“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.”
Direct online lenders. There are a number of online lenders that make small business loans through a relatively easy online process. Reputable companies such as Swift Capital provide very fast small business cash advances, working capital loans, and short-term loans in amounts from $5,000 to $500,000. Sites such as Fundera and LendingTree offer you access to multiple lenders, acting as a lead generation service for lenders.
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?)
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.
The loan officer takes your application, and in some cases, all of the applications she has received during a set time period, to a credit committee, and the committee determines whether or not a loan gets approved. This is why it’s so important to have the loan officer on your side–you need someone standing up for you in front of the credit committee when you can’t be present.
While they might not be as plentiful, businesses in rural areas are just as important as businesses in urban areas. The USDA’s Rural Development loan program is dedicated to helping businesses in rural areas get started and grow. Like the SBA, this loan program does not lend directly but rather guarantees loans, which allows entrepreneurs access to a larger line of credit than their personal credit would allow so they can successfully build their business.
Patents. Patents are the best protection you can get for a new product. A patent gives its inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented subject matter described in the patent’s claims. The key issues in determining whether you can get a patent are: (1) Only the concrete embodiment of an idea, formula, or product is patentable; (2) the invention must be new or novel; (3) the invention must not have been patented or described in a printed publication previously; and (4) the invention must have some useful purpose. In the United States you obtain a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but this process can take several years and be complicated. You typically need a patent lawyer to draw up the patent application for you. The downside of patents is that they can be expensive to obtain and take several years,
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.
There are sources of startup money that may not be as obvious to franchisees that can be helpful. Using equity from a home loan or a 401(k) plan, can provide a kick-start to your business if conventional sources of financing are not available. However, those products may not be optimal over the long run when compared to loan products specifically geared to funding a small businesses.
4. Set up and claim your business online. Whether you get on board or not, information about your business is and will be on the internet. Wouldn’t you rather proactively control what people read or see about your business when they Google it? Do a search on different browsers to see what information you see about your company and then claim or create a listing for your business.
6. Create local awareness and establish a network. Join chambers, business associations, community groups, etc. Find ways to get involved. Networking is a great way to capture business leads as long as you don’t come on too strong. It allows you to meet new contacts and create more brand awareness and new referrals. Sponsor sporting events, nonprofit events or anything that is for a good cause. Get your name out there while also being a good community steward. Give away SWAG (promotional items with your business name, logo and contact info on them). T-shirts are a great example of free walking advertisements for your business.
If you are new to franchise ownership, be sure to do your research and due diligence about the franchise system you’re interested in. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (required by law) and speak to other franchisees about the brand and the financing program on offer. Next, try to understand what your financial responsibilities as a franchise owner will be. This blog offers some pointers on this: Buying a Franchise – How to Determine What it’s Going to Cost You.
If you start your company with co-founders, you should agree early on about the details of your business relationship. Not doing so can potentially cause significant legal problems down the road (a good example of this is the infamous Zuckerberg/Winklevoss Facebook litigation). In a way, think of the founder agreement as a form of “pre-nuptial agreement.” Here are the key deal terms your written founder agreement needs to address:
If you have a newer franchise or need capital ASAP, OnDeck (see our review) is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get a short-term loan or line of credit. Though OnDeck isn’t specifically geared toward franchise owners, it’s a viable online loan option for any type of small business owner that doesn’t qualify for a bank loan or doesn’t want to wait months to receive loan funds. OnDeck also recently partnered with the Franchise Council of Australia in an effort to better serve the global franchise market (fun fact: Australia actually has more franchise outlets per capita than America).
Proof of ability to pay: As Ali told me, banks want to be sure you’re positioned to make the loan payment on time each month. You’ll need to present detailed financial statements showing that your income is at least 1.25 times your operating expenses, including the new repayment amount. For example, say your business makes $15,000 a month and your current expenses are $10,000. With the loan repayment added to your operating expenses, you need to be sure your income still exceeds the recommended 1.25 threshold.
2. Get a website. In today’s technology-based world, the first thing a potential customer or employee does is Google your business. You need a website to show you’re real and to offer information about your business to potential customers. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and be sure to ask for search engine optimization. Use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website, but be leery of people who promise you top positions on search engines. While there are lots of things that can be done to increase your ranking on various search engines, unless the developer works for Google, I would be leery of a promise to get you to the top. Remember that you get what you pay for. There are a ton of do it yourself website services, but depending on the features you need on your site, some things are better left to the experts.
A lockbox advance is a high risk merchant cash advance using a credit card split, but the way its split is different than a conventional MCA advance. When a lockbox is involved, all deposits are put into a new bank account setup by the funder, where the funder will then collect its share of the daily batches, and then release to the merchant. The process is a bit slower, taking up to 24 hours for the money to hit the merchant’s account.
If you do have people in your life who could invest in your business, getting a loan from friends and family is sometimes an option. Of course, for many entrepreneurs who are just starting out and in need of cash, this just isn’t a possibility. Either the amount they need is too high, or their circle of friends and family is small or possibly strapped for money themselves. It’s possible that your friends and family will think it’s too risky because of your bad credit as well.
Startups should also understand that the venture process can be very time consuming—just getting a meeting with a principal of a VC firm can take weeks; followed up with more meetings and conversations; followed by a presentation to all of the partners of the venture capital fund; followed by the issuance and negotiation of a term sheet, with continued due diligence; and finally the drafting and negotiation by lawyers on both sides of numerous legal documents to evidence the investment.
To start your application for a business loan, calculate how much money and what kind of loan you need. Then, gather the necessary documents, including a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, tax documents, and a detailed business plan. Once you have all of your information, approach lenders, such as the Small Business Administration, banks, and credit unions, and complete the application for the best loan for your needs. Finally, wait to hear back from the lender and be sure to thoroughly review the terms of your loan.
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A lender is primarily concerned about the ability of the borrower to repay the loan. To the extent that a security interest can be given to the lender on company assets (company equipment, property, accounts receivable, etc.), the borrower should be able to increase its chances of getting a loan on favorable terms. Some lenders may insist upon the personal guarantee of the principal owner of the business. That is best avoided if possible as it puts the owner’s personal assets, and not just the business assets, at risk.
If you can secure a credit card in your company name and make purchases and on-time payments, you can get financing and start building good business credit at the same time. Of course, the credit limit, interest rate, and terms of payment will vary, and each bank or credit union will have eligibility requirements, so this option will not work for everyone.