Sometimes, small businesses just need a helping hand. These local merchants have, in many cases, put everything on the line financially to embark on their business ventures. When things get tough, these businesses don't usually need a major economic bailout, but rather small, short-term sources of nontraditional credit. For some entrepreneurs, microloans have been the perfect remedy, the San Jose Mercury News reports. In the past, these loans were often given to businesses and individuals in developing countries, but this alternative lending outlet is emerging as a lifeline for small businesses in today's uncertain economy. "The growth rate of microfinance around the world is astounding, growing faster than worldwide internet usage," Sean Foote, a venture capitalist, told the news source. "Here in the U.S., it’s a relatively new trend, but with 25 million ’unranked’ people without access to credit, there’s a huge market out there and the role of microlenders will continue to expand." According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, microloans can be used for a number of different things, including the purchase of inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment, or simply as working capital. This money cannot be used for paying existing debts or to buy property. Typically, the average microloan is about $13,000.