Young Millionaires 2005: Financing Advice
We asked our 2005 young millionaires how they financed their business, and what advice they can offer on getting financing. Read their answers to give yourself an edge over your competition.
"What I encourage people to do is to focus on how they can minimize expenses in the early days and really focus on driving revenue. I encourage people to get as far as they can through bootstrapping before considering going for outside capital." --Vinay Bhagat, co-founder of Austin, Texas-based Convio, a provider of online constituent relationship management software and services for nonprofit organizations
"Get as much as you from wherever you can. Businesses only go out of business for one reason, and that's lack of cash. My advice is you have to find partners that are willing to invest what you really need and don't compromise. I understood that if I wanted to be a big company, then I had to sell a piece of the business. I had to look at those investors as partners." --Chris Griffiths, 32, founder of Garrison Guitars, a manufacturer of acoustic guitars in St. John's Newfoundland
"We self-financed the entire time and still are. We've had a credit line at the bank that we've used on rare occasions. Definitely just remember that regardless of what size company you are, everything is still negotiable and that includes banks. Find your best deal." --Mike Domek, 36, founder of Crystal Lake, Illinois-based TicketsNow, the world's largest online marketplace for secondary event tickets
"Get smart money. Bring in money that provides strategic insight, partnership, and advice from the source of funds. Whether you're going out and raising money from your family members or angel investors or VCs, find the smartest one within that group and raise it from that person-the one that you feel can add the most value to the business because once that person has vested interest in the business, they can provide you with intellectual capital as well and that is very valuable." --Babak Farahi, 32, founder of Multivision Inc., an Oakland, California, company that records and broadcasts coverage for clients
"It as all private equity-combined savings. That's how we got started. We like that avenue just because we maintain control over the business. It's certainly hard and you've got to sacrifice a lot doing it that way, but you have more control over your destiny. We haven't really sourced any outside capital." --Darrin King, 34, co-founder of Clubfurniture.com, an online retailer of high-quality, upholstered furniture and accessories
"I had some contacts. I was a part of a snowboarding business in its infancy, and I was well connected with people in that sport. When we started out, people basically fronted us product to sell out of our little store. That's where I first discovered what trade terms were. I never had a bank loan. Mommy and Daddy didn't give me any money. I think it's just maintaining a good rapport with vendors and people that you do business with." --Billy Strade, 35, co-founder of The Closet, high-end clothing retail shops in Orange County, California
"We both scraped together enough capital to invest in our business. Also, businesses can be done on very little if you're creative. I think lots of businesses put together sweeping business plans, raise serious capital and burn through lots of cash and in the end get to the same place as doing it conservatively." --Donna Slavitt, 38, co-founder of World Packaging Corp., a New York City manufacturer and distributor of promotional, private-label and licensed items
"Early on, when I had absolutely no financing and while everybody else was sleeping or on vacation, I was working. It's all about working harder. I always believed a lot of it has to do with luck. It's 99 percent luck and 1 percent being the best there is at it that puts you over the top, instead of vice versa. You have plenty of well-financed people who have the best ideas in the world and do everything right, but they're not at right place at the right time. You have to be at the right place at the right time and be so razor sharp and excellent at what you do. I was at the right place at the right time." --Andrew Fox, 33, founder of Clubplanet.com, a New York City-based online nightlife destination service
"We started with $50 and a credit card, which grew to many. Here's what we did wrong in the beginning and now give advice to our customers regarding it. Joe and I had a lot of credit on our cards because we didn't have any debt. Instead of going to the bank and saying we're trying to start a business, and we'd like to get a loan, grants or funding or something, we were too proud. We charged all this stuff on our credit cards, and as we continued to grow, everything kept going on credit cards. Still today, we have credit card [balances] at 23 percent interest. Now because of the balances, it's very difficult to go to the bank because they pull all this stuff up. It's all personal debt we used to fund the company." --Scott Sanfilippo, 34, co-founder of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania-based Neeps Inc. and Solid Cactus, which include pet supply websites and a website development and internet marketing group
"The one-sentence answer to that is: Keep business expenses off of personal credit. Borrow money from a bank when you don't need it because when you do need it a bank won't lend it to you. A bank will take the least risk possible." --Joe Palko, 33, co-founder of Neeps Inc. and Solid Cactus
"My family had just come out of bankruptcy, so we used money from our restaurant and ice cream shop to roll it out slowly. We went to our family and said, this is what we want to do with our business. We never took any loans we couldn't pay. Every day was stressful and a financial challenge because we had no money. We literally worked from day to day to make it. That's why you start out small. When people are having financial hardships, a lot of times banks want to see the business plan and they don't want to take a major risk. Go from a capital standpoint to friends and family members. Start with the people you know the best and are the closest to. That would be the first round of capital." --Joseph Semprevivo, 34, founder of Joseph's Lite Cookies, a Deming, New Mexico-based manufacturer of sugar-free and fat-free cookies and food products
"Basically, it came through personal savings, and my dad lent me a couple of bucks. I remember going to my dad and had to present him with a plan; at that time I didn't look at him like my father, I looked at him as an investor. I laid out the whole plan and the whole vision. I'm sure he would've given me the money anyway, but I needed him to know I was serious about what I was doing and his money was going to be used responsibly. Get in touch with people who believe in you. More times than not, funding will come through family and close friends." --Shawn Prez, 34, founder of New York City-based Power Moves Inc., a street promotion, marketing and event-planning company
"It was financed through credit cards and mortgaging everything we owned for the first two years. We really financially went all in. I was actually in debt when I started the business, and my family had no extra assets, so we did it all completely on credit and high-interest loans. For a few years, it was balancing the credit card debt. We had to have such instant flexibility financially, so as much as I dislike paying interest, credit cards were the way to go. We were probably up to $300,000 at the highest point in short-term loan and credit card debt, but we were also growing exponentially the first few years, so I didn't feel to bad about it. But there was a definite risk involved.
"I would say that if the returns you can make in the short term can easily outweigh even the long-term interest, just go ahead and do it and hopefully it will work out. I took out an 18 percent per year loan when the items I bought would make 50 percent profit in two weeks, virtually guaranteed." --Joel Boblit, 29, founder of Somerset, Wisconsin-based BigBadToyStore Inc., an online toy retailer specializing in collectible action figures