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It can cost a lot of money to start a business, and most individuals don’t have all the capital they need up front, so they turn to a lender for help. Start-up business loans are offered by financial institutions to help business owners with a new business’s costs. While they’re a great concept, start-up business loans can be quite challenging to acquire.
These loans are risky for lenders, so the approval process can be laborious. Luckily, there are many options to consider.
How Can You Fund Your Start-Up?
When it comes to finding a start-up, business owners have several options available to them.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has a microloan program that offers loans up to $50,000 for small businesses and not-for-profit childcare centers. The average microloan is $13,000.
The SBA provides funds to specially designated nonprofit community-based organizations that act as intermediary lenders. These intermediaries administer the microloan program for eligible business owners. Here’s a list of providers.
Each of these intermediary lenders has its own set of unique requirements for borrowers. Typically, the intermediary lender will require some collateral from the business owner for the loan. These microloans can be used for working capital, inventory, supplies, furniture or fixtures. Microloans can’t be used to pay existing debts or purchase real estate.
Business owners who apply for SBA microloan financing may be required to fulfill training or planning requirements before being considered for the loan. The microloan downside is the “micro” part: Funding may not be sufficient for all borrowers.
The repayment terms on the microloan will vary depending on factors such as the loan amount, the planned use of the funds and the small business owner’s needs. Generally, the interest rates range between eight and 13 percent. Additionally, the maximum repayment term allowed for an SBA microloan is six years.
There are nonprofit organizations that are microlenders for small business loans. These microlenders are generally considered an easier route than an SBA microloan, especially for individuals with questionable credit history. A nonprofit microlender usually focuses on offering loans to minority or traditionally disadvantaged small business owners. Additionally, they help out small businesses in communities that are struggling economically.
These microlenders offer good term rates and allow business owners to establish better credit. This can help the business owner get other types of financing later on.
Individuals may consider a nonprofit microlender for a variety of reasons:
- Because profit is not their objective, the loan terms are fair and don’t take advantage of people in difficult situations.
- In addition to financing, many microlenders offer free consulting and training, helping small business owners make the right decisions to build their credit.
Business Credit Cards
You have a credit card for your personal expenses, so why not for your business expenses? Business credit cards can be an alternative financing solution to start-up business loans. To qualify for a business credit card, the lender will typically look at your personal credit score and combined income (business and personal).
One of the main benefits of a business credit card is that it allows you to, right away, separate your business and personal finances. You will start establishing business credit, which will help you in the future with additional business financing. Additionally, many business credit cards have great sign-up bonuses or rewards, such as cash back.
Some owners may incorrectly assume that it’s a poor decision to rely on a credit card for business expenses. However, having and using a business credit card is much more common than you may realize. In a 2019 survey from the Federal Reserve Banks, it was revealed that 59 percent of small business applicants use credit cards to fund their business.
If your score or income is low, you may have to consider a secured business credit card. Secured credit cards often come with higher interest rates and higher fees, so whenever possible, you’ll want to opt for an unsecured credit card.
Even if you receive an unsecured credit card, a low credit score will mean your interest rates on the card are higher than average. That’s why it’s essential you try to improve your credit before applying for a business credit card.
You can also consider personal funding options to start up your business. Some examples are personal loans, dipping into your savings or home equity or personal credit cards. However, you should understand the risk of using this type of financing for your business. You will want to do some realistic calculations and ensure the business will be able to stand on its own without relying on further personal funding down the road.
If you use a personal credit card for business expenses, make sure you make payments right away and watch your credit utilization ratio. You should be aware that mistakes can significantly destroy your personal credit score, which will have serious consequences.
If you have a good amount in your personal savings, using this money is smart because you won’t have to pay interest on it. However, you’re ultimately taking a high risk. If your business doesn’t do well for a while, you won’t have savings to tide you over. The same applies to borrowing against your home equity. It will likely be a cheap option, but it comes with a significant risk.
If you do choose to use personal funding to start your business, make sure you take steps to start establishing business credit as quickly as possible. This will allow you to leverage business credit to gain more financing in the future and make the transition from personal financing to business avenues.
Lastly, you may consider branching out and asking friends or family for money. Make sure not to apply too much pressure, and give them the option of declining.
Both private foundations and government agencies offer small business grants. These can be quite difficult to get, but it’s worth trying, as it would essentially be free capital.
Grants are often offered for specific groups, such as grants for US veterans or female entrepreneurs.
Venture Capital Investments
If you believe your business idea has the potential for massive growth, you may consider pitching it to venture capitalists. A venture capital investment gives you money in exchange for an ownership share or active role in the company. These investors can be individuals or part of a venture capitalist firm
The benefit of a venture capital investment is that it’s not a loan, so you’re not acquiring debt. Instead, the third party offers capital in return for equity. However, this does mean a higher risk, as you may end up paying them out significantly more if your business yields high returns. You’re also often giving up some control of your company to the investor.
Platforms like KickStarter have made crowdfunding an easily accessible and valid option for individuals wanting to start a business. You typically share your business plan and objectives with a public forum and hope people make donations or backings to fund the project.
These campaigns take lots of marketing effort but can get significant funding if they’re successful.
Which Option Is Best for You?
It can be difficult to know which of these options is the right approach for your business. However, we’ve broken down how you can better identify which solution works for you:
- First, determine how much funding you’ll need to start. This number will automatically rule out some of the options.
- Next, determine your credit score—both your personal score and business score (if applicable). Once again, this may rule out some funding options if your credit score is too low. For your personal consumer credit scoring, consider credit repair services to work on your credit score so you have more funding options available to you in the future.
- Understand that some of the business funding options will require collateral. Complete an analysis of your assets and identify if you have any collateral to offer up.
- When you apply for most types of financing, you’ll be required to share certain documents. You can have these documents prepared ahead of time. Some of the most common documents needed are a business plan, a business forecast, a business credit report, a personal credit report, tax returns, applicable licenses and registrations and legal contracts, to name a few.
- It’s essential that you only borrow an amount you can repay. Sometimes, you’ll be approved for much more than you think you need. Avoid taking it just because it’s offered to you.
More than anything, applying for start-up business loans starts with your credit. You should know your credit score, identify whether it’s low and consider credit repair services if needed. Ultimately, the higher your credit score, the better rates and financing options you’ll receive. Lexington Law can help with all your credit needs, so get started today.
Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.
Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.