Small businesses and especially start-ups need ready access to cash. For ready access to cash, you need a rolodex packed with angel investors with deep pockets, or a perfectly polished elevator pitch for venture capitalists – right?

Not so!

If you’ve got a great idea, a unique selling point, an innovative team, you could generate a lot of additional funds using any of these under-exploited opportunities for relatively easy funding.

1. Funding Circle

Funding Circle is a darling of the private saver and investor, offering rates which blast savings accounts out of the water. Since that’s not very hard to do right now, with rates of 1.75% being good, they’ve had a problem with a ‘race to the bottom’ on the saver end, with investors competing for loans to such an extent that at one point almost every loan was being fully funded at the very lowest interest rate available (c. 4% at the time).

Consequently, they’ve introduced some extra restrictions on interest rates available to the higher-risk bands. They still offer significantly lower rates on loans than banks are typically willing or able to offer, and represent a fantastically cheap way to fund businesses.

If you expect your business to do well, then it could represent a much better option than selling equity, too!

Pros:

  • Extremely easy to access funding, demand is phenomenal.
  • Very low rates are available, a successful promotion campaign can minimise rates that are already good compared to banks.

Cons:

  • They are less accessible to startups and very new businesses.
  • New regulations for P2P loans are being sought and may impact the industry.

2. The Government Finance-Finder

Government sites in the UK have become progressively more impressive over the past couple of years, making access to information a joyous experience rather than a terrifying trial.

The finance-finder is one example of just how much the government’s online services have improved.

Clear, comprehensive, and massively useful, it takes almost all the research and effort out of finding government schemes designed explicitly to help businesses like yours, from mentorship to direct grants and loans.

Pros:

  • A one-stop shop for a huge number of really helpful small business resources.

Cons:

  • You might not qualify for any of the funding. Loans are more of a sure thing.

3. Seedrs

Under-exploited doesn’t mean unknown. Crowdfunding is all over the news, and while the industry remains in a certain amount of flux while regulations are hammered down and put in place, it’s generating a huge amount of buzz.

The problem is that few businesses are treating it as a serious avenue for funding. Typically, the businesses who are currently using crowdfunding platforms such as Seedrs could be just as at home on Kickstarter. They’re artistic, social, or craft-based small businesses.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this sort of business, quite the opposite – but when it’s predominantly these businesses using crowdfunding to the fullest, that means that other sectors aren’t exploiting the opportunities to the maximum.

Pros:

  • Good chance of success for businesses with strong marketing and communications.
  • Less dependent on a relatively small pool of gatekeepers able to dictate terms.
  • Can get some extremely good deals, giving up relatively little equity.

Cons:

  • Takes time and effort to set up a campaign. Failure could leave you overstretched.
  • Businesses which are not well-understood by the general public will struggle.
  • Managing a large number of investors could involve unacceptable overhead for a small business.

4. Business Tax Credits

Corporate tax can be complex, but it needn’t be, as a result of numerous schemes designed to encourage business growth. Since it’s not as sweet a plum as the tax generated from salaries and wages, there’s been more room for initiatives and incentives, and this has proven to be too much for the typical finance director or general-purpose accountant to keep up with.

You can claim tax credits against many different types of costs, which can be significant for a new business. If you’re not making much profit yet, these tax credits can arrive in the form of a cash repayment payment from the HMRC, enabling you to push your business further, faster. We talk about the other forms a tax credit may take elsewhere on our blog, but the prospect of a cash payment tends to be the most exciting!

Commonly, companies don’t realise that they can claim corporate tax credits for research and development, believing that they are ineligible for R&D tax credits on the grounds of familiarity with the subject matter, and on the grounds that “research and development” suggests a science and technology focus.

The reality is that any form of meaningful progress could come under research and development for tax purposes, and as such businesses could use tax credits to help fund their business during its earliest and most innovative stages.

Pros:

  • Good chance to receive a substantial amount towards building your business.
  • Offset early losses and costs incurred in the normal course of your business.

Cons:

  • Easy to miss out on credits without specific subject knowledge.
  • Requires you to dedicate time to understanding a fairly tough area of tax law.

The Best Route?

There’s no reason you can’t mix and match these funding methods to suit yourself. You may have noticed that the general theme of this blog has been to highlight government and crowdfunded solutions. These solutions are just begging to be used, as they occupy a rare niche where the people with funds are practically desperate to get rid of them.

In the meanwhile, if you’ve used an interesting way of funding your business lately, get in touch on Twitter or leave a comment below to share it with us, we’d love to hear about it!