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.
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Banks and credit unions are traditional sources for small business loans, and they’re a good place to start. Especially with small institutions, you’ll be able to meet with a lender who can guide you through the process. Larger banks might take a more hands-off approach. To improve your chances of getting approved, ask about SBA loans, which reduce the bank’s risk and feature interest rate caps. The loan process at banks and credit unions can be slow, so be prepared for a long process and a thorough review from the bank.
Small business owners are passionate about their ideas and tend to get excited about the little details, leaving the financials alone in the back of their business plan. It’s a mistake to put your financial information as an appendix or otherwise in the back because “it says that finance is not important,” advises Shelton. Your lender wants to feel comfortable that you have a plan for managing your finances, including paying back your loan, so keep your financial information up front in your business plan.
Online business lenders are a relatively new option, and they might provide more choice than you can find locally. You might also find it easier to get approved – these lenders are more interested in funding loans and growing than conservative banks and credit unions. Online lenders might also move faster than traditional lenders. That said, they’re not looking to lose money, so the loan still needs to make sense.
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.”
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.