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Contests, crowdfunding, and other ways to finance a small business without a bank loan



In 2021, 1 in 3 small businesses looked for financing. Growthink used government and news sources to compile 10 alternatives to bank loans.
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Roughly 1 in 3 small businesses in the U.S. sought a loan in 2021. The top reason for a loan was to meet operating expenses, followed by funding a business expansion and refinancing debt.

That’s according to the latest Small Business Credit Survey from the Federal Reserve, which found that about 75% of those loan applicants applied for credit from banks.

A bank loan could propel your business to new heights if tapped for the right reasons and under the right conditions. But not every small business wants to borrow from a bank, nor can every small business get approved by a bank. In general, the larger a company’s revenue, the more likely it is to seek a bank loan, as opposed to financing from a nonbank online-only lender, according to the Fed. Online lenders, also sometimes called fintech lenders, offer a range of credit options for capital, including loans, lines of credit, and cash advances using different financing models.

When it comes to getting off the ground, only about 1 in 5 small businesses use a bank loan to get started. The rest rely on personal savings and less conventional sources. The younger a firm is, the more likely it is to seek alternative financing, the Fed survey found.  Young and startup enterprises may have increased difficulty accessing a traditional bank loan because they have less data on operations, fewer years in business, and may even need more proof of their business concept. Banks look at these factors to varying degrees when assessing whether a company or person is trustworthy enough to lend money.

Growthink compiled 10 alternatives to bank loans for small business funding, using information from the Small Business Administration, news coverage, and other sources. The good news is that many other funding sources are available to business owners if bootstrapping it alone seems daunting, has become onerous, or just feels downright impossible.

Small business team using computer.



Do you have a fully-fleshed idea for a product and are looking for capital to create it? Consider crowdfunding it. People often solicit funding on social networks or in public to crowdfund charities or other worthy causes. But increasingly, crowdfunding is being used to pay for developing innovative new products.

Sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter offer creators a way to connect with crowdfunded capital—and for many potential investors, opportunities to contribute small amounts of money that can add up to enough for a company to get moving. New platforms are emerging today as well, like StartEngine and SeedInvest.

Cropped view of person reviewing information on laptop, phone, and tablet.


Home equity

Home equity loans are one nontraditional place a small business owner might consider when needing capital. This loan, of course, requires the business owner to be a homeowner and to have paid off a significant portion of their mortgage: Most lenders will want to see you’re able to pay a mortgage before issuing a new one. A home equity line of credit, or HELOC for short, allows the homeowner to take out a loan against the value of the real estate.

One thing to consider when considering a HELOC is that the home becomes collateral and could face foreclosure should the business fail to repay.

Two small business owners packing and shipping apparel in shop.


Credit cards

Credit cards are one of the most popular forms of lending for consumers, but they’re also an option for businesses needing a smaller amount of cash soon. This route for alternative funding comes with added perks depending on the card, like airline miles, TSA PreCheck access, and cash back at certain places.

Another benefit is that, unlike commercial credit cards, there are business cards with no spending limits. This near-term financing comes with its risks, however. If the business owner carries a balance, they accrue additional debt. Interest rates can vary from 15% to 30% on cards offered by major institutions like American Express.

Person speaking on phone with laptop reviewing paper documents.



Grants for small businesses are everywhere—if you’re looking in the right places. Grants tend to be no-strings-attached forms of funding, so they come in smaller amounts than other forms of financing, like loans.

The Small Business Administration finances loans under the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. The programs aim to help entrepreneurs undertake significant research and development efforts. The SBA also runs a grant program to help small businesses expand internationally.

Fashion designer looking at tablet in retail shop.



There is almost always an institution offering a cash award in a contest for small businesses somewhere in the U.S.

FedEx makes $30,000 grants available to business owners through a yearly contest. Shopify offers a similar program. The Chamber of Commerce regularly holds cash award contests. Goldman Sachs has run its 10,000 Small Businesses accelerator program for more than a decade, which helps provide access to loans that average $52,000 per borrower.

Person in workshop sanding vintage chair.


SBA microloans

The Small Business Administration offers loans of up to $50,000 to small business owners called “microloans.” These loans can be used for nearly any business expense except for real estate purchases and payments on existing debt.

The SBA approves several community-level financial institutions to distribute these loans, which the agency lists on its website. One of those institutions is California FarmLink, connecting California farmers with the capital they need to upgrade equipment and run their agricultural operations.

Two business owners discussing an application with a community development facilitator.


Community development finance institutions

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund is a pool of money overseen by the U.S. Treasury and doled out to financial institutions that lend to and support low- and moderate-income or underserved communities. It was created in 1994 by a bipartisan coalition in Congress under then-President Bill Clinton.

The fund intends to use federal funding to stimulate economic growth in these communities. The CDFI Coalition maintains a state-level database of organizations that have received funds from the Treasury. It shows, for example, that in 2021, lenders in Mississippi received more than $200 million in funding from the CDFI.

Almost half of the CDFI-certified institutions are those considered “mission-driven”—focused on a social purpose rather than, or in addition to, profits.

Two professionals working at desktop computer having discussion.


Fintech lenders

Financial technology firms, sometimes called fintech or online lenders, have emerged in the last decade to fill lending gaps where traditional banks have fallen short.

Founded in 2008, Kabbage was so successful at connecting small businesses and entrepreneurs with microloans that American Express ultimately acquired it in 2020.

Another mechanism for funding that financial technology firms have brought to more businesses over the past decade is called “invoice factoring,” in which a company like Pipe buys a firm’s invoices at a discount and then collects the payments when they are due. It’s effectively a loan based on expected revenue, with cash upfront in exchange for payment down the road—and a fee, of course.

While online lenders have expanded access to credit and capital, the sector is also showing signs of becoming increasingly selective. In 2021, small business approval rates at online lenders declined as compared with 2020, according to the Fed. Small businesses also reported challenges with high interest rates and difficult repayment terms for loans obtained through online lenders in 2021.

Two professionals having a business discussion over coffee.


Angel investors

Depending on where your small business journey is—in development, starting up, early-stage, or growth—investors are looking to make a return on their fortunes and may want to lend to you.

Angel Investors are typically wealthy individuals seeking early-stage companies to invest in, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

Since it’s riskier to invest in a company without much proof of concept, these investors may have higher expectations than others for how much return the business will generate for them and how quickly. These investors may also seek a company board seat or equity in the firm to exert some control over its trajectory.

Group of professionals standing and clapping at meeting.


Venture capital

If you’re seeking funding at a later stage, there are hordes of venture capital firms looking for businesses that can grow their money.

In 2022, venture capitalists have invested some $300 billion in businesses around the world, according to the latest quarterly data from CB Insights. Like angel investors, a VC or VC firm may require equity in your business in exchange for cash. As partial owners, they contribute consultation and help make connections with other players in your industry.

VCs tend to invest millions of dollars depending on the company and its trajectory.

This story originally appeared on Growthink and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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WEF 2023: A call for more cooperation from businesses, governments, and society through digital transformation

A short roundup of digital transformation topics discussed at this year’s annual World Economic Forum.



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The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an annual event in Davos, Switzerland. Business, tech, government, and climate leaders speak and connect on strategies to improve the state of the world, specifically its industries, people, and environment.

Technology and digital transformation took center stage as leaders discussed exciting predictions for the new year. 

Curious about this year’s happenings? 

We’ve rounded up all the WEF topics where digital transformation was described as a top priority. 

Small businesses 

The pandemic made its mark on small businesses, but post-pandemic spending and inflation are proving just as destructive. The WEF concurs that a global recovery is only possible with small business recovery

The answer? Digitalization through:

  • Online payments: The e-commerce market is booming, estimated to jump over $2.1 trillion from 2022 to 2026. 
  • Global customer appeal: Digital financial platforms like Alipay+ help businesses access wider customer bases — a must after the latest local spending limitations from inflation. 

Luckily, 70% of businesses see the trend, leaning toward a higher-revenue (8X) future through digital transformation.


Manufacturing plants are faced with a double-edged sword in the face of exponentially innovative technology. They need to embrace it without sacrificing their workers or local investment. 

Adapting effectively means balancing the cost savings and scaling of macro supply chains with more local investment and empowering their workforces with new skills.

But the digital transformation necessary to balance all three comes from collaboration with:

  • Supply chain partners 
  • Competitors and industry players 
  • Government stakeholders 

The WEF also developed a tool to help manufacturing players monitor and apply supply chain disruptions from climate issues, new technology, and geopolitical tensions.

Technology investment to combat economic downturn 

Economic hardships drive companies to limit expenditures. A prominent WEF topic this year was digital transformation as a way to survive and soar over challenging business times.


For starters, SaaS and its automation, as well as ultra connectivity with wifi and 5G, limit redundancy and heighten collaboration and productivity. The trickle effect is a smoother customer experience and more revenue. 

It’s estimated that 60% of the GDP relied on digital technologies in 2022.

A strong sentiment surrounding this was a call for more public-private collaboration to make these technologies accessible to businesses and drive the economy, as well as government investment in connectivity infrastructure. 

Digital transformation and ESG

Businesses should strive to drive value in more than just economic matters. Just as information and data solutions have been prioritized, so have their ESG contributions. In the digital space, a large part of ESG is making the technology that so many businesses benefit from, accessible and equitable. That covers the S in ESG — as for the environmental pillar, IT capabilities are adapting tout suite. 

For example, edge computing supports animal observation and preservation in terms of data collection. 

The governance that brings everything together is becoming expected in new IT investments. Another ESG example here is Lenovo’s environmental assessments of their supply chains, including reducing their plants’ carbon footprint.

Emerging economies

Technology is slower to blossom in emerging economies, but global leaders concur on a need to invest in digitalization in developing countries. This launched the Digital FDI (foreign direct investment) to create “digital-friendly investment climates” — starting in Rwanda and Pakistan. 

At a most basic level, this includes investments to bring internet connectivity to poorer countries, a luxury that only 53% of the world has. The initiative will fund technology startups and innovators in Pakistan and Rwanda, propelled by investment and, arguably most importantly, public-private cooperation. 
Learn more about 2023 digital transformation trends.

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10 unexpected alternative investments in luxury goods



By compiled a list of 10 unexpected luxury goods that are also used by investors as alternatives to traditional investments, according to sources such as Forbes and Harvard Business School.
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Take a note from financial advisers—don’t work for money, get your money working for you.

Investments in property are typical, as is purchasing hedge fund assets or even helping fund a startup venture that could become the next unicorn tech company. For many investors, once they’ve ticked off these boxes, they may be ready to look outside the box—or the stock market ticker, in this case—and consider some novel ways to diversify their portfolios and grow those three-comma-laden fortunes. compiled a list of 10 alternative investments in luxury goods, from different sources such as ForbesHarvard Business School, Investopedia, and Investor Junkie. For the well-off, having an enviable collection of jewelry, vintage cars, and limited-edition toys and fashion accessories may just come with the lifestyle; but for investors, these top-dollar purchases can also be a smart investment when chosen wisely. 

Close up of vintage wine bottles.

l i g h t p o e t // Shutterstock

Vintage wine

A good bottle of wine is synonymous with the finer things in life, but it could also be a valuable avenue to more riches. If an investor knows their grapes, they could end up with a cellar of tasty investments—one bottle recently sold at a fundraising auction for a record $1 million.

Wine is notoriously difficult to appreciate for the uninitiated, and if you’re more likely to notice the “nose” and “legs” on a person than a glass of wine, you may wonder how you’ll navigate the wine world.

There are wine exchanges where the well-heeled can follow and invest in certain wines, online auctions, and more exotic options like buying wine before it is even sold, something called buying “en primeur.”

A cellar full of top-quality vintages will undoubtedly draw admirers of exquisite taste, but remember, actually tasting these investments will drastically lower their value.

Leather Gucci brand handbag on display.

yu_photo // Shutterstock


Designer handbags convey status and have the benefit, to those of a certain class, of being expensive. Sotheby’s reports the average auction prices for new Birkin bags in 2022 ranged from $12,000 to $23,000. If it’s hard to believe that one purse could be so expensive, consider that the smallest bags can be the most expensive bags.

For some, it may be arguable whether buying a fashionably expensive accessory is “an investment” or just an excuse to elicit the envy of other high-fashion devotees. In this case, though, that handbag may be worth the trouble. A report from Credit Suisse and Deloitte found that the financial return on Chanel bags was an 11.8% increase in 2021, and 38% for Birkin bags.

A display of Star Wars action figures: R2-D2, Hans Solo and C-3PO.

Krikkiat // Shutterstock

Mint-condition toys

Many people have childhood memories of being given that toy they’d been dreaming about, or the crushing disappointment of finding out they weren’t actually going to get it. Now that those children have gotten older, some finally have the resources to collect the toys they had dreamed about it as a child. Nostalgia pulls in many collectors as they finally get ahold of a toy they couldn’t quite get their hands on in younger years, or rediscover a beloved childhood toy that was long lost.

The money can be pretty substantial, too: An original Barbie sold for $27,450, an Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure from “Star Wars” was won at auction for $76,700, and a Super Mario Bros. NES cartridge sold for $660,000.

Be warned, though: Not all that brings joy is valuable. If you’re still holding on to that so-called “ultra-rare” Princess Diana Beanie Baby in hopes of funding a new private jet, you should know one recently sold for only $9.

Still life of flowers in a vase by Jan van Kessel held by Sotheby’s attendant.

Tristan Fewings // Getty Images for Sotheby’s

Fine art

The wealthy have stored value in fancy art for millennia, and recent years are no exception. Wealthy people spent an average of $242,000 on art and antiques in the first half of 2021, according to Forbes.

Also, if you believe elegance is about condensing value into a small space, fine art is a fantastic option. “When Will You Marry,” a 40-by-30-inch work painted by Paul Gauguin in 1892, sold for nearly $300 million, or about $250,000 per square inch.

This sort of fine art purchase isn’t just for aesthetics. If you ship that artwork to your home, you could be facing millions in taxes, so an investor will likely ship it to a tax-free storage site to avoid that tax burden and keep those dollars safely in their bank account.

White glove presentation of luxury watches.

sutsaiy // Shutterstock

Jewelry and watches

The arrival of the pandemic coincided with a spike in the value of vintage watches, according to GQ. New watches have pulled in serious modern-day dollars as well, like this watch from Jacob the Jeweler that lists for $620,000.

For those who sneer at the hoi polloi snatching up wrist candy, maybe rare jewels are more their speed. A pink diamond called the CTF Pink Star sold for over $71 million and a blue diamond sold for over $57 million.

Unlike wine or artwork, these are items you can actually use on a regular basis. If new money shouts and old money whispers, there’s no better way to broadcast your recent largesse than these sparkling acquisitions.

Cropped close up of a black Rolls Royce.

PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek // Shutterstock

Classic cars

What if you could combine the graceful lines of fine art with the fun of toys? If that experiential portmanteau is what you seek, then look no further than classic cars.

Classic cars rev up the nostalgia and envy of others, and they can have serious value. A rare 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR sold for over $143 million in 2022 and a vintage red 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $48 million.

Leave it to the common folk to show off their fancy new cars on the internet, like this Pagani Roadster, which sells for a paltry $4 million. You know the journey to make all your Champagne wishes and caviar dreams really come true starts with the throaty purr of a classic engine.

A collection of vintage baseball cards.

Abigail McCann // Shutterstock

Trading cards

The company Verified Market Research says the sports card trading market was worth over $7.8 billion in 2021.

Investing in trading cards can be risky, as they don’t have the same intrinsic value of something like a car—which, even if valueless on the market, could still provide transportation—and so their values can fluctuate more. But you needn’t worry about such trivialities, as the stakes are small compared to other options: according to Yahoo, only two trading cards have ever sold for more than $6 million each.

Comic books on display at a retail store.

Eudaimonic Traveler // Shutterstock

Comic books

Even the moderately deep-pocketed can invest in comic books.

The record price for a comic book was a trifling $5.3 million in January 2022 for “Superman #1.” But the returns can be handsome. “Amazing Fantasy 15,” the comic book with the first appearance of Spider-man, sold in 2011 for $110,000 and sold 10 years later for $3.6 million, which is more than 31 times than the original investment.

Pair of Air Jordan sneakers with black background.

phil_berry r // Shutterstock


While children from earlier generations may have been enamored with Superman, the younger set shifted their idolatry from figures of fantasy to heroes on the parquet floors of basketball courts.

Perhaps, you think, instead of chasing collectibles deemed valuable in the past, you could look to where future interest may lie. And a growing category of collectibles is sneakers.

Michael Jordan, a fellow member of the three-comma club, not only became an international superstar, but also helped usher in today’s fascination with sneakers. So, it is fitting that the most expensive sneakers ever sold were his, a $615,000 pair from the first-ever Air Jordan line, released after his rookie season.

A digital display showing Bored Ape NFTs on $100 dollar bills.

mundissima // Shutterstock

Digital art, also known as non-fungible tokens or NFTs

Long gone are ideas of money being valuable because it is tied to a commodity like gold. Today we live in a world where money has value because someone says it does.

What better way to wrangle growth in your portfolio than by taking the concept of value to a further extreme: taking a digital file and giving it value because a record somewhere says you own it. Welcome to the world of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

While NFTs are tied with the cryptocurrency market, and 2022 has seen some rocky times in crypto, you can be sure that you’ll be joined by your fellow fiscally elite. According to Gadgets360, as of 2021, nearly 80% of all NFTs are owned by just a few investors.

This material is provided for educational purposes only. It is not investment advice and should not be the basis of an investment decision.

This story originally appeared on and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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IT spending is a “recession-proof” investment in 2023

Gartner forecasts a 2.4% increase in global IT spending.



IT department spending
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Companies in the US can’t afford to blow their budgets this year in the face of inflation. Just look at Salesforce, who axed nearly 10% of their workforce and ended office leases in an effort to reduce business costs by $3 – 5 billion

Tech giants like Tesla and Google have followed suit, especially for corporate and recruitment staff  — but not for IT spending

Over half of today’s digital leaders plan to spend more on IT in 2023 despite common predictions for tough financial times. 

But how much more?

Gartner comes through with the numbers, citing a 2.4% increase in overall global IT spending for 2023. This was great news for the SaaS industry especially, as software spending will jump a massive 9.3%. 

But this isn’t really news. 

We saw this coming when Google Workspace boasted an impressive 3 billion users at the end of 2021. Another indicator was the massive IT skills shortage that had companies scrambling to recruit developers, programmers, and engineers. 

With more software comes more implementation, strategy, and maintenance. This prompts a 5.5% increase in IT services spending for 2023. We’re talking qualified, experienced IT professionals from programmers and cloud architects to network engineers, information security experts, and analytics professionals. Digital leaders want to have a reliable team to keep the data (and revenue) flowing. 

On top of that, you can expect to see more and more dollars allocated for the latest automation and productivity tech, aka AI software and robots. Efficiency is the name of the game, and companies will maximize it with both skilled IT professionals and robots. 

Still, cloud infrastructure and data center systems will take precedence, with a 0.7% increase in spending this year. Companies need somewhere to sift through, store, and analyze all that data, with insights that 21% of leaders see as driving more revenue.  

Don’t get too excited, though — your annual laptop refresh might take a backseat as companies drop device spending by 5.5%. 

Bottom line? You’ll be on the receiving end of a pumped-up IT budget with the right apps, software, and IT skills. As Gartner Analytics VP John-David Lovelock reminds us? 

“IT spending remains recession-proof.”

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