Whitney Johnson is a leading thinker on driving innovation via personal disruption and cofounder of Clayton Christensen's investment firm. She is a regular contributor for Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn, and the author of Disrupt Yourself, which Publisher's Weekly called "superb, savvy, wise." Whitney also speaks and consults with Fortune 100 Companies. Recently, her work was recognized by the Thinkers50, which named her as a finalist for the 2013 Future Thinker Award. You can find her at whitneyjohnson.com.
Franchises are consistently vulnerable to cash flow issues thanks to the many mandatory expenses they face all throughout the year. On top of operational expenses and growth-related investments, franchises must obey the fee guidelines of their parent company, or “Franchisor.” Royalty and advertising fees are deducted from weekly or monthly sales. Some franchise owners must pay for new employees to undergo special training programs. Certain upgrades might be required for specific dates, and the national marketing campaigns that come from the aforementioned deduction must usually be supplemented by local advertising.
Approximately 75 to 100 franchisors are offering or working on offering creative financing programs for start-up franchise owners or those looking to expand. Programs range from zero-percent financing for a limited-term, lower license fees, reduced royalties and minority stake ownership by franchisors in multi-unit outlets. Each brand has its own offering, so down payments and collateral requirements will vary.

Dana is a founding partner of TechLaw, LLP, where his practice focuses on trademark prosecution and licensing, copyrights, and business transactions. He is also adjunct professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he has taught IP Survey, and helped launch the IP Law Clinic. His expertise includes a broad base of intellectual property law that covers copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and international intellectual property. Dana has filed, managed, and prosecuted thousands of trademarks over the course of his law practice career. He has represented clients in numerous trademark infringement actions, as well as cancellations, oppositions, and appeals before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.


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If you are new to franchise ownership, be sure to do your research and due diligence about the franchise system you’re interested in. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (required by law) and speak to other franchisees about the brand and the financing program on offer. Next, try to understand what your financial responsibilities as a franchise owner will be. This blog offers some pointers on this: Buying a Franchise – How to Determine What it’s Going to Cost You.
SBA loans of five- to six-year maturities can provide short-term working capital and equipment. Real-estate loans can run for 20 years or more. About 10% of all SBA loans go to franchisees, with the size running between $250,000 and $500,000, and maximum of $2 million. Most of that money is for franchise entry fees, improvements or working capital. Borrowers must be creditworthy, typically must contribute some equity, and are expected to repay the SBA loan out of the franchise’s cash flow.

Use your retirement accounts (401(k) or IRA) to invest in your business without having to pay early withdrawal penalties or taxes.  If you still need more money, this can be used in combination with a SBA loan.  The investment into your business may be enough that no collateral is required.  Even if collateral would normally be required, an alternative such as a payment reserve and be utilized.  Learn more about 401K business financing.
We’ve touched on a lot of different topics, of course, and I’ve linked to more tutorials so that you can dig into the details in each area. I’d encourage you to read some of those tutorials to go deeper into the key subjects, and to subscribe to our newsletter (there’s a form down in the footer) to stay up to date with the latest business tutorials published here. We've got plenty more on the way!
We also specialize in opening new franchise locations. Some of our franchise clients have used franchise financing to cover franchise fees, pay for new equipment upfront, or prevent weekly deductions from damaging profits during slow or busy periods. Franchise financing can act as a cushion for monthly expenses and make it possible to grow existing locations on schedule after opening new ones.
To start your application for a business loan, calculate how much money and what kind of loan you need. Then, gather the necessary documents, including a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, tax documents, and a detailed business plan. Once you have all of your information, approach lenders, such as the Small Business Administration, banks, and credit unions, and complete the application for the best loan for your needs. Finally, wait to hear back from the lender and be sure to thoroughly review the terms of your loan.
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:
You can also use assets such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to secure a loan as long as they're not part of a qualified plan like an IRA profit-sharing plan. Also, if you are over age 59 and have a lot of money tied up in an IRA, you could use it for part of your financing requirements. Although you'll have to pay taxes on the amount used, not to mention suffer the loss of income from interest, it can be a good financing tool.
This option is less likely to work out for those with bad credit because traditional lenders have limits on who they will finance. That said, it isn’t impossible. Your interest rate will however be higher than a standard rate and more collateral will probably be required of you than a traditional recipient. If you think you may still qualify, take a look at some of the loan options offered by the SBA.

StreetShares (see our review) is a P2P lending service that brings together business owners and investors. StreetShares is especially geared toward veteran-owned businesses. Indeed, owning a franchise can be a good transition for veterans transitioning to civilian life. However, even if you’re not a veteran, you can still use this innovative loans marketplace to get an unsecured short-term business loan or line of credit of up to $100,000. You will need to have been in business a year, or in some cases only 6 months, in order to qualify.

Many traditional lenders provide funding to franchisees, so this should be a top-line option for those looking for a loan. Each lender will have different eligibility requirements and loan products so examine documents in detail before signing on the dotted line. You will need a good credit rating, a solid application package, a down payment and some form of collateral.
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