Step 4: Finding Money for Your Business
You’re starting a business! Congratulation are in order, but first let’s make sure that you have the operating expenses, financing, and reserve cash to keep your business running over the years and (hopefully) decades to come. Finding grants, government backed loans, and venture capital can seem out of reach, but not in Atlanta. The city has a multitude of underutilized resources in association with local banks, the Small Business Administration, and a series of improvement programs. All of which are available to qualifying small businesses.
Small Business Administration Loans
The Small Business Administration’s website leads directly to a search database to find a lender that is compatible with your situation. They have a four step process for applying for government backed loans. They ask that you “describe your needs, get matched in 2 days, talk to lenders, apply for a loan.” Once you get matched, they can offer options that conventional loans or grants might not offer. According to their website, “More than 800 lenders participate in [the] Lender Match [program] throughout all 50 states…”
The funding programs available over at Invest Atlanta are so varied and exciting that I do not want to get carried away explaining the opportunities here. From the Phoenix Fund, which offers small business loans $10k – $100k, to the $100k+ Opportunity Loan Fund there is an option for your business. There are even loans designed for street vendors, redevelopment areas, and low-income neighborhoods.
Finding venture capital or an angel investor is easier than you might think. Forbes said Atlanta was among the “5 U.S. Cities poised to become tomorrow’s tech mecca.” Tech companies, entrepreneurs, and unique business models should engage with one of many Atlanta companies such as Engage Ventures, Georgia Oak Partners, BIP Capital, and Tech Square Ventures. Ryan Ferguson over at American Inno wrote a great article with some really in depth info about these firms:
The city of Atlanta, as well as the state of Georgia host a wide variety of business empowerment grants that help small business to get started and become prosperous. The City of Atlanta has both the Office of Grants Management and the Office of Cultural Affairs, both of which help you connect with specialized grant programs. The state of Georgia’s business website, www.Georgia.org, has a very well organized set of links to micro-loans, green loans, and federal grants that might apply to your business. Finally I found a few other resources such as the “Amber Grant” which is a small business grant established, “in 1998 to honor the memory of an ambitious young woman who died…before she could realize her entrepreneurial aspirations.” This grant is for women owned small businesses. This grant offers a monthly $1,000 grant, and one of the recipients gets a $10,000 grant at the end of the year.
Banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and many local lenders also have programs for small businesses. Some of the programs are like Wells Fargo’s “Neighborhood Renovation Program,” a community building contest and outreach program. Others are low interest conventional loans through local lenders. You can also find great rates at local area credit unions, which often have products that big banks can’t offer.