Although you’ll often need to make a specific financial commitment and meet certain regulations to open a franchise, there’s a lot you get in return. You’ll get the built-in name recognition that brings customers in, as well as guidance on everything from hiring to keeping local regulators happy. Before you get started, there are a few important things to know.
Microlenders: If your company is especially small, you may need to opt for a microlender. These are non-profits that typically lend short-term loans of less than $35,000. They also have a much higher APR than bank loans but may be useful by helping you bridge a temporary cash-flow gap. Microlenders require detailed business plans and financial statements, so be prepared for some serious paperwork.
Personal collateral requirements depend on the loan amount and the project. Does the coffee franchise involve commercial real estate or will the business be leasing a space? Collateral can be in different forms. Real estate equity is one form of collateral. Cash (in the form of a payment reserve or a CD) is another. We would need to know the specific project cost breakdown to know what might be possible. Rule of thumb would be to plan on 25% personal equity into the business and the bank will finance 75%. If it is preferred to avoid putting a lien on personal real estate, plan to have 18 months of loan payments to set aside in an escrow account at the bank as a payment reserve. The payment reserve can be released back to you after 2 years, as long as the business is showing good cash flow and making the loan payments without a problem. The other option is a CD held at the bank for the term of the loan. The CD is usually a smaller amount of funds than the payment reserve but is held for the entire term of the loan.
General purpose business loans. The most widely used SBA loans, SBA 7(a) general loans can greatly help if you’re investing in a franchise. Because SBA loans are guaranteed by the government, they’re easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans. The amount and rates that you can potentially qualify for may make them worth the extra time and documents needed to apply. Outside of the loan itself, the Small Business Administration offers free tools to help you plan for securing the loan and keep up on your new enterprise once you’ve become a franchisee.
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?
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.
If your bank is hesitant about a particular franchise system’s performance, or your finances aren’t as strong as they could be, you might want to consider an SBA loan. SBA doesn’t lend to business owners directly; it provides a repayment guarantee to banks and lenders for money they lend to small businesses, making it less risky for the banks. Use this search tool to find the right SBA loan for you.
You do need to create a list of prospects before you reach out. This will help you focus on targeting the right areas and the right people. Do your research. If you’re selling a high-end product, you don’t want to target/cold-call customers in a low-income neighborhood. And, if you’re selling a product suited to children, should you really focus on the section of town that all the college students live in?
StreetShares is dedicated to helping U.S. military veteran entrepreneurs get funding for their small business ventures, which is why it is a good place to look if you want to start a small business and you’re a veteran. It’s free to see if you qualify for a loan, which is offered in terms of three months to three years, for up to $100,000. Businesses must be at least one-year-old or have at least $100,000 in revenue to qualify. You also must be a U.S. citizen and have decent credit.
While they might not be as plentiful, businesses in rural areas are just as important as businesses in urban areas. The USDA’s Rural Development loan program is dedicated to helping businesses in rural areas get started and grow. Like the SBA, this loan program does not lend directly but rather guarantees loans, which allows entrepreneurs access to a larger line of credit than their personal credit would allow so they can successfully build their business.
The International Franchise Association maintains a directory of franchises that are approved by the SBA to receive SBA funding. Each franchisor in the directory is required to submit a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) with information about its company to the SBA for approval. Working with a company that is pre-approved by the SBA will expenditure the process of obtaining an SBA loan for your franchise.
There are probably understandable reasons for your bad credit. Most of us are still bouncing back from the recession, and some businesses were hit harder than others. Whether or not you decide to get a “bad-credit loan,” building up your credit is planning for the future of your company. Once you raise your credit score, it will be much easier to secure funding as your company grows.
Small business line of credit. Under a small business line of credit, your business can access funds from the lender as needed. There will be a cap on the amount of funds accessible (e.g., $100,000) but a line of credit is useful for managing a company’s cash flow and unexpected expenses. There will typically be a fee for setting up the line of credit, but you don’t get charged interest until you actually draw down the funds. Interest is typically paid monthly and the principal drawn down on the line is often amortized over years. However, most lines of credit require renewal annually, which may require an additional fee. If the line is not renewed, you will be required to pay it in full at that time.
“Not all businesses meet business loan eligibility requirements,” was Ali's initial comment on this topic. “Most banks have an income eligibility threshold of 1.25 times your expenses, including the repayment amount. [So] even if you do meet the requirements, think carefully before taking on the loan, and be sure you can service the repayment terms.”
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.
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