Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’ll need the assistance of some supportive investors to launch and sustain a successful business. Drumming up adequate funds is often one of the intimidating parts of launching a startup. If you’re struggling to find the right starting point, try some of these outside-the-box places for finding investors.
Image via Flickr by University of Delaware Alumni Relations
Alumni listings are a great resource for reconnecting with classmates who shared your passion for entrepreneurship or innovation in a particular industry. Use this resource to seek out people you’ve lost touch with over the years. Alumni publications can also help you find successful alums with expertise in your area. Read through bios carefully and you may find potential investors who are financially successful and known for making bold moves in support of small businesses.
If you have a strong pitch prepared, you can even use alumni publications to connect with people you’ve never met before. Use your common alma mater to kick off your conversation, and mention how impressed you are by what you’ve read. Even if you don’t land an investor, you may find a valuable connection in the form of a mentor or financial advisor.
Local Groups and Organizations
Become an active member in at least one or two local groups, and you’ll expand your network significantly. Seek out groups that will cater toward your investment needs. If you’re looking for a business partner as well as an investor, you might find the right person in a specialized organization that caters to your industry. For instance, if you’re developing a product for children, volunteer to work with kids, where you’re more likely to meet potential investors who are passionate about helping children. If you’re developing an innovative landscaping tool, join a gardening club.
While face-to-face networking is still extremely important, it’s no longer the only way to connect with potential investors and business partners. In today’s digital age, you can secure funds from people even if you’ve never met them in person. Your computer is a portal to more information and potential investor opportunities than you may have realized, and newer models from manufacturers like Lenovo offer a variety of options to meet your needs. Tuck a slim laptop in your bag and you’re just a few clicks away from online angel investor networks and crowdfunding sites that may be able to meet all your financial needs.
Angel investors typically work with small businesses in their area, but online networks serve as the initial point of contact. Crowdfunding sites are ideal for small businesses or entrepreneurs with a strong social media presence. You’ll have to spend a lot of time online drumming up support, but you don’t need a single investor with a giant lump sum to reach your goal. Crowdfunding lets you accept donations as small as a few dollars, relying on a large number of participants to hit your funding goal.
Well-Placed Coffee Shops
Locate the major financial and business district of your city and begin scoping out coffee shops in the area. Even wealthy business moguls need their caffeine fix. Don an eye-catching startup tee and have all the essentials on hand for an impromptu pitch. Work on other business projects while you’re waiting for the right opening, but don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation over coffee, and hand out your business card as often as possible.
Keep a close eye on your local community calendar and attend as many public events as you can. You can start chatting with potential investors nearly anywhere. Perfect the two-minute business pitch so you can share the news of your burgeoning company while you’re waiting in line for a hot dog or settling into your seats waiting for a show. The festive atmosphere of a local food and wine festival, county fair, or street art exhibition makes it easier to interact with new people and expand your network.
You can find business investors all around you when you know where to look. Keep a stack of pristine business cards on hand at all times so you’re always prepared to make your pitch, whether you’re in the elevator or waiting at a grocery check-out. Savvy entrepreneurs can make valuable contacts anywhere.