Never start a business as a “sole proprietorship,” which can result in your personal assets being at risk for the debts and liabilities of the business. You will almost always want to start the business as an S corporation (giving you favorable flow through tax treatment), a C corporation (which is what most venture capital investors expect to see), or a limited liability company (LLC). None of those are particularly expensive or difficult to set up. My personal preference is to start the business as an S corporation, which can then easily be converted to a C corporation as you bring in investors and issue multiple classes of stock.
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]
Direct online lenders. There are a number of online lenders that make small business loans through a relatively easy online process. Reputable companies such as Swift Capital provide very fast small business cash advances, working capital loans, and short-term loans in amounts from $5,000 to $500,000. Sites such as Fundera and LendingTree offer you access to multiple lenders, acting as a lead generation service for lenders.
Your second option invokes the idea of a “warmup” period for your business. Instead of going straight into full-fledged business mode, you’ll start with just the basics. You might launch a blog and one niche service, reducing your scope, your audience and your profit, in order to get a head-start. If you can start as a self-employed individual, you'll avoid some of the biggest initial costs (and enjoy a simpler tax situation, too). A payment processing company, such as Due, can be a big help when you are struggling to invoice and follow up professionally.
One way to minimize the risks of opening a business is to invest in a franchise concept, rather than starting a stand-alone business. Up to 80% of new businesses have failed after five years, while franchises offer support, proven business practices, and a recognizable brand name to draw sales. Owning a franchise provides a proven business model to follow, while still offering the the benefits of owning a your own business. Banks like financing franchise startups for the reasons stated above.
Register your business with the Vets First Verification Program to be eligible for special opportunities to do business with the government. Small businesses that are owned and controlled by veterans and service-disabled veterans, and verified through the program, may also be given priority when competing for federal contracts. Learn how to apply, and find out which documents you will need to submit. You can also find VA-certified business counselors in your state for free help.
With one or more of these three options, you should be able to reduce your personal financial investment to almost nothing. You may have to make some other sacrifices, such as starting small, accommodating partners or taking on debt, but if you believe in your business idea, none of these losses should stand in your way. Capital is a major hurdle to overcome, but make no mistake -- it can be overcome.
Broadly, there are two types of loans: secured and unsecured. There are dozens of types of loans depending on their nature, purpose, applicability, loan amount, interest and terms but they can all be classified as either secured or unsecured. Secured loans require collateral. It is a tangible asset that acts as the security. Unsecured loans don’t need such collateral or any security.
Repairs, improvements, and replacements. Be aware of a clause that says that at the end of the lease you must restore the premises to their original condition. Try to negotiate a clause that states the following: “The premises will be returned to the Landlord at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as at the beginning of the tenancy, excluding (1) ordinary wear and tear, (2) damage by fire and unavoidable casualty not the fault of the Tenant, and (3) alterations previously approved by the Landlord.”
Instead of spending hours playing with accounting software, dreaming up potential expense and income categories, and creating fancy reports with no data, spend that time generating revenue. As long as you record everything you do now, creating a more formal system later will be fairly easy. It will also be more fun, because then you'll have real data to enter.
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.
Small business credit cards. While some business owners may be wary of using them, small business credit cards can also act as short-term small business financing. Interest rates will vary depending on the credit card issuer, the amount available on the card, and the creditworthiness of the holder of the card. Many small business credit card issuers require the principal owner to be co-liable with the company. Issuers of small business credit cards include American Express, CapitalOne, Bank of America, and many others. Many credit cards offer promotional introductory rates of 0% for a short period of time (6-9 months). Cashback and rewards programs allow you to earn rewards from purchases on the credit card.
If you are an expanding business and need money for relocation and/or renovation, you’ll be looking for a term loan, which is essentially a lump sum of cash that will be paid back within a set amount of time. Depending on what you expect for the long-term when you are in a growth stage, you may be looking for investors rather than lenders at this point.
Many new franchisees will need to find financing in order to fund the startup costs of their business. Franchise financing options can include ROBS, SBA loans, crowdfunding, home equity lines of credit, and even raising money from friends and family. We’ll cover these options in more detail, but first let’s take a look at the summary of each option in the table below.
A franchise gives you the opportunity to have your own business with the safety net of a proven business model. However, the costs of starting and running a franchise can be substantial. The two best financing options to start your franchise are Rollovers for Business Startups and SBA loans. If you’re not sure where to begin you should reach out to your franchisor for help in the process because they should have experience with your specific franchise.
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