Government small business loans help put your own business within reach. First there’s the quest for a decent location, then comes building a customer base, followed by all the initial hiccups of generating a cash flow before your business grows roots and gains momentum. The beginning of a business is crucial because it’s when you gain or lose market credibility. If you disappoint your customers, they may not give you a second chance. If your business gets off to a rocky start (most do), and you believe you can recover but need further financing to make this happen, you can apply for government small business loans.
The MBDA does not directly loan money, but it does provide resources for members of minority groups who are trying to start a business. They have business centers around the country where entrepreneurs can seek mentorship and guidance as they start their business. These business centers are located in areas with a high amount of minority-owned businesses. You can go to MBDA.gov/businesscenters to find one in your area where you will be advised on everything from writing a business plan so you can apply for funding to marketing your business.
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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.
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If you are an expanding business and need money for relocation and/or renovation, you’ll be looking for a term loan, which is essentially a lump sum of cash that will be paid back within a set amount of time. Depending on what you expect for the long-term when you are in a growth stage, you may be looking for investors rather than lenders at this point.
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.
Alternative lenders: Once you have your franchise up and running, you’ll need funding to work through seasonal ups and downs, purchase new equipment and possibly open another location. If you’re still having a hard time finding traditional funding, alternative lenders may help fill the gap. They tend to be quicker than traditional loan providers — some even fund within a day — and have looser qualification standards. However, annual percentage rates for alternative lenders typically are higher, so make sure you review your total cost of borrowing before deciding on a loan.
General purpose business loans. The most widely used SBA loans, SBA 7(a) general loans can greatly help if you’re investing in a franchise. Because SBA loans are guaranteed by the government, they’re easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans. The amount and rates that you can potentially qualify for may make them worth the extra time and documents needed to apply. Outside of the loan itself, the Small Business Administration offers free tools to help you plan for securing the loan and keep up on your new enterprise once you’ve become a franchisee.
Fees and costs. Origination, underwriting and early repayment fees are typical costs that you could see. If a lender provides an APR, it includes the interest rate plus any upfront fees. Early repayment can be a conditional fee and is not reflected in the APR, so it’s a good idea to carefully read through the terms of your offer before accepting it. Learn more about business loan costs.
SBA loans are government-guaranteed loans with long repayment terms and low interest rates. There are many different types of SBA loans, but the most popular SBA loans are 7a loans and 504 loans. An SBA 7(a) loan can be used for working capital (marketing, staffing, etc), equipment, or for commercial real estate. The SBA 504 loan is only for commercial real estate and fixed equipment. Franchises are often a great fit for SBA loans, because of the SBA’s policy goals to help build small businesses to grow the economy.
Startups should also understand that the venture process can be very time consuming—just getting a meeting with a principal of a VC firm can take weeks; followed up with more meetings and conversations; followed by a presentation to all of the partners of the venture capital fund; followed by the issuance and negotiation of a term sheet, with continued due diligence; and finally the drafting and negotiation by lawyers on both sides of numerous legal documents to evidence the investment.
Traditional bank options include term loans, lines of credit and commercial mortgages to buy properties or refinance. Through banks, the U.S. Small Business Administration provides general small-business loans with its 7(a) loan program, short-term microloans and disaster loans. SBA loans range from about $5,000 to $5 million, with an average loan size of $371,000.