Opening a franchise can be a smart choice for an aspiring entrepreneur. Becoming a franchise owner gives you the flexibility of owning your own business with the added security of being part of an established brand. However, as with owning any new business, start-up costs can be high and you may require infusions of capital if you encounter hard times. Franchisees must also pay a franchise fee when opening a new franchise, as well as ongoing royalty fees. You truly need a good business plan, healthy cash flow, and solid franchise financing to succeed.
If you prefer a little more guidance as you search out a franchise opportunity, consider hiring a consultant to locate the perfect opportunity. Consultants gather information on your financial situation and preferences and give you a few options that fit. However, make sure you’re working with a reputable franchise consultant. Ask questions about franchisees they’ve successfully helped and contact those franchisees as references.
Some franchisors report being approached by financial brokers--historically more interested in big deals--to put together large pools of money using SBA and private funds. These funds would be available to franchisees through the franchisors like a trust fund. Groups of smaller banks with funds to invest would contribute to the fund from all over the country.
“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.”
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:
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.
Bank loans are a great option, but before you go that route, make sure you’ve done your market research and can demonstrate that your business will do well in your area. If you haven’t had any luck getting loans from traditional lenders, look for a lender that offers SBA-backed loans, since they’re geared specifically to the needs of small businesses and are only open to those who can’t get funding elsewhere. Other financial options include online alternative lenders, which may be less restrictive in who they approve, but also tend to charge higher fees and rates.
Supporting both the operation and expansion of a growing small business often requires some additional financial support. Getting a small business loan or grant can help you bridge the gap when you need to make capital investments, increase your workforce, or move to a larger space. To help you decide which type of funding might be right for you, here are a few great small business-financing options:
Rent and rent escalations. Some landlords will give free rent for the first month or two of a lease. Fixed rent over longer-term leases is relatively rare. Sometimes landlords insist on annual increases based on the percentage increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If your landlord insists on rent escalations, try to arrange for a CPI rent increase that does not kick in for at least the first two years of the term. Then, try to get a cap on the amount of each year’s increase. If you have to live with a rent escalation clause, try to negotiate a predetermined fixed increase; for example, a rent of $5,000 a month the first year that would only increase to $5,200 a month the second year and $5,400 a month the third year.
The Small Business Association (SBA) has several financing programs available for businesses, including startups, and works with banks around the country to guarantee loans so small businesses can secure bank loans and get up and running quickly. The SBA works with entrepreneurs who do not have great personal credit, making it more likely that they can still start their business even with a less than perfect credit score. Visit SBA.gov to find out more about how the SBA can help you and get information for your region.
Alternative lenders: Once you have your franchise up and running, you’ll need funding to work through seasonal ups and downs, purchase new equipment and possibly open another location. If you’re still having a hard time finding traditional funding, alternative lenders may help fill the gap. They tend to be quicker than traditional loan providers — some even fund within a day — and have looser qualification standards. However, annual percentage rates for alternative lenders typically are higher, so make sure you review your total cost of borrowing before deciding on a loan.
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?
Are you thinking about starting a small business, freelancing, or turning a hobby into a full-time job? Or perhaps you're already running your own business and need some inspiration to take it to the next level. Each week, join small business coach Dave Crenshaw for two short lessons that reveal the secrets of running a successful small business. This series covers topics such as getting started, writing a business plan, determining your most valuable product or service, hiring people, managing processes, documenting systems, bootstrapping, seeking funding, accounting, controlling costs and profit margins, marketing, creating culture, and more.
Often, banks that aren't willing to work with you based on your financial profile become more amenable if you suggest working with an SBA loan guarantee; these loans are guaranteed up to 90 percent by the SBA. Small businesses simply submit a loan application to the lender for initial review, and if the lender finds the application acceptable, it forwards the application and its credit analysis to the nearest SBA office. After SBA approval, the lender closes the loan and disburses the funds; the borrower makes loan payments to the lender.
Reviewing the brands franchise disclosure document (FDD), speaking with existing franchisees and financial professionals, in conjunction with support from the franchisor, will help you formulate your business plan and build financial projections. Outlining your management and marketing skills, past successes and future goals by including resumes for yourself, planned partners and other employees will allow all parties involved, from the franchisor to lenders, to understand the strengths of the ownership and management team. Personal credit history and financial strength will also play an important role in opening a franchise business.
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?)
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.
Business financing options other than traditional loans or lines of credit include personal loans for business or business credit cards. A personal loan for business is a good option if your business is still young and you don’t qualify for traditional financing. Personal-loan providers look at your personal credit score and income instead of your business history.
That is why you should use an administrative service to manage your loan, and give you a professional platform to raise the money and make payments to. This can make it easier for people you know to lend money to your business, and you won’t have to worry about any of the paperwork or tax implications. It could also improve your chances at getting funded.
Hashtag – The right hashtags can provide a boost to the visuals on Instagram. Be creative when it comes to hashtags. Try to come up with something that your followers would want to share. It’s best to avoid using just the name of your business as a hashtag. Instead, consider using a word or a phrase that captures your brand. Sprout Social lists some examples of how some big brands have successfully used hashtags.
The staff at Key Commercial Capital was wonderful. They made sure to explain all our options in detail and were always interested in the best for us. They verified our documents before submitting for approval to ensure everything was in order and that the application and closing process was as smooth as possible. They were also very responsive and available at all times. I will certainly be back on the next opportunity.
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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.
Fundation (see our review) is another high-quality alternative lender that provides capital to franchise businesses. Fundation has some of the lowest rates and fees you can find outside of a bank or credit union, offering up to $500,000 deposited in your account within a couple weeks after applying. However, the borrower requirements are more stringent than those for other some online lenders, as you’ll need good credit, one year’s time in business, and at least three full-time employees.
Often times, a franchisee looking to open their first franchise will fit nicely into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan product. SBA loans are made by banks or other participating lenders - not the government. SBA loans allow the lenders to extend credit to borrowers, who they may not be able to lend on a conventional basis, by taking advantage of a guarantee that the SBA provides to the lender in the event of default. There are a few different options, but the Flagship SBA 7a product gives the bank a 75% guarantee if your loan defaults - so that the money that the bank lends to you is not entirely at risk. SBA loans are typically priced at Wall Street Journal Prime + 1 to 2.75%, for terms of 7 to 25 years, depending on the use of funds.
Government small business loans help put your own business within reach. First there’s the quest for a decent location, then comes building a customer base, followed by all the initial hiccups of generating a cash flow before your business grows roots and gains momentum. The beginning of a business is crucial because it’s when you gain or lose market credibility. If you disappoint your customers, they may not give you a second chance. If your business gets off to a rocky start (most do), and you believe you can recover but need further financing to make this happen, you can apply for government small business loans.