If you are new to franchise ownership, be sure to do your research and due diligence about the franchise system you’re interested in. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (required by law) and speak to other franchisees about the brand and the financing program on offer. Next, try to understand what your financial responsibilities as a franchise owner will be. This blog offers some pointers on this: Buying a Franchise – How to Determine What it’s Going to Cost You.
Market research is important because it will help you figure out whether or not there is demand for the service you’re offering or the product you’re selling. It will also help you when it comes time to write your business plan, especially if you’re pitching an angel investor or a venture capital firm. They will want to see there’s a market for your idea, otherwise, it won’t scale as rapidly as they need it to in order to make a return on their investment.
If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you are unable to take out a bank loan, you can apply for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [See related story: Best Alternative Small Business Loans]
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However, despite the tendency of commercial banks to favor franchise businesses, you are still subject to the bank's underwriting and lending policies. The bank still has to review your net worth and credit history to determine whether you can pay back the loan advanced to your business. In some cases, you may also have to provide collateral to secure your business loan.
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.
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Personal collateral requirements depend on the loan amount and the project. Does the coffee franchise involve commercial real estate or will the business be leasing a space? Collateral can be in different forms. Real estate equity is one form of collateral. Cash (in the form of a payment reserve or a CD) is another. We would need to know the specific project cost breakdown to know what might be possible. Rule of thumb would be to plan on 25% personal equity into the business and the bank will finance 75%. If it is preferred to avoid putting a lien on personal real estate, plan to have 18 months of loan payments to set aside in an escrow account at the bank as a payment reserve. The payment reserve can be released back to you after 2 years, as long as the business is showing good cash flow and making the loan payments without a problem. The other option is a CD held at the bank for the term of the loan. The CD is usually a smaller amount of funds than the payment reserve but is held for the entire term of the loan.
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.
Traditional bank options include term loans, lines of credit and commercial mortgages to buy properties or refinance. Through banks, the U.S. Small Business Administration provides general small-business loans with its 7(a) loan program, short-term microloans and disaster loans. SBA loans range from about $5,000 to $5 million, with an average loan size of $371,000.