I have been running a small photography business in Galway for the last two years. Up until now I’ve managed to keep the company going through savings that I had myself and also by increasing the amount of clients I have. However, lately I’ve found myself in a tight spot when it comes to cash flow – there are plenty of outstanding invoices but people are taking a lot longer to pay: I’m generally waiting 90 days for payment on most of my accounts.
I also want to grow the business – now that I’ve created enough business to pay myself and more, I’m thinking of opening a studio in the city and taking on another photographer.
I’ve accepted that cash flow is going to be tight in terms of getting paid on time for the work I do so I’m considering looking for an investor to get me through. I think somewhere between €20,000-€30,000 would help me get to where I want to be. Is this the right road to take?
First of all, congratulations on setting up by yourself. It’s never easy to take that first step and, by the sounds of it, you’ve built a good company in a relatively short space of time.
Unfortunately, you’re not alone when it comes to outstanding invoices – 90 days (or more) seems to be the norm these days from what we have seen.
I’m not sure that finding an investor is the right thing to do here. If you manage to find someone who wants to invest in your business, which can be a difficult challenge in itself, you’ll have to give away equity in your company in return. Depending on how much business you’ve created and how much the company is valued at, that figure could be as high as 50%, meaning that all of the decision making about how the business is run is taken out of your hands. You’ll have someone else to consider when you’re making plans and end up drawing up a partnership agreement or shareholders agreement.
If, however, you feel that the investor can bring other opportunities (such as new contacts/potential customers) or expertise to your business and is not just a cash investor, then perhaps it’s worth taking it more seriously.
But I believe that the best route for you is to prepare some management accounts and cash flow projections and an outline of how your business is performing and apply for a business development loan with your bank – it’s likely that an investor will seek this information also and so it should not be a wasted exercise. Once your financials are in order, you will have a good chance of securing the money you need and can structure the repayments to suit. If your bank is closed for business, as some are these days, go to another lender. Just because you have an account with one institution, doesn’t mean you can’t approach another one. There are other options such as First Step Finance who provide loans to start-ups to €25,000 over three years. However, the interest rate is slightly higher here so you’ll end up repaying more than you would if you managed to secure the money through your bank.
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