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Alternative small
business funding:
advice from
Kedma Ough

Author: Eileen Stroud-Annitsakis

Small business owners are used to operating on thin margins, but they may be able to increase margins in ways they hadn't considered. Kedma Ough, small business funding expert and winner of the SBA Small Business Champion of the Year Award, offers insights into alternative business funding options. These include small business grants, loans and other targeted funding sources available from local, state, federal, private and even crowd-funded programs.

Ough explains what targeted small business funding is, and how you can find a source that may work for your business.

Start by identifying your small business's distinctive variables

Target funding is about identifying and investigating alternative small business business funding opportunities that may be available to your business based on its specific variables.

"Imagine that finding money is like eating a pizza pie," Ough said. "You're not going to eat the whole thing yourself, you're going to cut it into slices. That's the way I see target funding, as not one pie, but twelve slices that allow you to target where to find money."

And loans such as PPP and EIDL are only single slices of the funding-source pizza, Ough notes.

But before you can find these different sources, you have to understand how to play the game. "If you've ever played chess, the reality is you have to know every single piece and what they do, and you have to figure out the board," Ough explained.

Figuring out finding small business funding and grants starts with isolating and understanding your unique variables as a small business owner, she says.

Those variables may include:

  • Geography
  • Demographics (such as female- or BIPOC-owned small businesses)
  • The size or stage of your business
  • Your industry sector
  • Your innovation plans
  • Your mission and impact

Alternative small business funding is typically awarded to businesses that have the relevant variables and meet other criteria associated with the grantee's focus and mission.

For example, a female veteran who owns a cyber security business in Los Angeles has several variables she can tap into when searching for funding sources. She can seek sources that support women-owned businesses, veterans, cyber-security-focused businesses, minority small business grants, and any L.A.- or California-specific opportunities.

For each variable you identify, you have another opportunity to pursue funding that supports businesses like yours.

Be ready to apply for alternative small business grants

You also should be prepared to act fast, says Ough, "because when the money comes, it's game on and you have to apply quickly."

Unlike larger government grants, which can require dozens of pages of work, applications for some of these small business grant opportunities may be just a few pages long. That said, many must be turned around in a very short period, sometimes as little as 48 hours.

To prepare, assemble your business plan and pitch, and clearly outline your team, infrastructure and legal support. Make information about your product or business idea, such as your prototype, patent or sales sheet, readily available. Gather your sales and customer base statistics, and be ready to supply your credit score and collateral information. Being able to provide customer testimonials and information about your existing partnerships can only help.

And, of course, knowing your business's unique value proposition is absolutely key.

Being prepared also means researching the companies you're targeting for funding and looking for alignment. If a company's mission isn't compatible with yours, the company won't fund you, Ough says. Finally, make sure you can agree to follow the grantee's guidelines for spending any funding you receive.

Ough summarizes, "Get your variables in place, decide what you want the money for, then target the organization. From there, you're going to start to create a roadmap of what you need to help your business grow. You'll need to do your homework."

To help you get started, Ough offers a list of resources you can use to search for targeted, alternative funding opportunities for your small business. To learn more about small business funding, access the playback of the webinar and listen to the Verizon Small Business Webinar Series.

Eileen Stroud-Annitsakis is Marketing Manager at Verizon and is an innovative and experienced marketing professional working in the technology sector.