Find Free Money: Coronavirus Relief Funds and Grants for Small Businesses

Having difficulty finding COVID-19 relief aid to keep your business afloat during and after the pandemic? To jumpstart your search, here’s a list of some available coronavirus relief funds and grants for small businesses.

Hello Alice: Business for All Grant 

Small business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can now submit applications for Hello Alice’s Business for All program. This program, with the support of Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank, Ebay Foundation, UBS, Visible and Stacy’s Rise Project, offers exclusive mentorship opportunities and grants of up to $50,000 to support long-term business growth. Applications are open through September 25th.

MDCalc Ad Grant

For organizations that support clinicians or treat COVID-19 patients, the MDCalc Ad Grant may be of interest. MDCalc is currently donating $1 million in advertising grants to businesses that are contributing to COVID-19 response efforts. Applications are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis.  

National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grant

NASE members have the opportunity to secure NASE Growth Grants, worth up to $4,000 each, to help finance their small business needs. Small business owners can use their growth grants to help cover COVID-19 related activities, such as buying equipment, hiring part-time help, purchasing marketing materials and more. Annual members are allowed to apply immediately, and monthly members can apply ninety days after joining the NASE.

Urban Excellence Community Grant

The Caleb Brown Venture Capital and Consulting Project provides start-up, for-profit businesses and early staged businesses with grants of up to $1,000 to help rebuild local blocks, neighborhoods and communities. This can be especially beneficial for small business communities hit the hardest by COVID-19. The grant comes with 500 hours of complimentary business consulting for one year. For consideration, applications must be submitted by the 15th of every month.

Amber Grant

The Amber Grant program gives away $4,000 every month in grant money to female small business owners. The organization also expanded its grant-giving to include a year-end grant of $25,000. This is a great opportunity for female small business owners that are in need of extra funding during the pandemic. Applications are accepted at any time and award recipients are announced the first week of every month.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Grant

In response to the pandemic, LISC provides grants to support for-profit, small businesses. Priority will be given to business owners of color, women- and veteran-owned businesses and other businesses in historically under-served communities without access to affordable capital. The next round opening is August 31st. Prospective applicants are encouraged to register.

The Small Business Relief Fund

The Small Business Relief Fund will issue $500 matching grants to qualifying small businesses that raise at least $500 on GoFundMe. The purpose of this fund is to alleviate small business financial strain during these challenging times. Businesses will need to verify that they have been negatively impacted by a government mandate due to the COVID-19 pandemic to qualify.

Keep in mind that small business grants are also available through certain state and local programs and some nonprofit organizations. For federal assistance in response to COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Small Business Administration.  

 


Why Have So Few “Small” Businesses Gotten Relief from the SBA?

The first round of SBA PPP small business financing has come and gone and the thousands of small businesses that make up the Kapitus client base have largely been left out in the cold.  While we eagerly await Congress’s approval of additional funds, we used this time to survey our customers to understand who was able to obtain funds from the first $349 billion in forgivable loans, who was not, and which financial institutions were most helpful in supporting small businesses.

What we found was a troubling dependency by small businesses on the largest financial institutions in the country (national and regional banks).  These large banks, as well as the SBA itself, seem to be leveraging a definition of small business that allows large companies to fit their subsidiaries into qualifying entities while independent business owners are overlooked.  The national banks appear to have systematically prioritized these large clients over their smaller constituents and in doing so, exhausted the first round of SBA funding faster than many anticipated.

Our survey was conducted between April 17th and 20th and targeted 26,536 small businesses that we have provided capital to over our 14-year history.  As of Monday morning, we had received 2,076 responses, 80% of which told us they had applied for SBA PPP funding before the money ran out.

Of those respondents, 1,206 answered the question “have you received funding from your PPP application” and 1,116 or 92.5% told us that unfortunately, they have not.  The 90 customers that have received funding provided tantalizing clues as to how small businesses are getting money from the SBA.  The most successful channel to date appears to be through community banks, where 18.8% of applicants have been successful and where customers are more likely to have a personal relationship with a decision-maker inside the bank.

Kapitus PPP Survey

Credit unions have also been moderately successful with 11.8% of applicants receiving funding but have a much lower penetration rate than other banking channels.  Regional banks follow at a 7.2%, followed by the SBA itself (2.7%) and non-bank lenders (1.4%).  Sadly, national banks (such as Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Bank of America and Citigroup) which have the greatest penetration into the US small business community, have to date done the least to help small businesses in their time of need.  National banks only produced three successful loans in our survey out of 320 applications, a dismal 0.9% success rate.

Why is it that national banks have done so poorly serving the small business community?  Banks are economic animals with scarce resources just like any other company.  When a large number of clients request a scarce resource at the same time, they prioritize their largest, most profitable and riskiest clients first.  In our survey, community banks supplied small businesses with more lending products than any other bank segment.  This indicates that community banks have deeper ties and greater exposure to the plight of small businesses and as a result, during a crisis they work more diligently to ensure that their needs are met.  As seen in the table below, our clients utilize community banks and non-bank lenders more heavily than other types of credit institutions.

Kapitus PPP Survey

Another part of the answer lies in what the SBA, and in turn the nation’s largest banks, consider “small” when it comes to business.  On April 16th the SBA announced that they had distributed nearly 1.7 million loans representing $342 billion, indicating an average loan size of $206,022.  Assuming the average American worker was making $49,764 annually (or $4,147 per month) just before the crisis (Bureau of Labor Statistics) and considering that PPP loans are sized based on 2.5 times monthly payroll, this implies that the average company getting a PPP loan as of April 13th had 20 employees.  There are nearly 6 million companies with between 1 and 500 employees and the average company in this group has 10 employees (US Census Bureau).  This means that fewer than 28% of eligible small businesses were served in the first round of SBA funding, and those that were served were the largest companies in the range. This argument is supported anecdotally by the fact that companies like Ruth’s Chris, Potbelly and Fiesta Restaurant Group each received between $10 million and $20 million in PPP loans through JP Morgan.  Kapitus PPP Survey

This sequence of facts has been very frustrating to non-bank lenders such as Kapitus who are the only consistent source of financing available to most businesses with 10 or fewer employees.  We have been petitioning the SBA for a temporary license to allow us to lend the PPP product to our core client base (our average customer has 8 employees) since the program was announced.  Nearly two weeks into the program the SBA released an application for non-bank lenders, and we submitted our application within 12 hours of its being published.  Eleven days later we have heard nothing, although some of our larger competitors did receive temporary licenses just as the money in the first tranche was exhausted.

Undeterred, we are working with our clients to secure PPP loans in any way we can.  We have partnered with several community banks and non-bank lenders with SBA licenses to fund our clients and we are lining up additional capital to fund these loans ourselves when and if we are awarded a license.  In the meantime, we counsel or clients on their financing options and continue to provide innovative lending products as small businesses struggle to navigate the most challenging business environment any of us have ever seen.  America’s small businesses owners are some of the most creative and resilient leaders our country has.  We look forward to partnering with the SBA to offer small business owners the solutions they need to survive, rehire, rebuild and reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

To receive the most recent updates on Paycheck Protection Program and other federal, state and local relief initiatives aimed at helping small businesses visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

 


About the Author

About Kapitus - Ben Johnston

Ben joined Kapitus in 2014 as Chief Strategy Officer and became Chief Operating Officer in January 2017.  Prior to joining Kapitus, he was a Principal of Pine Brook Partners, a New York-based private equity firm where he invested in banks, insurance companies, asset managers and specialty finance companies.


Business Loans in NC: Your Ultimate Guide

As a small business owner in the Tar Heel state, you focus on the future with your hands on the present. You have plans to take your business to the next level. Luckily as a North Carolina resident, there are many types of loans from a variety of organizations and institutions to support your business specifically. Depending on your needs and plans, you’re sure to find business loans in NC that fits the bill.

You want to expand your staff; increase your product offerings; ramp up your credit; grow your inventory; invest in an exciting new opportunity. But to realize those plans, you need some financial support from a lender who understands you and your business on a near-personal level. You want a small business loan made just for you. Today, we’ll explore the offerings available to North Carolina residents and businesses so you can make your next move expediently.

Carolina Small Business Development Fund Loans

If you’re looking for business loans in NC, a great place to start is the Carolina Small Business Development Fund–a nonprofit and Community Development Financial Institution that “lend[s] to start-ups and existing businesses across the state, with emphasis on businesses that have difficulty accessing financing through traditional loan sources.”

Carolina Small Business offers a variety of core loan products specific to businesses in the state. For example, if you live in Mecklenburg County, have an annual revenue of less than $1,000,000,000 and don’t have any unpaid judgments, open tax liens, or principal and business bankruptcy in the past five years, you may qualify for the Mecklenburg County Small Business Loan Program. This program offers up to $75,000.

Are you rebuilding your business in the wake of a natural disaster? Consider the Small Business Recovery Fund. It’s designed to “provide gap financing as a complement to Small Business Administration [SBA] and other disaster recovery programs.” This loan grants a minimum of $1,000 to small businesses with no maximum amount. Other disaster-based loan programs offered by Carolina Small Business include the Hurricane Florence Recovery Loan Program.

Carolina Small Business also offers Veterans Direct loans if they’re in-state veterans and/or their spouses are, and Healthy Carolina loans to established businesses and new entrepreneurs involved in the “production, processing, wholesale, distribution, and retail of healthy food products.” This is only possible as long as they’re located and selling healthy foods and food products in food deserts. In addition, Carolina Small Business’s African-American Loan Fund assists African-American entrepreneurs as they develop and expand their businesses.

Mountain BizWorks Loans

Live in Western North Carolina? If so, you may qualify for a loan with Mountain BizWorks. Mountain BizWorks offers loans as low as $1,000 to as high as $250,000 for small businesses in your area. Their model is unique. This means that they “consider non-traditional collateral, offer flexibility in the loan structure, and loan decisions and relationships are managed locally.” What’s more is, they’re willing to work with you to discuss out-of-the-ordinary circumstances that might have hurt a once-strong score. Interest rates vary based on your individual circumstance. However, they promise an answer within two to three weeks of your loan application.

Carolina Farm Credit

Carolina Farm Credit specifically applies to North Carolina’s farmers and rural residents. They offer farm and land loans for agribusinesses. As a farmer, you can seek support in funding for farm improvements, equipment, livestock and operations. Carolina Farm Credit offers farm land and acreage financial options. This is a good option if you’re hoping to expand physically or just get off the ground.

Local Banks and Credit Unions

When it comes to finding the right loan for your business, banks and credit unions can be particularly helpful. Local banks may provide additional tools and resources and leverage connections to help you get a loan that suits your needs and credit that a nationally recognized bank might not be able to do. In North Carolina, there are many banks that value small businesses and their contribution to the economic well-being of the state.

BB&T

With 285 branches in nearly 200 cities, BB&T is one of the biggest banks in the state. Its options for small business loans in NC are vast. Borrowing options include loans through BB&T, and benefits for members who utilize the SBA.

Self-Help Credit Union

Self-Help Credit Union, another major bank in North Carolina, offers small-business and commercial loans, as well as:

Truliant Federal Credit Union

Truliant Federal Credit Union has branches throughout the state. They offer tools to help you assess your business’s finances and secure the right loan for your needs. Loan options include SBA loans, USDA business and industry programs, construction and auto loans, equipment financing and others.

First Bank

First Bank, located throughout the Carolinas, is another fantastic option for business loans in NC. As a local bank, First Bank is intimately familiar with the markets your business touches. They can use that knowledge to support you in making financial decisions. First Bank’s small business loan offerings range from SBA loans to credit cards to lines of credit and beyond. They suit solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and business owners with dreams to expand their business, to reconfigure financial structures, finance major investments, and beyond.

SBA Lenders

There’s a host of SBA lenders dedicated to supporting North Carolina small businesses in securing loans. According to the SBA North Carolina District Office, these include “SBA 7(a) Lenders, 504 Certified Development Companies, and SBA Microlenders.” For specific details and contact information, see the SBA North Carolina District Office’s official list.

As a small business owner based in North Carolina, you have lots of location-specific borrowing options. While this list contains some of the best and most diverse options for NC business loans, it certainly isn’t every single available option. In fact, depending on the nature of your business, your location and your needs, you might even be surprised to find a loan that’s “tailor-made” just for you.

Funding your next business endeavor can feel daunting, time-consuming, and confusing. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by choice and unsure where to start, utilize the resources offered by local banks (or local branches of major banks), the small business administration, or the Carolina Small Business Development Fund. Or, for fast, personalized service, unique expertise, and an answer guaranteed in as little as hours after you apply, consider finding your best financing solution through Kapitus. Once you’re approved, you can hit the ground running and make those pivotal moves that take your small business to the next level in 2020 and beyond.

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What is a PEO? And How to Choose the Right One for Your Business

You probably started your business because you enjoyed the work. Maybe you opened your ideal restaurant or started an electrical contracting business. That part was fun, but other responsibilities surfaced. Now, you have to deal with employees’ human resource issues, find ways to offer benefits and make sure all payroll taxes were filed and paid. Fortunately, small business owners don’t have to cope with these responsibilities by themselves. Professional employer organizations can lift those chores off of the owners’ shoulders. This helps business owners focus more on managerial tasks and growing their businesses. Now, what is a PEO, exactly?

What is a PEO?

A professional employer organization and a business enter into a shared relationship known as “co-employment.” Co-employment means that the PEO is the employer on record. They provide human resource support and handle payroll functions – while you, as the owner, keep the authority and responsibility. You’ll still manage your employees’ day-to-day activities.

Through the co-employment model, PEOs:

  • Are responsible for paying wages, managing employee compensation claims and overseeing other wage-related requirements
  • Assist with regulatory paperwork and compliance issues
  • Manage human resource issues and risk management functions
  • Provide employee benefits. Benefits include- but aren’t limited to – health insurance, unemployment insurance, Section 125 plans and other voluntary insurance products.

What are the Client’s Responsibilities?

The business owner is responsible for:

  • Managing employees’ daily activities
  • Maintaining a safe work environment
  • Keeping track of hours worked and reporting these figure to the PEO
  • Making sure payroll funds are paid in advance to the PEO

Advantages of a PEO

PEOs can take time-consuming HR tasks and responsibilities off your plate. A PEO:

  • Handles all human resource activities so you can focus on managing and growing your business
  • Provides competitive benefits and health insurance. A PEO has the purchasing power to negotiate better health insurance rates and more affordable benefits, such as a 401(k)plan, dental and vision coverage. Using the lower-cost benefits from a PEO enables small- and medium-size companies to compete with and attract employees from larger companies.
  • Stays up-to-date on regulations. As a business owner, you don’t have the time to read the latest regulations. A PEO does this for your and makes sure that you remain compliant.
  • Provides attorneys and HR professionals to handle employee-related issues. PEOs give advice on proper employee termination and disciplinary procedures.

Disadvantages of a PEO

Method of pricing

Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine how much you’re really paying. Many PEOs price their programs as a percentage of wage payroll, but this figure can vary monthly. So, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how much you’re actually paying. The other pricing method is the per-employee-per-month. This approach has add-ons for setup fees, administrative fees and costs for running some payroll reports.

Inflexible health plans

PEOs partner with certain insurance companies, and you don’t have a choice. If you like UnitedHealthCare, but the PEO promotes Aetna, you have to accept Aetna.

Customer service

PEOs handle large numbers of clients and employee issues. Customer service responses can sometimes seem rushed and indifferent.

How to Choose a PEO

Choosing the best PEO for your company requires doing your homework. Here’s a list of questions to help you get started.

  • Assess your company’s needs. What do you need help with -Payroll processing, HR issues, employee benefits? Define what you need before approaching a PEO.
  • Is the PEO a member of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations? Membership in the industry’s trade organization indicates professionalism and respect.
  • Does the PEO have experience in your industry? You want a PEO that understands the daily lives of your employees and the risks they take on their jobs. How many employees do they represent in your industry?
  • Conduct a background check; ask for references to check; get first-hand feedback directly from the PEO’s clients.
  • Are the financial statements independently audited by a CPA? You want assurance that the PEO is legitimate.
  • Are their risk management practices certified by the Certification Institute?
  • Have their ethical practices been accredited by the Employer Services Assurances Corporation? ESAC audits PEOs annually to make certain each PEO has at least a $1 million surety bond.
  • Does the PEO have certification from the IRS? Check for accreditation such as the Certification Program for Professional Employer Organizations from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Review the fine print in the contract. What guarantees does it provide? How can you terminate the contract if the relationship goes bad?

 

According to NAPEO, the U.S. has over 900 PEOs. While you have plenty of choices and setting up a co-employment agreement with a professional employer organization will relieve you of a ton of administrative tasks, you must thoroughly investigate each PEO candidate before signing on the dotted line. You don’t want any surprises.

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The Best Business Loans for Franchise Purchases and Improvements

Are you exploring business loans for franchise purposes? You’re likely bringing some of your own money to the table to finance your dream. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need help with other startup costs, future expansion or ongoing funds. You might be surprised at how many options there are in the marketplace. This guide will help get you up to speed on the most popular franchise financing options according to two main objectives: buying a first/additional/multiple franchises and funding existing franchise operations.

Get ready to feel better about your financing options for the next chapter in your entrepreneurial career. Your franchise ownership goals are within reach.

Buying Your First/Additional/Multiple Franchise Locations

Whether you’ve got your eye on owning your part of a franchise or ready to expand your franchise footprint, you’ll need one of the many flexible-use business loans for franchises.

The three most popular types of franchise financing are:

  • Traditional loans
  • Small Administration (SBA) loans
  • Franchisor financing

Look at how each of these financing options can fit the needs specific to someone purchasing an initial franchise.

Traditional loans

When considering the different business loans for franchises, traditional business loans top the list. Proceeds can help purchase or expand franchise holdings.

Traditional loans are smart financing options for small business owners confident that they have the financials and good credit to qualify. With generous loan limits, highly competitive interest rates, and flexible terms, these loans will likely offer some of the best rates in the market. You’ll need to come to the table equipped with solid financials. The rigorous underwriting process is one of the reasons these loans typically offer the most competitive terms. Traditional loans might be an attractive option. Show three years of tax returns, a strong personal financial history and a good credit score. The lender will verify fund source you’re using for your down payment.

With traditional loans, your franchise choice could play a significant role in the approvals process. Lenders like to see big brand names with proven track records in the market. Franchises with few locations might hurt your application. These franchises haven’t worked in multiple markets and various economies. Yet, if you’re a new franchise owner, a traditional loan can use your personal credit and financial history to launch your new venture.

SBA 7(a) loans

The SBA 7(a) loan program is hands-down the most popular loan program. It’s a reliable option for financing franchise startup and expansion costs. When you use these types of business loans for franchises, you’ll find competitive rates and virtually unlimited use of funds. Loan Limits are generous, and flexible terms are perfect for a franchise on the rise.

The first step to qualify for an SBA (7a) loan is to make sure your franchise is listed in the SBA Franchise Directory. If they don’t list your franchise type, you can apply for participation in the directory (note: the SBA will require additional documentation).

Loan limits are up to $5 million and terms range from 10 to 25 years. Interest rates are generally in the single digits (7% to 9.5% is a good range to consider). Prospective borrowers will usually have to be in business for at least two years. This makes the SBA 7(a) loan a better match for existing franchise owners, or those purchasing a franchise in an industry where they have a proven career track record. Lenders will use your credit score and business financials for qualification. While the approvals process isn’t speedy, you’re rewarded with some of the best rates and terms, aside from traditional loans.

The only limit to an SBA 7(a) loan is borrowers can’t use the funds to finance franchise or royalty fees. If you choose to go the SBA 7(a) route, make sure you earmark other funds for these startup costs.

Franchisor financing

Many of the nation’s leading franchises offer direct financing to entrepreneurs. Of course, they want to make it simple for owners to get up and running. This one-stop-shop approach is potentially perfect for those looking to open their first location, adding a location, or purchasing multiple locations at once.

While the rates might not be as competitive as traditional loans or the SBA 7(a) loan, there’s something to be said for a streamlined process. As you consider all the options for business loans for franchises, it’s worth it to speak to the franchise and see what options are available. Be sure to have your attorney or accountant review any financing options offered by the franchise. Then you can compare the terms between a traditional loan, SBA 7(a) loan and the franchise’s direct financing side-by-side.

Funding Ongoing Franchise Operations

You may find times where you need a cash infusion to help fuel operations and growth. The best business loans for franchise needs in these cases is the one that matches:

  • The reason you need the funds
  • How long you need to repay the funds
  • How much you need to borrow

Here are three financing options franchises can use to keep operations running smoothly and make specific improvements.

Traditional business loans

If you know you need a fixed amount of cash for an upcoming franchise improvement or expansion expense, a traditional business loan can help. With fixed terms and rates, small business owners can fund franchise expenses with a predictable impact on their monthly budget.

Repayment terms are often flexible, including payment frequencies based on your current cash flow. Traditional loans have stringent qualification guidelines, and not all businesses can qualify with ease. You’ll need to have existing operations with a proven balance sheet, a plan, and your financials in order.

Lines of credit

If you’re looking for a more flexible way to access the cash your franchise needs, a line of credit might be the ideal tool.

Lines of credit can be used for nearly every purpose imaginable. You can draw as much or as little as needed–and only pay interest on the funds drawn. Once you pay it back, your credit line is once again fully available for use. There’s no need to go through the qualification process again.

For businesses that may not qualify for a traditional loan, lines of credit can fill that financing gap. Credit scores aren’t weighed as heavily in the approval process for most lines of credit, either. These features combined make lines of credit ideal to fund everything from cash flow gaps to seasonal inventory ramp-ups. The sky’s the limit.

SBA 504/CDC loans

While the SBA 7(a) loan is an ideal fit for initial or additional franchise purchases, you’ll need a different SBA loan type for funding ongoing business concerns.

The SBA 504/CDC loan has a narrow scope of use. Funds must be used for acquiring, renovating, or improving real estate or equipment. A borrower’s franchise location must also be U.S.-based. This type of loan can help fund making improvements to franchise real estate, buying real estate, or even upgrading heavy equipment to speed operations.

As with the SBA 7(a) loan, your franchise needs to be listed in the SBA Franchise Directory to be eligible. While these loans are slower to fund than traditional bank loans and lines of credit, you’ll likely be rewarded with some of the best interest rates. With all of the options for business loans for franchises, there’s one out there that makes perfect sense for your financials, credit and goals. And, if you’re still trying to determine the next steps in your franchise financing plans, you can always reach out to a loan officer to discuss.

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How to Recover from a Small Business Loan Rejection

Rejection always hurts, and when it’s from the bank on a small business loan, it can sting a little bit more than it did in high school. Loans are the lifeblood of most small businesses, and without them, the company could crash and burn. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration, 27% of the small businesses surveyed stated they weren’t able to receive the funding they needed to expand their businesses.

However, there is hope. Many businesses have been rejected only to recover and secure the financing they need on the next application. Here are our tips to help you recover from a rejection.

Determine the Reason

First thing’s first, you need to be able to pinpoint your misstep to correct it in the future. Most lenders will give you the reason that your application was denied and it is usually one of two issues:

  • Low FICO Score
  • Not enough revenue

Before lending to a small business, just like any loan, they want to ensure that you have a solid history of repaying your debts on time and in full. If your business and personal credit scores are less-than-stellar, lenders will perceive you as a risky investment.

Additionally, lenders want to know that borrowers can make the minimum monthly payments on the small business loan. This is where your business’ cash flow comes into effect – they’ll calculate your debt to income ratio to see how you would be able to handle the monthly payments.

Correct the Problem

There are both short-term and long-term solutions. You can’t fix your credit score in a week, but if you make it a priority, over time, you’ll be able to improve it. In the short-term, you can, first of all, ensure that your credit report is error-free. It happens more often than you would think as 23.17% of all complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2016 were about credit report inaccuracies.

Also, to improve your credit rating, you can take steps to pay off your debts to improve your debt to income ratio which will make you look more favorable to lenders.

To improve your revenue streams and to show the lender that your business is bringing in enough money to cover expenses and the loan payments, you should do your best to reduce expenses while increasing your profit margins. Improving cash flow can be a challenge for some small businesses. However, many are finding success after putting all of their attention and efforts into the process.

Other Things to Consider

There are a few things you can do to improve your odds of securing a small business loan, and are intended to make you appear more trustworthy as a borrower.

You can make a sizeable down payment on the loan to show that you’re serious about repaying the loan. You can also get a cosigner with an excellent credit score to make you appear more trustworthy. However, the cosigner would be on the hook for the loan as well, so ensure that you can confidently make the payments.

If you have a low FICO Score, you should also look into alternative financiers that could provide you with financial options. Big banks aren’t the only lenders out there. Additionally, a low credit score won’t necessarily take you out of consideration with alternative lenders.

What to Do Before Re-Applying

Before potentially going through the frustration and wasted time of a loan rejection again, you need to take a look at yourself and your businesses from the lender’s point of view; are there any red flags?

We recommend taking a hard look at your credit report. Even asking a lender’s advice about any problems they see. It may seem scary to ask them to point out problems, but the issues might arise when you re-apply for the loan anyway. So, it’s better to know beforehand.


Small Business Loan Application Checklist | Updated for 2020

Building and running a small business is hard. It takes conviction, leadership, sound management and, every so often, a much-needed injection of financing. In both good and lean times businesses are often faced with the decision to pursue some type of financing. However, applying for and acquiring small business loans and alternate financing can often be daunting – even if you’ve done it before. And traditional lenders do not make that experience easy.

The good news is that getting financing doesn’t have to be this hard. We help thousands of small businesses everyday and want to share secrets of getting good financing options quickly. So, we have compiled a simple checklist of actions you can take to make the process fast, simple and easy.

However, as you get ready to apply for a small business loan, you should consider the following questions carefully to be sure you are not surprised by any unforeseen requests or adverse decisions from lenders.

Six questions every business must ask in 2020 before applying for a small business loan | Download PDF

1. Should you apply for a small business loan?

While a small business loan is a great way to reduce the pressure on cash flows, you could have viable alternatives for relieving cash flow crunch like selling debt owed to your business and renegotiating contracts to allow for longer payment terms. Also, make sure you have considered all alternate sources of financing including friends and family.

2. Is a small business loan good for your business?

Understand the effect of repayment of small business loan on your cash flow. A loan does not change the fundamental working of the business. It strengthens a fundamentally sound business and quickly breaks a business that is fundamentally unsound.

3. Can you qualify for a business grant?

Unlike loans, you don’t have to pay back grants. Before applying for a small business loan, see if you qualify for a federal or private small business grant. However, grants can be highly competitive and may not fit your financial time horizon.

 4. What types of small business loans are there?

There are over a dozen types of small business loans and alternative financing options for small business. The most popular options are government-backed SBA loans, revenue-based financing and factoring. Download this eGuide to learn more about different types of small business financing.

5. When should you apply for a small business loan?

Apply only once you have determined that a business loan will help strengthen your business, and you understand the different types of financing options like Small Business Loans, Revenue Based Financing, Factoring, and Equipment Financing. Each of these options have unique requirements so make sure you understand them well before speaking with a lender.

6. Should you work with a small business loan broker?

Brokers are a great resource to get offers from multiple lenders. However, many online marketplaces like Kapitus, will get you offers from multiple lenders without the additional broker fee which is borne by the borrower.

Small Business Loan Application Checklist| Download PDF

1. Run a quick cash flow analysis on your business account

Cash flows are one of the primary indicators that lenders use to understand the health of your business. Showing 3 to 6 months of positive cash flow can get you approved faster. It can even get you better financing terms for your small business loan. You can learn more about cash flows and ways to improve them in “How to Prepare Your Small Business for Cash Flow Needs.

2. Collect at least 3 months of bank statements

Your business accounts are another good indicator of your company’s financial health. Generally, lenders want to see a positive daily balance on your bank statements. Remember, a well managed cash flow will directly improve your bank accounts.

3. Identify unusually large deposits to your bank accounts and gather supporting documents to help explain them

While presence of unusually large deposits can delay finalization of loans, they are not necessarily bad. Many businesses, like construction companies, can easily explain their presence on the bank statements. Some businesses understandably have large swings in deposits and credits to their account. If your business is like that, you can expedite your loan application process and get really good terms on your small business loan by providing a copy of your account receivables and future contracts.

4. Get a copy of your free credit report and make sure there are no red flags

A strong personal credit goes a long way to assure any lender about the fiscal responsibility of the person running the business. You can get a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com. If you find any incorrect information on your credit report, contact each credit reporting agency (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) immediately to correct the issue. Keep in mind that while small delinquencies are understandable, lenders are uncomfortable with statements that show delinquencies on child support or recently dismissed (not discharged) bankruptcies.

5. Reduce the number of lenders to whom you owe money

Too many lenders pulling money from the business can create severe strain on its cash flow. Lenders want to know that the money they provide will help grow your business and not put additional strain on its daily operations. You may want to wait to finish your current loan obligations before going back to the market to raise more capital.

6. Resolve any open tax liens

Unresolved open tax liens can hurt your ability to obtain financing. If possible, try to get a payment plan on any open tax lien. A payment plan on a tax lien is far better than an open unresolved tax lien.

7. Get three business references

Trade references help to establish authenticity and credibility of your business. If you rent commercial space for your business, make sure that the landlord is one of your references.

8. Have tax statements handy when applying for a large sum

Lastly, businesses contemplating borrowing large sums over $75,000 should get a copy of their last year tax statement and business financial statements.

Obtaining small business loans doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Use this checklist before applying for a business loan or alternate financing and get the funds your business deserves.


5 things you don’t know about working capital — but should

Working capital – the amount left over after subtracting current liabilities from current assets – is the lifeblood of a small business. However, many people are still confused about its benefits and uses. Here are five things that many small business owners don’t know about this important resource that helps a company survive and thrive:

1. Working capital can help long-term strategy, not just short-term issues.

Most entrepreneurs focus on every single cost when they start their business. But like a world-class chess player, you need to think several moves ahead, and be aware of the capital you’ll need to expand into new locations, hire new employees or buy more equipment. A franchisee, for example, should be aware of upgrades that will be required. Working capital is not just a resource for short-term needs, but for the entire year ahead.

2. You should monitor your cash flow weekly or even daily.

Many small businesses only review cash flow twice a year – on April 15th and October 15th. It should be a weekly or even daily exercise. When a solid client who has always paid on time starts slipping, it could indicate problems that you want to be aware of as soon as possible. According to Investopedia, the most important way for a small business to analyze its working capital is by operating cycle – the average number of days it takes to collect an account.

3. You should benchmark against other industries.

Small businesses are often satisfied when their working capital practices are equal to or better than their direct competitors. Look at industries with similar characteristics instead, which can provide more ideas on how to strengthen your working capital practices.

4. Encourage customers to pay on time.

Many small businesses have found themselves in difficult circumstances, or have even gone out of business, when they were afraid to call out important clients who constantly drag out payments. “It’s a simple thing to get accounting software and monitor your working capital,” says Dr. Rebel A. Cole, a professor of finance at DePaul University in Chicago.”But that won’t matter if you don’t follow up when people fall behind.” To improve cash flow, consider offering a discount for cash on delivery or taking credit cards over the phone.

5. It isn’t only for your down periods.

Many seasonal or cyclical businesses only focus on cash flow during seasons when sales are down. Smart companies monitor tools and financing practices that keep good working capital practices year-round, which can lessen the impact of the down periods. “If you only worry about working capital when you’re cash-strapped, you will become cash-strapped,” Cole says.

 


Everything You Need to Know About the Small Business Administration

As a small business owner, you’ve probably heard of the Small Business Administration (SBA) – in passing, at the very least. For most people, SBA loans are the first thing that comes to mind. The SBA is one of the largest loan backers to small business owners in the country. The reality? they have a lot more to offer than you think.

Curious? Good. Here you’re going to get an overview of the SBA. But, you’ll also see what it does and how it can help you grow your business.

What is the Small Business Administration?

The SBA is a United States Government agency. Created post-World War II, the SBA wanted to encourage and support America’s small business owners. They wanted to help boost the economy. The guiding principles of the SBA are the same today as they were at the very beginning.

As stated on its website:

“The U.S. Small Business Administration helps Americans start, build, and grow businesses.”

SBA loans might be the most well-known of the agency’s programs. But, the SBA also provides business counseling, disaster loans, federal government contracting, and other tools to help small business owner. Getting in touch with the SBA is easy. Its main campus is in Washington, D.C.. But they have dozens of offices across all 50 states and U.S. territories. Many of these offices host local events and in-office programs for small business owners to attend.

Small Business Administration Programs

The SBA runs a variety of programs that small business owners can take advantage of to grow their business.

SBA Loans

Access to capital is one of the biggest struggles many small business owners face. SBA loans are a primary source of funding for tens of thousands of small business owners across the country. In the 2019 Fiscal Year, the SBA reported over $28 billion through approximately 58,000 approved loans.

The primary SBA loans are the 7(a) and 504 programs. These loans are made through partner lending institutions with the SBA guaranteeing a portion of the loan. The SBA doesn’t directly loan to small business owners. The SBA 7(a) loan is the administration’s most popular. It provides up to $5 million in working capital at a low interest rate for business purposes. The SBA 504 loan provides up to $5.5 million. It can be used for real estate, equipment and other fixed asset purchases. While the 7(a) and 504 are the most popular programs, the SBA offers other financing options too.

They include SBA:

  • Microloans which provide working capital up to $50,000.
  • Disaster loans offer loans to businesses and homeowners who have been affected by nationally declared disasters.
  • Express loans have a quick 36-hour turnaround for approval.
  • Export loans provide capital for small businesses that have export financing needs.
  • CAPLines are lines of credit.
  • Veterans Advantage are loans for military veterans.

Each SBA loan program has specific terms, conditions and requirements. Be sure to check them before applying to any loans. Having a strong business plan and a good personal credit score are key factors for SBA loan applications as well.

Other SBA Financing Options

In addition to the loan programs above, the SBA offers a variety of other financing options for small business owners.

Small Business Grants

The SBA doesn’t offer small business grants directly. However, it does have a few programs that can help businesses focused on the cutting edge of innovation. These programs are the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR). They offer grants for qualified businesses producing tech or science-focused research and development programs. These businesses will also have commercial potential.

Venture Capital

The administration also works with Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC), which invest in small businesses. While SBICs are independently owned and managed, the SBA provides oversight in terms of regulation, licensing, and funding.

Government Contracts

The U.S. Government is one of the biggest employers in the world. That’s good news for small business owners. The government has tens of thousands of contracts available at any given time. A portion of those are reserved for small business owners.

The SBA helps support small business owners when it comes to finding and securing government contracts. The administration even offers advice and guidance through online courses and in-person help. Topics include how to become a qualified government contractor.

The SBA also has specific programs to help Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB). They help Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). And, they even aid small businesses located in historically underutilized business zones. These businesses can be in the HUBZone program, to secure government contracts as well.

Small Business Services

The SBA also offers programs and services for small business owners that offer help to support and grow businesses. These programs are provided free of charge for small business owners.

SCORE

SBA’s Counselors to America’s Small Business SCORE program has chapters throughout the country. The program is comprised of a network of volunteers who serve as mentors to small business owners. SCORE program members can receive help with everything from creating a business plan to marketing. They receive help through in-person events, online courses and workshops.

Small Business Development Centers

The SBA also partners with many colleges and universities across the country to form Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). These centers work with local small business owners on a variety of training and development programs.

SBA Learning Center

Through its online learning portal, the SBA offers dozens of free courses. They cover everything a small business owner would want to know. Classes range from Social Media Marketing, to Accounting 101. All courses are free.

Other Outreach Programs

Additionally, the SBA also has a vested interest in helping women, veterans and minority business owners succeed. To that end, the administration has smaller outreach centers geared specifically towards these business owners. These programs offer a bit more specialized training and guidance.

Small Business Owners and the SBA

The bottom line? The Small Business Administration is a phenomenal resource for small business owners. They offer everything from classes and mentorship to a variety of funding options. The SBA strengthens the backbone of the American economy: small businesses and their owners.

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7 Reasons Asset Based Financing Might Make Sense for Your Fast-growing Company

Fast-growing businesses may face a problem financing an expansion. But asset based financing may offer advantages over more traditional methods of borrowing money. Here’s what you need to know.

How asset based financing works.

Imagine that you are running a retail apparel company and need cash to grow your business. Instead of applying for a loan based on the company’s credit history, you might instead ask for financing secured by the inventory you hold. Clothing retailers usually hold significant levels of inventory (dresses, jeans, etc.) which may be used as loan collateral.

Many retailers also operate as wholesalers to smaller firms and so usually have unpaid invoices outstanding. Companies may also be able to use those invoices to help finance their own operations by contracting with an intermediary known as a factor. The factor buys the invoices at a discount in exchange for providing immediate cash.

Here are seven reasons consider asset-based financing.

What are the benefits of asset based financing?

When compared to traditional forms of lending, asset based financing can can offer a wide array of benefits – from fewer restriction, to cost savings, to less paper work. While it is not the best fit for every business, it does make sense to include it as part of your due diligence when selecting the best financing product for your business.

Here are seven reasons to consider asset-based financing.

1. Potentially lower costs

Asset based loans are secured loans. And, therefore, may be far cheaper than traditional loans which are usually based on the company’s financial history. If a loan is based solely on the credit history of a firm, it is considered an unsecured loan. As such, the borrower will get charged a higher interest rate. That’s because the bank may be assuming more risk when they make an unsecured loan.

The secured versus unsecured loan structures are similar to consumer loans, in that home loans may be cheaper than credit card debts. With a home loan, if you don’t pay your mortgage the bank may repossess your home; however, with credit card debt there’s typically no security deposit backing up the loan.

2. Less paperwork

While obtaining a traditional business loan might require you to document the financial history of your company’s operations, an asset-based loan likely would not. In other words, borrowing against the value of your inventory might be an easier way for a newer company to get financing than trying to get a traditional loan.

3. Fewer restrictions than traditional loans

Many loans have restrictions on how the money from the loan gets used. For instance, a bank may ask why you need a conventional loan (also known as a term-loan because it is given for a specified period) and how you intend to repay it. If you take out a term-loan and tell the bank you want to use it to remodel your retail stores, then that is how the bank expects you to use the proceeds. The good news is that asset based loans typically may have fewer use restrictions.

4. More flexible repayment terms

You must eventually pay back any loan to the lender. However, not all loans are created equally. Asset based loans often don’t require the entire loan amount to be paid off according to a fixed timetable, often known as an amortization schedule. Term loan payments (including a pay-down of the principal balance) must be paid each month. Asset-based loans often have more flexible payment terms, allowing businesses to pay off the debt at a time that is most suitable given their cash flow. The result is potentially more flexibility for companies using asset based financing.

5. Streamlined balance sheets

If you take out a traditional loan, then the balance due appears on your balance sheet. Some asset based financing does not get recorded that way. For instance, if you sold your outstanding invoices to a factor in exchange for immediate cash, there would be no balance to show on your firm’s balance sheet. All you’d need to do is to note how you managed this financial transaction in a footnote on the financial statements. This is known as off-balance sheet financing.

6. A good way to finance working capital.

Companies experiencing fast growth may find it hard to get additional working capital via revolving lines of credit. On the same end, as the need for working capital increases your firm may have higher levels of inventory and larger invoices due from customers. You may use inventory and larger invoices as collateral to finance increased working capital needs.

Feeling more confident about your business to go shopping for a loan? Before you start looking you should understand what factors impact terms of your loans.


5 Things to Consider When Applying for Small Business Grants

When you’re a small business, cash is king. But you know what’s even bigger and better than cash? Free cash! However, unless you’re a trust fund baby or lucky enough to win the lottery (A bad investment BTW), then free cash is hard to come by. Aside from the two previously mentioned methods or a rich uncle, your main option for free cash is small business grants.

Don’t get too excited yet though

Small business grants have their pros and cons. Free money is usually a good thing, but just keep in mind, there are some hang-ups that come along with “free” stuff. So, before you decide this is the best funding option for your small business let’s take a closer look.

First, what is a small business grant anyway?

Think of a grant like a scholarship for small businesses. They usually come from federal, state, county or local governments, but sometimes private businesses or corporations will offer them as well. Just like a scholarship, there are a bunch out there, and they are usually set aside for “people” that meet certain criteria. Some are for online companies, some are for veterans, others for women and/or minority owned businesses. The list goes on and on, and they all have different application requirements.

Here’s the key to getting a small business grant.

It all comes down to research. There are thousands of grants available out there, but your chances of getting one really come down to two things: How much work will you put into finding one that you qualify for, and how much work are you willing to put in throughout the application process. Are you seeing a theme here?

Let’s get you up to speed on the process.

A good place to start is the Small Business Administration website at www.sba.gov. This is where you’ll find a lot of helpful information to start your search. Our best advice is to save it to your favorites and just explore the site. There is a lot of information to consume.

Next, try going to www.grants.gov. It’s a federal website as well that lets you search for available government grants. Just make sure you ensure you’re eligible for a grant before you spend too much time applying.

Last, it’s a good idea to check your state’s official web page. A lot of states offer not only grants to small businesses, but also tax incentives and other economic incentives for you to bring jobs to the state.

Now let’s talk about what you need to know as you begin your hunt for free money! And to be totally honest, some of these factors may outweigh the benefits of free money. So, to ensure you’re going into this with your eyes wide open, let’s begin.

1. Small business grants take A LOT of you and your staff’s time!

Like most government processes, getting a federal or even local government grant is very time consuming. It’s important to understand how much your time is worth, and then evaluate how much you’re getting vs. how much time it’s going to take to get the money. There’s a lot of paperwork and there’s a lot of required documentation/market reports/demographic reports/etc that will have your staff jumping through hoops. Just make sure it’s all worth it before you dedicate all that time – time you could be spending on your own growth strategy or business development

2. Don’t expect the money any time soon.

As we just mentioned in the first section, remember this is the government we’re dealing with here. Don’t expect things to move quickly. Once you submit your application, it can take weeks, or even months before you get a response or find out if you’re approved. Yes, it’s frustrating, but if you understand that’s part of the game, you won’t lose as much sleep over it.

3. The competition for small business grants is stiff!

This is FREE money we’re talking about here. You won’t be the only one applying. The brightest and the best will have their teams working to get this money, so be ready for fierce competition. The key is to know your strengths, and know how you can present your business in the best light possible. Show them why you deserve it more than anyone else! And another thing… make sure you’re applying for grants that fit your strengths as a company. That will significantly improve your chances.

4. Grants come with strings attached.

If you are lucky enough to be one of the few grant recipients, remember this usually comes with strings. Be ready to sacrifice a little privacy and understand you’ll have to do a little better job of keeping your “house in order”. Many grant issuers like to check in on your progress. This often means monthly or quarterly “check ins” where they will ask for proof that you’re meeting the requirements as outlined in your grant. Also, there can be other strings such as contingency agreements. I.E. State and local programs will give you the money contingent on matching funds or a loan to supplement the grant.

5. Small business grants may not be the money you want.

Grants usually come with rules on what you can use the money for. If you think it’s a get out of debt free card, think again. Federal and state grants are funded with taxpayer dollars so they do their best to ensure it’s used for purposes that will benefit the community as a whole, and not just to pay down debt for your business. (They want more jobs, improved technology, etc.) It’s not a loan. It’s generally a gift for a specific purpose.

Wrapping it all up.

Small business grants can be incredible opportunities for your business, but they can also be money pits that don’t have the ROI you imagined when you heard the word “FREE MONEY!” To determine if they are right for your business, do some research and keep all these factors in mind. Now that you’re informed, you’ll make the right decision!


How to Strengthen Your Balance Sheet to Qualify for a Loan

Admittedly, some business owners neglect to review their financial statements monthly. Some, actually, only review financial statements yearly–and only for tax purposes! If you want a true ideal picture of your company’s financial health, you absolutely need to regularly monitor your financials, including your balance sheet. While lenders want to see that your firm is profitable, they are most concerned with whether or not you have sufficient working capital, a manageable debt to equity ratio and a strong operating history. Since your balance sheet provides all this information and more, you will definitely want to strengthen your balance sheet if you are seeking a loan.

Increase your working capital.

The more cash or assets you have readily on hand that can be converted into cash to pay your current obligations, the lower the risk you will default on a loan. In other words? Lots of cash and equivalents encourage a lender to lend. Working capital is short-term assets less short-term liabilities. Short-term assets include cash and cash equivalents as well as inventory and receivables. Short-term liabilities include all payables. Hence why lenders focus on working capital.

However, your working capital calculation can significantly differ from the lender’s. Lenders will drastically discount older current assets. If your inventory does not have quick turnover (this timing varies by industry), then lenders will discount its value from what shows on your balance sheet. Furthermore, if you are in an industry with shorter inventory lifespans such as retail and you have unsold inventory that is over two years old, when you sell it, you likely will only get a fraction of what you paid for it. Obviously, lenders cannot count on that cash for bill payment. They will thus exclude that inventory from your firm’s working capital calculation. The same applies to receivables. If your receivables are due in 30 days but 40 percent are over 90 days old, the lender will completely ignore that 40 percent. The exceptions are slow-paying industries such as industrial construction.

Since your old inventory and receivables will be totally excluded by lenders in their working capital calculation, convert those assets to cash. The cash will be included. Sell off your old inventory. Vigorously pursue all overdue receivables. To ensure your inventory turns over in a reasonable amount of time, only buy what sells or ramp up your marketing efforts. To square up your receivables within 30-day terms, create and implement strong accounts receivable and credit policies.

Decrease your debt.

Lenders look at your overall debt, your interest-bearing debt or both, compared to your equity. A high debt burden could mean trouble. Acceptable debt to equity ratios vary by industry. A capital-intensive industry like manufacturing will require much more capital investment than a services-oriented industry like marketing firms.

If you have unused or chronically underused equipment, strongly consider selling it. The purpose of an asset is to help produce or deliver the goods or services your firm provides. If a large asset is just sitting there, it is not fulfilling its mission. Not only will selling reduce your debt, it will convert the associated asset from PP&E to cash on the balance sheet. Although both are assets, the additional cash is much more powerful because it increases your working capital. Remember, working capital indicates your firm’s ability to repay debt in the near term.

Increase your equity.

The lender wants to see that your company has a profitable history. She also wants to know that you reinvest in the company. Why? That shows you both believe in your firm and expect it to grow. Therefore, the owner’s equity piece is very important. Do you retain a sizable portion of the earnings or do you pull every last dollar out you can? If it’s the latter, stop. Your owner’s equity needs to be high enough to be compelling.

One way to both decrease debt and increase owner’s equity at the same time is to convert any shareholder loans to equity. Owners often provide loans to the company instead of injecting equity capital for several reasons. The most notable reason is that you can receive a loan repayment of principal tax-free. But, you must pay taxes on any distributions received. However, if you are seeking funding, a strong balance sheet trumps your lower taxes. Make that conversion and immediately strengthen your balance sheet.

Reviewing your financial statements is important as they serve as the barometer of your firm’s financial condition. This is especially true of the balance sheet. If your firm is in expansion mode, use one or more of these suggestions to proactively strengthen your balance sheet to qualify for a loan.

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