Trademarks. A trademark right protects the symbolic value of a word, name, symbol, or device that the trademark owner uses to identify or distinguish its goods from those of others. Some well-known trademarks include the Coca-Cola trademark, American Express trademark, and IBM trademark. You obtain rights to a trademark by actually using the mark in commerce. You don’t need to register the mark to get rights to it, but federal registration does offer some advantages. You register a mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Bank loans are a great option, but before you go that route, make sure you’ve done your market research and can demonstrate that your business will do well in your area. If you haven’t had any luck getting loans from traditional lenders, look for a lender that offers SBA-backed loans, since they’re geared specifically to the needs of small businesses and are only open to those who can’t get funding elsewhere. Other financial options include online alternative lenders, which may be less restrictive in who they approve, but also tend to charge higher fees and rates.
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A franchise is a business that sell the rights to use its logo, name and model to individual entrepreneurs or a group of individuals working in partnership. Franchisees are required to make an initial upfront payment to begin the business, and are typically expected to pay ongoing royalty payments to continue to use the business’s branding and benefit from its brand-wide marketing efforts.
The ROBS option allows you to use funds from your retirement savings to finance your franchise without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. This can be an attractive option for franchisees that struggle to get traditional loans and are comfortable with some amount of risk. Those with substantial retirement savings may feel most sanguine removing a portion of those funds for this purpose.
Franchises are worth considering because opening a business can be risky, especially if you don’t have prior experience juggling all the things that come with it. You’ll need to choose a name and image for your brand, make sure you have the right staff and build a full suite of products or services to meet demand. Even if you have mentors or a network of friends who are small business owners, you’ll often find that you’re struggling with important decisions.
There are several loan programs aimed at helping first-time entrepreneurs set up their business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) operates the loan programs offered by the U.S. government. To qualify for the loan, your business must meet some criteria such as your business must operate in the United States, your business must qualify as a small business according to SBA guidelines, you must operate for profit and you should have a good credit score.
With one or more of these three options, you should be able to reduce your personal financial investment to almost nothing. You may have to make some other sacrifices, such as starting small, accommodating partners or taking on debt, but if you believe in your business idea, none of these losses should stand in your way. Capital is a major hurdle to overcome, but make no mistake -- it can be overcome.
Are you thinking about starting a small business, freelancing, or turning a hobby into a full-time job? Or perhaps you're already running your own business and need some inspiration to take it to the next level. Each week, join small business coach Dave Crenshaw for two short lessons that reveal the secrets of running a successful small business. This series covers topics such as getting started, writing a business plan, determining your most valuable product or service, hiring people, managing processes, documenting systems, bootstrapping, seeking funding, accounting, controlling costs and profit margins, marketing, creating culture, and more.
Dana has worked on domain name disputes, beginning with complex multiparty cybersquatting actions in 1999 prior to the adoption of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. Dana's trademark work has included the brands of many Las Vegas resorts, such as Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Wynn, Palms, Treasure Island, Station Casinos, Golden Nugget, and Stratosphere. Dana has also worked on hundreds of trademarks for noncasino clients, including Sunbelt Communications, Teligence Communications, University of Nevada–Las Vegas, HyLoft, iGolf.com, and many others.
A franchise gives you the opportunity to have your own business with the safety net of a proven business model. However, the costs of starting and running a franchise can be substantial. The two best financing options to start your franchise are Rollovers for Business Startups and SBA loans. If you’re not sure where to begin you should reach out to your franchisor for help in the process because they should have experience with your specific franchise.
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Companies sometimes think that patent protection is the only way to protect themselves. Technology startups frequently ignore the value of non-patent intellectual property. While patents can be incredibly valuable, it does not necessarily ensure that a company’s product is a good product or that it will sell well. Trade secrets, cybersecurity policies, trademarks, and copyrights can all be forms of IP that can be protected.
Remember that a business is franchised for two reasons: to expand the business and to raise capital. So if you have a reasonably good credit record and pass all the financial requirements, most franchisors will bend over backwards to get you on the team. The help that franchisors provide to help you get financing usually includes assistance with business plans and introductions to lending sources. In many cases, franchisors serve as guarantors of loans you take out.
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.
If you are an expanding business and need money for relocation and/or renovation, you’ll be looking for a term loan, which is essentially a lump sum of cash that will be paid back within a set amount of time. Depending on what you expect for the long-term when you are in a growth stage, you may be looking for investors rather than lenders at this point.
Online business lenders are a relatively new option, and they might provide more choice than you can find locally. You might also find it easier to get approved – these lenders are more interested in funding loans and growing than conservative banks and credit unions. Online lenders might also move faster than traditional lenders. That said, they’re not looking to lose money, so the loan still needs to make sense.
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?)
SBA loans are government-guaranteed loans with long repayment terms and low interest rates. There are many different types of SBA loans, but the most popular SBA loans are 7a loans and 504 loans. An SBA 7(a) loan can be used for working capital (marketing, staffing, etc), equipment, or for commercial real estate. The SBA 504 loan is only for commercial real estate and fixed equipment. Franchises are often a great fit for SBA loans, because of the SBA’s policy goals to help build small businesses to grow the economy.
Lenders prefer financial statements that have been audited by a certified public accountant (CPA). But many small businesses don’t want to incur the costs of an audit, so one alternative is to have the financial statements “reviewed” by a CPA (which is cheaper and faster). However, some lenders may not require either audited or reviewed statements.
Business to business companies can usually access financing more easily than companies that deal with consumers directly. In this type of scenario, you can use your clients' invoices to obtain financing from lenders. The process of obtaining cash advances using your clients’ invoices is called factoring. The factor takes the role of collecting the full amount owed to you by your client, then deducts the amount advanced to you and any other fee then pays you the balance.
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