse factors. If the customer ultimately doesn’t pay the invoice, the trucking company doesn’t have to pay the invoice. The factoring company bears the risk of nonpayment, which is why nonrecourse factoring typically costs more than recourse factoring.

Do I need a factoring company for trucking?

A factoring company for trucking can be a source of quick cash, which could come in handy if a trucking company is having trouble making payroll or paying other bills, or if it doesn’t want to take out a loan or other financing. In addition, companies that don’t have the time or staff to deal with collecting money from customers might find factoring attractive.

Pros

  • Fast cash.

  • Flexible — factor only what you need when you need it.

  • Credit score doesn’t matter.

Cons

  • May cost more than bank financing.

  • Company may come after trucking company if customers don’t pay.

How much do factoring companies charge?

Trucking factoring companies buy accounts receivable at a discount, meaning that trucking companies selling invoices won’t receive the full value of those invoices. The size of that discount is one of the key factors to consider when choosing a factoring company for trucking.

However, it’s rare to get an upfront price from factoring companies because they typically base their discount rates on a variety of factors:

  • Whether you want recourse or nonrecourse factoring.

  • Who your customers are.

  • The volume of the invoices.

  • Whether you want to pay a flat factoring fee (the same percentage fee for every invoice) or a tiered factoring rate (a lower fee on invoices that pay quickly and a higher fee on invoices that pay more slowly).

  • Whether the company also charges invoice submission fees or invoice processing fees.

For these reasons, it’s important to review the contract terms of any factoring agreement and make sure you understand the costs before you sign up.

Alternatives to freight factoring

Freight factoring is just one way to borrow money quickly. These other options might be viable alternatives for your trucking business.

Business credit cards

Borrowing money using a credit card gives you the opportunity to keep 100% of what your customers pay you. Credit cards can carry various rewards, such as travel miles or cash back, and a business gas credit card may make sense for a trucking company. But be sure you can pay your credit card balances off in full, because the interest charges may be higher than what you’d pay in factoring fees.

Business line of credit

If you need access to ongoing working capital, drawing from a business line of credit might be cheaper than factoring to cover short-term costs. You’ll likely have a higher spending limit with a line of credit than with a business credit card, but there may also be higher qualification hurdles to jump in terms of credit score and financial performance.

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