Alternative lenders: Once you have your franchise up and running, you’ll need funding to work through seasonal ups and downs, purchase new equipment and possibly open another location. If you’re still having a hard time finding traditional funding, alternative lenders may help fill the gap. They tend to be quicker than traditional loan providers — some even fund within a day — and have looser qualification standards. However, annual percentage rates for alternative lenders typically are higher, so make sure you review your total cost of borrowing before deciding on a loan.
If it does not exist, create it. If you have an idea-ideas or skills, think of how to use your ideas or skills to create a business and to put it out there to see what it can attract and what you can create. Many successful businesses started with an idea and that idea has become a success “from one person business to global corporations”. Failure is an attempt at success, if you don’t give up and modify each attempt, then each attempt can become a success.
Plum Alley was founded by Deborah Jackson, who had over two decades of experience raising capital for businesses, in 2012 as a crowdfunding platform for women-run businesses that needed extra funding. In 2015, Plum Alley Investors emerged as a way to connect women-owned businesses with investors who want to invest specifically in women-run businesses. Plum Alley is unique in that their investors are dedicated to investing in women-centric businesses, and they help women gain access to the capital they need.
6. Create local awareness and establish a network. Join chambers, business associations, community groups, etc. Find ways to get involved. Networking is a great way to capture business leads as long as you don’t come on too strong. It allows you to meet new contacts and create more brand awareness and new referrals. Sponsor sporting events, nonprofit events or anything that is for a good cause. Get your name out there while also being a good community steward. Give away SWAG (promotional items with your business name, logo and contact info on them). T-shirts are a great example of free walking advertisements for your business.
If you are under age 59 and your IRA is one of your largest assets, you still may be able to take advantage of this avenue without accruing the 10-percent penalty associated with early withdrawal. By taking Substantial Equal Periodic Payments spread over a minimum of five years, based on your life expectancy, and a set of annuity tables published by the IRS, you can eliminate the 10-percent penalty, although the money is still taxable.
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.
“Not all businesses meet business loan eligibility requirements,” was Ali's initial comment on this topic. “Most banks have an income eligibility threshold of 1.25 times your expenses, including the repayment amount. [So] even if you do meet the requirements, think carefully before taking on the loan, and be sure you can service the repayment terms.”
If you start your company with co-founders, you should agree early on about the details of your business relationship. Not doing so can potentially cause significant legal problems down the road (a good example of this is the infamous Zuckerberg/Winklevoss Facebook litigation). In a way, think of the founder agreement as a form of “pre-nuptial agreement.” Here are the key deal terms your written founder agreement needs to address:
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.
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.
Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before you are turning a profit. Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).
The Small Business Association (SBA) has several financing programs available for businesses, including startups, and works with banks around the country to guarantee loans so small businesses can secure bank loans and get up and running quickly. The SBA works with entrepreneurs who do not have great personal credit, making it more likely that they can still start their business even with a less than perfect credit score. Visit SBA.gov to find out more about how the SBA can help you and get information for your region.
ApplePie Capital (see our review) is an online lender that specializes in franchise financing. Founded in 2014, ApplePie was one of the first online lenders to offer franchise financing. After recently acquiring another franchise lender, ApplePie has expanded its offering to include SBA-backed loans, equipment loans, and conventional loans, in addition to its original “core” 3-7 year loan.
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.
Dana is a founding partner of TechLaw, LLP, where his practice focuses on trademark prosecution and licensing, copyrights, and business transactions. He is also adjunct professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he has taught IP Survey, and helped launch the IP Law Clinic. His expertise includes a broad base of intellectual property law that covers copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and international intellectual property. Dana has filed, managed, and prosecuted thousands of trademarks over the course of his law practice career. He has represented clients in numerous trademark infringement actions, as well as cancellations, oppositions, and appeals before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Request a Regional Franchise Disclosure Document: According to Ronald Feldman at Apple Pie Capital, “In addition to the standard Financial Disclosure Document (FDD), I suggest new franchisees request a supplemental Item 19, which is required by law to be provided if available.” This can help you understand how the franchise performs in your own geographic location, which may be worse than the average performance nationwide.
According to Hecht, online lenders tend to stay away from lending to startup businesses: “The longer you’ve been around, the easier it is for you to get funding from an online lender.” Even though his business is based on online lenders, “we’re not anti-bank,” says Hecht. He advises every entrepreneur to begin their financing process by going to their local bank first to see what they have to offer.
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?)
Often, banks that aren't willing to work with you based on your financial profile become more amenable if you suggest working with an SBA loan guarantee; these loans are guaranteed up to 90 percent by the SBA. Small businesses simply submit a loan application to the lender for initial review, and if the lender finds the application acceptable, it forwards the application and its credit analysis to the nearest SBA office. After SBA approval, the lender closes the loan and disburses the funds; the borrower makes loan payments to the lender.
So what’s the catch? You must have an eligible retirement account (Roth IRAs are not eligible, but most tax-deferred retirement plans are), and generally speaking, you should have at least $50K in the account to rollover. This means that ROBS are often not an option for young franchisees who haven’t had sufficient time to save money in a retirement account. In addition, there is a risk to doing a ROBS. If the franchise fails, you could lose your retirement funds.
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:
1. You can do it because others are doing it. Think the country is dominated by big businesses run by people with MBAs? Wrong. 99 percent of businesses in the US are small businesses, and they employ 80 percent of the population! You don’t need any “special” training to run a business. You just need an idea, the desire to learn and adapt, and the ability to take action!
To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations will need an "articles of incorporation" document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Otherwise, you will just need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious "Doing Business As" name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you've come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection.
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