Whether you’re just starting or already growing your retail store, deciding how you’re going to fund your business can be a challenge. Do you take on debt? Do you fund everything yourself? Do you look for a business partner who can invest?
First, consider your relationship with both risk and debt. If you’re risk-averse, your choices will be far different from a shopkeeper who is risk-seeking.
Also, know that your answer will be different than everyone else’s. There are members of the Savvy Shopkeeper community who swear by incurring debt so they can grow quickly. Others prefer slower growth with no debt. There’s no one right answer.
Whatever funding option you choose, you have to BELIEVE that it’s the right decision for you and your business. Otherwise, you may come across some mindset roadblocks, and then you’ll have to work on those, too.
Here are nine options for funding your retail business:
1. Credit Cards
Shopkeepers who choose to rely on credit cards often do so with their personal lines of credit. They might apply for credit with a special offer, such as 12 months of no interest, with the expectation that they’ll be able to pay off the card once their store has made some money.
You’ll hear many people say they don’t recommend this option. However, I’ve heard of shopkeepers using this method (usually combined with another funding option).
I think this can work for some, but only if you can hold yourself to paying off the credit cards.
Bootstrapping is when you build your business from your personal finances or the operating revenues of the new company.
For example, you invest a bit of your own money to get the business started. Then you take the revenue from some or all of your sales to reinvest and grow.
Another example is the booth vendors who start in 10 x 10 ft. booths, then grow into a fully-fledged brand and brick-and-mortar business. This is a common way for retailers to grow!
Self-funded shopkeepers use their savings, loans/gifts from family and friends, home equity line of credit, 401K, or a conventional personal loan to start their retail business.
This can be completely separate from—or combined with—bootstrapping.
4. Crowdfunding Loans
Crowdfunding is the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals, such as your customers or loyal supporters, to finance a new business venture.
One crowdfunded loan option is Honeycomb Credit. Honeycomb was a Savvy Shopkeeper Retail Podcast sponsor for a short period in 2021. In addition, one of our Master Shopkeepers group members used Honeycomb and enjoyed the experience!
Another crowdfunding platform is Kiva. This organization is an international nonprofit with “a mission to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive.”
5. Community Loans or Grants
Many economic development organizations offer zero/low-interest loans or grants that are 100% forgiven.
In my area, I’ve seen economic development programs that offered up to $20,000 as a loan with 1% interest and a portion forgiven. Most local government organizations don’t have the funding to market these programs, so you have to research to find the right program.
The Municipal Small Business Initiative in Cleveland, OH, is one example of this type of program. You can search for terms such as “small business stabilization,” “small business support,” or “small business grant,” along with the name of your city to find similar programs.
Lastly, reach out to the Small Business Development Center in your area. They have access to resources that you might not find through a Google search.
6. Small Business Administration Loans
The Small Business Administration, or SBA, is one of the most common ways for retailers to get funding when opening brick-and-mortar stores.
This is different from a traditional loan because the SBA sets guidelines for the loans that reduce lender risk. SBA-backed loans are generally easy to access and apply for, too.
7. Traditional Business Loan/Line of Credit
If you already have an established business and good business credit, this is a great option—especially if you’re looking to expand with a second location.
8. Capital “Loans”
I’ve put “loans” in quotes because these aren’t really loans—they’re cash advances from your online merchant.
When Square, PayPal, Stripe, or Shopify sees that you have a regular flow of customers, they’ll offer you the chance to “borrow” cash up front. They believe your sales will allow them to recoup it without waiting for you to earn it and pay them back. These come with a set fee rather than interest.
Members of Master Shopkeepers have mixed feelings about these. Some say they’re beneficial and worth it. Others say they’ll never choose this kind of “loan” again.
9. Outside Investors
An investor is a person who puts money into your business with the expectation of receiving a profit back.
If you have a friend, family member, or someone else interested in investing in your business, make sure an attorney is involved and everything is documented, so both sides understand the terms.
Protect Yourself, No Matter What
Whether you choose to crowdfund a loan or apply for a grant, it’s critical to read and understand the fine print.
You need to know your interest rate, when payments will be due, and how your choice will affect your personal or business credit. Have an attorney or financial advisor review the documents if you don’t understand it all!
Personally, I’m a self-funded bootstrapper. However, as my confidence has grown, I am not nearly as risk or debt-averse as I used to be. I would definitely consider other funding options now, but that was a hard no for me eight years ago.
Remember that this is NOT a one-size-fits-all decision. I’ve seen bootstrappers become 5000 square foot store owners generating over a million in revenue.
I’ve also seen risk and loan takers grow to 5 stores and a team of 20!
It’s your MIND and THOUGHTS that will propel you forward and help you feel successful. Or, your mind and your thoughts will send you in the opposite direction, and you’ll feel like you’re failing!
Working on your mindset and believing that you’re making the right decision is what will make the difference.
*Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links or referral codes, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link or using the code. I make recommendations because I genuinely believe they are useful to shopkeepers. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
- Honeycomb Credit
- Small Business Development Center
- Small Business Administration
- Square “Loans”: Pros and Cons
- Join The Shopkeepers Lab
- Apply to join Master Shopkeepers
- [03:25] Credit Cards
- [04:43] Bootstrapping
- [06:07] Self-Funded
- [07:09] Crowdfunding Loans
- [10:31] Community Loans or Grants
- [12:43] SBA Loans
- [13:44] Traditional Business Loans/Lines of Credit
- [14:10] Capital “Loans”
- [17:03] Outside Investors
- [17:42] Protect Yourself, No Matter What