The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 15, 2014

Ask the Mompreneur: How to do friends and family business loans

This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur“ features an interview with Anson Liang, the founder of TrustLeaf, a way for small businesses and startups to raise money from family and friends.

Ask the Mompreneur: As a serial entrepreneur yourself, what has been your personal experience with raising money from family and friends?

Anson Liang: In early 2011, I created an online business with two of my friends. Over the next year, while designing our product, we all basically ran through our personal savings and maxed out credit cards. We didn’t qualify for any bank loans at the time. I avoided asking friends and family for loans because then my co-founders would also have to raise money from their friends and family, just for it to make sense. It was much easier to avoid those awkward conversations and just keep depleting my savings account.

Fast forward a year: our product is ready to go and ready to be promoted. Except we all had run out of money and couldn’t pay our rent, much less invest in the type of promotion that our product needed in order to become popular. By then, it was too late to begin a real funding campaign, and our product basically died while we were busy searching for regular jobs.

The worst part about this was that we were all software engineers with lots of friends and colleagues at Google, Apple, Facebook, etc, who had plenty of money they could have loaned us. Two of my friends offered to loan me money, but they only wanted to loan the money to me directly, not to my cofounders who they didn’t know. In the end, I decided it wasn’t worth the stress, time, and risk of ruining the friendships. It was extremely stressful, and that’s how I knew there had to be a better way.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs when it comes to getting your nearest and dearest to invest in you?

Anson Liang: Preparation and communication are 90 percent of the work when it comes to friends and family funding. The follow-through is surprisingly easy if you’ve done your homework. Be careful, though: as it can be a total nightmare if you avoid the tough questions at the beginning.

-Always provide a business plan, even if it’s just a simple one. It looks unprofessional to not have a business plan. Just as important, giving them a business plan means they have a solid idea what their money will be used for. This is better emotionally, but also makes it more likely they will offer higher amounts.

-Make the terms of the agreement crystal clear IN WRITING! If your business hits the jackpot, the last thing you want is someone thinking that they are part-owners and deserve a share of the profits directly. If you just want a loan on which you will pay interest, that has to be clear. With a well-written agreement, you protect yourself as much as you protect their investment.

-Offer a fair interest rate. If the worst happens and you need more time to pay your friends and family back, they are much less likely to freak out if they know that they are earning a good interest rate in the meantime, and that you genuinely want to pay it back in full.

-Ten loans from 10 friends and family are better than one big loan. It’s better if one person doesn’t put all their eggs in your basket, so you should prefer to owe 10 people $2,000 each than 1 person $20,000, especially when they’re a relative or friend. And in order to manage all of that, an online platform like TrustLeaf is pretty much the only way to go.

Q: What other resources and tools do you recommend?

Anson Liang: Nolo has a great book about the ins and outs of lending money to friends and family called, “Business Loans from Family and Friends: How to Ask, Make it Legal & Make it Work.“ It is very detailed and goes over just about every situation out there.

For doing the actual money transfer, Dwolla is one of the best new payment services for small businesses.

And of course, you can check out the TrustLeaf website for more info.

Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book “Ask the Mompreneur“ and the founder of the social shopping website Email her at


Text Only
  • A checklist for keeping you focused at work

    A quick check of Facebook and next thing you know, a half-hour’s passed. Start chatting with a co-worker and suddenly 20 minutes is gone and the report you were supposed to finish by lunch is late.


    July 31, 2014

  • Fancy management systems won’t fix bad managers

    In violation of my long-standing “only watch TV” rule, I read an article recently about how Zappos is adopting a management structure known as holacracy.

    July 30, 2014

  • Your Office Coach: Supervisor-employee boundaries must be honored

    QUESTION: Two weeks ago, my husband “Barry“ unexpectedly came home from work with a large flat-screen television. He explained that one of his employees gave it to him as repayment for a loan. I was shocked, because I had no idea that Barry was lending people money.

    July 29, 2014

  • Silly mistakes that sink job applicants

    Some employers won’t care - or won’t catch them - but mistakes in word usage can put your application in the reject pile.

    July 29, 2014

  • Watercooler: Raised to the roof

    Q: Over 15 years, I have worked my way up the corporate ladder with the same organization. I have been given a raise every year and excellent reviews, as well as several promotions.

    July 25, 2014

  • Career Coach Q&A: job search follow-up; introverts as leaders

    Starting a business:

    Q: I have a stable job that I don't hate, but I have an idea for starting my own business.

    July 25, 2014

  • How to become a leader

    QUESTION: I’ve just been promoted into a leadership role. I’m excited, but also kind of overwhelmed. What do I need to do to be good at my new job?

    July 24, 2014

  • Balancing Act: How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

    Todd Paton has a booming business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

    July 23, 2014

  • The Color of Money: No easy way to get out of debt

    Many people who are deeply in debt are desperate for a quick fix. They ask the question: What can I do to get out of debt?

    July 21, 2014

  • Watercooler: When to speak up if you see problems down the line

    Q: Our organization has hired a new director. I am one of a number of division heads; above us, there's the associate director, and above him is the director. The associate director is feared and disliked for his duplicity and dictatorial nature, though few have come forward because of his vindictiveness.

    July 18, 2014

Business Video