The three biggest mistakes most micro, small, and medium enterprise (SMME) owners make when applying for funding is overvaluing their businesses, not having a grip on the company’s finances, and failing to appreciate the needs of a potential funder, says Old Mutual Corporate Director: SME and small business owner, Nobesuthu Ndlovu.
She says it is widely accepted that one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs worldwide is access to finance, which is why the inaugural episode of Old Mutual’s Nine Yards TV deals with this exact topic.
In September, Old Mutual launched the brand-new series to support its Nine Yards magazine and provide real-world advice for entrepreneurs, bringing small business owners and various experts together to unpack vital themes pragmatically during nine-minute episodes.
The first episode profiles Zamokuhle Thwala, who co-founded AgriKool to connect emerging black farmers with finance opportunities.
While Thwala understood agriculture and the problem at hand, he says he rushed into making funding decisions without appropriately understanding their implications.
Thwala says he did not have a deep understanding of the fundraising challenges inherent in the high-risk industry, such as the costs to service debt.
As a result, he says, AgriKool lost a lot of money in the early days.
“At the outset we probably knew more about the agricultural side of the business and not the finance; a big learning curve for us,” he says.
Ndlovu says that it is important to link everything you put forward to the business numbers.
It’s vital for entrepreneurs to upskill themselves and take the time and make the effort to understand the numbers in their business.
“Of course, an entrepreneur will hire someone to take care of the accounting, but they should still have a solid grip on the numbers – things like margins, projections, running costs, interest, and more.
“A funder will be able to ascertain this quickly, and if they’re going to invest in someone, they must have faith about where their money is going.”
Ndlovu adds that this leads to the next mistake – not appreciating who the funders are and why they make the stipulations that they do.
“This simple step of appreciating the position and needs of the funder, and how your business will add value to them, will go a long way to reducing blanket denials for finance.”
Thwala agrees, saying that in the early days of his business he chased funders with no joy.
“We fell into the trap of chasing investors and finding doors that were closed. Generally, we were in a hurry and getting into debt traps.”
His advice: “Create value first, and then the investors will seek you out,” he says.
Ndlovu says entrepreneurs should be more realistic and scale back their initial funding ambitions as they demonstrate their business value.
“Rather start smaller. We have spoken with a variety of funders and incubators, and they all agree that starting smaller and building a relationship while demonstrating value is far more likely to result in a ‘yes’.”
Ndlovu says that because Nine Yards TV was established to give small business owners pragmatic tips, those having difficulty with raising funds would find the first episode useful.
“We want people to watch the short episodes and then get something out of them that they can apply to their own businesses to tangibly change their prospects. As a result of discussing AgriKool’s challenges and successes, Nine Yards TV’s funding episode provides five real-life tips to unlock funding.”
The five Nine Yards TV tips to get ahead in the quest to raise funds are:
- Start small when applying for financing
- Understand the business numbers
- Put yourself in the funder’s shoes
- Be realistic with your business valuation
- Learn from the declined applications
The episode is available for free here, and entrepreneurs can subscribe to a newsletter to stay on the pulse of realistic advice and tips to apply in their own small businesses.