Saving Grace

Dollars & Sense

When it comes to funding your homebased business, it really pays to do your homework. To help, the American Institute for Financial Research (AIFR) offers Smart Business Start-Up, a four-module software package ($149) that features a comprehensive "Financial Advisor" workbook to help you assess your financial needs and find funding.

According to Julie Price of AIFR, the workbook includes chapters on finding small-business financing, steps to take before looking for a small-business loan and the best ways to approach potential lenders, as well as sources of financial help, including SBA programs, and a state-by-state list of small-business investment companies and venture capital clubs.

AIFR's Web site (http://www.sbsn.com) includes additional information on the Smart Business Start-Up package, as well as links to other useful sites for homebased entrepreneurs. Call (800) 791-1000 for more information.

While you're researching funding sources, check out America's Business Funding Directory, the largest Internet search engine matching entrepreneurs with potential funding sources. The best part is that you can use the service for free.

To register, simply complete a short search form at the directory's Web site (http://www.businessfinance.com). In fewer than 75 words, describe your business and the amount and type of capital (commercial or government, commercial real estate, investment or venture capital, or equipment financing) you need.

"Within minutes, the directory provides a list of potential sources," says Candace E. Outlaw, CEO of Business Funding Services Inc., the company that operates the directory. According to Outlaw, the length of your list will vary depending on the funding category you choose. And while someone looking for $500,000 in venture capital might receive a list of 100-plus sources, "it's not a numbers game," Outlaw notes. "We're here to find quality--not quantity--funding sources for small businesses."

The system also provides information about your company and its financing needs to funding sources that subscribe to the system. Outlaw says the response from both funding sources and businesses seeking funding has been excellent. "Since November 1995, approximately 100 member investors have done at least two to three transactions with small companies," Outlaw says. "We assume our subscribers are happy with the service because they all renew."

The Business Funding Directory lists approximately 15,000 domestic and international financial backers by category and more than 30,000 that aren't categorized. The Web site also includes a helpful, downloadable small-business investment workbook.

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