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.
We love this lender for their sterling reputation, excellent customer support, and reasonable terms and rates. But again, you’ll need to already have an established franchise to qualify, as well as good credit. This loan also takes longer to apply for (and receive) compared to most other online franchise loans, and it can potentially take a couple months for the money to come through. You’ll need to submit all the documentation you’d need to get a traditional SBA loan, and it will be helpful if your franchise is already listed in the SBA Franchise Directory. Even though there are a few more hoops to jump through than with other alternative lenders, SmartBiz is still one of the quickest ways for a franchisee to get an SBA loan.
Despite these indicators, financing remains a problem for potential franchise owners. According to Entrepreneur magazine (January 2013), there’s still an 18 percent lending shortfall in the franchising industry. In a bid to boost franchise ownership, many franchisors are taking matters into their own hands and offering financing programs of their own. Meineke, The UPS Store, Gold’s Gym, Masasge Envy and Instant Imprints are just a few examples of franchisors now offering financing to qualifying first-time and multi-store franchise owners.
“My credit is very strong and I owned my house outright. So when I realized the SBA loan would take too long, I decided to go to my personal bank and apply for a HELOC. The whole process took less than two weeks, the interest rates were great, and I never looked back. I was even allowed to use the HELOC for my franchise fee, which other financing wouldn’t allow.”
The idea here is to get clear about what’s important to you, where exactly your passion lies, and what the point of the whole venture is. As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of paying bills, writing the website copy, changing the website copy several dozen times, filling out tax forms, and so on. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.
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.
Equipment loans. Small businesses can buy equipment through an equipment loan. This typically requires a down payment of 20% of the purchase price of the equipment, and the loan is secured by the equipment. Interest on the loan is typically paid monthly and the principal is usually amortized over a two- to four-year period. The loans can be used to buy equipment, vehicles, and software. Loan amounts normally range from $5,000 to $500,000, and can accrue interest at either a fixed or variable rate. Equipment loans can also sometimes be structured as equipment leases.
StreetShares is dedicated to helping U.S. military veteran entrepreneurs get funding for their small business ventures, which is why it is a good place to look if you want to start a small business and you’re a veteran. It’s free to see if you qualify for a loan, which is offered in terms of three months to three years, for up to $100,000. Businesses must be at least one-year-old or have at least $100,000 in revenue to qualify. You also must be a U.S. citizen and have decent credit.
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.
SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate loan.
Online lenders provide small-business loans and lines of credit from $500 to $500,000. The average APR on these loans ranges from 7% to 108%, depending on the lender, the type and size of the loan, the length of the repayment term, the borrower’s credit history and whether collateral is required. These lenders rarely can compete with traditional banks in terms of APR.