A number of costs go into the launching a franchise. Initial costs include paying for professional advisers such as a lawyer to look over contracts and an accountant to advise or manage your finances. You’ll also need to invest money up-front for anything your business will need: real estate or lease payments, inventory, equipment, supplies insurance, licenses, recruitment, employee preparation, and signage. A grand opening event and initial marketing expenses will also add to your startup costs. You’ll also want to account for ongoing expenses such as professional services, supplies, employee pay and benefits, rent or property taxes, utilities and maintenance.
Most lenders are interested in how long you've been at a certain job or lived in the same location, and whether you have a record of finishing what you start. If your past record doesn't show a history of stability, then be prepared with good explanations. Not only is the amount of income you earn important but so is your ability to live within that income. Some people earn $100,000 a year and still can't pay their debts, while others budget nicely on $20,000 a year.
Keep in mind that whenever you’re applying for a business loan, whether it’s for start-up costs, working capital, or real estate, it’s a good idea to complete more than one loan application so you can compare rates and terms. Most lenders will only do a “soft” pull on your credit in the pre-qualification stage and will not do a hard pull (the kind that dings your credit score) unless you accept the loan offer.
It’s often easier to get started with a franchise compared to an independent business because a franchise comes with a proven concept, brand recognition, and customer base. Although the success rates of individual franchises vary widely, as a whole, franchises perform better than independent businesses in the long run. According to a report by the International Franchise Association, about 12,000 franchises open their doors every year!
Your eligibility. Each franchisor has its own set of requirements for you to meet, and from there you’ll need to meet the criteria any lenders have. Confirm eligibility with the providers you’re interested in to see whether you meet their minimum standards. If not, you have the option of learning what you can change to make the cut. And keep exploring your other providers.
You can arrange to borrow from ordinary commercial banks or credit unions for your new venture. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), new franchise owners have a higher tendency to borrow from commercial banks than new business owners. Lenders prefer advancing cash to new franchises over other new businesses since they already have trust in the brand and business model of the business being funded.
To find out the best ways for new business owners to secure loans, I consulted with experts who have a wide range of experience with funding businesses including Jared Hecht, CEO of the online lending website Fundera, David J. Hall from the Small Business Association, Hal Shelton who is a SCORE mentor and author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan (Summit Valley Press 2014) and Larry Conley, Senior Vice President and Specialty Finance National Manager for Chase bank.
Small business term loans. Term loans are typically for a set dollar amount (e.g., $250,000) and are used for business operations, capital expenditures, or expansion. Interest is paid monthly and the principal is usually repayable within 6 months to 3 years (which can be amortized over the term of the loan or have a balloon payment at the end). Term loans can be secured or unsecured, and the interest can be variable or fixed. They are good for small businesses that need capital for growth or for large, onetime expenditures.
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.
Banks want to see a history of successful borrowing anytime they make a loan. That includes loans for your business. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have any history of borrowing (especially new businesses), so lenders look at your personal credit scores instead. If you’ve got good credit, that’s a good sign that you’ll handle the business loans well. If you’ve got bad credit, lenders will be more skittish about lending. If your credit is “thin” because you haven’t borrowed much in the past (or if it’s in need of some repair), you may need to build your credit before lenders are likely to approve you for a loan.
But not every small business is positioned for success. In fact, only about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years, and about half survive five years. So you may be in for a real challenge when you decide to take the plunge, ditch your day job, and become a business owner. The stage is often set in the beginning, so making sure you follow all of the necessary steps when starting your business can set the foundation for success.
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.
It’s useful to come up with a business plan to think through what you want to do for the development of the product or service, marketing, financial projections, and more. And you should then get input from trusted business and finance advisors. But don’t go overboard with a 50-page business plan. In reality, many startups have to deviate from their plan as the business develops.
As you consider financing options, make sure you get the best deal overall for your business. This means you'll need to compare interest rates, repayment terms, origination costs, and whether pre-payment penalties apply. By looking at the total cost of the loan, as well as whether monthly payments are affordable, you can secure financing that works for your organization.
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.