Your second option invokes the idea of a “warmup” period for your business. Instead of going straight into full-fledged business mode, you’ll start with just the basics. You might launch a blog and one niche service, reducing your scope, your audience and your profit, in order to get a head-start. If you can start as a self-employed individual, you'll avoid some of the biggest initial costs (and enjoy a simpler tax situation, too). A payment processing company, such as Due, can be a big help when you are struggling to invoice and follow up professionally.
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.
5. Social Media: Depending on your type of business, you will want a social media presence. LinkedIn, with more than 380 million members, is regarded as the business site for connecting with other businesspeople and offers excellent posting features for articles and blogs. Facebook is more of a social friends site than a business-focused site, but it’s also an excellent tool for “getting your word out” to your friends and customers. Both Linkedin and Facebook allow you to set up a commercial page for your new business.
If you are using the web to help you acquire a loan, beware of "Free" services, sites not certified by TRUSTe or sites with poor Better Business Bureau ratings. These sites may just want your contact information which they then sell to brokers and lenders. It is not a very efficient way for you to get financing and may lead to wasted time, money and calls from unsavory and unqualified sources. Also, make sure there are no hidden fees that either you or the lender will need to make - or guarantees that you will receive a loan.
For-profit lenders are reluctant to issue loans to anyone who does not have a strong credit report and financial history. That is not the case with government small business loans. Obviously, a decent credit report is important, and you will have to follow the guidelines regarding the repayment period and the interest rate set by the government, but usually the interest rates charged by government loans are lower than those you could expect in the private sector.
Type of loan. Many types of business loans need to be secured by collateral, whether that’s by your mortgage, investment accounts, vehicle, life insurance or other assets. You may find that while you still need to secure them, SBA loans come with better interest rates and requirements that aren’t as strict as other financing options. The fact that they’re guaranteed for up to 90% of their amount by the government gives lenders the confidence they need to make offers to customers who may be more risky borrowers.
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.
Small business term loans. Term loans are typically for a set dollar amount (e.g., $250,000) and are used for business operations, capital expenditures, or expansion. Interest is paid monthly and the principal is usually repayable within 6 months to 3 years (which can be amortized over the term of the loan or have a balloon payment at the end). Term loans can be secured or unsecured, and the interest can be variable or fixed. They are good for small businesses that need capital for growth or for large, onetime expenditures.
“ApplePie Capital can accelerate the growth of franchisees because we start by spending time with the franchisee up front to assess their situation, and then identify the best financing options to reach their short and long term goals. Sometimes that will be SBA, and sometimes it will be other options that the local bank doesn’t offer. And unlike the local bank, ApplePie knows the brand metrics. We can underwrite the loan ourselves for our core product, or can educate our lender network on the brand so the franchisee doesn’t have to.”
Jeff White is a staff writer and financial analyst at Fit Small Business, specializing in Small Business Finance. As a JD/MBA, he has spent the majority of his career either operating small businesses (in the retail and management consulting spaces) or helping them through M&A transactions. When he is not helping small businesses, he spends his time teaching his five kids how to become entrepreneurs.
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:
The franchisor: Some franchisors help finance new franchises by waiving fees or partnering with lenders to help franchisees get loans. If a company offers funding, it’s usually listed on its website and in Section 10 of the Franchise Disclosure Document. Compare the terms of the franchisor’s financing with other options to find the best source of funding.
Request a Regional Franchise Disclosure Document: According to Ronald Feldman at Apple Pie Capital, “In addition to the standard Financial Disclosure Document (FDD), I suggest new franchisees request a supplemental Item 19, which is required by law to be provided if available.” This can help you understand how the franchise performs in your own geographic location, which may be worse than the average performance nationwide.
With one or more of these three options, you should be able to reduce your personal financial investment to almost nothing. You may have to make some other sacrifices, such as starting small, accommodating partners or taking on debt, but if you believe in your business idea, none of these losses should stand in your way. Capital is a major hurdle to overcome, but make no mistake -- it can be overcome.
Startups requiring a lot more funding up front may want to consider an investor. Investors usually provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company, with the expectation that the backers will have a hands-on role in running your business. Alternatively, you could launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers.
Many companies, however, don't have established credit, so they cannot obtain a business loan without a guarantee from the owners. In other words, you'll probably have to "co-sign" for the company's loan, putting your own credit on the line. If you'll be applying for a loan and your credit matters, do all you can to boost your own score before applying. This means paying down debts so your credit utilization ratio is low, and always paying bills on time.
Keep in mind that whenever you’re applying for a business loan, whether it’s for start-up costs, working capital, or real estate, it’s a good idea to complete more than one loan application so you can compare rates and terms. Most lenders will only do a “soft” pull on your credit in the pre-qualification stage and will not do a hard pull (the kind that dings your credit score) unless you accept the loan offer.
Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur, and traveler. His latest book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, is now a New York Times bestseller. During a lifetime of self-employment and ventures ranging from online publishing to volunteer work in West Africa, he has visited nearly every country on earth before the age of 35. Host of the World Domination Summit, an international gathering of creative people, Chris is focused on encouraging individual quests while also “giving back.” His main website, ChrisGuillebeau.com, is visited by more than 300,000 people a month.
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