Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
1. Understand how credit works. There is such a thing as a business credit score, which factors in things like whether your business makes late payments or is in debt. Be sure to also remember that as a business owner, you basically are the credit representative of your company. Your personal credit score, factoring in things from credit cards to car payments, is a big factor when a bank is deciding whether or not to lend. Don’t lose heart; there are positive things you can do to build up credit.
Often times, a franchisee looking to open their first franchise will fit nicely into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan product. SBA loans are made by banks or other participating lenders - not the government. SBA loans allow the lenders to extend credit to borrowers, who they may not be able to lend on a conventional basis, by taking advantage of a guarantee that the SBA provides to the lender in the event of default. There are a few different options, but the Flagship SBA 7a product gives the bank a 75% guarantee if your loan defaults - so that the money that the bank lends to you is not entirely at risk. SBA loans are typically priced at Wall Street Journal Prime + 1 to 2.75%, for terms of 7 to 25 years, depending on the use of funds.
Brad has spent more than twelve years working at the crossroads of business development, marketing, and social media. He was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as a young entrepreneur, launching his first successful business at the age of 15. Up until joining lynda.com as an online marketing manager in 2012, he honed his skills working as a consultant alongside brands large and small, including LegalZoom, Clear Channel, eSolar, Dickies, and Urban Outfitters. He has also served as an advisor to multiple startups, providing marketing direction and strategic advice.
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.
As you consider financing options, make sure you get the best deal overall for your business. This means you'll need to compare interest rates, repayment terms, origination costs, and whether pre-payment penalties apply. By looking at the total cost of the loan, as well as whether monthly payments are affordable, you can secure financing that works for your organization.
There are sources of startup money that may not be as obvious to franchisees that can be helpful. Using equity from a home loan or a 401(k) plan, can provide a kick-start to your business if conventional sources of financing are not available. However, those products may not be optimal over the long run when compared to loan products specifically geared to funding a small businesses.
Offering medium-term installment loans with repayment periods as long as 5 years, Funding Circle is a lending partner for established franchisees with a strong credit history. Specifically, you’ll need to be a franchisee with a business at least two years old and have a credit score of at least 620. For qualified applicants, Funding Circle has the advantages of offering faster funding than a bank loan would, as well as offering relatively low rates and fees.
There are plenty of resources that business owners can refer to when putting together their loan applications. The Small Business Administration, for example, provides a highly detailed loan application checklist for borrowers. Using these resources can decrease your likelihood of coming across as disorganized or unprepared. [See Related Story: Applying for a Small Business Loan? Here's What You'll Need]
Your place on the credit spectrum is one factor that will determine which loans you’ll qualify for. You can get your credit report for free from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — once a year. You can get your credit score for free from several credit card issuers as well as personal finance websites, including NerdWallet.