I want to start my own toy brand. Where can I go to get finances, backers, and a grant within a year or so? Is my goal of having my product to market by the end of next year realistic?
I have a kids fashion line and have just completed a proposal. How do I acquire funding?
Dear Mechal and @bluejeanbandits,
Eighteen months is more than enough time to get a business off the ground if you’re determined to do so, but life can happen so the amount of time you actually take will really depend on you.
As far as your questions regarding funding, well, that’s on every business owner’s mind—even for leaders of massive, multibillion dollar, publicly traded companies. I have three ideas that may help you find the funding you need to get started.
1. Gather money from every source you can think of including family and friends. If your friends and family are willing to contribute to your business endeavor, it may only be in small amounts since people are still feeling the pinch these days. But, little amounts add up. If you could get 50 people to contribute $25 to your business, that would be $1,250. Before you brush that off as a measly amount, consider the fact that real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran turned a $1,000 loan into a successful real estate company that she eventually sold for $70 million. Or consider David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby. He and his wife started their business by making and selling picture frames in their garage and at their kitchen table. Today the business rakes in sales of more than $2 billion. The key is to invest whatever amount of capital you are able to raise from family and friends — and other sources — into sales and marketing to make more money than you’ve spent and keep repeating the process. For example, make five or ten of one of your toys or clothing items, sell those and re-up. Once you’ve done that a few times and can prove that there is demand for what you have, start a wholesale program where stores pay you in advance for bulk orders.
2. Get a U.S. Small Business Administration (federal government) guaranteed loan. The SBA has launched several new loan programs, including the Community Advantage loan. The SBA doesn’t actually make the loans; rather, they act as a guarantor for up to 85 percent of a small business loan. This way, the bank making the loan knows that if for some reason the borrower defaults, they will recover at least 85 percent of their money from the SBA. This makes it easier for small businesses to get loans because it substantially reduces risk for financial institutions. The Community Advantage loan program was particularly created for not-for-profit and community based lenders to have the flexibility to lend to people who don’t have the typical collateral required by financial institutions, like a house. Also, these community based lenders may know “the story” of these borrowers. On paper, the entrepreneur may not appear to be a good risk, but because their business has cash flow and they have a local reputation for being responsible, the Community Advantage lender can make the subjective decision to loan the individual money for business. The maximum loan amount is $250,000. Check out the list of approved Community Advantage lenders and call the SBA at 1-800-827-5722 to get answers to your questions before you submit an application.
3. Become an amazing storyteller. For creative projects like toys and kids clothing, Kickstarter.com might be your ticket — if you can tell a convincing and compelling story. The ingenious founders of this site, which has been operating since 2009, have created a platform where people who don’t know you can contribute to your project. That is if you can convince them to support you by sharing what you’re working to accomplish, why you’re launching your project, and what they’ll get out of supporting you (you are required to give rewards for each level of support, but the nature of the reward is up to you). Kickstarter has to approve your project before you can post it, but unless you violate their guidelines, most projects will be approved. Contributors, or “backers” as Kickstarter calls them, can give as little as $1 up to thousands of dollars. I have personally contributed a fair amount to two projects on Kickstarter, and I didn’t know either entrepreneur I supported. I simply liked their ideas, respected their grind, and I thought the rewards they were giving were cool. Recently funded projects have raised from $14,000 to $121,000. The most funded project ever earned nearly $1 million within 90 days.
I hope one or more of these ideas will work for you.
Grace & Peace,
Felicia Joy is a nationally recognized entrepreneur who created $50 million in value for the various organizations and companies she served in corporate America before launching her business enterprise. She is often called on to discuss the ins and outs of entrepreneurial success and has appeared on CNN, FOX and in other national press. Felicia operates Ms. CEO Inc., a company that helps women entrepreneurs achieve more success, faster — as well as Joy Group International, LLC, a business development and consulting firm. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/feliciajoy.