If you’re like the majority of new startups, cash flow will be your primary concern. You can have the best business plan in the world, but it won’t be of any use if you don’t have the money to keep the lights on while you’re getting your feet on the ground. With this, it’s important to know what resources are available to make the initial growth period a lot easier.
As you have done throughout the planning and startup process, consider analyzing your competitors and other companies. How are they selling themselves? How do they portray themselves? What do they say makes them unique? If you’re not sure, take a look at their advertising and marketing messages. This is generally where you’ll find the USP or variations of it.
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:
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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.
Being that each franchise launch means the business doesn’t have existing/trailing revenue, opening a franchise business is essentially opening a startup business. As with startups, the small business lending options are limited — but available. Other franchises are existing entities and are looking for capital to help with operating expenses and other working capital options. Here are the main options:
Franchises are worth considering because opening a business can be risky, especially if you don’t have prior experience juggling all the things that come with it. You’ll need to choose a name and image for your brand, make sure you have the right staff and build a full suite of products or services to meet demand. Even if you have mentors or a network of friends who are small business owners, you’ll often find that you’re struggling with important decisions.
There are many financing options for your franchise, but making the right choice is critical to your success. ApplePie understands the complexity and time constraints that you face in securing capital. That's why we’ve created a transformative lending network to suit your financial needs, maximizing flexibility and reducing the headaches and inefficiency of working separately across individual lenders.
There are a few companies that specialize in helping franchise businesses find funding, usually by matching franchisees with financing options. Considering the overwhelming options for franchising and the intimidating array of options for financing your endeavor, referring to or working with one of these matchmaker-advisers can be a good idea, especially for those who don’t have a clear idea of what type of franchise they are most interested in.
To ensure success for both entrepreneurs and investors, Plum Alley requires businesses that crowdfund to secure at least 30 percent of their goal during a one-week “private” campaign before opening the crowdfunding to the public. This ensures investors that the business already has some financing, making it more likely they will reach their goal since research indicates that businesses who get 30 percent of their funding goal within the first 48 hours of crowdfunding have the most success.
Market research is important because it will help you figure out whether or not there is demand for the service you’re offering or the product you’re selling. It will also help you when it comes time to write your business plan, especially if you’re pitching an angel investor or a venture capital firm. They will want to see there’s a market for your idea, otherwise, it won’t scale as rapidly as they need it to in order to make a return on their investment.
Small business term loans. Term loans are typically for a set dollar amount (e.g., $250,000) and are used for business operations, capital expenditures, or expansion. Interest is paid monthly and the principal is usually repayable within 6 months to 3 years (which can be amortized over the term of the loan or have a balloon payment at the end). Term loans can be secured or unsecured, and the interest can be variable or fixed. They are good for small businesses that need capital for growth or for large, onetime expenditures.
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Bank loans unsecured by collateral are relatively rare, even for those with good credit. In addition to securing a loan with a mortgage on your home or other asset, be ready to be asked to put your own money into the deal, typically about 20% of the amount needed. Even with healthy businesses and solid collateral, most bank loans to new franchisees occur when a borrower has established relationships with a banker, or has previous experience, or is a figure in the community. If that’s not you, consider a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Business to business companies can usually access financing more easily than companies that deal with consumers directly. In this type of scenario, you can use your clients' invoices to obtain financing from lenders. The process of obtaining cash advances using your clients’ invoices is called factoring. The factor takes the role of collecting the full amount owed to you by your client, then deducts the amount advanced to you and any other fee then pays you the balance.
The second step is to be strategic about how and where you apply for a loan. Key targets for your loan application would be your own bank, local business lenders and national lenders. Within that group, it is also important to target lenders who may be familiar with the brand and have made loans to other franchisees. That said, don't use a shotgun approach and apply everywhere. This approach can lead to inefficient use of your time and money as the process can lead to several declines from lenders as you blindly submit applications. This process can take up to 120-190 days before you even get funded. Additionally, some lenders charge application fees so it can get expensive, but more importantly, a lender may do a "hard" credit pull on you when you apply. Multiple hard credit pulls within a timeframe will actually hurt your credit score and decrease your ability to get a loan. One alternative is to use a service like BoeFly, which puts you in the driver's seat. It allows lenders to evaluate your loan package and credit and engage with you directly without officially applying at the bank. Only once it seems like it may be a good match will the lender issue you a proposal or term sheet on the financing and then officially invite you to apply at the bank - thereby saving your credit score and time and money. Unlike other marketplaces and "connecting" websites, BoeFly can significantly reduce your time of origination by up to 75% as well as your costs.
Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on Internet, digital media, and software companies, and he was the founder of several Internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, FoxBusiness, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and, co-author of Poker for Dummies and Mergers and Acquisitions of Privately Held Companies (Bloomberg), and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He was also a corporate and M&A partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital. He has been involved in over 200 M&A transactions and 250 startup financings. He can be reached through LinkedIn.
Remember that a business is franchised for two reasons: to expand the business and to raise capital. So if you have a reasonably good credit record and pass all the financial requirements, most franchisors will bend over backwards to get you on the team. The help that franchisors provide to help you get financing usually includes assistance with business plans and introductions to lending sources. In many cases, franchisors serve as guarantors of loans you take out.
For entrepreneurs interested in starting a business, a franchise can be a great way to begin at an advantage. You’ll have a recognizable name and the support that comes from being part of a larger organization, while still enjoying the independence of being in charge. With a little research on the front end, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure you’re prepared.
SBA.gov is the website for the Small Business Association. Founded in 1953, the SBA functions as an independent agency of the federal government whose mission, according to their website, is “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” One way the SBA helps small businesses is by offering financial assistance through three programs: the guaranteed loan program, surety bonds program and venture capital program.
Starting a business involves a lot of moving factors, but the most important one is financing. You are going to need to spend some time evaluating your business model and writing your business plan before you can really determine the type of loan you need and the best way to secure that loan. As your business grows, your lending needs will change, so take the time now to understand the differences between lending and investing so you can be ready when your company starts to grow and needs to adjust its financing.
Loans are made by StreetShares investors, who bid on loans for companies. The more appealing your business idea is to investors, the better your loan options. It only takes a few minutes to see if you qualify for a loan. Once you are approved, your loan will get bid on by competing investors. The competition process lasts from one to four days, and then it takes another day or two for the money to get deposited into your account. In total, the process of getting a loan through StreetShares takes about a week.
Equipment loans. Small businesses can buy equipment through an equipment loan. This typically requires a down payment of 20% of the purchase price of the equipment, and the loan is secured by the equipment. Interest on the loan is typically paid monthly and the principal is usually amortized over a two- to four-year period. The loans can be used to buy equipment, vehicles, and software. Loan amounts normally range from $5,000 to $500,000, and can accrue interest at either a fixed or variable rate. Equipment loans can also sometimes be structured as equipment leases.
Why start a small business? Some people want to spend more time with family, and starting a business allows them to do that. Some find it exhausting to be outside the house all day, dealing with traffic, co-workers, meetings and interruptions. Some people hate answering to a boss all the time — needing permission to schedule a dentist appointment or take the day off when they’re sick. Some people are unmotivated by the security of a regular paycheck and prefer the challenge of the direct rewards or losses that entrepreneurs see from their efforts.
Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs that help franchisees get in the door. Program offerings and requirements vary by franchisor, with such options as limited-term loans, reduced license fees or reduced royalties, and minority stake ownership by franchisors. Some companies, like Ace Hardware, offer financing to existing franchisees to open a new store or buy out a competitor.
Small businesses have a tougher time getting approved due to factors including lower sales volume and cash reserves; add to that bad personal credit or no collateral (such as real estate to secure a loan), and many small-business owners come up empty-handed. Getting funded takes longer than other options — typically two to six months — but banks are usually your lowest-APR option.