Americans will spend an estimated $18.9 billion on their sweethearts this year, according to the National Retail Federation's Valentine's Day Consumer Spending Survey. And local businesses in the floral, jewelry, dining, and candy categories can expect to see a big piece of that pie.

"The week of Valentine's Day we see about a 750 percent increase in revenue," according to the owner of Foxglove Flowers and Gifts in Utah.

These retail booms can mean big business for small businesses who prepare for it.

"The best advice I have for other florists is just lots of planning ahead," Foxglove shared. "Think up some fun and creative ways to help your customers out. Make them feel special and like they're not just a number."

From inventory to hiring, the right preparations can pay big dividends. Though like any big return, it takes foresight and investment.

Unfortunately, these holiday hikes in demand can quickly turn into missed opportunities for small businesses, who often lack the working capital to ramp up their inventory.

Brock Blake, CEO of Lendio, an online marketplace that simplifies the small business lending process, shared these tips for ensuring your business is equipped to seize every opportunity.

1. One lender does not fit all.

There are more options out there than many small businesses realize. After wading through hours of tedious paperwork at the bank, 82 percent of small businesses end up walking out empty-handed. This repeated rejection is not a reflection of you or the salience of your business. In fact, most traditional banks only offer one or two loan products, and these are often not tailored to meet the needs of small business. Also, online and alternative lenders have rapidly increased in popularity due to banks reducing the number of loans they make to true Main Street businesses. Even if a small business is eligible for a bank loan, many find that the process takes too long, and they need working capital in the short term. Increasing inventory before a major holiday (like Valentine's Day) is one significant hurdle many businesses face every year, and an important need in the credit markets these online lenders are trying to meet.

2. Less is more.

You don't need to pledge your firstborn to secure some working capital. A few simple data points are all many alternative (online) lenders need from you to get the ball rolling. Your credit score, monthly revenue amount, length of time in business and industry are all key elements that play into matching you up with the right loan options. Later on, your lender might need additional information from you such as recent tax returns or copies of your bank statements. There are also lenders that may focus more on collateral or the profitability of the businesses for those with less-than-stellar personal credit.

3. You don't have to go it alone.

Applying for capital can be much like going to the dentist: something everyone dreads. The good news is there are many who have come before you, so don't be afraid to lean on them for advice and support. Lendio assigns a loan adviser who acts as an advocate for the borrower; you can also turn to your peers and mentors. If you don't already have a network, consider joining your chamber of commerce or the local independent business alliance (if your town has one). Some lenders even offer trusted advisers who will walk you through the process from start to finish. And remember, if you don't know, just ask.

4. Know what you need.

Another common concern business owners face is determining how much they can afford to borrow, according to Blake. "While it's true that most online lenders will carry higher rates than a bank would, they can provide these businesses a short-term line of credit relatively quickly. This is critically important for the florist who needs to buy extra flowers, or the dentist who needs to replace broken equipment, for example." Blake suggests comparing how much additional revenue will come in as a result of this one-time capital injection versus the amount you expect to pay for the loan.

For small businesses to flourish, they must embrace opportunities such as holidays with open arms. Don't let a lack of working capital stand in the way of growth. As you can see, there are many ways to fuel your business dreams. What financial solutions have helped your company grow?

Published on: Feb 12, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.