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.
SBA loans of five- to six-year maturities can provide short-term working capital and equipment. Real-estate loans can run for 20 years or more. About 10% of all SBA loans go to franchisees, with the size running between $250,000 and $500,000, and maximum of $2 million. Most of that money is for franchise entry fees, improvements or working capital. Borrowers must be creditworthy, typically must contribute some equity, and are expected to repay the SBA loan out of the franchise’s cash flow.
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.
Personal loans are widely available, but if you’re trying to borrow for a small business, you’ll find that the process is more difficult. If you’re thinking of borrowing to start or grow your business, get started and get organized long before you fill out an application. Lenders want to be sure that they’ll get repaid, which means they’re looking for several criteria:
To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations will need an "articles of incorporation" document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Otherwise, you will just need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious "Doing Business As" name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you've come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection.
If you start your company with co-founders, you should agree early on about the details of your business relationship. Not doing so can potentially cause significant legal problems down the road (a good example of this is the infamous Zuckerberg/Winklevoss Facebook litigation). In a way, think of the founder agreement as a form of “pre-nuptial agreement.” Here are the key deal terms your written founder agreement needs to address:
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.
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.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
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.