by: Geoff Ficke

What Is 3-F Funding and Why Do Entrepreneurs Need to Understand the Vetting Process for Securing Funding?

Many years ago, when I was a young, ambitious, aspiring entrepreneur I was imbued with the conceit that venture capitalists, investment banks or angel investors would fall over themselves to invest in my first project. I was passionate about my product. I quickly discovered that investors were decidedly not.

Though disappointed at my lack of success in securing the sought after funding, I was able to learn a lesson that has been a truism in my entrepreneurial career, and one I share frequently with prospective clients in my Consumer Product Branding, Product Development, Marketing and Funding Consulting group. Simply stated the lesson is this: Start-up funding for almost all enterprises is 3-F funding. It comes from Friends, Family or Fools.

I am approached almost daily by aspiring Inventors and Entrepreneurs seeking a funding round for their proposed new project. They ask and I respond that this type of funding, and in the relatively small amounts requested, comes from Friends, Family or Fools. This adage is to Venture Capital as “Going, Going, Gone” is to baseball or “Hooah” is the 82nd Airborne Dvision.

Most start-up business opportunities do not qualify for an initial investment round because they cannot stand the vetting process applied by sophisticated investors. There are many reasons for this barrier to entry. The amount that can be justified by the Business Plan is too small for consideration. The plan itself is not compelling. The inventor or entrepreneur is not compelling owing to their background or history. There is a lack of due diligence that is easily recognized in the strategy proposed.

I regularly find myself counseling prospective small business owners that if failure to secure a funding round will kill their project, then the project probably should die. It is the successful entrepreneur’s responsibility to find a way to overcome every obstacle placed in their path, including raising seed money from unorthodox sources. If this roadblock proves fatal, then the owner is not driven, passionate, creative or clever enough to succeed in the endeavor.

Are their funding alternatives? Yes. Many projects can be bootstrapped utilizing very limited funds and a great deal of leverage. Strategic alliances can be developed for many projects. Many projects are proposed on large scale launch and distribution strategies that can be downsized, localized and then regionalized as sales traction occurs. Money is always available for funding projects that demonstrate sales traction, and, most crucially, re-orders! Receivable funding and factoring are methods we utilize often to finance client growth.

Recently I consulted with a young man who was developing a juvenile Toy product line. He presented me with a plan that was built on a $750,000 funding requirement. As I vetted his Business Plan assumptions, I deduced, and he agreed, that he really needed about $100,000 to develop, Brand and Pre-Sell the line. I laid out a Gantt Chart for the project and detailed how this could happen and options for funding, after he had received orders from retailers. He had never considered Pre-Selling. We always consider a Pre-Sell strategy for new product launches.

The $100,000 stumped my Toy entrepreneur. He did not want to ask Friends or Family for support. This is understandable. He did not want to take equity out of his home, also understandable. He wanted me to reach out to my investment sources. I replied, “Why would a stranger invest in the product if you are not willing to invest in yourself, and Family or Friends do not believe in the Toys and you”? I received no response.

Starting a business or launching a new product or service has never been easy. It is not meant to be. The successful entrepreneur is a valued minority. Most prospective entrepreneurs do not have the ability to overcome obstacles that the markets place in the way of their progress. This culling of the herd, or “Survival of the Fittest”, is the reason that so many people want to operate a small business but so few actually accomplish the feat. Funding, or lack thereof, is the canard that most failed entrepreneurs posit as the reason they are held back. Sourcing seed money from Friends, Family or Fools must be considered as the “alpha” resource to go to first.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.