If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you are unable to take out a bank loan, you can apply for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [See related story: Best Alternative Small Business Loans]
Opening a franchise can be a smart choice for an aspiring entrepreneur. Becoming a franchise owner gives you the flexibility of owning your own business with the added security of being part of an established brand. However, as with owning any new business, start-up costs can be high and you may require infusions of capital if you encounter hard times. Franchisees must also pay a franchise fee when opening a new franchise, as well as ongoing royalty fees. You truly need a good business plan, healthy cash flow, and solid franchise financing to succeed.
"Accountants can be an important source of advice for small business owners. That's why Bizfi has partnered with the National Directory of Certified Public Accountants," says Stephen Sheinbaum, CEO of alternative lender Bizfi. "But there are many other places to find good people to talk to, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a free mentoring service that is supported by the Small Business Administration."
If you start your company with co-founders, you should agree early on about the details of your business relationship. Not doing so can potentially cause significant legal problems down the road (a good example of this is the infamous Zuckerberg/Winklevoss Facebook litigation). In a way, think of the founder agreement as a form of “pre-nuptial agreement.” Here are the key deal terms your written founder agreement needs to address:
Crowdfunding financing companies are platforms that raise money from both institutions and individuals, and they often lend it out to specific industries. Some focus on real estate, while others will focus specifically on small businesses or franchises. They typically bridge the gap between traditional business loans, like SBA loans, and alternative loans with much higher costs.
Fundation (see our review) is another high-quality alternative lender that provides capital to franchise businesses. Fundation has some of the lowest rates and fees you can find outside of a bank or credit union, offering up to $500,000 deposited in your account within a couple weeks after applying. However, the borrower requirements are more stringent than those for other some online lenders, as you’ll need good credit, one year’s time in business, and at least three full-time employees.
Business loans. For larger investments, it may be time for a term loan. Like a mortgage or personal loan, term loans come with fixed interest rates and monthly payments over a period of years. Unlike a line of credit, a business loan will provide you with a large sum of cash upfront. These loans can be ideal for expanding your space or funding other large investments.
Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs that help franchisees get in the door. Program offerings and requirements vary by franchisor, with such options as limited-term loans, reduced license fees or reduced royalties, and minority stake ownership by franchisors. Some companies, like Ace Hardware, offer financing to existing franchisees to open a new store or buy out a competitor.
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you're going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you're planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have some money put away to support yourself until you start making a profit? Find out how much you're going to need.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
Part of the reason we spent a full day researching and figuring out location has to do with what it will cost you to start. If you’re working from home and not seeing clients, you may find your startup costs are limited to marketing, stationery, any supplies, and legal. If not, you’re going to need enough to set aside for at least the first months rent and utilities of the new space, including all the amenities to outfit your new office.
Many franchise owners have likely avoided small business loans because they are busy enough already. When you open a new franchise, you must simultaneously take on the roles of recruiter, accountant, sales executive, and HR manager. But United Capital Source’s franchise business loans can be accessed in just a few business days, and you don’t have to play three rounds of phone tag just to have a question answered. With a merchant cash advance, payments are automatically deducted from sales and therefore require no manual action from the business owner. It is literally impossible to “miss” a payment.
Franchising is the licensing of an existing business model and brand, where a business owner is given the right to market the trademark of an existing business in exchange for fees and a percentage of the business’ profits. Franchises are a pervasive way to do business now. Companies selling the rights to their name or logo to third-party retail outlets is so familiar that its hard to drive down the block of any city and not see a franchising business. Some examples of well-known franchises included Subway, UPS, and H & R Block. Still, there are methods most should follow today—as a potential investor or owner—to sustain and have long-term success. These trends include an increase in technology, specific age group influence, and fast-food restaurants and practices that are changing the franchising industry and taking it to new territories.
If you are an expanding business and need money for relocation and/or renovation, you’ll be looking for a term loan, which is essentially a lump sum of cash that will be paid back within a set amount of time. Depending on what you expect for the long-term when you are in a growth stage, you may be looking for investors rather than lenders at this point.
Negotiate the startup and operating costs: When you buy a franchise, there is a pretty long list of things that you need to buy before you can open the doors to customers. The cost for such items will be noted in the Franchise Disclosure Document. If you negotiate, the franchisor may be willing to absorb the cost of some of these items for you, like discounting your franchise fee.
Government small business loans help put your own business within reach. First there’s the quest for a decent location, then comes building a customer base, followed by all the initial hiccups of generating a cash flow before your business grows roots and gains momentum. The beginning of a business is crucial because it’s when you gain or lose market credibility. If you disappoint your customers, they may not give you a second chance. If your business gets off to a rocky start (most do), and you believe you can recover but need further financing to make this happen, you can apply for government small business loans.