Approximately 75 to 100 franchisors are offering or working on offering creative financing programs for start-up franchise owners or those looking to expand. Programs range from zero-percent financing for a limited-term, lower license fees, reduced royalties and minority stake ownership by franchisors in multi-unit outlets. Each brand has its own offering, so down payments and collateral requirements will vary.
Your place on the credit spectrum is one factor that will determine which loans you’ll qualify for. You can get your credit report for free from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — once a year. You can get your credit score for free from several credit card issuers as well as personal finance websites, including NerdWallet.
There are many private lenders or financial institutions that would be willing to entertain your loan application with no collateral, provided you offer some personal guarantee. You may use a cosigner, offer some asset or real estate as security or any kind of infrastructure or commodity that is worthwhile. This option is not strictly unsecured but there is the option to use various kinds of assets or commodities as personal guarantee which may work for many business owners. The interest rates of private lenders would be quite high as such loans don’t have backing of the government.
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.
For these reasons, many franchise owners are turning to the alternative lending space for better financing options. Online lenders are generally more lenient in their borrower requirements and they also offer a much faster time to funding than traditional bank loans, often depositing funds in your account within a week of receiving your application.
You should approach small-business-loan shopping just as you would shopping for a car, says Suzanne Darden, a business consultant at the Alabama Small Business Development Center. Once you determine which type of lender and financing vehicle are right for you, compare two or three similar options based on annual percentage rate (total borrowing cost) and terms. Of the loans you qualify for, choose the one with the lowest APR, as long as you are able to handle the loan’s regular payments.