According to Hecht, online lenders tend to stay away from lending to startup businesses: “The longer you’ve been around, the easier it is for you to get funding from an online lender.” Even though his business is based on online lenders, “we’re not anti-bank,” says Hecht. He advises every entrepreneur to begin their financing process by going to their local bank first to see what they have to offer.
Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before you are turning a profit. Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).
Your answer will be something like the famous “elevator pitch”, or maybe a mission statement. It doesn’t matter whether it’s perfectly polished yet, but it is important that your answer is clear and easy to understand. If you were talking to your neighbours at a barbecue and they asked you what you do, would your answer make their eyes light up or glaze over? Would it make them ask for more details, or hurriedly excuse themselves to grab another burger?
You will need to tie your strategy in with your own personal values so that you don’t lose interest over time. If you decided to start a digital marketing agency, you might figure out from the start where you draw the line at customers. For example, do you want to tie your name to an oil company, or offer a service that you may not be brilliant at, but that will attract a lot of customers?
The government-guaranteed SBA loan program works with banks to offer low interest rates and long-term repayment. But the process is time-consuming, and the requirements are strict. Only those with good personal credit (690 or higher, although some SBA lenders may have lower score requirements), strong business finances and the flexibility to wait for funding should apply.
You should approach small-business-loan shopping just as you would shopping for a car, says Suzanne Darden, a business consultant at the Alabama Small Business Development Center. Once you determine which type of lender and financing vehicle are right for you, compare two or three similar options based on annual percentage rate (total borrowing cost) and terms. Of the loans you qualify for, choose the one with the lowest APR, as long as you are able to handle the loan’s regular payments.