Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Fashion Development – A Historical Exposition

Fashion has been an age long phenomenon that has always surfaced in every human society across the world. Human beings all over the world have great need to cover themselves and also makeup in order to look good. Fashion trends have always showcased in every nation on a regular basis. Different kinds of fashion accessories and other fashion related products have continued to be in great demand all over the world.Actually, fashion development has been a progressive thing. Generally, the term fashion refers to popular styles and practices seen in the area of clothing, makeup, footwear, furniture and accessories. However, the term mainly refers to clothing, makeup and accessories when considered in a strict sense. The development of fashion can be considered in four major phases namely, ancient, medieval, industrial revolution and contemporary phases. Let’s examine each phase.Ancient Phase
Fashion development in the ancient phase dates back to the pre-historic era when people made use of local materials in producing the cloths they put on. In those days, animal skin and fur were mainly used. This was seen in ancient historical era of various cultures of the world. In the ancient era, cultural traditions influence the kind of styles and patterns used in the production of local wears. There was no widely accepted pattern or approach used. Clothing materials were either homemade or handmade.Medieval Phase
The medieval phase in fashion development made a great impact in the history of fashion all over world. The era witnessed the emergence of local tailors and other dressmakers who used local fabrics in the production of different kinds of fashion attires. Fashion production in the period continued to improve from one level to the other. The renaissance period of 14th to 16th centuries that marked the end of the middle ages also made great impact in fashion development. During this period, great ideas about fashion started springing up in the lives of great men and women who later become famous fashion designers.Industrial Revolution Phase
Fashion development got a huge boost during the period of industrial revolution that swept across Europe and America in the 18th century. It was a great period of change which saw the introduction of diverse methods of production. There was a widespread adoption of diverse kinds of industrial methods of mass production in the era. Mass production of fashion products became the order of the day in the period. Several big fashion firms emerged both in Europe and in the US during the era. Diverse kind of approaches and patters were also introduced in fashion production during the period. Several attires, wears and fashion accessories were also produced. Great fashion designers also emerged during the era.The Contemporary Phase
After the industrial revolution, the contemporary period came to the fore. It all started in the early 20th century and also entered into the modern day era as well. Fashion development in this era has actually reached its pinnacle. The world is now witnessing the establishment of fashion plants in various countries. Great manufacturers of fashion products have also emerged. Sophisticated sewing machines and other tools have been invented for mass production of fashion products. Diverse kinds of approaches and patterns are also introduced in the fashion industry. Many countries now import and also export fashion products.In all, fashion development is indeed a continuous process. It moves from one stage to the order. The world is now witnessing the development of fashion in the ever dynamic internet technology. Lots of fashion designers and their companies now operate online. The future is indeed very bright for fashion production across the world.

Business of Love

START-UPS TAP A BIG POTENTIALIF BUSINESS is your first love, the coming time is yours to woo. The hesitant flirting the Indian entrepreneur started with February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, a few years ago has now turned into a fullfledged affair. Varied trades spruce up their offers in the run-up to the Festival of Love, which industry experts say has become the second-biggest business opportunity in the calendar, even surpassing Diwali and New Year. Businesses, so it seems, aren’t falling behind the changing festival mix of Indian youth.For K Vaitheeswaran, who co-founded online retailer Indiaplaza, business around valentine’s Day has been growing by leaps since 2006. “Direct spending on Valentine’s day is nearly 30-40% more than Diwali, making it a rich opportunity for retail entrepreneurs to boost their topline,” he says. From gifts, candies to expensive gadgets, Indiaplaza helps lovers exchange articles through the internet, across boundaries and even away from their parents’ eyes. The first time Indiaplaza tried to cash in on Valentine’s Day was in 2002, but it was a washout then, with not much ‘awareness’ about the day.In 2003, there were protests and agitations over Valentine’s Day celebrations across the country, Mr Vaitheeswaran recalls. But the tough beginning was soon followed by a surge in the day’s appeal and business started to boom. “(The protests) created more excitement about the day’s importance. And because the protests were offline, people switched to the ecommerce website to send their gifts across. Thereafter, the sales started showing a rising trend on this festive day,” he says.According to US National Retail Federation, US consumers alone spent nearly $13.7 billion last year on Valentine’s Day shopping. This was a 22% rise from the past five years. As for the domestic market, an independent study on the consumer markets in India, presented at the 2007 International Marketing Conference, suggests that the Western fancy has started to take roots in Indian markets as well. The study noted that Valentine’s Day sales in 2007 were about 15% higher than that during Diwali at these retail outlets and this is expected to increase by 20-25% in 2008.Only the Christmas season rings in bigger revenues. And it seems entrepreneurs in the country clearly aim to boost the day into first place as more and more start-ups start to capitalise on the opportunity.Despite the pressure to buy gifts, most of the money spent on V-Day this year would keep up the trend set in the previous years. Spending would go to tokens of affection – cards, candies, flowers and nightouts. Floricultural start-up Ferns ‘N’ Petals, for instance, is gearing up for the Cupid’s arrival in a manner unlike any other. Apart from selling flowers, Vikaas Gutgutia’s company is banking on service as a major differentiator for this year. The company has planned to offer midnight delivery service, in addition to selling cakes and chocolates with its flowers on Valentine’s Day. It is also offering its customer the choice of buying gold-plated flowers. Says Pawan Gadia, vice-president at Ferns ‘N’ Petals, who jump started the company’s much-touted franchisee model, “Product innovation for such days is the key to success. You always have to think what different can you do this year which would excite the customer. A mundane run-of-the-mill product line each year does not help when you are working in such a business environment.” F’N'P is hoping to increase its Valentine’s Day sales by 40% this year, adds Mr Gadia.What is a day of gifts without cards? According to Anil Moolchandani, founder & MD of Archies, Valentine’s Day sales account for nearly 12% of the company’s full-year sales, making it the single-biggest occasional sale period for his company. “The trick is to promote and market as much as you can when your business is linked to an occasional sale,” he says. “Essentially, occasional sales help you build a brand presence and to add to this with more and more companies joining the occasional bandwagon for this day, it is becoming easier for any start-up in this space to cash in on the Valentine’s Day sales,” he adds.Archies, founded in 1979, introduced its first Valentine’s Day card in 1984 and it took sustained marketing efforts till 2000 for this occasion to “become critical mass for the company,” recalls Mr Moolchandani. Somebody once wondered cheekily why Valentine’s Day comes exactly nine months before the Children’s Day on November 14? The guys who make it all happen, the matrimonial websites, are also tapping into the business potential of Valentine’s Day.Bharat Matrimony, one of India’s largest matrimony websites, sees the day as a raw material for its business. Says Murugavel Jankiraman, founder and CEO, “We are planning to ramp up the promotional activities around Valentine’s Day period considering that online activity for our website picks up around this period. Unlike other festival days, Valentine’s Day is connected directly to our core business, and it always helps to use such events, which directly relate to your core business as effective marketing tools.”Like Bharat Matrimony, luxury bags maker Baggit too plans to leverage on this opportunity, “More than anything else, it’s an occasion to gift and dress up and clearly a fashion brand would see synergies in that. In fact, we are timing our sale this year on February 12, very close to Valentine’s Day,” says Baggit founder Nina Lekhi. “In case you have a product targeted for the youth, Valentine’s Day would be the point to test response to a particular campaign, which you might want to roll out on a larger scale later,” she adds. In short, what has worked for these entrepreneurs is the packaging of their products. “On days like the Valentine’s Day, there may be little sale in terms of quantity for many business start-ups, but the trick is to fix yourself a niche area and make it high margin business for yourself, as events like Valentine’s Day do not tend to be mass market phenomenon,” says Mr Vaitheeswaran. “With Love’s Light Wings Did I O’erperch These Walls,” said Shakespeare’s Romeo to his sweetheart Juliet.For a start-up with aspirations to make a big mark on the competitive business stage, Valentine’s Day can give wings and plant a kiss of success on the entrepreneur’s cheeks of desire.