Most people spent *some* amount of money, even if it was just the cost of a $50 business license or a $10 domain name. But far more important than money was the investment of sweat equity -- taking the time to make something meaningful. Brett Kelly wrote Evernote Essentials, a guide to the free Evernote software. His initial goal was that it would make $10,000 over the course of a year. One year later, it had made more than $100,000. Initial startup costs were essentially zero.
Are you thinking about starting a small business, freelancing, or turning a hobby into a full-time job? Or perhaps you're already running your own business and need some inspiration to take it to the next level. Each week, join small business coach Dave Crenshaw for two short lessons that reveal the secrets of running a successful small business. This series covers topics such as getting started, writing a business plan, determining your most valuable product or service, hiring people, managing processes, documenting systems, bootstrapping, seeking funding, accounting, controlling costs and profit margins, marketing, creating culture, and more.
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1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:
You’re applying for a business loan, and you may even be organized as a corporation or LLC. However, lenders will almost always want to hold you personally responsible for the loan. If they don’t do that and the business fails, there’s nobody left to repay them. But if you make a personal guarantee on the loan (which is likely a requirement), they can go after you personally, and your personal credit will suffer if you don’t repay.
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Despite these indicators, financing remains a problem for potential franchise owners.  According to Entrepreneur magazine (January 2013), there’s still an 18 percent lending shortfall in the franchising industry. In a bid to boost franchise ownership, many franchisors are taking matters into their own hands and offering financing programs of their own. Meineke, The UPS Store, Gold’s Gym, Masasge Envy and Instant Imprints are just a few examples of franchisors now offering financing to qualifying first-time and multi-store franchise owners.


Business financing options other than traditional loans or lines of credit include personal loans for business or business credit cards. A personal loan for business is a good option if your business is still young and you don’t qualify for traditional financing. Personal-loan providers look at your personal credit score and income instead of your business history.

Most franchisees will have to get a business loan at some point. Fortunately, compared to independent small business owners, franchisees have traditionally had an easier time securing financing from banks — including loans backed by the SBA (Small Business Administration). But bank loans and SBA loans are still not easy to get even for franchise businesses, and the application and approval process can be prohibitively long for a lot of franchisees in need of quick capital. Some franchisors offer their own financing programs, but the practice is far from widespread, so you can’t necessarily depend on funding from your franchise brand.
One type of financing you'll want to think twice about is a home equity loan. While you'll be personally responsible for repaying any loan your business takes out if you are a sole proprietor or a co-signer, a home equity loan carries a level of risk that unsecured debt doesn't. Your credit could be hurt if your business doesn't repay money you borrowed, but your house isn't at risk in most circumstances unless you've taken a home equity loan.
Online personal loans are an option when nobody will approve you for a business loan. Ideally, you’ll borrow in the name of your business – it’s cleaner and more professional that way. But some small business owners can only get personal loans. Try marketplace lenders and peer to peer lenders, which tend to offer competitive rates and quick turnaround on applications.

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To get a good estimate of costs, the first thing we recommend doing is asking the franchisor for their Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) early on in the process. It’s a good idea to have an accountant and lawyer review the FDD with you before you sign any paperwork or hand over any money. A franchisor is legally required to give you the FDD at least 14 days before you buy a franchise.


Alternative business lenders are comprising a growing part of the financing industry as bank loans become increasingly hard to get. Franchise owners benefit from alternative franchise loans, which have less-strict borrower qualifications than traditional business or SBA loans, and also put the funds in your account a lot faster. Generally, alternative loans have higher rates than bank loans, but they represent an important source of capital to many small business owners, including franchise owners, who would not otherwise qualify for financing. Moreover, some of the best online lenders offer rates that are on par with big banks.
Microlenders are nonprofits that typically lend short-term loans of less than $35,000. The APR on these loans is typically higher than that of bank loans. The application may require a detailed business plan and financial statements, as well as a description of what the loan will be used for, making it a lengthy process. Also, the size of the loans is, by definition, “micro.” But these loans may work well for smaller companies or startups that can’t qualify for traditional bank loans, due to a limited operating history, poor personal credit or a lack of collateral.
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