Looking to fund your new venture? Try these alternative ideas

Harry Fox and Reed Stephens
Harry Fox (left) and Reed Stephens (right), Lepage Center MBA Fellows, Summer 2019

When asked directly about the challenges of starting or growing a business, many entrepreneurs mention difficultly accessing capital. Traditionally, these entrepreneurs are seeking venture capital or bank loans, but they are often turned away if their business model doesn’t fit the mold investors or bankers are looking for. Obviously, there is a need for new and innovative methods for financing startups. As MBA students working on a new venture, we are especially interested in creative funding vehicles. Fortunately, many such opportunities do exist. Below we have outlined options for the next generation of savvy entrepreneurs.


Microloans are small loans that usually range between $500-$50,000 and average $13,000. They typically have lower-than-average interest rates, making them very attractive to entrepreneurs and founders. Microloans are usually extended to individuals or new startups and have few capital requirements compared to traditional bank loans.

Contests and Case Competitions

There are a wide variety of fun and educational events that entrepreneurs can leverage to build on their ideas, network and win funding. Major corporations, universities and associations sponsor pitch and case competitions where entrepreneurs battle to impress the judges and receive cash prizes. These events can not only help with funding but also help entrepreneurs refine their ideas, meet investors or industry insiders, and have a great time. The Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosts the Tulane Business Model Competition every spring. This competition is open to any student team at any university around the country, and last year’s first place winners won $35,000.


The Federal Government through the Small Business Administration (SBA) partners with various groups to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses through grants. There are a variety of programs that apply to specific business activities like research and development or exporting. While these programs do not apply to everyone, they can be powerful tools for entrepreneurs who meet the requirements.

Early Revenue Models

Certain types of businesses can begin generating revenue very quickly, and some revenue models can be designed to start generating income as soon as possible to help founders manage cash flows and finance their ventures without traditional loans or investment. Specific examples include digital services like websites where products can be sold quickly or ads can be placed to generate cash flows.

Community Development Finance Institutions

Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) strive to spur economic development in under-served communities by focusing on founders who might otherwise be locked out of the financial system. There are over 1,000 CDFIs operating in the United States today working to finance the business needs of their communities.


Made popular through platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to raise small amounts of money from a large number of supporters. In exchange for a small investment (sometimes as little as $10), supporters of the project receive rewards such as early access to the new product or service or occasionally even a small amount of equity, in the case of equity crowdfunding.

Initial Coin Offering

An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is cryptocurrency’s answer to the traditional IPO. The early stage venture launches an ICO, which investors buy into and receive the new cryptocurrency in exchange. The new venture uses the funds to build the company and investors hope the new cryptocurrency will perform well and they will receive a return on their investment.

–Harrison Fox (MBA ’20) and Reed Stephens (MBA ’20) are summer 2019 Lepage Center MBA Fellows.