Becoming a small business owner has unique challenges and rewards that aren’t right for everyone. You must be driven, disciplined and able to identify a product or service that people need — one that they will pay enough for to allow you to live comfortably. You have to develop marketing skills and be able to find your own work, because it won’t fall into your lap until after you’re well established. Business owners need to understand how to budget, keep records and handle small business taxes. They must familiarize themselves with employment laws if they want to hire staff. They also need a plan for protecting their business and everything that’s tied to it if something goes wrong. (For more, see Are You An Entrepreneur?)
Crowdfunding financing companies are platforms that raise money from both institutions and individuals, and they often lend it out to specific industries. Some focus on real estate, while others will focus specifically on small businesses or franchises. They typically bridge the gap between traditional business loans, like SBA loans, and alternative loans with much higher costs.
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Crystalynn Shelton is a CPA and staff writer at Fit Small Business, specializing in small business Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Taxes. She is also an Adjunct Instructor at UCLA Extension where she has taught hundreds of small business owners how to setup and manage their books using QuickBooks for 8 years. Prior to joining Fit Small Business, Crystalynn was a Senior Learning Specialist at Intuit for 3 years and also ran her own QuickBooks consulting and training business. When Crystalynn isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys rollerblading in Venice Beach and reading a good book.
Starting a business entails understanding and dealing with many issues—legal, financing, sales and marketing, intellectual property protection, liability protection, human resources, and more. But interest in entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. And there have been spectacular success stories of early stage startups growing to be multi-billion-dollar companies, such as Uber, Facebook, WhatsApp, Airbnb, and many others.
One basic way to protect proprietary company information is through the use of a Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreement. This type of agreement deals with confidentiality issues, but can also ensure that the ideas, work product, and inventions the employee creates that are related to company business belong to the company—not the employee.
Qualifying for an SBA loan as a new business isn’t easy. You generally need to have a strong credit score (ideally above 680), some collateral, and a 10-20% down payment. However, a large percentage of SBA loans go to franchises because lenders can easily access loan performance data for franchises and predict the franchise’s ability to pay back the loan.
The ability to communicate effectively can be critical to landing customers, inspiring employees, and pitching to investors to raise capital. Most people are not very good at public speaking and many are even afraid of it. You must strive to overcome this fear. Consider working with a public speaking or business coach to improve your public speaking skills. Some of the most recognized entrepreneurs, such as Apple founder Steve Jobs, were known for being great public speakers.
SBA small business loans. Some banks offer attractive low-interest-rate loans for small businesses, backed and guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Because of the SBA guarantee, the interest rate and repayment terms are more favorable than most loans. Loan amounts range from $30,000 to as high as $5 million. However, the loan process is time consuming with strict requirements for eligible small businesses. Visit the SBA website to see a list of the 100 most active SBA lenders.
Guidant is our recommended ROBS provider. Guidant has helped over 10,000 businesses and facilitated over $3 billion in small business financing since 2003. They are also the only ROBS firm we know of which guarantees access to outside independent counsel during the ROBS setup process, which can help you objectively evaluate if ROBS is a good decision for the franchise you are buying.
3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
If you own the business entirely by yourself and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations, you can register for a sole proprietorship. Be warned that this route can directly affect your personal credit. Alternatively, a partnership, as its name implies, means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. You don't have to go it alone if you can find a business partner with complimentary skills to your own.
Keep in mind that whenever you’re applying for a business loan, whether it’s for start-up costs, working capital, or real estate, it’s a good idea to complete more than one loan application so you can compare rates and terms. Most lenders will only do a “soft” pull on your credit in the pre-qualification stage and will not do a hard pull (the kind that dings your credit score) unless you accept the loan offer.
Traditional loan: Banks and credit unions are a source of financing for all businesses, including franchises. New franchise owners are 15% more likely than other new business owners to use a commercial bank loan, according to the SBA. Lenders are more likely to finance franchises of an established brand that has proved successful in a variety of markets. However, you’ll still be subjected to the bank’s underwriting standards and lending policies, meaning it will review your net worth and credit history. You also may need to put up collateral, regardless of the brand you’re associated with.
Many traditional lenders provide funding to franchisees, so this should be a top-line option for those looking for a loan. Each lender will have different eligibility requirements and loan products so examine documents in detail before signing on the dotted line. You will need a good credit rating, a solid application package, a down payment and some form of collateral.
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Government loans are typically offered through banks and credit unions that partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a U.S. government body, with the motive of providing support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. For each loan authorized, a government-backed guarantee offers serious credibility, since the lender knows that even if you default, the government will pay off the balance. These loans can be applied to a number of uses, such as: