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Entrepreneurism and optimism go hand-in-hand. An optimistic outlook does two things. It inspires people to become small business owners. Then, once they have taken the entrepreneurial leap, it keeps them going through the inevitable hard times. Many entrepreneurs say their ability to turn challenges into opportunities has helped them build success.
That optimism was evident in a recent survey of small business owners. More than six out of 10 (64 percent) entrepreneurs say they expect their business to grow this year, according to the CAN Capital Small Business Health Index (SBHI). Just 6 percent say they plan to downsize.
Small-business optimism is also good news for the economy overall. The monthly ADP Small Business Report found that small businesses created 95,000 new jobs from May to June. The very smallest businesses, those with one to 19 employees, created 52,000 new jobs. Those with 20 to 49 employees accounted for 43,000 new positions.
While the indicators are positive, there is one area where small business owners could encounter a roadblock. That is getting access to the working capital needed to fuel the growth they foresee.
Without access to capital, it becomes very challenging for small businesses to make critical investments. Our survey found that among those who have applied for working capital, 22 percent plan to use the funds for purchasing equipment and/or inventory, and 21 percent plan to expand operations. These things require significant upfront costs, but can offer a strong return on investment.
Many small business owners are unaware of how much the financial landscape has changed. As a result, many still seek out traditional capital sources.
Of those who obtained capital in the past, 28 percent say they have gotten a bank loan. The next highest percentage — 25 percent — used their credit card. That was followed by family and friends, at 21 percent. Far smaller percentages accessed government loans, online or alternative lenders or crowdfunding.
A traditional bank loan might be a good choice for some. The reality, however, is that, in most cases, bank lending to small businesses remains tight. Most entrepreneurs are looking for modest-sized loans. In fact, the Small Business Health Index found that 44 percent are looking for loans of less than $10,000. An additional 22 percent are looking for loans in the $10,000 to $50,000 range. Just 15 percent are looking for loans of $150,000 and above.
The Small Business Administration notes that banks tend not to loan less than $200,000. There are a number of reasons for this. The traditional bank application and underwriting process is costly. To have a loan make sense financially, banks typically prefer to approve larger amounts. Further, some small business owners simply do not have the stellar credit or substantial collateral that traditional bank processes require.
The challenge of accessing working capital is reflected in the survey. More than four out of 10 small business owners (42 percent) said it was “extremely” or “quite” challenging to access capital. An additional 16 percent said it was “moderately” challenging.
Still, entrepreneurs have more reasons than ever to be optimistic about accessing the capital they need. An emerging breed of online or alternative finance companies is tailor-made for small businesses seeking modest loans. Many entrepreneurs don’t know about them, however.
Just 13 percent of CAN Capital Small Business Health Index respondents said they had tried obtaining capital through an online or alternative finance company. The vast majority — 87 percent — said they had not.
Instead of focusing solely on the owner’s personal credit history, alternative finance companies typically also look at cash flow, time in business, and business track record, among other criteria. The application process is typically faster and simpler than traditional bank processes. Further, they can get loans approved and get working capital into the hands of business owners in a matter of days, instead of weeks or months.
It takes a special kind of person to be an entrepreneur. They must be resilient, optimistic, a bit of a visionary. They also need to be realistic. As business owners pursue growth, they need to find the right financial partners who can help them achieve their dreams.