The main internal sources of finance for a start-up are as follows:
Personal sources These are the most important sources of finance for a start-up, and we deal with them in more detail in a later section.
Retained profits This is the cash that is generated by the business when it trades profitably – another important source of finance for any business, large or small. Note that retained profits can generate cash the moment trading has begun.
Share capital – invested by the founder The founding entrepreneur (/s) may decide to invest in the share capital of a company, founded for the purpose of forming the start-up. This is a common method of financing a start-up. The founder provides all the share capital of the company, retaining 100% control over the business.
The advantages of investing in share capital are covered in the section on business structure. The key point to note here is that the entrepreneur may be using a variety of personal sources to invest in the shares. Once the investment has been made, it is the company that owns the money provided. The shareholder obtains a return on this investment through dividends (payments out of profits) and/or the value of the business when it is eventually sold.
Loan capital This can take several forms, but the most common are a bank loan or bank overdraft.
A bank loan provides a longer-term kind of finance for a start-up, with the bank stating the fixed period over which the loan is provided (e.g. 5 years), the rate of interest and the timing and amount of repayments. The bank will usually require that the start-up provide some security for the loan, although this security normally comes in the form of personal guarantees provided by the entrepreneur.
A bank overdraft is a more short-term kind of finance which is also widely used by start-ups and small businesses. An overdraft is really a loan facility – the bank lets the business “owe it money” when the bank balance goes below zero, in return for charging a high rate of interest. As a result, an overdraft is a flexible source of finance.
Savings and other “nest-eggs” An entrepreneur will often invest personal cash balances into a start-up. This is a cheap form of finance and it is readily available. Often the decision to start a business is prompted by a change in the personal circumstances of the entrepreneur – e.g. redundancy or an inheritance. Investing personal savings maximises the control the entrepreneur keeps over the business.
Borrowing from friends and family This is also common. Friends and family who are supportive of the business idea provide money either directly to the entrepreneur or into the business. This can be quicker and cheaper to arrange (certainly compared with a standard bank loan) and the interest and repayment terms may be more flexible than a bank loan.
Credit cards This is a surprisingly popular way of financing a start-up. In fact, the use of credit cards is the most common source of finance amongst small businesses. It works like this. Each month, the entrepreneur pays for various business-related expenses on a credit card. 15 days later the credit card statement is sent in the post and the balance is paid by the business within the credit-free period. The effect is that the business gets access to a free credit period of around 30-45 days!