In this article we’re going to discuss how you can finance the purchase of a new franchise. We’ll discuss where to find franchise financing and what you need to consider before jumping in. We’ll also give you some options to think about if you actually need working capital financing for your existing franchise. Before we dive in, let’s take a quick look at your two best options for franchise financing.
Your answer needs to be more detailed than simply “I don’t have any money.” What specifically will you be using the loan for? Start up? Day-to-day management? As a safety net? To answer this question, you will need to spend a lot of time figuring out your budget along with the amount of money that you realistically can put up as capital. Take your time with this step since it will have a big impact on whether or not you actually get a loan that can cover your expenses.
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.
So it pays to have a comfortable cushion, just in case things don’t pan out as expected. And it’s much easier and cheaper to arrange funding when times are good than it is when you’re desperate. Of course, you don’t want to be paying interest on unnecessary debt either, but there are funding options, like lines of credit, that you only pay for when you activate them. In any case, it’s worth researching your options early on.
Online lenders: While you may lack collateral, run a new business and need money quickly, you may find that an online lender is your best option. In general, online lenders should be a “last resort.” The average APR for online loans can be as high as 108 percent, making it difficult for small businesses to pay the money off before the debt balloons.
Use your retirement accounts (401(k) or IRA) to invest in your business without having to pay early withdrawal penalties or taxes.  If you still need more money, this can be used in combination with a SBA loan.  The investment into your business may be enough that no collateral is required.  Even if collateral would normally be required, an alternative such as a payment reserve and be utilized.  Learn more about 401K business financing.
We’ve touched on a lot of different topics, of course, and I’ve linked to more tutorials so that you can dig into the details in each area. I’d encourage you to read some of those tutorials to go deeper into the key subjects, and to subscribe to our newsletter (there’s a form down in the footer) to stay up to date with the latest business tutorials published here. We've got plenty more on the way!
Personal collateral requirements depend on the loan amount and the project. Does the coffee franchise involve commercial real estate or will the business be leasing a space? Collateral can be in different forms. Real estate equity is one form of collateral. Cash (in the form of a payment reserve or a CD) is another. We would need to know the specific project cost breakdown to know what might be possible. Rule of thumb would be to plan on 25% personal equity into the business and the bank will finance 75%. If it is preferred to avoid putting a lien on personal real estate, plan to have 18 months of loan payments to set aside in an escrow account at the bank as a payment reserve. The payment reserve can be released back to you after 2 years, as long as the business is showing good cash flow and making the loan payments without a problem. The other option is a CD held at the bank for the term of the loan. The CD is usually a smaller amount of funds than the payment reserve but is held for the entire term of the loan.

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

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,


Government loans are typically offered through banks and credit unions that partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a U.S. government body, with the motive of providing support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. For each loan authorized, a government-backed guarantee offers serious credibility, since the lender knows that even if you default, the government will pay off the balance. These loans can be applied to a number of uses, such as:

Your business plan is essential to get approved for a loan. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to create one. You need to show, with specific numbers, how you’ll earn money, how you’ll spend it, and your big-picture strategy. Explain who all of the players are in your business, especially management, marketing, and sales roles – those individuals will bring in new business that helps pay for the loan. It’s okay if you do all of those jobs – just explain why that is and your track record of success in those areas.
Shelton advises entrepreneurs to apply for a larger loan once they have the numbers to prove that they are growing: “What you’re hoping to get from these smaller loans is traction,” which you can use to “pitch [your story] as a growth story” when you apply for a larger traditional loan from a bank. Proving that you have experience growing your business from someone else’s money will help you convince the bank that you can do the same with their loan.
The brand you choose to work with may provide upfront estimates of how much it will cost to start a new business and can also give you information on monthly and year-over-year revenue goals and expected progress. This information, if available, is often found in Item 19 of the FDD. However, a franchise is not required to provide this information in their FDD - so speaking with several existing franchisees is always a wise choice. Based on this data and your own projections make sure you understand when your business will break even factoring in both expenses as well as the loan payments and always assume there will be unexpected costs. When determining your loan amount make sure to include working capital to get you through the ramp-up period of the business until the business can support expenses and loan payments. When lenders review your loan application they will pay attention to several key things, but 2 items that you should be aware of are Loan To Value (LTV) and Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). LTV is a measure of the total value of the loan amount compared to the collateral pledged. Lenders will look at the collateral as a secondary source of repayment of the loan and in many cases with a start-up financing may look for collateral to cover the full loan. In cases where there is not enough collateral the lenders will look to other strengths of the deal. DSCR is a measure of the cash generated by the business available for the loan payments. The higher the DSCR, the better because in the bank's view there will be a cushion of cash just in case there are unforeseen problems or slow periods for the business. A lender will typically look for a minimum DSCR 1.20x or more. If your projections don't show the ability to service debt lenders may shy away from your loan request so it is important to understand the accuracy of your projections.
We’ve touched on a lot of different topics, of course, and I’ve linked to more tutorials so that you can dig into the details in each area. I’d encourage you to read some of those tutorials to go deeper into the key subjects, and to subscribe to our newsletter (there’s a form down in the footer) to stay up to date with the latest business tutorials published here. We've got plenty more on the way!
Franchisees who are operating a franchise location typically have their pick of financing options. We think the streamlined SBA loan from SmartBiz is the best option for those looking for up to $350K in working capital. With low SBA rates and 10-year repayment terms, these loans do not squeeze cash flow. Plus, SmartBiz has drastically reduced SBA loan funding times. Prequalifying online takes just a few minutes and they get loans funded in as little as 2 weeks.
Start by learning about various franchise shops and restaurants in your preferred specialty. If you’re a fan of Panera Bread, for instance, go to the company’s franchise Information page and read up on the opportunity. If you need inspiration, Franchise.com keeps a running list of franchise opportunities, complete with a monthly featured franchise.

You can also use assets such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to secure a loan as long as they're not part of a qualified plan like an IRA profit-sharing plan. Also, if you are over age 59 and have a lot of money tied up in an IRA, you could use it for part of your financing requirements. Although you'll have to pay taxes on the amount used, not to mention suffer the loss of income from interest, it can be a good financing tool.
Opening a franchise can be a smart choice for an aspiring entrepreneur. Becoming a franchise owner gives you the flexibility of owning your own business with the added security of being part of an established brand. However, as with owning any new business, start-up costs can be high and you may require infusions of capital if you encounter hard times. Franchisees must also pay a franchise fee when opening a new franchise, as well as ongoing royalty fees. You truly need a good business plan, healthy cash flow, and solid franchise financing to succeed.
The franchise industry, like all businesses, was not immune to the economic crisis of 2008 and the ensuing credit crunch. But the vital signs of a recovery are there. According to the International Franchise Association (IFA), many of the country’s business sectors currently starting to show growth mirror those sectors expected to be the leading drivers of employment in franchising this year. These include food service, health care, hospitality and construction—all sectors with a high concentration of franchise businesses.
One type of financing you'll want to think twice about is a home equity loan. While you'll be personally responsible for repaying any loan your business takes out if you are a sole proprietor or a co-signer, a home equity loan carries a level of risk that unsecured debt doesn't. Your credit could be hurt if your business doesn't repay money you borrowed, but your house isn't at risk in most circumstances unless you've taken a home equity loan.
For existing franchises looking for working capital, another form of alternative financing comes from monetizing the franchise’s balance sheet to obtain funding. Using the franchise’s commercial real estate, or by tapping into the franchise owner’s personal real estate, an asset based lender can collateralize the real estate and provide working capital up to 90% of the real estate’s equity.
Small businesses have a tougher time getting approved due to factors including lower sales volume and cash reserves; add to that bad personal credit or no collateral (such as real estate to secure a loan), and many small-business owners come up empty-handed. Getting funded takes longer than other options — typically two to six months — but banks are usually your lowest-APR option.
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