Nothing kills the dream of a would-be entrepreneur quite like the inability to fund that great idea.
But despite a struggling economy, there are still plenty of opportunities for business owners who are willing to work toward their own success. The Small Business Administration had a record year in FY2011, supporting more than $30 billion in small business lending, and financial institutions (mostly community banks) have increased their small business lending by $3.5 billion.
Finding financial backers for your venture takes a bit more work then just saying, "Wouldn't it be awesome if there was a (insert super cool idea for a business/product/venture here)?" to a group of wealthy guys in suits.
Getting someone to buy in your great idea requires market research, business acumen, energy and the ability to think outside of the box. We rounded up four business loan success stories that illustrate how passion for an idea -- combined with innovative thinking and some elbow grease -- can get results.
1. Kisstixx - Utah natives Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonamo - the creators of a flavored lip balm with complimentary flavors that combine and react when two partners kiss - took a rather unorthodox route to getting funding for their product: TV. The pair visited the ABC reality show "Shark Tank" to pitch Kisstixx to five wealthy, business-saavy investors. While all of the investors were impressed with the product, they only landed one deal: $200,000 with a 40 percent stake from Mark Cuban, according to ABC.com. Early on, Robinson and Buonamo also got help writing a business plan from the Utah Valley University Small Business Development Center which resulted in them getting an SBA-guaranteed loan. Not bad for a pair of snowboarders who wanted to improve their luck with the ladies.
2. Pebble e-paper watch -- If the idea of pitching your wares on reality TV makes you feel a little queasy, no worries, just turn to your old friend the Internet, like the makers of the Pebble e-paper watch did. The team behind this technology-friendly timepiece initially had trouble landing traditional investors, so they turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, which connects folks seeking money for any number of ventures (from indie films to video games) with potential investors in the general public. Designed to work with smartphones via Bluetooth, the watch alerts you to incoming calls and messages with a vibration, has apps that can turn it into a bike computer or a remote control for music on your smartphone, and is infinitely customizable, according to CNBC.com. To date, Pebble is the most highly-funded Kickstarter project, raising raising more than $10 million.
3. Serifos -- Donna Choi had been working in radio sales and marketing, but really wanted to work for herself, running an eclectic gift boutique. She contacted the Small Business Administration in Glendale, Calif. and was able to get information on how to write a business plan, get licensing and permits, and obtain a business loan. Through SCORE, she met a retired executive who gave her one-on-one counseling about her business and she attended seminars on everything from advertising to inventory. The education she received through the SBA enabled her boutique to hit the ground running and an ARC Loan through the SBA has helped her keep her doors open and expand the business, according to SBA.gov.
4. Kookaburra Play Cafe -- This charming little gathering spot in Chicago started out as the dream of founders Andrea and Joanna Dayco as a place where children could play and meet other kids while their parents could relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. It would also serve as a spot for special occasions like birthday parties or baby showers. After doing extensive market research -- surveying parents about their family's wishlist -- the pair were approved for an SBA loan and connected with a SCORE counselor, who has given them insight and support as they grow their business.
To improve your chances of getting a loan, the SBA recommends talking to your local SBA office to better understand what options you have from national and community banks, learn about loan eligibility and application requirements, and get connected with special programs that can meet your needs. In addition, you should prepare a detailed written loan proposal.