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Business owners 'wouldn't recommend Donald Trump's $1 million loan'

By speaking to various business owners, Equilibrium has discovered the majority are pleased they started out the way they did, rather than using a significant loan, such as the one received by Donald Trump when setting up his real estate business.


Starting a business your own way and going through the trials and tribulations of trying to secure funding - and generally finding things out the hard way - could prove a more rewarding route than relying on the relative safety net of a huge loan. 

This is one of the findings of a campaign by wealth management company Equilibrium, which asked business owners from various industries whether they were pleased to have done things the way they did, or if they would have preferred a significant loan when starting out - such as the $1 million loan US presidential candidate Donald Trump received from his father when setting up his real estate business in 1975. 

Mr Trump courted controversy last year when he described the $1 million loan he received as "small', with many people claiming the figure was way higher than most other new business hopefuls could hope to secure. However, of the five business owners questioned, just one said they would have preferred to receive a loan of £1 million to get their business off the ground. It appears the experience gained and the lessons learned on the road to success are simply invaluable, and perhaps something that a large loan cannot ever provide. 

'We're glad we did things the way we did' 

Sarah Bridge, co-owner of the Wilmslow Cookery School, which was set up using savings and family help, says: "Not having the full amount that I needed made me really careful with every penny. This actually turned out to be a huge positive, as what we have now is exactly what we need." 

Likewise, David Cooper of Coopers Coffee, who set up the business using an overdraft and a small business loan, takes great pride in the fact he did things the way he did. He says: "So many mistakes were made with employees, suppliers and customers alike, but all were invaluable life lessons. A loan of that magnitude would have made it way too easy and I've absolutely no doubt I'd have wasted money, overspent and inevitably gone bust."   

Mike Blackburn, Managing Director of digital marketing agency I-COM, which was originally set up using directors' savings and family money, explains: "We're very proud of our people and the passion they have for delivering results whilst having fun. I suspect that more freely available cash might have led to a slightly different culture where people didn't invest so much of themselves in making sure a job was done well." Equilibrium's own founder Colin Lawson adds: "I would not change a thing. When you build a firm gradually you learn many valuable lessons." 

Only Mark Barlow, Chief Executive of Applearn, a provider of adoption solutions for software as a service software applications, says he would "of course" have preferred a £1 million loan. However, even he admitted that his decision to take on such a loan would be dependent on its specific terms, including the interest rate and repayment period. 

How to get started 

The business owners also offered would-be entrepreneurs advice on how to get their new business off on the right foot. Sarah Bridge highlights the importance of being able to match any loan or investment yourself, but also the need to be prepared to take a risk and to bet on yourself. She adds it is your drive and ambition that are all important in pushing things forward, as is the fear that you could lose everything: "You can't beat a bit of terror to get things moving!" 

David Cooper recommends tailoring how you start your venture depending on the type of business it is, as "every business start-up is as different as the person starting it", adding you should question whether you do in fact need significant investment to get things up and running. For Mike Blackburn, making sure you have the money you need to deliver your business plan is crucial, but he advises "don't borrow more than you need or you risk becoming complacent". 

Colin Lawson says that if a loan is cheap enough and that, having checked the interest rates, penalties and small print, you decide the loan is right for your business, you should take it: "No business ever went under from having too much capital." Mark Barlow highlights the need for forward thinking when taking out a loan, noting: "Plan carefully, take advice and don't squander it. Used smartly, it will give you a great start in business." 

Learn from others 

Regardless of how you choose to start your business - be it using your own savings or following Mr Trump's example and making the most of a significant loan - it seems one key lesson is to listen to the advice of others who have been there and done it. 

Starting no two businesses will be the same, and each will have its own risks and issues. However, each will also have its own rewards.