Aira, business debt is a different animal than consumer debt. It’s one thing to go into debt buying nice furniture, big tvs, vacations, etc. It’s another thing to go into debt to get bulk inventory discounts, finance equipment, expand restaurant seating, or anything else that will turn $1 of debt into $2 of revenue, for example. That’s what business loans are typically used for.
So what’s the catch? You must have an eligible retirement account (Roth IRAs are not eligible, but most tax-deferred retirement plans are), and generally speaking, you should have at least $50K in the account to rollover. This means that ROBS are often not an option for young franchisees who haven’t had sufficient time to save money in a retirement account. In addition, there is a risk to doing a ROBS. If the franchise fails, you could lose your retirement funds.
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.
You’re applying for a business loan, and you may even be organized as a corporation or LLC. However, lenders will almost always want to hold you personally responsible for the loan. If they don’t do that and the business fails, there’s nobody left to repay them. But if you make a personal guarantee on the loan (which is likely a requirement), they can go after you personally, and your personal credit will suffer if you don’t repay.

You should specifically start your search for a lender that has experience funding franchises. Some major banks such as Bank of America, HSBC, and PNC have specific programs targeting franchisees. Smaller institutions specialize in franchising in specific industries, such as restaurant franchise funding from Oak Street Capital, and hotel funding from Access Point Financial.
Starting a business involves a lot of moving factors, but the most important one is financing. You are going to need to spend some time evaluating your business model and writing your business plan before you can really determine the type of loan you need and the best way to secure that loan. As your business grows, your lending needs will change, so take the time now to understand the differences between lending and investing so you can be ready when your company starts to grow and needs to adjust its financing.
According to Hecht, online lenders tend to stay away from lending to startup businesses: “The longer you’ve been around, the easier it is for you to get funding from an online lender.” Even though his business is based on online lenders, “we’re not anti-bank,” says Hecht. He advises every entrepreneur to begin their financing process by going to their local bank first to see what they have to offer.
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.
Traditional bank options include term loans, lines of credit and commercial mortgages to buy properties or refinance. Through banks, the U.S. Small Business Administration provides general small-business loans with its 7(a) loan program, short-term microloans and disaster loans. SBA loans range from about $5,000 to $5 million, with an average loan size of $371,000.
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