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.
If you're thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don't (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you've got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
With one or more of these three options, you should be able to reduce your personal financial investment to almost nothing. You may have to make some other sacrifices, such as starting small, accommodating partners or taking on debt, but if you believe in your business idea, none of these losses should stand in your way. Capital is a major hurdle to overcome, but make no mistake -- it can be overcome.
Over 99 percent of all business entities in the US are small businesses, according to The SBA Loan Book: The Complete Guide to Getting Financial Help Through the Small Business Administration. These businesses represent over half of the private workforce and the private-sector output and over 40 percent of all private commercial sales in the United States.
The lender will want to know how much funding you are seeking and how the loan proceeds will be used. Will the loan be for equipment or capital expenditures? Expansion or hiring? Increase in inventory? Enhanced sales and marketing efforts? New research and development of technology? New product development? Expansion into new facilities or territories?
2. Get a website. In today’s technology-based world, the first thing a potential customer or employee does is Google your business. You need a website to show you’re real and to offer information about your business to potential customers. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and be sure to ask for search engine optimization. Use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website, but be leery of people who promise you top positions on search engines. While there are lots of things that can be done to increase your ranking on various search engines, unless the developer works for Google, I would be leery of a promise to get you to the top. Remember that you get what you pay for. There are a ton of do it yourself website services, but depending on the features you need on your site, some things are better left to the experts.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
ApplePie Capital (see our review) is an online lender that specializes in franchise financing. Founded in 2014, ApplePie was one of the first online lenders to offer franchise financing. After recently acquiring another franchise lender, ApplePie has expanded its offering to include SBA-backed loans, equipment loans, and conventional loans, in addition to its original “core” 3-7 year loan.
Maybe you want to build an empire and become famous, or create a wealth-generation machine that you can pass on to your children. Or perhaps you can’t convince anyone to recognize your unique vision and you’ve decided that it will never come to fruition unless you strike out on your own. Or maybe you’re thinking of self-employment because you’ve been unemployed for so long that you feel you’ve exhausted all other options.
The idea here is to get clear about what’s important to you, where exactly your passion lies, and what the point of the whole venture is. As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of paying bills, writing the website copy, changing the website copy several dozen times, filling out tax forms, and so on. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.
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.
If you don’t have a business idea yet but you do know you want to run your business, you might start by looking at our guide on coming up with business ideas. Or, you could consider turning a hobby you have into a full-time business. You could even pursue something in which you have a lot of experience. If you’ve been working in retail for 10 years, why not consider opening a boutique?
Start by learning about various franchise shops and restaurants in your preferred specialty. If you’re a fan of Panera Bread, for instance, go to the company’s franchise Information page and read up on the opportunity. If you need inspiration, Franchise.com keeps a running list of franchise opportunities, complete with a monthly featured franchise.