Start by learning about various franchise shops and restaurants in your preferred specialty. If you’re a fan of Panera Bread, for instance, go to the company’s franchise Information page and read up on the opportunity. If you need inspiration, Franchise.com keeps a running list of franchise opportunities, complete with a monthly featured franchise.
Borrowers have multiple options for SBA-backed loans, including microloans with a six-year repayment term to allow new businesses to borrow up to $50,000; 7(a) loans that allow companies to borrow up to $5 million; and 504 loans, available for up to $5.5 million for smaller businesses with a net income under $5 million and a net worth below $15 million. 
While it can be tempting to pick a lower-priced option to lower your risk, it’s important to make sure you aren’t compromising too much based on finances. Instead, consider a loan or other method of financing that can help you get you started. Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs to help franchisees get in the door.
The brand you choose to work with may provide upfront estimates of how much it will cost to start a new business and can also give you information on monthly and year-over-year revenue goals and expected progress. This information, if available, is often found in Item 19 of the FDD. However, a franchise is not required to provide this information in their FDD - so speaking with several existing franchisees is always a wise choice. Based on this data and your own projections make sure you understand when your business will break even factoring in both expenses as well as the loan payments and always assume there will be unexpected costs. When determining your loan amount make sure to include working capital to get you through the ramp-up period of the business until the business can support expenses and loan payments. When lenders review your loan application they will pay attention to several key things, but 2 items that you should be aware of are Loan To Value (LTV) and Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). LTV is a measure of the total value of the loan amount compared to the collateral pledged. Lenders will look at the collateral as a secondary source of repayment of the loan and in many cases with a start-up financing may look for collateral to cover the full loan. In cases where there is not enough collateral the lenders will look to other strengths of the deal. DSCR is a measure of the cash generated by the business available for the loan payments. The higher the DSCR, the better because in the bank's view there will be a cushion of cash just in case there are unforeseen problems or slow periods for the business. A lender will typically look for a minimum DSCR 1.20x or more. If your projections don't show the ability to service debt lenders may shy away from your loan request so it is important to understand the accuracy of your projections.
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.
Loans backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) are a favorite of franchisees, since they tend to have higher limits and lower rates than commercial loans. However, SBA loans come with strict requirements, including the need to prove that you don’t have the ability to obtain a loan from traditional lenders. Partner institutions disburse and administer the loans with SBA approval and application requirements tend to be quite extensive.
Your first option is to change your business model to demand fewer needs as listed above. For example, if you were planning on starting a company as a consultant or freelancer, you could reduce your “employee” expenses by being the sole employee at the start. Unless you need office space, you can work from home. You can even do your homework to find cheaper sources of supplies, or cut out entire product lines that are too expensive to produce at the outset.
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.
If you do have people in your life who could invest in your business, getting a loan from friends and family is sometimes an option. Of course, for many entrepreneurs who are just starting out and in need of cash, this just isn’t a possibility. Either the amount they need is too high, or their circle of friends and family is small or possibly strapped for money themselves. It’s possible that your friends and family will think it’s too risky because of your bad credit as well.
Outside of the typical startup costs, there are different costs that are unique to franchise businesses. First is the franchise fee, an upfront fee to the franchisor for the right to use the company’s branding and model. It can be paid in a lump sum or in installments, and varies widely by industry and company. It will likely to be at least $10,000 – sometimes substantially higher – and is typically nonrefundable. Franchisors are also likely to charge recurring royalty and marketing fees – usually arranged as a percentage of sales at the franchisee’s store – usually 4 to 8 percent for royalties and 2 to 4 percent for marketing.

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.
Small businesses have a tougher time getting approved due to factors including lower sales volume and cash reserves; add to that bad personal credit or no collateral (such as real estate to secure a loan), and many small-business owners come up empty-handed. Getting funded takes longer than other options — typically two to six months — but banks are usually your lowest-APR option.
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