What happens when business eggs are thrown into the credit card basket?
26 August 2015: Starting a business requires vision, determination — and adequate financial resources. If you can't score a business loan, then sometimes it seems the best way to get started is to put everything on your credit card.
While that might sound risky, sometimes it works out well. Here are some examples of hugely successful businesses that started out with nothing more than a dream and a pile of credit cards to make it happen.
You know the game — screaming fans, chart-topping music, and you pushing coloured buttons on a small plastic guitar. Guitar Hero was first released in 2005, based on popular Japanese game Guitar Freaks, with the Western version of the game quickly becoming just as popular than its Japanese counterpart. The game, which includes a guitar-shaped controller that scores players on how well they play with the music, was released following a partnership between RedOctane and Harmonix.
Later changes in the partnership between the two companies necessitated additional financing in 2007, which is where our credit card story comes in. Charles Huang, one of the game's originals, reportedly maxed out his credit cards trying to finance his company following structural changes. Guitar Hero is sadly no longer being released, but it had a strong nine years, and it wouldn't have been possible without a credit card.
It’s hard to imagine this tech giant being anything but, well, a tech giant. But Google wasn't always so all-encompassing. Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page set up Google in the garage of a friend while they were PhD students at Stanford University.
An internet company wasn’t a cheap thing to start in the 90s, and they had to get their funding somehow. After setting up in California they relied on their credit cards until they received their first VC funding in 1998.
Andrew Banks – Talent2 International
While his current company, Talent2 International, wasn’t funded on a credit card, Andrew Banks wouldn’t be where he is today without relying on plastic to get his business dreams off the ground. After relying on a $60 a week wage with the Old Tote Theatre Company in Sydney, he opened a restaurant in Woolloomooloo with a friend.
The trendy harbour-side venue wasn’t cheap — he needed two credit cards to fund his share of the business, totalling $5,000. After 18-months’ worth of 19-hour days, Banks sold his share of the restaurant and was able to travel and work in Europe. Co-founding Morgan & Banks in 1985 was the start of his successful career, all off the back of two maxed-out credit cards.
While not technically a business, this credit card funding story deserves a mention all the same. Clerks was produced in 1994 for a modest budget of $27,575. To get that money, director Kevin Smith sold a portion of his comic book collection and — you guessed it — relied on plastic. He maxed out eight to ten credit cards with relatively low $2,000 limits throughout the movie's 21-day filming schedule.
In the documentary An Evening with Kevin Smith he was asked by a fan: "Do you have any advice on how to get money, funding for a film?" Smith responded: "Credit cards work very well. You can get a bunch of credit cards."
Smith saved on costs by shooting in the stores where he worked in real life, and the gamble worked. Upon its release the film grossed over $3 million in theatres. This was lucky for Smith — not only was his film career launched but he was able to pay off his credit card debt.
So should you risk starting a business on a credit card? These examples suggest it could lead to success, but if it doesn't work you'll have a failed business and credit card debt. New businesses are risky, and relying on your credit card for finance isn't the right option for everyone. Work out what you need to do and what you're willing to do to get there.