If you identify areas of weakness, you’ll need to make a plan for dealing with them. If you don’t have a head for figures, perhaps you could partner with someone who does. Or you could hire an accountant, or improve your own skills by checking out some of our super-simple accounting tutorials or doing other training. If you’re no good at designing websites, hire someone to do it for you.
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.
I traveled across the U.S. and around the world, and kept meeting unconventional entrepreneurs -- people who had started a business almost unexpectedly, usually without a lot of planning and almost always without a lot of money. Most of them did so for $1,000 or less, and half of them did so for $100 or less. My goal was to tell their stories in a way that readers could use in their own quest for freedom.

The On-Line Tutorials is a set of courses designed to help interested parties learn more about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. As individuals learn in different ways, information in each course is presented in three different formats. Pick a format and then use that throughout. The Video format is designed for people who learn best by listening to others speak; while the Multimedia format, the default in each course, provides a mixture of text and video clips. For those that prefer to read, you can simply select the text or pdf version. The tools section contains materials to help facilitate both learning and retention. To see if you have truly mastered the materials in each course, be sure to take the short quiz either as a pre- or a post-test.


Brad has spent more than twelve years working at the crossroads of business development, marketing, and social media. He was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as a young entrepreneur, launching his first successful business at the age of 15. Up until joining lynda.com as an online marketing manager in 2012, he honed his skills working as a consultant alongside brands large and small, including LegalZoom, Clear Channel, eSolar, Dickies, and Urban Outfitters. He has also served as an advisor to multiple startups, providing marketing direction and strategic advice.
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.

Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media -- all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand! Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:

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 .
Brad has spent more than twelve years working at the crossroads of business development, marketing, and social media. He was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as a young entrepreneur, launching his first successful business at the age of 15. Up until joining lynda.com as an online marketing manager in 2012, he honed his skills working as a consultant alongside brands large and small, including LegalZoom, Clear Channel, eSolar, Dickies, and Urban Outfitters. He has also served as an advisor to multiple startups, providing marketing direction and strategic advice.
Maybe you want to build an empire and become famous, or create a wealth-generation machine that you can pass on to your children. Or perhaps you can’t convince anyone to recognize your unique vision and you’ve decided that it will never come to fruition unless you strike out on your own. Or maybe you’re thinking of self-employment because you’ve been unemployed for so long that you feel you’ve exhausted all other options.
Small business owners are passionate about their ideas and tend to get excited about the little details, leaving the financials alone in the back of their business plan. It’s a mistake to put your financial information as an appendix or otherwise in the back because “it says that finance is not important,” advises Shelton. Your lender wants to feel comfortable that you have a plan for managing your finances, including paying back your loan, so keep your financial information up front in your business plan.
Most people spent *some* amount of money, even if it was just the cost of a $50 business license or a $10 domain name. But far more important than money was the investment of sweat equity -- taking the time to make something meaningful. Brett Kelly wrote Evernote Essentials, a guide to the free Evernote software. His initial goal was that it would make $10,000 over the course of a year. One year later, it had made more than $100,000. Initial startup costs were essentially zero.
Follow – After you’ve set up your account and have a clear branding strategy in place, it’s time to start working on gaining visibility on Instagram. You should follow as many people who are relevant to your business as possible. For example, influencers, brands with complementary products and past customers. Read this blog for a guide on how to use social media influencers to promote your business.
You need to be prepared for a rejection of your loan, and you need to be prepared to re-work your business plan, save more money or do whatever else the loan officer suggests to secure a loan. It can be hard not to take a rejection personally, but remember that the lender is not rejecting you or your business idea–they are simply rejecting the opportunity to help you finance your business. You need to rework your business plan and/or secure more capital before you try again.
A ROBS let’s you fund all, or part, of your new franchise with retirement savings (401k, IRA, 403b, etc) without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. If you have at least $50,000 in your eligible retirement account a ROBS can help you fund 100% of your franchise, be combined with seller financing, or be used as a downpayment for an SBA loan. Learn more by speaking with our recommended ROBS provider, Guidant, who offers an initial free consultation.

If you prefer a little more guidance as you search out a franchise opportunity, consider hiring a consultant to locate the perfect opportunity. Consultants gather information on your financial situation and preferences and give you a few options that fit. However, make sure you’re working with a reputable franchise consultant. Ask questions about franchisees they’ve successfully helped and contact those franchisees as references.

Also called a business cash advance, this option is only applicable to those having cash flow problems who would need ten thousand dollars or less. Cash advances usually have very high interest rates meaning that you will almost certainly pay more in the long run than the initial loan, especially if you miss a payment. Be certain you can repay on time before going this route.

Confidentiality Agreements. These are also referred to as Non-Disclosure Agreements or NDAs. The purpose of the agreement is to allow the holder of confidential information (such as a product or business idea) to share it with a third party. But then the third party is obligated to keep the information confidential and not use it whatsoever, unless allowed by the owner of the information. There are usually standard exceptions to the confidentiality obligations (such as if the information is already in the public domain). See The Key Elements of Non-Disclosure Agreements.
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.
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.
Various financial aid programs help certain types of businesses and borrower start up franchises. For instance, some companies have programs designed to attract women and minority candidates. Many others offer discounts on franchise fees for veterans who are interested in franchising. You can find a list of options in the International Franchise Association’s VetFran Directory.
Franchise business loans typically come with more attractive terms than you are likely to find for any other type of start-up business loan. This is because lenders consider the financial stability, business model, and previous success of the franchise parent company when reviewing a loan application. Banks and alternative lenders are finding franchises to be an increasingly attractive investment. In 2011, the SBA reported approval of $1.5 billion in 7(a) loans for franchises, up from approximately $826 million the previous fiscal year. The 7(a) loan-guarantee program is the SBA's most popular loan program.
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.
It’s useful to come up with a business plan to think through what you want to do for the development of the product or service, marketing, financial projections, and more. And you should then get input from trusted business and finance advisors. But don’t go overboard with a 50-page business plan. In reality, many startups have to deviate from their plan as the business develops.
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.

ApplePie Capital can offer loans for borrowers that need financing in between an SBA loan and other expensive alternative loans. You must borrow a minimum of $15K to finance specific equipment, or at least $100K for any other needs. The interest varies depending on a number of factors, and Apple Pie Capital charges a one time 4.5% origination fee on all of their loans.

Starting a business entails understanding and dealing with many issues—legal, financing, sales and marketing, intellectual property protection, liability protection, human resources, and more. But interest in entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. And there have been spectacular success stories of early stage startups growing to be multi-billion-dollar companies, such as Uber, Facebook, WhatsApp, Airbnb, and many others.
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.
Tom's roles have included time as a writer, editor, journalist, videographer, presenter, educator, web designer, layout artist, and public relations executive. Since 2006, he's freelanced for publications and private clients including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Apple, Nature.com, and the San Francisco Chronicle. A frequent traveler, he moved from his native US to the Netherlands in 2016. Connect with him at http://tomgeller.com.
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