Patents. Patents are the best protection you can get for a new product. A patent gives its inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented subject matter described in the patent’s claims. The key issues in determining whether you can get a patent are: (1) Only the concrete embodiment of an idea, formula, or product is patentable; (2) the invention must be new or novel; (3) the invention must not have been patented or described in a printed publication previously; and (4) the invention must have some useful purpose. In the United States you obtain a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but this process can take several years and be complicated. You typically need a patent lawyer to draw up the patent application for you. The downside of patents is that they can be expensive to obtain and take several years,
A well-thought-out business plan can make the difference between having your loan application accepted or rejected. A complete business plan should always include an intimate, technical study of the business you plan to go into; accurate pro formas, projections and cost analyses; estimates of working capital; an indication of your "people skills"; and a suitable marketing plan. It should also include certified statements of your net worth and several credit references.
Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media -- all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand! Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:
Think about your daily routine, you might stop at a coffee shop in the morning, perhaps you workout at the gym in the afternoon or go for dinner with friends in the evening. Every place that you visit, and every business you connect with during that day, exists because of an idea and an entrepreneur. Whether that entrepreneur comes from a family of business owners, or is starting out on their own with no previous experience, running their business requires a set of key skills. But what are the skills you need and how do you acquire them?
Banks want to see a history of successful borrowing anytime they make a loan. That includes loans for your business. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have any history of borrowing (especially new businesses), so lenders look at your personal credit scores instead. If you’ve got good credit, that’s a good sign that you’ll handle the business loans well. If you’ve got bad credit, lenders will be more skittish about lending. If your credit is “thin” because you haven’t borrowed much in the past (or if it’s in need of some repair), you may need to build your credit before lenders are likely to approve you for a loan.
The last part is often translated as “often go awry”, and I’m sure you understand the sense: no matter how carefully you plan, things rarely go as expected. We live in a complex, interconnected world, and even if you do everything right, your business could be knocked sideways by a sudden economic meltdown, a real estate crash, a war on the other side of the world that raises prices for your raw materials, the sudden entry of a powerful competitor into your turf, and much more.
A very economical service is Regus, with office locations worldwide; office space is readily available for startup entrepreneurs on a just-in-time basis. Regus offers several membership levels: Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Plus. For example, a Regus Blue membership card is free, while a Regus Gold membership card costs $59 per month (with the first month free). With a Gold card you get shared space, Internet connection, and telephone access at Regus locations worldwide, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
The Small Business Association (SBA) has several financing programs available for businesses, including startups, and works with banks around the country to guarantee loans so small businesses can secure bank loans and get up and running quickly. The SBA works with entrepreneurs who do not have great personal credit, making it more likely that they can still start their business even with a less than perfect credit score. Visit SBA.gov to find out more about how the SBA can help you and get information for your region.
6. Create local awareness and establish a network. Join chambers, business associations, community groups, etc. Find ways to get involved. Networking is a great way to capture business leads as long as you don’t come on too strong. It allows you to meet new contacts and create more brand awareness and new referrals. Sponsor sporting events, nonprofit events or anything that is for a good cause. Get your name out there while also being a good community steward. Give away SWAG (promotional items with your business name, logo and contact info on them). T-shirts are a great example of free walking advertisements for your business.
A ROBS isn’t a loan, so there’s no debt or interest to pay back. This lets ROBS-financed franchises conserve more of their income, and as a result, they may be more successful in the long run. You do have to pay monthly administration fees when you do a ROBS, but compared to a loan the monthly fees are about 11x cheaper! This sets you up for a greater chance at long-term success than other financing methods.
Before you can get a traditional bank loan, you need to have collateral, generally in the form of your house although other assets including land, cars, watercraft, motorcycles and equipment that has a title of ownership can be used as collateral. Understand the risk involved with your business venture before you put up collateral–the bank will take your house, car or whatever else you put down if you default on your loan. Make sure you have an accurate assessment of what your collateral is worth before you apply for a loan so you don’t wind up unpleasantly surprised when your bank assumes it’s worth today’s market value, not the value that it was when you bought it. If you don’t have an asset to use as collateral or are uncomfortable with the idea, then you’ll want to seek out a source other than a bank for your business lending needs.
The second step is to be strategic about how and where you apply for a loan. Key targets for your loan application would be your own bank, local business lenders and national lenders. Within that group, it is also important to target lenders who may be familiar with the brand and have made loans to other franchisees. That said, don't use a shotgun approach and apply everywhere. This approach can lead to inefficient use of your time and money as the process can lead to several declines from lenders as you blindly submit applications. This process can take up to 120-190 days before you even get funded. Additionally, some lenders charge application fees so it can get expensive, but more importantly, a lender may do a "hard" credit pull on you when you apply. Multiple hard credit pulls within a timeframe will actually hurt your credit score and decrease your ability to get a loan. One alternative is to use a service like BoeFly, which puts you in the driver's seat. It allows lenders to evaluate your loan package and credit and engage with you directly without officially applying at the bank. Only once it seems like it may be a good match will the lender issue you a proposal or term sheet on the financing and then officially invite you to apply at the bank - thereby saving your credit score and time and money. Unlike other marketplaces and "connecting" websites, BoeFly can significantly reduce your time of origination by up to 75% as well as your costs.
Qualifying for an SBA loan as a new business isn’t easy. You generally need to have a strong credit score (ideally above 680), some collateral, and a 10-20% down payment. However, a large percentage of SBA loans go to franchises because lenders can easily access loan performance data for franchises and predict the franchise’s ability to pay back the loan.
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Getting money in advance of doing any business is called “mobilization capital.” This means you are looking for capital to help start a business and don’t have customers yet. This is also known as unsecured lending and is typically very difficult to secure. Your best bet in these situations is to try and raise seed capital investment aka friends and family investors. If your hot idea is really as good as you think, you should be able to find friends to join up and start up a company.
Government loans are typically offered through banks and credit unions that partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a U.S. government body, with the motive of providing support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. For each loan authorized, a government-backed guarantee offers serious credibility, since the lender knows that even if you default, the government will pay off the balance. These loans can be applied to a number of uses, such as: