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.
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.
Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
In addition, the franchise industry is also experiencing a growth in companies dedicated to helping franchise owners secure financing. Two such firms are BoeFly (which matches borrowers to lenders online) and Franchise America Finance (who provides custom lending solutions for franchisees and works with franchisors such as The UPS Store, Popeyes, and Jersey Mike’s).
More than anything, focus on consistent, repetitive branding. Many marketing professionals believe in the “rule of seven," which means people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action. In today’s world of constant connectivity, you must make sure you’re seen and heard. The most common reason that people do not buy your product is that they do not know about it yet.
Your place on the credit spectrum is one factor that will determine which loans you’ll qualify for. You can get your credit report for free from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — once a year. You can get your credit score for free from several credit card issuers as well as personal finance websites, including NerdWallet.