Personal loans are widely available, but if you’re trying to borrow for a small business, you’ll find that the process is more difficult. If you’re thinking of borrowing to start or grow your business, get started and get organized long before you fill out an application. Lenders want to be sure that they’ll get repaid, which means they’re looking for several criteria:
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That is why you should use an administrative service to manage your loan, and give you a professional platform to raise the money and make payments to. This can make it easier for people you know to lend money to your business, and you won’t have to worry about any of the paperwork or tax implications. It could also improve your chances at getting funded.
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If your bank is hesitant about a particular franchise system’s performance, or your finances aren’t as strong as they could be, you might want to consider an SBA loan. SBA doesn’t lend to business owners directly; it provides a repayment guarantee to banks and lenders for money they lend to small businesses, making it less risky for the banks. Use this search tool to find the right SBA loan for you.
For most business experts and established entrepreneurs, buying an existing franchise through franchise loans presents a lot of advantages not present if you opt to start your business from scratch. Purchasing a franchise, especially a popular one, enables you to start with a large and solid client base, a crucial element during the initial stages of a business venture. Another obvious benefit is that building up the brand does not take much effort in contrast to promoting a new business name.
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.
Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
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?)
A franchise merchant cash advance (MCA) is a short-term loan that provides capital to franchises that need funding quickly. Approval for a merchant cash advance can take a matter of minutes, and funding can be completed in as little as 24-48 hours. Merchant cash advances work by having a funding company purchase a portion of your franchise’s future receivables at a discount, with an upfront payment to the franchise. After funding the funding company will then collect repayment by splitting each days credit card batches with the franchise.
Bank loans unsecured by collateral are relatively rare, even for those with good credit. In addition to securing a loan with a mortgage on your home or other asset, be ready to be asked to put your own money into the deal, typically about 20% of the amount needed. Even with healthy businesses and solid collateral, most bank loans to new franchisees occur when a borrower has established relationships with a banker, or has previous experience, or is a figure in the community. If that’s not you, consider a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
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.
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.
A lender is primarily concerned about the ability of the borrower to repay the loan. To the extent that a security interest can be given to the lender on company assets (company equipment, property, accounts receivable, etc.), the borrower should be able to increase its chances of getting a loan on favorable terms. Some lenders may insist upon the personal guarantee of the principal owner of the business. That is best avoided if possible as it puts the owner’s personal assets, and not just the business assets, at risk.
Crystalynn Shelton is a CPA and staff writer at Fit Small Business, specializing in small business Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Taxes. She is also an Adjunct Instructor at UCLA Extension where she has taught hundreds of small business owners how to setup and manage their books using QuickBooks for 8 years. Prior to joining Fit Small Business, Crystalynn was a Senior Learning Specialist at Intuit for 3 years and also ran her own QuickBooks consulting and training business. When Crystalynn isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys rollerblading in Venice Beach and reading a good book.
Venture capitalists tend to start investing at $1,000,000, and they prefer to invest in high-growth and high-risk businesses. High-growth investment means the venture capital investor would see a return in 3-7 years by selling the company or going public. Venture capitalists tend to require a large amount of equity in your business, including a position on the board of directors.
Shelton recommends meeting with a loan officer a few weeks to a month ahead of time to personally meet the loan officer and find out if the bank is currently interested in lending the type of loan you are looking for: “You want the loan officer to be on your side,” Shelton explains, because the loan officer usually doesn’t have the approval level to say yes to a loan.
Government loans are typically offered through banks and credit unions that partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a U.S. government body, with the motive of providing support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. For each loan authorized, a government-backed guarantee offers serious credibility, since the lender knows that even if you default, the government will pay off the balance. These loans can be applied to a number of uses, such as: