"Accountants can be an important source of advice for small business owners. That's why Bizfi has partnered with the National Directory of Certified Public Accountants," says Stephen Sheinbaum, CEO of alternative lender Bizfi. "But there are many other places to find good people to talk to, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a free mentoring service that is supported by the Small Business Administration."
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SmartBiz does not originate loans. Rather, it is a service that matches business owners with SBA-preferred banks. If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan, SmartBiz can match you with one of its non-SBA partners to secure a loan. While SBA loans have the lowest interest rates and longest repayment terms — up to 10 years for most loans — you might still be able to get a medium-term non-SBA loan with an interest rate as low as 7.99% through SmartBiz.
The purpose of these checks is to make sure that the applicant will fit into the company’s culture and to ensure that they have been truthful and accurate in their resume and employment application. However, the process is carefully regulated by the federal government (through the Fair Credit Reporting Act) and the laws of many states; failure to follow the highly technical process can lead to class action lawsuits. Consider consulting legal counsel and, for general information, see the EEOC’s Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know.
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.
SBA.gov is the website for the Small Business Association. Founded in 1953, the SBA functions as an independent agency of the federal government whose mission, according to their website, is “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” One way the SBA helps small businesses is by offering financial assistance through three programs: the guaranteed loan program, surety bonds program and venture capital program.
The MBDA does not directly loan money, but it does provide resources for members of minority groups who are trying to start a business. They have business centers around the country where entrepreneurs can seek mentorship and guidance as they start their business. These business centers are located in areas with a high amount of minority-owned businesses. You can go to MBDA.gov/businesscenters to find one in your area where you will be advised on everything from writing a business plan so you can apply for funding to marketing your business.
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.
ApplePie currently has partnerships with 42 franchises, such as 7 Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jimmy John’s Pizza, and Wetzel’s Pretzels. Other franchise brands can get loans through ApplePie, though the process might take a little longer. ApplePie offers loans for both new and existing franchises, including franchise startup loans, loans to purchase an existing franchise, franchise equipment loans, franchise refinancing loans, and more.
One type of financing you'll want to think twice about is a home equity loan. While you'll be personally responsible for repaying any loan your business takes out if you are a sole proprietor or a co-signer, a home equity loan carries a level of risk that unsecured debt doesn't. Your credit could be hurt if your business doesn't repay money you borrowed, but your house isn't at risk in most circumstances unless you've taken a home equity loan.
Having liquid assets, valuable collateral and a good credit rating will go a long way to helping you get a franchise loan. According to The Wall Street Journal, most banks will be looking for around one-fifth or 20% of franchise startup costs to come from the owner before considering lending options, and without a good credit score, most lenders won't feel comfortable extending a loan even if the proposed franchise is known for long-standing success.
“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.”
You’re applying for a business loan, and you may even be organized as a corporation or LLC. However, lenders will almost always want to hold you personally responsible for the loan. If they don’t do that and the business fails, there’s nobody left to repay them. But if you make a personal guarantee on the loan (which is likely a requirement), they can go after you personally, and your personal credit will suffer if you don’t repay.
Guidant is our recommended ROBS provider. Guidant has helped over 10,000 businesses and facilitated over $3 billion in small business financing since 2003. They are also the only ROBS firm we know of which guarantees access to outside independent counsel during the ROBS setup process, which can help you objectively evaluate if ROBS is a good decision for the franchise you are buying.
If you do decide you’re going to need space, consider the number of employees you’re going to need and the equipment that will fill the space—chairs, photocopying machines, a fridge, a coffee machine, a reception area, a meeting room, and so on. Furthermore, how quickly do you expect to grow? If rapid growth is in the books, rent a space where there is room for growth and so that you don’t have to change your business address.
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Websites like Fundera serve as a marketplace for business owners to find lenders that match their business needs. The company works with every major lender in the United States and matches business owners with an advisor who can help them find the right lender for their business. You can also seek out online funding on your own. Read through reviews on ConsumerAffairs to find an online lender that matches your needs.
A microloan is similar to a traditional bank loan, but they often come from alternative lenders like credit unions. A microloan tends to be easier to get for those with subpar credit because the loan amounts, as the name indicates, are small, typically fifty thousand dollars or less. Because of this, the credit requirements for these loans are also lower. If this amount of funding suits your needs, this is a good option. The SBA has a microloan program, and there are several alternative lending options such as Prosper and Zopa.