Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur, and traveler. His latest book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, is now a New York Times bestseller. During a lifetime of self-employment and ventures ranging from online publishing to volunteer work in West Africa, he has visited nearly every country on earth before the age of 35. Host of the World Domination Summit, an international gathering of creative people, Chris is focused on encouraging individual quests while also “giving back.” His main website, ChrisGuillebeau.com, is visited by more than 300,000 people a month.

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.


When starting out, your product or service has to be at least good if not great. It must be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from the offerings of your competition‎. Everything else follows from this key principle. Don’t drag your feet on getting your product out to market, since early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve your product. Of course, you want a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to begin with, but even that product should be good and differentiated from the competition. Having a “beta” test product works for many startups as they work the bugs out from user reactions. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook has said, “Done is better than perfect.”
I’d like to call your attention to a series of video tutorials I did not that long ago as a donation to this community. They are all here and I’d like you to be aware of them. They are organized into modules, 2-10 minutes each. You can pick and choose and jump around, or run through them in the original order. They are here as a resource for you. (Note: the text in bold here highlights links to the videos)

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.

Your first option is to change your business model to demand fewer needs as listed above. For example, if you were planning on starting a company as a consultant or freelancer, you could reduce your “employee” expenses by being the sole employee at the start. Unless you need office space, you can work from home. You can even do your homework to find cheaper sources of supplies, or cut out entire product lines that are too expensive to produce at the outset.

Franchise fee: Most companies charge an upfront fee to start a franchise, paid in a lump sum or installments. The amount varies by company, but it’s typically tens of thousands of dollars and usually is not refundable once a franchisee is accepted. For example, Jamba Juice charges $25,000 per store, and Hilton Worldwide charges $75,000 to start a 150-room Hilton Garden Inn.
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.

Negotiate the startup and operating costs: When you buy a franchise, there is a pretty long list of things that you need to buy before you can open the doors to customers. The cost for such items will be noted in the Franchise Disclosure Document. If you negotiate, the franchisor may be willing to absorb the cost of some of these items for you, like discounting your franchise fee.


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:
Franchise fee: Most companies charge an upfront fee to start a franchise, paid in a lump sum or installments. The amount varies by company, but it’s typically tens of thousands of dollars and usually is not refundable once a franchisee is accepted. For example, Jamba Juice charges $25,000 per store, and Hilton Worldwide charges $75,000 to start a 150-room Hilton Garden Inn.
Use your retirement accounts (401(k) or IRA) to invest in your business without having to pay early withdrawal penalties or taxes.  If you still need more money, this can be used in combination with a SBA loan.  The investment into your business may be enough that no collateral is required.  Even if collateral would normally be required, an alternative such as a payment reserve and be utilized.  Learn more about 401K business financing.
In a misguided effort to save on expenses, startup businesses often hire inexperienced legal counsel. Rather than spending the money necessary to hire competent legal counsel, founders will often hire lawyers who are friends, relatives, or others who offer large fee discounts. In doing so, the founders deny themselves the advice of experienced legal counsel who could potentially help them avoid many serious legal problems.
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.
When you get a HELOC your personal home will be used as collateral. This means that if you fail to make payments in the future then you could lose your home. That is the risk that comes with the benefits of receiving access to low interest rate funds as you need them. With a HELOC you can borrow up to 80-90% of your home equity with an APR as low as 3%. You must have a credit score of at least 650 to qualify.
You can get an approval decision right after you submit your franchise financing application. Our automated decision-making technology will review your application, and we will let you know if you qualify immediately thereafter. There is no need to waste time gathering up a bunch of your financial statements and copies of your tax returns. You will be happy to know that we look at all credit scores. In addition, you have a limited credit history and still be can a good candidate.
Instagram stories have been growing in popularity and now attract 300 million daily users. Instagram stories enable you to share a number of videos and photos and they appear like a slideshow. Instagram stories are only available for 24 hours. Instagram stories cater to mobile phone users who want engaging and informative content in as little time as possible. Used correctly, this format of Instagram videos and photos can help to drive engagement for your business. For example, the retailer, J.Crew, used Instagram stories to give followers a sneak peek at its pre-sale items.
1. You can do it because others are doing it. Think the country is dominated by big businesses run by people with MBAs? Wrong. 99 percent of businesses in the US are small businesses, and they employ 80 percent of the population! You don’t need any “special” training to run a business. You just need an idea, the desire to learn and adapt, and the ability to take action!
StumbleUpon recently published an excellent business plan guide; also consider reviewing startup information provided by the IRS. Help from experienced mentors is free through organizations such as SCORE, an organization of volunteer business mentors who provide specific advice and resources to newly created and growing businesses on a no-cost basis. There are many other organizations, such as your local chamber of commerce, that can also provide mentoring and guidance.
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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.

Shannon is a writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English. She is the former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, an online trade publication. Shannon has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. She has been with Merchant Maverick since 2015, writing about POS software, small business loans, and financing for women entrepreneurs.


Hiring costs – As a franchise owner, you are a business owner responsible for hiring, training, and retaining employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a retail worker was $10.60/hour in 2015, but that doesn’t include the time it takes to hire and train employees and the costs of employee benefits, health insurance, and business insurance.
Tenant improvements. Your new space may need some improvements or alterations (a new paint job, new carpeting, a reconfiguration of the space). Which party will pay for these improvements depends on how tight the commercial office space market is in your city. Most form leases stipulate that the tenant can’t make any alterations or improvements without the landlord’s consent. Ask for a clause that says you can make alterations or improvements with the landlord’s consent, and that the consent won’t be unreasonably withheld, delayed, or conditioned. Often, you are able to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance,” which is an agreed-upon sum of money that the landlord will provide for the improvements and alterations you would like to make.
Stock Option Plans are an extremely popular method of attracting, motivating, and retaining the best employees, especially when the company is unable to pay high salaries. A Stock Option Plan gives the company the flexibility to award stock options to employees, officers, directors, advisors, and consultants, allowing these people to buy stock in the company when they exercise the option.
Never start a business as a “sole proprietorship,” which can result in your personal assets being at risk for the debts and liabilities of the business. You will almost always want to start the business as an S corporation (giving you favorable flow through tax treatment), a C corporation (which is what most venture capital investors expect to see), or a limited liability company (LLC). None of those are particularly expensive or difficult to set up. My personal preference is to start the business as an S corporation, which can then easily be converted to a C corporation as you bring in investors and issue multiple classes of stock.
If you want to separate your personal liability from your company's liability, you may want to consider forming one of several types of corporations. This makes a business a separate entity apart from its owners, and therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter into contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. One of the most common structures for small businesses, however, is the limited liability corporation (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership.

A well-thought-out business plan can make the difference between having your loan application accepted or rejected. A complete business plan should always include an intimate, technical study of the business you plan to go into; accurate pro formas, projections and cost analyses; estimates of working capital; an indication of your "people skills"; and a suitable marketing plan. It should also include certified statements of your net worth and several credit references.
Real estate investment is a great business. However, the SBA will not guarantee loans for business that do what they consider speculation. Unfortunately, real estate investment is considered speculation. We may be able to get you a non SBA business line of credit up to 150K. If you are interested, please fill out our pre-qualification form and we will schedule a call to go over your options. https://keycommercialcapital.com/prequalify/

In a misguided effort to save on expenses, startup businesses often hire inexperienced legal counsel. Rather than spending the money necessary to hire competent legal counsel, founders will often hire lawyers who are friends, relatives, or others who offer large fee discounts. In doing so, the founders deny themselves the advice of experienced legal counsel who could potentially help them avoid many serious legal problems.


At the early stages of your startup, you will likely want to have a small employee team to minimize expenses. A good way to fill in for specialized expertise is to use freelancers or consultants. That way, you avoid taking on employee costs and benefits payments. And there are a variety of sites that can help you access freelancers, such as Freelancer.com, Guru.com, and Upwork.com.
Tenant improvements. Your new space may need some improvements or alterations (a new paint job, new carpeting, a reconfiguration of the space). Which party will pay for these improvements depends on how tight the commercial office space market is in your city. Most form leases stipulate that the tenant can’t make any alterations or improvements without the landlord’s consent. Ask for a clause that says you can make alterations or improvements with the landlord’s consent, and that the consent won’t be unreasonably withheld, delayed, or conditioned. Often, you are able to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance,” which is an agreed-upon sum of money that the landlord will provide for the improvements and alterations you would like to make.
We’ve touched on a lot of different topics, of course, and I’ve linked to more tutorials so that you can dig into the details in each area. I’d encourage you to read some of those tutorials to go deeper into the key subjects, and to subscribe to our newsletter (there’s a form down in the footer) to stay up to date with the latest business tutorials published here. We've got plenty more on the way!
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.
The franchise industry, like all businesses, was not immune to the economic crisis of 2008 and the ensuing credit crunch. But the vital signs of a recovery are there. According to the International Franchise Association (IFA), many of the country’s business sectors currently starting to show growth mirror those sectors expected to be the leading drivers of employment in franchising this year. These include food service, health care, hospitality and construction—all sectors with a high concentration of franchise businesses.
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.
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.

We’ve touched on a lot of different topics, of course, and I’ve linked to more tutorials so that you can dig into the details in each area. I’d encourage you to read some of those tutorials to go deeper into the key subjects, and to subscribe to our newsletter (there’s a form down in the footer) to stay up to date with the latest business tutorials published here. We've got plenty more on the way!
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