Can you ship me some cash?
Shipping firms like DHL offer microgrants to small businesses in hopes of locking in loyal customers.
(FSB Magazine) -- When Derrick Miller was looking for money to expand his $29,000-a-year Miami candle business, Cameleon Candle (decoaccent.com), he didn't turn to banks or VCs. Instead, he applied to the shipping firm DHL (dhl.com), which offers microgrants of $1,000 and free shipping.
DHL has company in the rush to lock in lifelong business customers when they're young. Through its UPS Capital division (capital.ups.com), UPS (Charts, Fortune 500) made more than $190 million in SBA-backed loans in 2006, up from $153 million in 2005; in 2004, FedEx (Charts, Fortune 500) (fedex.com) started a partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service (buyusa.gov) - a unit of the Department of Commerce that promotes U.S. businesses abroad - to teach small businesses how to export.
For Miller, the DHL grant meant that he could buy and ship in bulk, raising profits from $1 a candle to about $4. For DHL, the grant generated good word-of-mouth advertising.
"Most of my products come from Malaysia, so shipping is pricey," Miller, 33, says. "That $1,000 helped purchase more product that I could ship by sea," Via DHL, of course.
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From the June 1, 2007 issue