Five Funding tips for your small business or start-up

Every business needs to raise investment to grow and make the most of opportunities at some point.

When I ran Seek & Adore (an online market place) I raised investment twice. Each time it felt like a rollercoaster ride. I had to learn the hard way what it takes to raise investment. I was recently asked if I had any advice to offer entrepreneurs and business owners going through the process of raising investment. I offered five tips that served me along the way.

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Why your executive summary is your most important investment document

*** Book a place on the masterclass “How to write an executive summary that attracts investors” ***

When seeking investment for your business (or, for that matter a social enterprise or creative project) it pays to think like an investor, giving an investor the information they want rather than telling them everything you want to say.

The most important document when you first start talking to investors is your “one-pager” or executive summary. I don’t literally mean an executive summary that summarises your business plan, but rather a short, specifically written document that summarises your investment opportunity and acts as a calling card when approaching investors and angel networks. It is best to keep this to one page.

Why keep it short and sweet?

Investors (especially the serious ones) are very busy people. They have lots of potential investment opportunities hit their in-box every week. Most investors will make up their mind in less than five minutes whether your business is of interest to them.

“You have to give investors the information they want quickly and succinctly to be in with a chance of getting their attention.”

So how do you get the attention of an investor in just a couple of minutes?

The key is to give then what they want! Whilst individual investors will have their individual “sweet spot” for investments, in assessing an opportunity all investors are looking for certain key information:

  • A brief, no nonsense description of what the business is and does.
  • An explanation of the market opportunity – the problem you solve for your customers, the size of the market and the share of the market you feel you can realistically address.
  • An overview of your customers – who they are, any different groups of customers and how you find new customers.
  • How your products and services differ from the competition (and rest assured there will be competition whether you recognise it or not so, please, don’t say there is no competition!)
  • What you’ve achieved to date – investors look for businesses that are already delivering on their business model so highlight key milestones in your company’s development.
  • An introduction to your management team – who the key personnel are; their skills and experience and what they have achieved in the past.
  • Details of your business model – how you make money and whether you have a number of different revenue streams.
  • Your financials – revenues achieved to date, as well as a forecasting growth expected over the next 3-5 years.
  • Details of the investment you are looking for – how much money you want to raise, what you will do with that money and how much equity you are selling in return for the investment.
  • Oh, and don’t forget to add your contact details. If you do “hook” your investor you want him or her to be able to contact you quickly and easily to discuss the opportunity in more detail.

Think of getting a meeting with a potential investor like applying for a job

A good executive summary does the job of a strong CV. It helps you stand out from the crowd and ensures you get called for interviewJust as when you are applying for a job the first step is to get an interview. You’ll review the job description and tailor your CV to demonstrate how you are the right person for the job. So it is with an executive summary.

A good executive summary will position the investment opportunity so that it piques the interest of potential investors and gets you that all important first meeting. When you meet you can go into much more detail, and start to assess whether you want the investor on board. The discussion and negotiation really starts – but that’s another blog.

Book a place on the masterclass “How to write an executive summary that attracts investors”

and receive detailed advice on what to include in an executive summary, a ready-made template that investors love and a free review of your executive summary.

Reserve a place on a Funding Clinic to talk about your funding options

What’s in a good investment pitch?

When raising investment for your small business, you have to be ready to pitch at any moment. Anyone you meet could be an investor. It could be the person standing next to you on the bus, someone you meet at a networking event or party or even someone you play sport with in your spare time.

Depending on the circumstances you may not have long to pitch. In some cases you might only have a minute to get your business across (the classic “elevator pitch” scenario), whilst in a more formal pitch environment (such as at an angel network pitch evening) you might have 15 or 20 minutes. Certainly, you won’t always have a Powerpoint presentation. You have to be ready for any eventuality.

So what should be in your business pitch?

A good place to start is with the business concept. What is it your business does? What problem are you solving for your customers? Even in a 20 minute pitch you don’t have long (and there are other things you need to talk about in addition to your products and services) so keep your explanation short and to the point. Focus on the key points and what makes your product/service different. If you are talking about your product/service for more than 25% of the length of your pitch than you are probably going into too much detail.

Next up, talk about sales. What’s your business model and how do you generate revenue? Investors love to hear that you have more than one revenue stream and that you have experimented with different routes to market and identified the most successful channels. Ideally you are looking to show that you’ve hit upon a selling formula that delivers predictable results and is ready to be scaled up.

Businesses don’t make themselves. It is people who make businesses successful. You must introduce yourself and your team in your pitch. You’ll want to talk about the team’s background, skills and experience. Leave the investor in no doubt that you have the right mix of people to drive this business forward.

Your team should start to build your credibility in the eyes of an investor but you want to cement this by talking about your business achievements to date. Highlight any key milestones you have achieved: Key strategic partnerships you have formed, contracts you have won and revenues in the bank. Your pitch needs to demonstrate that you are already delivering results, even without the investment.

No pitch is complete without some numbers. If you are already revenue generating share what monies you have banked. Forecast future revenues (realistically – no one will believe “pie in the sky” numbers) and be clear about your margin and breakeven. Be specific about how the money you raise will be used, and provide revenue and profit predictions for the point at which you plan to exit the business. You must have an exit plan. Investors will want their money back at some point. Without an exit they don’t get a return!

Finally, be clear about how much equity you are selling in return for the investment. An unrealistic valuation can ruin an otherwise brilliant pitch. For advice on valuing your business, download my e-book.

Given you need to be ready to pitch at the drop of a hat, and that you can’t always rely on a Powerpoint presentation to help you remember everything you want to get across, you might find it helpful to have this little mnemonic in your mind to make sure you cover the main points. It’s based around the middle letters of the alphabet:

Image showing what's in a good pitch
Oh, and one final thing, be sure to pitch with passion! If you’re not excited by your business why should an investor get excited? Pitch with energy and enthusiasm and remember to smile and make eye contact.

Good luck!


If you would like help in developing your investment pitch, contact me , Hatty Fawcett, to book a phone call.


How to value your start-up: A brief, practical guide

Register and download your copy of the “Valuing your small or early stage business: Art or science?”

There comes a point in the life of every business when you know you need more investment to maximise the business opportunity.

If your business is a start-up or small business you may not have the track record or assets to access traditional forms of lending. Alternative finance can be a welcome lifeline. You may also feel you want to bring additional expertise into the business. In which case, angel investment where the business angel brings expertise, skills and contacts as well as their cash can be a better option for raising investment.

Whatever form of investment you choose, you will need to issue shares (equity), which means you will need to value your business. But what is your business worth? How do you value a small or early-stage business?

Valuing your small or early stage business ebookThis brief, practical guide will take you through:

  • Why formal valuation models will only take you so far
  • How to focus on tangible demonstrations of value
  • Why valuation is a negotiation
  • How to replace “finger in the air” estimates with modelled forecasts
  • Why it pays to listen and learn
  • How to chose your investors wisely

All of which will give you a better idea of the true value of your business.

Register and download your copy of the “Valuing your small or early stage business: Art or science?” now