Small business funding: Finance from family, friends and fools

Small business funding: Finance from family, friends and fools
Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial

Posted: Wed 4th May 2022

When any business first comes into existence, one of the earliest sources of start-up money is from the people around the founder, including their family.

Given the relatively recent boom in new businesses and digital funding platforms, having a primary funding source is more relevant than ever before. One viable source is family, friends and fools (known as the '3Fs').

But before you accept money from your nearest and dearest, make sure they aren't expecting an immediate return on their investment. Instead, it's better to assume your family and friends are prepared to finance you with money they might lose. Pointing this out will help you to avoid conflict at a later date.

In this blog, we look as some of the pros and cons of starting a business with money from the 3Fs: family, friends and fools.

Starting a business with money from the 3Fs

The pros

Easy money (for you)

When you're in the first stage of thinking up your idea, who'll 'buy in to' your project? Your family and your good friends, of course! All you have is an idea. This could be advanced or still rather unformed.

Having a prototype of your product or service is still some way off. As an entrepreneur in the making, your role is to convince your family and friends so you can raise some money from them.

Remember: even though you're dealing with your loved ones, always speak like a professional. Also, don't forget about the lengths your loved ones go to by offering you their money.

Peace of mind when starting out

The 3Fs method of funding means starting will be (a little) more accessible. You'll know your new business has the funds to get up and running. Consequently, you can focus on developing your product or service and won't have to worry about your cash flow just yet.

Ultimately, the money you have at the start will form the basis for getting additional financing, including banks.

Confident investors

Family and friends won't say no if you can offer them some guarantee of a return on their investment. However, they're supporting you because they love you and they want your project to succeed. They'll also want your new business to launch, even if it means they're directly involved.

This is a tremendous morale boost for an entrepreneur: unconditional support, financial assistance and help from people you know, love and trust. Your family and friends are doing this so they can share the very start of your project with you.

Flexible investment

If you're credible and enthusiastic, talk to your family and friends like a professional. They aren't going to ask for your financial track record or written guarantees before they invest. It means the money they do invest won't be heavily scrutinised.

Reimbursement on your terms

You can set your repayment terms just as you wish. So, if you can't offer your investors a cash refund, it's always possible to provide a refund in kind if they agree. For example, imagine you've started producing organic wine. You could give some of the initial batches to your 3F investors.

The cons

Financial disputes

When everything is going well for a business owner, financial problems don't tend to raise their ugly head. However, if things start to go awry, let's not forget that many new businesses go bankrupt early on. Only a select few succeed.

If your new business doesn't get off the ground or goes off the rails, this can put strain on family relationships and old friendships.

The risk of being unprofessional

Even if your family and good friends have loaned you money and are helping you with true devotion, you can't afford to behave in a sloppy or unprofessional manner. In the short term, this can lead to failure. So, you have to think of these people in terms of who they are: investors.


This risk is one that many entrepreneurs and new businesses know only too well: interference.

Family and friends may think they have the right to interfere when it comes to running your business. However, they might not have the knowledge or skills to do so. You can counteract this risk by being transparent.

A lack of information

Your friends and family may feel worried if they see that your new business isn't going to plan. They might also feel like that if you appear to be fed up with it.

However, they might not have the courage to ask you what's going on. A lack of transparency and information can lead to tricky situations that you then have to handle.

Forgetting who the 3Fs are

Just because you're a passionate entrepreneur setting your idea in motion, you can't afford to forget that your investors are part of your intimate circle. That is, family and friends who have put a lot of effort into helping you.

Occasionally, they may have taken risks when it comes to their own wellbeing. It means you shouldn't be frivolous when remembering who your 3Fs are.

Key takeaways

You don't have a handbook to make sure that your new business and investor relations will be successful. However, here are a few tips to think about:

  • When borrowing money, make sure loan conditions are clear and in writing.

  • Investors must have a clearly defined role: will they play an active part in the company?

  • Communication must flow and be transparent.

  • Relationships must be professional.

  • You might want to have a repayment schedule in place. 

Relevant resources

Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial
I'm Enterprise Nation's senior content manager, and I spend most of my time working on all types of content for the small business programmes and campaigns we run with our corporate, government and local-authority partners.

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