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.
The first thing you want to do before approaching any lender is determine what your net worth is. To do this, use a personal balance sheet to list both your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). Under assets, list all your holdings--cash on hand, checking accounts, savings accounts, real estate (current market value), automobiles (whether paid off or not), bonds, securities, insurance cash values and other assets--then total them up.

StumbleUpon recently published an excellent business plan guide; also consider reviewing startup information provided by the IRS. Help from experienced mentors is free through organizations such as SCORE, an organization of volunteer business mentors who provide specific advice and resources to newly created and growing businesses on a no-cost basis. There are many other organizations, such as your local chamber of commerce, that can also provide mentoring and guidance.

After all, small-business loans can help you get from A to B, providing vital capital to jumpstart your business expansion. Yet these loans are also notoriously difficult to get; and, should anything go south with your business, you may lose the collateral you put up for the loan. What's more, to qualify for most bank loans, your company will need to have been in business for at least one to two years and meet annual revenue requirements -- to name just some of the criteria required.
SBA loans or loans that are backed by the Small Business Administration, a federal agency, do not typically need collateral.   Even startups can get business loans without collateral through the SBA. Technically, banks or lenders will not decline your business loan application if you have no collateral. However, there has to be some kind of security. You may extend a personal guarantee. There could be some assets, whatever form and shape, which may have some tangible value and that can be attached to the loan as security.
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.
Plum Alley was founded by Deborah Jackson, who had over two decades of experience raising capital for businesses, in 2012 as a crowdfunding platform for women-run businesses that needed extra funding. In 2015, Plum Alley Investors emerged as a way to connect women-owned businesses with investors who want to invest specifically in women-run businesses. Plum Alley is unique in that their investors are dedicated to investing in women-centric businesses, and they help women gain access to the capital they need.
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Assignment and subletting. Startup companies should negotiate enough flexibility in the assignment and subletting clause to allow for mergers, reorganizations, and share ownership changes. Watch out for a clause that says a change in more than 50% of the company’s stock ownership will be deemed an assignment that is prohibited without the landlord’s prior approval. As your company grows and new people invest in it, this clause can be inadvertently triggered.
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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.

Accounts receivable financing. An accounts receivable line of credit is a credit facility secured by the company’s accounts receivable (AR). The AR line allows you to get cash immediately depending on the level of your accounts receivable, and the interest rate is variable. The AR line is paid down as the accounts receivable are paid by your customers.
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.
I traveled across the U.S. and around the world, and kept meeting unconventional entrepreneurs -- people who had started a business almost unexpectedly, usually without a lot of planning and almost always without a lot of money. Most of them did so for $1,000 or less, and half of them did so for $100 or less. My goal was to tell their stories in a way that readers could use in their own quest for freedom.
Whitney Johnson is a leading thinker on driving innovation via personal disruption and cofounder of Clayton Christensen's investment firm. She is a regular contributor for Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn, and the author of Disrupt Yourself, which Publisher's Weekly called "superb, savvy, wise." Whitney also speaks and consults with Fortune 100 Companies. Recently, her work was recognized by the Thinkers50, which named her as a finalist for the 2013 Future Thinker Award. You can find her at whitneyjohnson.com.
Most franchisees will have to get a business loan at some point. Fortunately, compared to independent small business owners, franchisees have traditionally had an easier time securing financing from banks — including loans backed by the SBA (Small Business Administration). But bank loans and SBA loans are still not easy to get even for franchise businesses, and the application and approval process can be prohibitively long for a lot of franchisees in need of quick capital. Some franchisors offer their own financing programs, but the practice is far from widespread, so you can’t necessarily depend on funding from your franchise brand.
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