3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
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.
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you're going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you're planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have some money put away to support yourself until you start making a profit? Find out how much you're going to need.
Ideally, your business will operate long enough and become successful enough that the company will get its own credit score and be able to qualify for a loan on its own. Building a business credit score requires your company to establish its own identity, including having its own tax ID number or employer ID number, obtained from the IRS. You'll typically also need a business credit card in the organization's name that's always paid on time.
If you own a home, and have 20-30% equity in it, then you may be able to get a home equity line of credit (HELOC) with a low interest rate. These funds are great to start a business, and can be used for any of your startup fees, including your franchise fees. With a HELOC you can get access to a lump sum immediately and draw against the total as you need it. Like a normal business line of credit, you only pay interest on what you’re using.
Shannon is a writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English. She is the former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, an online trade publication. Shannon has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. She has been with Merchant Maverick since 2015, writing about POS software, small business loans, and financing for women entrepreneurs.
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?)
An investor looks for a more high-risk opportunity to get a higher reward and will put their money in established businesses that have the potential for high growth. Investors generally expect to be involved in the business in the form of a seat on the board of directors or some other role in which they have a say in how the business is managed. For the most part, investors want to get in on a company while it is in its early growth stage, and they get out once the business has reached a certain level of growth.
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.
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.
The strength of your personal credit score has a direct correlation to the amount you are looking to borrow. The greater the amount, the more important the score will affect the decision by the lender. Because what does the credit score indicate? It shows the ability to keep an individuals finances tidy. There are extenuating circumstances, like health challenges or horrific student loan stories and some lenders may be willing to consider your personal credit challenges if you are up front and have all your documentation available backing up your story.
Work with the franchisor’s preferred lenders: Often times, franchisors will partner with preferred lenders that they refer you to for financing. They may also have relationships with leasing companies that can lease you essential equipment for your franchise. When possible you should look at working with these lenders, because they’re familiar with your franchise brand and business model.
A very economical service is Regus, with office locations worldwide; office space is readily available for startup entrepreneurs on a just-in-time basis. Regus offers several membership levels: Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Plus. For example, a Regus Blue membership card is free, while a Regus Gold membership card costs $59 per month (with the first month free). With a Gold card you get shared space, Internet connection, and telephone access at Regus locations worldwide, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
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.