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.

1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:

Bank loans are a great option, but before you go that route, make sure you’ve done your market research and can demonstrate that your business will do well in your area. If you haven’t had any luck getting loans from traditional lenders, look for a lender that offers SBA-backed loans, since they’re geared specifically to the needs of small businesses and are only open to those who can’t get funding elsewhere. Other financial options include online alternative lenders, which may be less restrictive in who they approve, but also tend to charge higher fees and rates.

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Your answer needs to be more detailed than simply “I don’t have any money.” What specifically will you be using the loan for? Start up? Day-to-day management? As a safety net? To answer this question, you will need to spend a lot of time figuring out your budget along with the amount of money that you realistically can put up as capital. Take your time with this step since it will have a big impact on whether or not you actually get a loan that can cover your expenses.
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.
More than anything, focus on consistent, repetitive branding. Many marketing professionals believe in the “rule of seven," which means people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action. In today’s world of constant connectivity, you must make sure you’re seen and heard. The most common reason that people do not buy your product is that they do not know about it yet.
SBA.gov is the website for the Small Business Association. Founded in 1953, the SBA functions as an independent agency of the federal government whose mission, according to their website, is “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” One way the SBA helps small businesses is by offering financial assistance through three programs: the guaranteed loan program, surety bonds program and venture capital program.

After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later on if you decide to hire someone else. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free.
The Louisiana Secretary of State, Louisiana Department of Revenue, and Louisiana Workforce Commission are working to make it easy for you to manage your Louisiana business filings and tax account registrations from one location―the Louisiana geauxBIZ portal. geauxBIZ can help you find resources to help plan, make key financial decisions, and complete legal activities necessary to start your business. You can also use geauxBIZ to produce a list of possible federal, state and local licenses and permits required for your business, to reserve your new business name, and to complete your new business filing. If you want to do business in Louisiana, visit geauxBIZ to get started!
Most people spent *some* amount of money, even if it was just the cost of a $50 business license or a $10 domain name. But far more important than money was the investment of sweat equity -- taking the time to make something meaningful. Brett Kelly wrote Evernote Essentials, a guide to the free Evernote software. His initial goal was that it would make $10,000 over the course of a year. One year later, it had made more than $100,000. Initial startup costs were essentially zero.
The loan officer takes your application, and in some cases, all of the applications she has received during a set time period, to a credit committee, and the committee determines whether or not a loan gets approved. This is why it’s so important to have the loan officer on your side–you need someone standing up for you in front of the credit committee when you can’t be present.
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.
1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:
SBA small business loans. Some banks offer attractive low-interest-rate loans for small businesses, backed and guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Because of the SBA guarantee, the interest rate and repayment terms are more favorable than most loans. Loan amounts range from $30,000 to as high as $5 million. However, the loan process is time consuming with strict requirements for eligible small businesses. Visit the SBA website to see a list of the 100 most active SBA lenders.
Ideally, your business will operate long enough and become successful enough that the company will get its own credit score and be able to qualify for a loan on its own. Building a business credit score requires your company to establish its own identity, including having its own tax ID number or employer ID number, obtained from the IRS. You'll typically also need a business credit card in the organization's name that's always paid on time.  
So think about how you can diversify your own business. Think about the risks you’re subject to, the technologies you’re dependent on, and how changes in the competitive landscape could blow you off course. Then come up with ways in which you can create multiple income streams, so that if one product or service is no longer popular, others can pick up the slack.
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.

Shelton advises entrepreneurs to apply for a larger loan once they have the numbers to prove that they are growing: “What you’re hoping to get from these smaller loans is traction,” which you can use to “pitch [your story] as a growth story” when you apply for a larger traditional loan from a bank. Proving that you have experience growing your business from someone else’s money will help you convince the bank that you can do the same with their loan.
Overcoming this problem is easier than it used to be, thanks to the plethora of marketing opportunities on the internet. Many of them, of course, are free or low cost, but don’t forget that your time is also an investment. So don’t make the mistake of signing up for every social media site out there and letting your valuable time dribble away in tweets and status updates.

We love this lender for their sterling reputation, excellent customer support, and reasonable terms and rates. But again, you’ll need to already have an established franchise to qualify, as well as good credit. This loan also takes longer to apply for (and receive) compared to most other online franchise loans, and it can potentially take a couple months for the money to come through. You’ll need to submit all the documentation you’d need to get a traditional SBA loan, and it will be helpful if your franchise is already listed in the SBA Franchise Directory. Even though there are a few more hoops to jump through than with other alternative lenders, SmartBiz is still one of the quickest ways for a franchisee to get an SBA loan.

A number of costs go into the launching a franchise. Initial costs include paying for professional advisers such as a lawyer to look over contracts and an accountant to advise or manage your finances. You’ll also need to invest money up-front for anything your business will need: real estate or lease payments, inventory, equipment, supplies insurance, licenses, recruitment, employee preparation, and signage. A grand opening event and initial marketing expenses will also add to your startup costs. You’ll also want to account for ongoing expenses such as professional services, supplies, employee pay and benefits, rent or property taxes, utilities and maintenance.


Fundation offers an 18-month line of credit in addition to 1 – 4-year installment loans. The time from application to funding generally takes between 2 and 7 days. All in all, Fundation is a smart choice for established businesses that don’t want to wait months to get a franchise loan approval. Read our Fundation review to find out why we rate this alternative franchise lender 5/5 stars.


A franchise merchant cash advance (MCA) is a short-term loan that provides capital to franchises that need funding quickly. Approval for a merchant cash advance can take a matter of minutes, and funding can be completed in as little as 24-48 hours. Merchant cash advances work by having a funding company purchase a portion of your franchise’s future receivables at a discount, with an upfront payment to the franchise. After funding the funding company will then collect repayment by splitting each days credit card batches with the franchise.
Collaborating with more established brands in your industry is a great way to achieve growth. Reach out to other companies or even influential bloggers and ask for some promotion in exchange for a free product sample or service. Partner with a charity organization and volunteer some of your time or products to get your name out there. In this article, Business News Daily offers some suggestions for rapid growth.
Being that each franchise launch means the business doesn’t have existing/trailing revenue, opening a franchise business is essentially opening a startup business. As with startups, the small business lending options are limited — but available. Other franchises are existing entities and are looking for capital to help with operating expenses and other working capital options. Here are the main options:
Equipment loans. Small businesses can buy equipment through an equipment loan. This typically requires a down payment of 20% of the purchase price of the equipment, and the loan is secured by the equipment. Interest on the loan is typically paid monthly and the principal is usually amortized over a two- to four-year period. The loans can be used to buy equipment, vehicles, and software. Loan amounts normally range from $5,000 to $500,000, and can accrue interest at either a fixed or variable rate. Equipment loans can also sometimes be structured as equipment leases.
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.
2. Get a website. In today’s technology-based world, the first thing a potential customer or employee does is Google your business. You need a website to show you’re real and to offer information about your business to potential customers. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and be sure to ask for search engine optimization. Use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website, but be leery of people who promise you top positions on search engines. While there are lots of things that can be done to increase your ranking on various search engines, unless the developer works for Google, I would be leery of a promise to get you to the top. Remember that you get what you pay for. There are a ton of do it yourself website services, but depending on the features you need on your site, some things are better left to the experts.

He is a nationally recognized speaker and blogger on the topics of leadership, communications, decision-making, problem solving, and other critical business skills. An honor graduate from West Point, Mike served in the US Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Company, and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (www.onepieceofpaper.com), Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (www.leadinsidethebox.com), and The Elegant Pitch: Create a Compelling Recommendation, Build Broad Support, and Get it Approved (www.elegantpitch.com). Mike's blog and the programs he teaches can be found at www.thoughtleadersllc.com.
Bank loans unsecured by collateral are relatively rare, even for those with good credit. In addition to securing a loan with a mortgage on your home or other asset, be ready to be asked to put your own money into the deal, typically about 20% of the amount needed. Even with healthy businesses and solid collateral, most bank loans to new franchisees occur when a borrower has established relationships with a banker, or has previous experience, or is a figure in the community. If that’s not you, consider a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Brad has spent more than twelve years working at the crossroads of business development, marketing, and social media. He was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as a young entrepreneur, launching his first successful business at the age of 15. Up until joining lynda.com as an online marketing manager in 2012, he honed his skills working as a consultant alongside brands large and small, including LegalZoom, Clear Channel, eSolar, Dickies, and Urban Outfitters. He has also served as an advisor to multiple startups, providing marketing direction and strategic advice.
Also called a business cash advance, this option is only applicable to those having cash flow problems who would need ten thousand dollars or less. Cash advances usually have very high interest rates meaning that you will almost certainly pay more in the long run than the initial loan, especially if you miss a payment. Be certain you can repay on time before going this route.
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