I usually don’t provide referrals, but in this particular case it is definitely warranted. Karen jumped through hoops with multiple alternatives until we came up with a solution that provided what we needed. At one time i thought we were at a dead end, but learned that Karen continued to pound away until the right solution surfaced. If you need someone to assist up front with your SBA loan, Karen is a perfect choice.
Online business lenders are a relatively new option, and they might provide more choice than you can find locally. You might also find it easier to get approved – these lenders are more interested in funding loans and growing than conservative banks and credit unions. Online lenders might also move faster than traditional lenders. That said, they’re not looking to lose money, so the loan still needs to make sense.
You need to be prepared for a rejection of your loan, and you need to be prepared to re-work your business plan, save more money or do whatever else the loan officer suggests to secure a loan. It can be hard not to take a rejection personally, but remember that the lender is not rejecting you or your business idea–they are simply rejecting the opportunity to help you finance your business. You need to rework your business plan and/or secure more capital before you try again.
Alternative business lenders are comprising a growing part of the financing industry as bank loans become increasingly hard to get. Franchise owners benefit from alternative franchise loans, which have less-strict borrower qualifications than traditional business or SBA loans, and also put the funds in your account a lot faster. Generally, alternative loans have higher rates than bank loans, but they represent an important source of capital to many small business owners, including franchise owners, who would not otherwise qualify for financing. Moreover, some of the best online lenders offer rates that are on par with big banks.
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.
General purpose business loans. The most widely used SBA loans, SBA 7(a) general loans can greatly help if you’re investing in a franchise. Because SBA loans are guaranteed by the government, they’re easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans. The amount and rates that you can potentially qualify for may make them worth the extra time and documents needed to apply. Outside of the loan itself, the Small Business Administration offers free tools to help you plan for securing the loan and keep up on your new enterprise once you’ve become a franchisee.
Aira, business debt is a different animal than consumer debt. It’s one thing to go into debt buying nice furniture, big tvs, vacations, etc. It’s another thing to go into debt to get bulk inventory discounts, finance equipment, expand restaurant seating, or anything else that will turn $1 of debt into $2 of revenue, for example. That’s what business loans are typically used for.
Loans are made by StreetShares investors, who bid on loans for companies. The more appealing your business idea is to investors, the better your loan options. It only takes a few minutes to see if you qualify for a loan. Once you are approved, your loan will get bid on by competing investors. The competition process lasts from one to four days, and then it takes another day or two for the money to get deposited into your account. In total, the process of getting a loan through StreetShares takes about a week.
When starting out, your product or service has to be at least good if not great. It must be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from the offerings of your competition. Everything else follows from this key principle. Don’t drag your feet on getting your product out to market, since early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve your product. Of course, you want a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to begin with, but even that product should be good and differentiated from the competition. Having a “beta” test product works for many startups as they work the bugs out from user reactions. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook has said, “Done is better than perfect.”
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?)
3. Office Space. Even if 52% of all small businesses are home-based, that does not mean you need to look like you work from your home. Customers looking at an office address can usually tell the difference between a professional address and a home address. Also, if you’re meeting with clients, you’ll project a more professional image if you meet in an office setting versus a home office. For this reason, consider signing up with a fractional executive office service.
If you identify areas of weakness, you’ll need to make a plan for dealing with them. If you don’t have a head for figures, perhaps you could partner with someone who does. Or you could hire an accountant, or improve your own skills by checking out some of our super-simple accounting tutorials or doing other training. If you’re no good at designing websites, hire someone to do it for you.
SBA small business loans. Some banks offer attractive low-interest-rate loans for small businesses, backed and guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Because of the SBA guarantee, the interest rate and repayment terms are more favorable than most loans. Loan amounts range from $30,000 to as high as $5 million. However, the loan process is time consuming with strict requirements for eligible small businesses. Visit the SBA website to see a list of the 100 most active SBA lenders.
Microlenders: If your company is especially small, you may need to opt for a microlender. These are non-profits that typically lend short-term loans of less than $35,000. They also have a much higher APR than bank loans but may be useful by helping you bridge a temporary cash-flow gap. Microlenders require detailed business plans and financial statements, so be prepared for some serious paperwork.
Startups requiring a lot more funding up front may want to consider an investor. Investors usually provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company, with the expectation that the backers will have a hands-on role in running your business. Alternatively, you could launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers.
After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later on if you decide to hire someone else. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free.
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