An important step in forming a new business is to determine the type of business structure that you will use. There are several business structures to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company and limited liability partnership. Each has advantages and disadvantages as well as tax consequences of which you should be aware. You must decide which of these structures best suits your business objectives and needs. The Secretary of State cannot advise you on choosing a business structure. For help in making this decision, you may wish to consult a tax practitioner, accountant or attorney.
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:
If you own a home, and have 20-30% equity in it, then you may be able to get a home equity line of credit (HELOC) with a low interest rate. These funds are great to start a business, and can be used for any of your startup fees, including your franchise fees. With a HELOC you can get access to a lump sum immediately and draw against the total as you need it. Like a normal business line of credit, you only pay interest on what you’re using.
Shelton recommends meeting with a loan officer a few weeks to a month ahead of time to personally meet the loan officer and find out if the bank is currently interested in lending the type of loan you are looking for: “You want the loan officer to be on your side,” Shelton explains, because the loan officer usually doesn’t have the approval level to say yes to a loan.
Depending on the size of your loan, your financial statements and accounting records will be reviewed carefully by the lender. So make sure they are complete, correct, and thorough—including balance sheet, income and loss statements, and cash flow statements. The lender will analyze your cash flow, gross margin, debt-to-equity ratio, accounts payable, accounts receivable, EBITDA, and more, so be prepared to answer questions on those topics. Consider having your accountant look over your financial statements to anticipate issues a lender may raise.
SBA loans of five- to six-year maturities can provide short-term working capital and equipment. Real-estate loans can run for 20 years or more. About 10% of all SBA loans go to franchisees, with the size running between $250,000 and $500,000, and maximum of $2 million. Most of that money is for franchise entry fees, improvements or working capital. Borrowers must be creditworthy, typically must contribute some equity, and are expected to repay the SBA loan out of the franchise’s cash flow.
In some instances the franchise itself will extend financing to you. Some companies, like 7- Eleven, actually build the store for new franchisees and lease the location to you, meaning you incur minimal startup costs and the transaction is handled directly between you and the franchisor. Others, like Subway may buy back locations from existing franchisees and then sell them to you as a new location, meaning you'll be handed an established store, sometimes with existing employees and inventory.
Spend the next week working on your pitch, your business plan, and on researching your financing options. Remember that your business plan isn’t set in stone. It should remain a “live” document as you progress and as you grow. Don’t stress about it, just use this week to focus your thoughts and bring everything you thought about and learned in week one together.
Companies sometimes think that patent protection is the only way to protect themselves. Technology startups frequently ignore the value of non-patent intellectual property. While patents can be incredibly valuable, it does not necessarily ensure that a company’s product is a good product or that it will sell well. Trade secrets, cybersecurity policies, trademarks, and copyrights can all be forms of IP that can be protected.
Funds cannot be used for lines of credit, owner-occupied housing, projects involving over $1 million and include relocating at least 50 jobs or agricultural production. Funds also cannot be used to fund certain businesses including golf courses, casinos/racetracks, churches or church-controlled businesses, fraternal organizations or lending/investment companies.
Microlenders are nonprofits that typically lend short-term loans of less than $35,000. The APR on these loans is typically higher than that of bank loans. The application may require a detailed business plan and financial statements, as well as a description of what the loan will be used for, making it a lengthy process. Also, the size of the loans is, by definition, “micro.” But these loans may work well for smaller companies or startups that can’t qualify for traditional bank loans, due to a limited operating history, poor personal credit or a lack of collateral.