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Best Small Business Funding Options 2023
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Businesses live and die based on their funding. With adequate funding, you can expand your business, hire new employees, increase your inventory, and boost sales. Without adequate funding, the opposite tends to happen.
The good news? Business owners have plenty of financing options available to them—if they know where to look.
Loans (like the ones offered by Lendio) tend to work best for most businesses, especially if you have good credit. But in this article, we’ll discuss the five best funding options for small businesses. We’ll take you through the pros and cons of each and help you choose the right type of loan or other type of business funding for you. Read on to find the best funding option for your business.
And if you're brand new to business? Discover ways to self-finance your business if you are not yet qualified for better financing options.
- : Using good credit to get traditional funding
- : Getting free money via application
- : Harnessing the power of public interest
- : Avoiding risky debt or lengthy application process
- : Finding investors to boost your business
Compare the best small-business funding options
Must be repaid?
Requires giving up equity?
Typical odds of getting funding
1. Loans: Best for good credit
Many small-business owners think of “funding” and “loans” as synonymous. But that’s actually not true, though loans have developed a reputation as a dependable, traditional way to fund your business. After all, you can apply for a loan anytime, and many kinds of businesses can qualify.
Of course, that doesn’t make loans the right choice for everyone. Loans, whether personal or business, tend to work best for small business owners who have these resources:
- A good personal credit score
- A year or more in business
- Solid revenue
These applicants will get the best business loans or other kinds of financing (such as personal loans). That means low interest rates (well below 10%) and long repayment terms.
Types of small business loans
Generally speaking, that means you’ll be looking at loans like these:
- Term loans give you a lump sum upfront, and then you repay the loan plus interest over time. They can be used to cover all sorts of large, planned expenses.
- SBA loans are term loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. A few different types of SBA loans exist, but they should all get you low interest rates, low down payments and long terms.
- Lines of credit give you quick access to funds, making them great for cash flow issues. As a revolving kind of credit, you pay interest on only the money you use and you get continual access to funds rather than a lump sum upfront.
- Credit cards offer another form of revolving credit. Unlike lines of credit, business credit cards tend to work better for small, incidental expenses, like covering a team lunch or new business cards.
If you don’t have good credit, don’t despair just yet — you’ve still got options. These types of loans work best for people who have lower credit scores or who otherwise don’t meet business loan requirements.
Lenders offer quite a few types of business loans for bad credit, including short-term loans, merchant cash advances and invoice factoring. But these kinds of financing won’t get you the low interest rates and long terms that make loans great. So think carefully before you decide to go this route with a bad credit score.
If you do have a decent credit score though, loans can be a great way to fund your business.
2. Grants: Best for niche companies
Grants give you free money — yes, we said free. Sounds great, right? Well, before you get too excited, here are two caveats you should know:
- Everybody wants grants, but few people get them. Expect to have plenty of competition.
- Getting a grant takes a while — it could take months to jump through all the hoops before getting funding. Business grants often have detailed application processes that may include writing essays, making videos or participating in interviews. Add in the fact that many grants accept applications only during a brief annual window, and you’ve got yourself a long wait.
Now that we’ve rained on your grant parade, back to the good stuff. Grants give you free money that you don’t have to repay. Basically, it’s yours to use as long as you use it in line with the grant’s terms and conditions. For example, a grant earmarked for equipment cannot be used on real estate.
Plus, grants often go to disadvantaged groups that have a harder time getting traditional loans. For example, many grants exist specifically for women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses. To be clear, these grants go exclusively to members of their specified groups; they don’t operate like loans for women entrepreneurs, which cannot be exclusive for legal reasons.
Likewise, you’ll find grants specifically for rural businesses, businesses with fewer than five employees, businesses that involve animals and plenty of other specific groups.
Sound interesting? Then here are a few resources to help you find the right grant for your business:
- Our guide to grants for veterans
- Our guide to small business grants for women
- Our guide to small business grants for minorities
- Grants.gov, a database for all federally sponsored grants
Free money sounds great, and you should absolutely pursue grants as a form of funding. Just don’t count on grants as your sole option for funding your business. The stiff competition and long wait times make grants an unreliable form of financing. Use them as a supplement to other sources of money rather than as a replacement.
3. Crowdfunding: Best for innovative startups
When you turn to crowdfunding, the lenders come to you. Well, sort of. You’ll have to make a great pitch explaining your product and post it on one of the best crowdfunding sites, and then you’ll have to do some work to make sure people even see it.
But after you do all that, the lenders come to you! You harness the power of public opinion — or at least the power of public pockets — to get funding for your project.
Crowdfunding is unique in that it often funds things that traditional lenders would shy away from. Plus, it provides the potential to get early feedback from your audience since people get to see your product before it even hits the market.
Generally, people give money in exchange for tiered rewards you offer (e.g., someone donates $20 to get a t-shirt, $30 to get a T-shirt plus early access, or $1 million to eat dinner with Bono at the wildlife preserve of their choice). But some crowdfunding sites operate on pure donations, or money, in exchange for equity.
Compare the best crowdfunding sites
Payment processing fees
5% of the total funds raised
3% + $0.20 per pledge of $10+, 5% + $0.05 per pledge under $10
|Start a Campaign|
5% of the total funds raised
Varies depending on payment processor; 3-5%
|Start a Campaign|
2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
|Start a Campaign|
7.5% of total funds raised
|N/A||Start a Campaign|
|$179.00/mo. subscription||3.5% + $0.30 per transaction||Start a Campaign|
Data as of 11/4/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Fees listed for US-based campaigns.
Crowdfunding tends to work best for product-based businesses or creative people with new products they want to bring to market. So if you’ve got a new board game or a line of snack foods you think the public would love, give crowdfunding a try. (Service-based businesses generally don’t do as well.)
That being said, making money with crowdfunding is hard. Again, you’ll have to spend time and money making a solid pitch for your project, which generally means lots of writing plus a professional video. As mentioned before, you’ll have to come up with reasonable rewards that will entice people to donate. Then you’ve got to do enough marketing to make sure people even see your campaign among the thousands of others.
Keep in mind that crowdfunding sites have fees that will affect how much you actually get paid. Do your research on the exact fees before setting up your campaign. You may also have to pay taxes on the money you raise, so make sure you understand the relevant tax code (before spending it all) as well.
The potential payoff from crowdfunding can be huge, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s easier than other forms of funding. Yes, someone funded an emoji Moby Dick translation. But no, that doesn’t mean everything gets funded.
4. Personal assets: Best for keeping control
Most small businesses get funding from personal savings and credit—58% of startups fund this way according to an infographic from Fundable.
We know personal assets sound less exciting than crowdfunding or angel investors. Still, self-funding your business has an important upside: funding your business with your savings and/or retirement accounts (such as a self-directed IRA) saves you from taking on a massive amount of risky debt or from losing equity. In other words, you don’t have to worry about someone else taking control of your business or its assets.
Likewise, you don’t have to worry about interest rates, APRs, or even qualifying for credit. In the worst-case scenario, you run out of savings — but at least you don’t owe money to someone else. Plus, you’ll save the time and energy that goes towards finding funding. No wonder most business owners turn to their personal assets.
Aside from your own personal assets, you might find family and friends willing to support your business. Of course, this does carry some personal risk. For example, if family and friends don’t approve of how you spend their money, you could find yourself at some awkward Thanksgiving dinners — but those closest to you will often take a chance on you when a bank won’t.
Whether you self-fund or get help from family, don’t feel like you have to throw away anyone’s life savings to finance your business. Fundable reports that the average business owner invests $48,000 into their business, but don’t panic if you can’t invest that much. Many businesses can be started for under $1,000, like these low-cost business ideas.
If you decide to fund your business with personal assets, you can always seek outside funding later. Who knows? You might even attract our final funding option.
5. Angel investors: Best for risky ventures
Since the rise of the TV show Shark Tank, everyone wants an investor to boost their business. In other words, they want an angel investor.
Angel investors invest their own money into your business, generally in exchange for a percentage of shares in your company. That means there’s no loan to repay; instead, your angel investor takes a share of company profits. Angel investors often invest in businesses that traditional lenders might deem too risky, and they commonly offer hands-off mentorship rather than insisting on a board seat.
Pretty angelic, right?
If giving up equity to an angel investor sounds too hard, we understand. Still, in those early days of your business when cash flow doesn’t quite flow, exchanging equity for cash can make a world of difference. There’s a reason Shark Tank has become so popular.
Loans and lines of credit are considered debt financing—where someone gives you money and you’re in debt to them until you repay those funds (usually plus interest). Angel investors (and venture capitalists) fall under equity financing. Someone gives you money in exchange for company shares—you don’t have to repay anything.
Technically speaking, an angel investor must be an accredited investor. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, angel investors need a net worth of over $1 million, or an income of over $200,000 for the past two years.
Practically speaking, you could also count family and friends who invest in your business as angel investors. Remember that Fundable infographic? Family and friends make up the second-highest source of small-business financing. Given that family and friends invest in riskier schemes with beneficial terms for you, we think they qualify as angelic too.
But if you want a true angel investor, you can always go on Shark Tank. If TV appearances aren’t your thing, you can also pitch to angel investing clubs. That’s right—you can find entire clubs of angels looking for their next investment.
Oh, and be careful not to mix up angel investors and venture capitalists. Venture capital firms tend to invest more, but they invest in more established businesses, take more equity, and are generally more interested in turning a profit than mentoring.
So stick with angel investors ― whether they’re accredited or simply your friends.
How do I get funding for a small business?
If you have good credit, loans offer a highly accessible and fairly affordable way to get funds. You simply need to submit an application showing that you meet the credit, revenue and business age requirements.
Grants and crowdfunding can both give you funds you don’t have to repay, though grant applications require very specific eligibility requirements and are only accepted during specific cycles.
Crowdfunding campaigns have no requirements but they do have fees depending on the platform and you may not reach your goal.
Both grants and crowdfunding campaigns mean plenty of competition, so you need a strong story to justify your need for the funds.
Personal assets are the cheapest, easiest way to fund your business (if you have them). They have no credit, revenue or business history requirements.
Angel investors can give you another way to get debt-free funding. You just have to be willing to meet your investor's specific business requirements and be OK with losing some control of your business.
We know as well as you do that funding can make or break your business. Fortunately, with several different types of funding available to you, you’re sure to find a financing option that works for you.
Think a loan or other traditional financing might be the right fit for you? Learn more about how to choose a business loan.
Best small-business funding FAQ
There are several ways to fund your business with no money, including grants, crowdfunding, and angel investors. Time to funding might be slower, but if you prefer not having to pay anything upfront for your business, one of these three options might work for you.
As we stated above, 58% of startups fund their small business through personal assets.1 This allows small-business owners full control—financially and otherwise—and little risk.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.
1. Fundable, “Startup Funding Infographic.” Accessed November 4, 2022.
2. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, “Bulletin: Accredited Investors.” Accessed November 4, 2022.