Chapter 1

What is business finance?

Your new business idea is ready to go. Now you need to find the right small business funding. But where do you start?

Your business financing options

Most small business funding falls into one of two categories:

  • Debt: where you borrow an amount of money and pay it back, usually with interest
  • Equity finance: where you get funds by selling a share of your business to investors

You may end up with a mix of debt and equity finance. Bear in mind, too, that there are many types of finance within these main categories.

What’s the right type of funding for your business?

Some types of funding are faster to get than others, some require more security, some are cheaper, some come with strings attached. You need to know what type is going to be best for your situation.

It’s important to find funding that fits. You have a business to run. You don’t want your financial arrangements to get in the way. They should be a sail not an anchor.

Seven questions to ask yourself about getting business finance

Before you go knocking on doors, there are a few steps you can work through to help you pick the right type and quantity of funding:

1. What are you funding? Is it a startup? Are you buying a business? Or expanding an existing one? Are you looking to solve a cash flow problem? Some types of small business funding are better suited to different needs.

2. How much do you need and what will you spend it on? Knowing how much you need, when, and what you’ll spend it on will narrow down the best option for funding. Check out the next chapter on how much to borrow.

3. Are your finance needs short or long-term, or both? You may need short-term finance to get up and running, with longer-term finance to keep you afloat through the first couple of years. You can go to different places for each.

4. How risky is your business? A proven business idea might make attracting some types of funding easier. But there are options out there for innovative business concepts. Can you find out where your competitors get funding from?

5. What’s your history with business (or even personal) finance? An existing personal or business relationship with a lender or investor might make it easier to get money – as will a good track record in business and of paying back debts.

6. What will it cost? You can’t get finance without it costing you or giving something up. You’ll either pay interest to a lender, or turn over a share of profits to an investor. How will those costs add up over time?

7. Is it worth it? Once you’ve figured out the cost of the finance, make sure it’s worthwhile. Will the extra cash bring enough of an uplift in earnings or quality of life? In other words, what’s the return on investment (ROI)?

Some funding fishhooks

Some business financing options might not be available to you.

If you’re fresh off the blocks, traditional lenders might be reluctant to take a chance on you. They can’t see your past performance or judge your skill at running a business. And if you have no assets to put up as security, it will be difficult to get a large loan.

Equity funding isn’t an option for sole traders. If you want to sell shares, you’ll need to be a company (although you can sell an interest in a partnership).

Don’t give up though. There are a range of business funding options available, and being clear on your needs will help you find the right match.


Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

How to finance your business

Need finance for your business? Learn about the types of finance, approaching lenders and investors and more.

  1. What is business finance?

    Your new business idea is ready to go. Now you need to find the right small business funding. But where do you start?

  2. How much business funding do you need?

    Knowing how much money you need will help you choose the right type of finance. These tips will help you find a number.

  3. Debt versus equity finance

    Most forms of funding fall into one of two camps. Let’s look at the main pros and cons of debt versus equity.

  4. Main types of finance

    It takes money to make money. So what sort of finance options are there? Here are the types that fund most businesses.

  5. How to get a business loan

    Getting a business loan is still one of the most common ways to finance a business. So let’s look at how to get one.

  6. Peer-to-peer lending

    Peer-to-peer lending is an alternative method of getting a business loan. How does it work?

  7. Friends and family loans

    Friends and family loans may be available when other types of finance aren’t, but they do require some precautions.

  8. Invoice financing

    Ever thought your cash flow would be better if everyone just paid what they owed you? Well, you may not have to wait.

  9. How to find investors

    How do you find investors for equity financing? Let’s look at what types there are and where to locate them.

  10. Angel investors versus venture capitalists

    Angel investors and venture capitalists are alternative finance sources. What can they offer your business?

  11. How crowdfunding works

    Crowdfunding can get you money to build a business, and the attention to build a customer base.

  12. Small business grants

    Grants are a great funding option for some businesses. They can be a lot of work to get, but the reward is free money.

  13. Pitching for business funding

    Seeking business funding is a major step but you needn’t be daunted. Here’s how to pitch your business.

  14. Tools and guides for your business

    Now that you’re in business, you want to stay there. Xero’s got resources and solutions to help.

Download the guide to financing your business

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