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How Much Is a Small Business Loan?

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When it comes down to it, business loan costs depend on a number of factors—the loan amount, the interest rate, the repayment schedule—and of course, the type of loan product and the lender.

This being said, however, a small business loan amount from an online lender can range from as low as $2,500 to as high as $500,000. Interest rates can range as well—from as low as 7% to as high as 80%. Therefore, the amount of financing you qualify for and the amount it ultimately costs truly depends on what kind of business loan you’re applying to and how qualified your business is.

So, how much is a small business loan really? Which ones are most affordable, and which ones should you try to avoid if possible?

In this guide, we’ll explain how much a business loan costs—discuss the factors that go into the overall cost of a loan, as well as break down typical costs product by product.

How much is a small business loan? | Costs summarized

Of all the factors that go into determining the overall cost of a small business loan, one of the biggest factors is the type of business loan you’re talking about.

From traditional term loans to merchant cash advances, there are a variety of ways to finance your business. For an overview, you can refer to the cost chart below to find out exactly how much a small business loan will cost, product by product.

 

Cost Range (APR)

 

Repayment Frequency

   

Five to 25 years

 

Medium-term loans

 

One to five years

Bi-monthly or monthly

Business lines of credit

 

Six months to five years

Weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly

Short-term loans

10% to 110%

Three to 18 months

Daily or weekly

Invoice financing

10% to 65%

As long as it takes your customer to pay the invoice

Invoice financing company collects the fees you owe once your customer pays the invoice

Equipment financing

 

One to five years

 

Merchant cash advances (MCAs)

40% to 350%

Automatically deducted through your merchant account until you’ve repaid in full

Daily or weekly

What determines the cost of a business loan?

In order to truly answer the question, “how much is a business loan,” it’s important to understand the different cost factors that contribute to the overall cost of a financial product.

Of course, as we mentioned above, the type of financial product you choose will play a role in cost; however, other factors—namely interest rates and fees—will play a significant role as well.

After all, if you’re looking for a $50,000 loan, the total cost will be much higher if your interest rate is 20% than if it’s 7%.

This being said, these cost factors will vary both based on your business’s qualifications—i.e., the better your qualifications, the lower your interest rate will be—as well as the way the lender operates—i.e., some lenders are more likely to charge higher interest rates or additional fees.

With this in mind, let’s break down the most common factors and how they contribute to the overall cost of business financing.

Interest rates

As we mentioned, interest rate is one of the most influential factors in the overall cost of a business loan.

The interest rate you receive will depend on the type of product, lender, and your business’s qualifications. Again, as we mentioned, the lower the interest rate, the lower the cost of the loan.

This being said, however, it’s important to note that not all business loan interest rates are quoted the same way—with the most notable difference between a simple interest rate and APR.

A simple interest rate is the amount (expressed as a percentage) that a lender will charge on the principal (the loan amount) for your use of the funds. In contrast to APR, a simple interest rate only represents the amount you’ll be charged for borrowing the capital—it does not include any other fees a lender might charge (which will explain in more detail below).

Therefore, because an APR incorporates simple interest as well as additional fees, this percentage is a much more accurate reflection of how much a business loan will actually cost you.

Fees

Depending on the lender you’re working with and the type of business loan you’re applying to, you might face a variety of different fees on top of your simple interest rate.

A lender might charge:

  • Documentation fees

  • Origination fees

  • Loan processing fees

  • Late payment fees

  • Account maintenance fees

  • Guarantee fees

  • Closing fees

  • Prepayment penalties

These fees can range from as little as 1% of the loan amount to as high as 5% or more.

Overall, these fees can significantly increase the total cost of your business loan—which, once again, is why it’s important to distinguish a simple business loan interest rate from its APR. The APR will show a clearer picture of how much the business loan will actually cost you.

How much is an SBA loan?

Now that you have a better sense of the factors that contribute to business loan costs, let’s explore the typical costs of different loan products.

Starting with one of the most affordable loan products out there, the rate on an SBA loan typically ranges from 7% to 8% APR.

Why is the APR on these loans so low?

In short, SBA loans are so affordable for two major reasons: First, they’re loans issued from a bank—and bank loans are some of the most affordable financing products available. Second, the SBA’s guarantee on the loan encourages bank lenders to lend to small businesses at lower interest rates (because they have less risk in doing so).

SBA loan rates

When it comes down to it, the cost of an SBA loan is made up of a few different elements.

First, the SBA loan rate you receive is determined by the current prime rate, plus an allowable spread of rates that is designated by the bank lender you’re working with. However, that bank is subject to a maximum rate they’re allowed to charge on top of the prime rate.

For the SBA’s most popular loan product, the 7(a) loan, a lender can charge no more than 2.25% on top of the prime rate for loans with terms of less than seven years. For 7(a) loans with terms longer than seven years, the most a lender can charge on top of the prime rate is 2.75%.

This being said, however, the reason SBA loans generally have a 7% to 8% APR (not just around 6.5%), is because the SBA does charge at least one fee for guaranteeing the loan that’s usually passed onto the borrower.

The actual percentage that you’re charged in an SBA guarantee fee depends on the loan’s maturity and the amount the SBA actually guarantees. If your SBA loan is less than $150,000, you won’t have to pay a guarantee fee.

For an SBA loan that’s more than $150,000, with a maturity of one year or shorter, the guarantee fee will be 0.25% of the portion guaranteed. Loans between $150,000 and $700,000 with terms of more than one year will have a guarantee fee of 3% of the guaranteed portion. Finally, SBA loans of $700,000 or more will have a guarantee fee of 3.5% of the guaranteed portion.

All in all, therefore, when it comes to the APR of SBA loans, you’ll typically see about 7% to 8%. This, of course, can vary based on the SBA loan program, your lender, and your business’s qualifications.

How much is a medium-term loan?

Overall, a medium-term loan from an online lender ranges from 8% to 30% APR.

Luckily, when it comes to the cost of this type of business term loan, things are pretty straightforward.

In almost every case, a medium-term loan will come with a fixed interest rate that gets charged on the principal of the loan amount. Additionally, with most medium-term loans, you’ll pay the lender back with fixed monthly payments.

Your repayment to the medium-term lender will, again, not only include interest repayments but also any fees the lender charges.

Medium-term loans from online lenders are, in structure, most comparable to traditional term loans you get from a bank. The rates on a medium-term loan, however, are a little higher than what you’d find at a bank.

Medium-term loan rates

Although medium-term loans are some of the most affordable financing products on the market, they’re still a little more expensive than what you’d find at a bank or with an SBA loan.

This is largely due to two factors.

First, whereas banks have notoriously tight credit for small business owners (only lending to the most qualified borrowers), online lenders offering medium-term loans will work with less-qualified borrowers.

Therefore, because medium-term lenders will work with slightly less qualified borrowers, they’ll charge a slightly higher interest rate. This slight increase in what they charge in interest rate compensates for the fact that they’re lending to riskier borrowers.

In the absolute worst case you can’t pay back your loan, the lender has already gotten a fair amount of the money they lent back from the higher interest payments.

Additionally, another reason why medium-term loans have slightly higher rates is due to the time it takes for a medium-term lender to fund your loan.

Whereas a bank takes a long time to fund (a few weeks to a few months), online or alternative lenders use technology to fund loans much more quickly—sometimes within a few days. As you might expect, you pay for this speed with higher interest rates on the loan.

How much is a business line of credit?

The wide range of costs for business lines of credit comes from the fact that there are two variations on a general business line of credit: a short-term line of credit and a medium-term line of credit.

Like medium-term loans and short-term loans, medium-term lines of credit typically have repayment periods of 12 to 18 months or longer, whereas short-term lines of credit have repayment periods of less than a year.

Business line of credit rates

This being said, as you might expect, medium-term lines of credit are comparable to medium-term business loans in that they’ll have large capital amounts, a lower interest rate (starting at 8% APR), and a slightly longer time to funding.

Short-term lines of credit, on the other hand, are like short-term loans in that they offer fast, more accessible capital, but they’ll come with higher interest rates (up to 80% APR for short-term lines of credit)

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the rates you see for a business line of credit don’t function exactly the same as a term loan. Whereas you’re charged interest on the total loan amount with a term loan, you’re only charged interest on the funds that you draw from your business line of credit.

Similarly, you might see slightly different fees included in the cost of a line of credit. Some lenders charge a draw fee every time you draw on your credit line, some charge a penalty fee if you don’t draw from your line within a certain period of time, and some charge monthly fees to keep your account active.

How much is a short-term loan?

As we briefly mentioned above, short-term loans are more costly than their medium- or longer-term counterparts. Rates for these loans start at around 10% APR, but they can reach triple digits.

Overall, the reasons that short-term loans can become so expensive are similar to why medium-term loans are more expensive than bank loans.

First, like medium-term lenders, short-term, online lenders are more likely to work with less qualified borrowers and they justify this risk with higher interest rates. Additionally, short-term loans are typically one of the fastest forms of financing—and as we mentioned, the faster a product is to fund, the more expensive it’s likely to be.

Short-term loan rates

Ultimately, short-term loan rates will be quoted much in the same way as any other term loan.

On the other hand, these loans must be paid back over a much shorter time frame (anywhere from three to 18 months) with either daily or weekly payments. This shorter term means that each payment will be sizable in comparison to those that you’ll find with an SBA or long-term loan.

Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that, although many short-term loans will be quoted with simple interest rates or APR, some lenders quote the cost of the loan as a factor rate (like 1.2).

This being said, a factor rate is simply a multiplier that tells you the total amount you’ll pay the lender back. As an example, say you were quoted a factor rate of 1.35 on a $10,000 short-term loan over a 12-month term. The total amount you’d repay, therefore, is $13,500 ($10,000 x 1.35).

In this case, although it looks like your interest rate is 35%, factor rates do not convert to interest rates in this way.

With interest, the cost is 35% of the total loan amount—but with factor rates, all of the interest is charged to the principal when the loan or advance is originated—unlike a loan quoted with APR, where interest accrues on the principal amount as it gets smaller and smaller as more payments are made.

How much is invoice financing?

At the end of the day, the cost of invoice financing comes out to about a 10% to 65% APR. However, there are nuances to the cost structure of this financing product.

Here’s how it works:

With invoice financing, an invoice financing or factoring company advances you a percentage of the value of your outstanding invoice—usually around 85%.

As an example, therefore, let’s say you have a $100,000 outstanding invoice.

The financing company will advance you $85,000, holding the remaining $15,000 in reserve. Some invoice financing companies will charge a processing fee (usually around 3%) on the reserve amount right away.

Now, you wait for your customer to pay their invoice (while you use the advanced cash for your business). Every week that it takes your customer to pay their invoice, the invoice financing company will charge what’s usually called a “factor fee” on the reserve they’re holding—in this case, the $15,000 reserve.

So, say your customer pays the invoice in two weeks, and the invoice factoring company was charging a 1% factor fee each week. In this example, they will then take 2% of the total invoice amount, or $2,000, in factor fees. When you get the remaining reserve back, you’ll end up with $10,000 after the company takes the 2% in factor fees and 3% in a processing fee.

In this way, the cost of invoice financing is simply a convenience cost you need to pay in exchange for the advance of capital you’re receiving.

How much is equipment financing?

With equipment financing, like invoice financing, you’re receiving capital for a specific purpose—to purchase equipment.

In this case, because an equipment financing company is loaning you money to purchase the equipment, you’ll be paying more to finance that equipment than you would be if you were to pay for it out of pocket. The tradeoff makes sense, however, if you can’t afford that kind of large expense or don’t want to deplete your cash storage with such a large purchase.

This being said, the APR range on equipment financing varies from 8% to 30%, with your actual rate depending on the equipment you’re buying and your qualifications.

Other than that, the cost structure of equipment financing is pretty straightforward—mirroring that of a traditional term loan.

As an example, say an equipment financing company offers you an equipment loan of $10,000 at a rate of 12% over a three-year term.

With a 12% APR, your $10,000 piece of equipment will end up costing you $11,957.15 all together (with monthly payments of $332.14).

How much is a merchant cash advance?

Finally, of all the business loan products we’ve discussed, the merchant cash advance (MCA) will be the most expensive.

APRs for a merchant cash advance can reach as high as triple digits—and therefore, you should consider any and all options you have before opting for an MCA.

Merchant cash advances are often so expensive because these companies work with less qualified borrowers and charge a factor rate—which can be misleading when it comes to the total cost.

Let’s consider an example:

Say you’re advanced $40,000 with a factor rate of 1.20.

Using your factor rate formula, take $40,000 multiplied by 1.20—$4,800. This amount is what you’ll pay the merchant cash advance company back by allowing them to take a fixed percentage of your daily credit card sales.

This is where factor rates can be confusing—at first glance, you might think that your interest rate is 20%—but you have to convert the factor rate into APR.

Say that, in this example, you’re allowing the merchant cash advance company to take 20% of your future credit card sales, and you expect to bring in $45,000 a month in credit card transactions.

This being said, you’d repay your merchant cash advance in 160 days with daily payments of $300—meaning, at the end of the day, your merchant cash advance held a steep 85.43% APR.

Therefore, once again, merchant cash advances should be a last resort when it comes to business financing. Along these lines, before you take on an MCA, you’ll want to use a merchant cash advance calculator to determine how much this loan product will actually cost and whether or not your business can afford it.

The bottom line

As you can see, the answer to “how much is a small business loan” varies based on the type of financing product—among other factors.

Although we’ve listed the APR ranges you’re most likely to see, the APR you’re quoted at will depend on the lender you’re working with, as well as your business’s qualifications.

Ultimately, when you’re looking for debt financing, you want to ensure that you understand any and all costs that your business will face through the borrowing process. In this way, the right loan product for your business is not only the one that will best meet your needs but also one that you can afford.

Therefore, you’ll always want to compare different options to make sure you’re getting the lowest rate possible on your financing.

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Finance & Accounting

4 tips to find the funding that fits your business

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The facts are clear: Startups are finding funding increasingly difficult to secure, and even unicorns appear cornered, with many lacking both capital and a clear exit.

But equity rounds aren’t the only way for a company to raise money — alternative and other non-dilutive financing options are often overlooked. Taking on debt might be the right solution when you’re focused on growth and can see clear ROI from the capital you deploy.

Not all capital providers are equal, so seeking financing isn’t just about securing capital. It’s a matter of finding the right source of funding that matches both your business and your roadmap.

Here are four things you should consider:

Does this match my needs?

It’s easy to take for granted, but securing financing begins with a business plan. Don’t seek funding until you have a clear plan for how you’ll use it. For example, do you need capital to fund growth or for your day-to-day operations? The answer should influence not only the amount of capital you seek, but the type of funding partner you look for as well.

Start with a concrete plan and make sure it aligns with the structure of your financing:

  • Match repayment terms to your expected use of the debt.
  • Balance working capital needs with growth capital needs.

It’s understandable to hope for a one-and-done financing process that sets the next round far down the line, but that may be costlier than you realize in the long run.

Your term of repayment must be long enough so you can deploy the capital and see the returns. If it’s not, you may end up making loan payments with the principal.

Say, for example, you secure funding to enter a new market. You plan to expand your sales team to support the move and develop the cash flow necessary to pay back the loan. The problem here is, the new hire will take months to ramp up.

If there’s not enough delta between when you start ramping up and when you begin repayments, you’ll be paying back the loan before your new salesperson can bring in revenue to allow you to see ROI on the amount you borrowed.

Another issue to keep in mind: If you’re financing operations instead of growth, working capital requirements may reduce the amount you can deploy.

Let’s say you finance your ad spending and plan to deploy $200,000 over the next four months. But payments on the MCA loan you secured to fund that spending will eat into your revenue, and the loan will be further limited by a minimum cash covenant of $100,000. The result? You secured $200,000 in financing but can only deploy half of it.

With $100,000 of your financing kept in a cash account, only half the loan will be used to drive operations, which means you’re not likely to meet your growth target. What’s worse, as you’re only able to deploy half of the loan, your cost of capital is effectively double what you’d planned for.

Is this the right amount for me at this time?

The second consideration is balancing how much capital you need to act on your near-term goals against what you can reasonably expect to secure. If the funding amount you can get is not enough to move the needle, it might not be worth the effort required.

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Banking

Overdraft Protection: What It Is and Different Types

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Overdraft fees can be a major drain on your finances. Some banks charge more than $30 per overdraft and potentially charge that fee multiple times per day if you keep making transactions that overdraw your checking account. If you want to avoid these fees, you can typically opt out of overdraft coverage with your bank. It can be useful, however, to set up overdraft protection instead of opting out so you don’t find yourself unable to pay for something urgent.

What is overdraft protection?

Overdraft protection is a checking account feature that some banks offer as a way to avoid overdraft fees. There are several types of overdraft protection, including overdraft protection transfers, overdraft lines of credit and grace periods to bring your account out of a negative balance. Some other overdraft coverage programs might be a combination of these features.

Before you opt out of overdraft protection altogether — which means your bank will decline any transaction that would result in an overdraft — consider how you might need overdraft coverage in an emergency. For example, maybe you’re using your debit card to pay for gas on a road trip. You need enough fuel to get home but don’t have enough money in your checking account. Instead of dealing with running out of gas, you may want to deal with an overdraft.

How does overdraft protection work?

Here are more details about the main types of overdraft protection that banks tend to provide.

Overdraft protection transfers. When a bank allows you to make an overdraft protection transfer, you can link a savings account, money market account or a second checking account at the same bank to your main checking account. If you overdraft your checking, your bank will take the overdrawn funds from your linked account to cover the cost of the transaction. Many banks allow this service for free, but some banks charge a fee.

Overdraft lines of credit. An overdraft line of credit functions like a credit card — but without the card. If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a transaction, your bank will tap your overdraft line of credit to cover the remainder of the transaction. Lines of credit often come with steep annual interest rates that are broken up into smaller interest charges that you keep paying until the overdraft is paid back. Be aware that a line of credit could end up being expensive if you use this option to cover your overdrafts.

Grace periods. Some banks offer grace periods, so instead of immediately charging an overdraft fee, the bank will give you some time — typically a day or two — to return to a positive account balance after overdrafting. If you don’t do so within that time frame, your bank will charge you fees on any transactions that overdrafted your account.

Other coverage programs. Some banks are taking a new approach to overdraft protection by offering what’s basically a free line of credit with a longer grace period for customers to bring their account to a positive balance. One example, Chime’s SpotMe® program, allows customers to overdraft up to $200 with no fees. The customer’s next deposit is applied to their negative balance, and once the negative balance is repaid, customers can give Chime an optional tip to help keep the service “free.”

Chime says: “Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Eligibility requirements and overdraft limits apply. SpotMe won’t cover non-debit card purchases, including ATM withdrawals, ACH transfers, Pay Friends transfers or Chime Checkbook transactions.”

4 ways to avoid overdraft fees

  1. Set up low balance alerts. Many banks offer an alert option so you’ll get a text, email or push notification if your account drops below a certain threshold. These alerts can help you be more mindful about your balance so that you can put more money into your account or spend less to avoid an overdraft.

  2. Opt out of overdraft coverage. If your bank doesn’t offer overdraft protection — or if its only options cost money — you may want to opt out of overdraft coverage, in which case your bank will decline any transactions that would bring your account into the negative. Keep in mind that this option could put you in a sticky situation if you’re in an emergency and can’t make an important purchase because you don’t have overdraft coverage.

  3. Look for a bank that has a more generous overdraft policy. Many banks are reducing or eliminating their overdraft fees, so if overdrafts are an issue for you, do some comparison shopping to see if there are better options available.

  4. Consider getting a prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards are similar to gift cards in that you can put a set amount of money on the card, and once you run out, you can load it with more money. The prepaid debit card can’t be overdrawn because there isn’t any additional money to draw from once its balance has been spent.

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Business Ideas

Startup Business Grants: Best Options and Alternative Funding Sources

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Startup business grants can help small businesses grow without debt. But if you want free money to start a company, your time may be better spent elsewhere. Competition for small-business grants is fierce, and many awards require time in business — often at least six months.

Some grants are open to newer businesses or true startups. And even if you don’t qualify now, it can pay to know where to look for future funding. Here are the best grants for small-business startups, plus alternative sources of startup funding to consider.

How Much Do You Need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

Government startup business grants and resources

Some government programs offer direct funding to startups looking for business grants, but those that don’t may point you in the right direction or help with applications:

Grants.gov. Government agencies routinely post new grant opportunities on this centralized database. If you see an opportunity relevant to your business idea, you can check if startups are eligible. Many of these grants deal with scientific or pharmaceutical research, though, so they may not be relevant to Main Street businesses.

Local governments. Lots of federal grants award funding to other governments, like states or cities, or to nonprofit economic development organizations. Those entities then offer grants to local businesses. Plugging into your local startup ecosystem can help you stay on top of these opportunities.

Small Business Development Centers. These resource centers funded by the Small Business Administration offer business coaching, education, technical support and networking opportunities. They may also be able to help you apply for small-business grants, develop a business plan and level up your business in other ways.

Minority Business Development Agency Centers. The MBDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, operates small-business support centers similar to SBDCs. The MBDA doesn’t give grants to businesses directly, but these centers can connect you with grant organizations, help you prepare applications and secure other types of business financing.

Local startup business grants

Some local business incubators or accelerators offer business grants or pitch competitions with cash prizes. To find these institutions near you, do an online search for “Your City business incubator.”

Even if you don’t see a grant program, sign up for their email newsletter or follow them on social media. Like SBDCs and MBDAs, business incubators often provide business coaching, courses and lectures that can help you develop your business idea.

Startup business grants from companies and nonprofits

Lots of corporations and large nonprofits, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, organize grant competitions. Some national opportunities include:

iFundWomen. iFundWomen partners with other corporations to administer business grants. You can fill out a universal application to receive automatic notifications when you’re eligible to apply for a grant.

Amber Grant for Women. WomensNet gives two $10,000 Amber Grants each month and two $25,000 grants annually. Filling out one application makes you eligible for all Amber Grants. To qualify, businesses must be at lesat 50% women-owned and based in the U.S. or Canada.

National Association for the Self-Employed. Join NASE, and you can apply for quarterly Growth Grant opportunities. There are no time-in-business requirements for these grants of up to $4,000, but you’ll need to provide details about how you plan to use the grant and how it will help your business grow.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. This annual competition awards grants to small-business owners in a variety of industries. You can sign up to receive an email when each application period opens. To be eligible, you’ll need to have been selling your product or service for at least six months. Be mindful, though, that each grant cycle receives thousands of applications.

Fast Break for Small Business. This grant program is funded by LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League and administered by Accion Opportunity Fund. You can win a $10,000 business grant plus free LegalZoom services. Applications open during the NBA season, which runs from fall to early summer each year.

Alternative funding sources for startups

New businesses likely won’t be able to rely on startup business grants for working capital. The following financing sources may help accelerate your growth or get your startup off the ground:

SBA microloans

SBA microloans offer up to $50,000 to help your business launch or expand. The average microloan is around $13,000, according to the SBA.

The SBA issues microloans through intermediary lenders, usually nonprofit financial institutions and economic development organizations, all of which have different requirements. You can use the SBA’s website to find a lender in your state.

Friends and family

Asking friends and family to invest in your business may seem daunting, but it’s very common. Make sure you define whether each person’s money is a loan and, if so, when and how you’ll pay it back. Put an agreement in writing if possible.

Business credit cards

Business credit cards can help you manage startup expenses while your cash flow is still unsteady. You can qualify for a business credit card with your personal credit score and some general information about your business, like your business name and industry.

You’ll probably need to sign a personal guarantee, though, which is a promise that you’ll pay back the debt if your business can’t.

Crowdfunding

If your business has a dedicated customer base, they can help fund you via crowdfunding. Usually businesses offer something in exchange, like debt notes, equity shares or access to an exclusive event.

There are lots of different crowdfunding platforms that offer different terms, so look around to find the model that works best for you.

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