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Big Deals and Little Details

Five Do’s and Don’ts for starting up a small business.

The No. 1 question asked of small business organizations is “How do I get money to start my business?” And although it sounds simple, there is no cut-and-dry answer to this question, for it is dependent upon a number of things—including, but not limited to: the type of business you’re starting, your business goals, your current financial situation, and your business background and experience. Once those are determined, there is still no one simple answer to the question. From credit cards to angel investors, savvy entrepreneurs are utilizing all of their resources to try and secure their share of billions of dollars available for business start-ups. According to the small business consulting Web site, AllBusiness.com, more than $50 billion in venture capital alone was received by small businesses nationwide in 2000. Whether borrowing money from friends and colleagues or establishing a home equity line of credit, following a few simple financing “do’s and don’ts” may help you out of the red and into the black.

DO’s:
1 Have an “elevator pitch” ready. “If you ever meet a venture capitalist outside of his or her normal environment, be able to explain your business clearly in as much time as it would take for an elevator to go from the lobby to the 10th floor,” says Bill Spencer, president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association. Always be ready to convince investors, quickly and clearly that it is worth their time to read your business plan.

2.Join local business associations. Many business associations serve as links to various investors and capital resources, and at the very least carry literature on start-up financing. “This will keep you informed, well-connected, and involved with important issues that affect small businesses and the community,” says Lois Slayter, president of the Aiea Pearl City Business Association and owner of Aiea-based Fashion Consignment.

3.Borrow enough money. Plan ahead and factor in all of your needs, both initial and eventual. It is not the banker’s job to determine if the loan amount and the business plan are accurate. And should you need to refinance, you will run into problems. Small business owner, Lynne Hite, of the hair salon Aquaria, says, “Make sure that you have enough money to cover all of your start-up expenses as well as some working capital to keep you going for three months. ” Slayter adds, “Don’t forget to include the money you need to meet your personal financial obligations.”

4.Establish a relationship with your banker. It’s not so much about schmoozing as it is developing a solid trustworthy relationship with your lender. “Select a banker who is responsive to your needs,” says Laura Noda, center director for Hawaii Small Business Development Center Network’s Oahu division. “You will most likely need business financing more than once over the life of your business. Your banker can be a good ally.”

5.Do your homework. Nothing turns off a lender more than an applicant who hasn’t made a decent effort to prepare a well-developed business plan. Extensive research is necessary in order to develop accurate and realistic financial projections. “This involves getting quotes from suppliers and sales estimates from potential customers,” says Noda. Hawaii Venture Capital Association’s Spencer adds: “There are many fine outlines and templates on the ‘Net or in the library. Pick one that complements your business and don’t stray from (it) or try to be too cutesy or creative, or else your plan will get filed in the circular.”

DON’T’s:

1.Expect to get 100 percent financing. Don’t assume the lenders will take the entire burden of financial risk and responsibility.

2. Drag your credit through the mud. Credit cards are often an easy way to obtain quick financing. Remember though, that the interest rates are high. And you can’t use credit cards for payroll unless you take out a cash advance, and then the rates and fees are even higher. Don’t fall behind on payments and steer clear of high interest rates.

3. Try to fit a round peg into a square hole. Different lenders have different investment objectives. Research the funds you are going to approach and know what they are looking for before you submit a proposal.

4. Withhold credit information. You will need excellent credit. If you had problems in the past, be prepared to explain them.

5.Give up. If your business has any value, then don’t give up. The money is out there somewhere, just remember … be resourceful.

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