Small Business Center
By Jennifer Lobb, Nav
Opportunities for growth arise, equipment breaks, inventory goes on sale, business slows and operational expenses grow. Sometimes, all of those things happen at once. Regardless of what circumstance matches your experience, chances are you’ll need working capital to make things happen.
While the ideal solution may be to tap into reserve funds to manage costs, that’s not always possible. If you’re thinking about or in the process of securing small business funding, there are numerous options to consider, including small business loans, lines of credit and business credit cards. Selecting the right funding will require you to take into consideration each option and how it does or does not meet your financial needs and credit profile, among other things.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few of the most common funding types.
A term loan is what most people think about when they hear the word “loan.” When you take out a term loan, you receive a lump sum of money, which you’re obligated to repay within a certain amount of time, or the term.
Term loans come in a wide range of amounts and repayment terms. For instance, short-term loans are typically repaid within six to 12 months, while long-term lines may have repayment terms as long as 10 or 20 years.
Both traditional lenders like banks and credit unions and alternative resources like peer-to-peer lending and online lenders, offer term loans. As such, rates, repayment terms, and fees — e.g., origination, application — will vary from lender to lender. However, most lenders will base each of those factors on a number of variables like your credit score, loan amount and annual revenue.
That doesn’t suggest that you need to have good or excellent credit to secure a term loan. There are term loans designed to accommodate borrowers with poor credit, though many of these will be secured loans. In that case, the lender requires you to put up collateral — e.g., real estate property, equipment, automobiles — in the event you fail to pay off the loan. As well, certain types of funding can help you build business credit.
Though there are many types of business term loans, many with their own set of requirements and restrictions, they are typically considered to be quite flexible and can help you manage a variety of business costs. This includes things like inventory or equipment purchases, payroll, debt consolidation or simply a working capital boost.
Small Business Administration loans, which can be approved for as much as $5 million, are guaranteed by the U.S. SBA and originated by approved lenders. Because SBA loans are federally backed, they are often offered with lower rates and more flexible terms, making them a prime solution for eligible small business owners.
The SBA offers numerous loan programs, some of which have loan terms as long as 10 or 25 years. The 7(a) loan and the 504 loan, however, are considered two of the most popular options. Funds from a 7(a) loan can be used to manage a variety of business-related expenses, including working capital, debt consolidation, inventory and equipment. The 504 loan, on the other hand, is limited to project costs associated with the purchase, construction, modernization, or remodeling of real estate property or to consolidate debt accrued from those activities.
To qualify for most SBA loans, including the two above, you must have what’s considered good credit, typically a 680 or higher, and meet any additional requirements and standards as they apply to the SBA or the specific loan program. This includes size and revenue standards.
In many ways, a business line of credit is similar to a credit card. If approved, you will be granted access to a maximum amount of cash, similar to a credit card limit. However, instead of receiving it as a lump sum, as is the case with a loan, borrowers can draw from available funds as needed, only paying interest on what they use. At the end of the draw period, the line of credit will be closed and the account will enter into repayment status. During this time, you’ll be required to make monthly payments on the total balance for the duration of the repayment term.
When it comes to usage, a business line of credit is notably flexible. This makes it a good option for those looking to manage ebbs and flows in cash flow.
In the past, approval often required the company to have been in business for at least six months and have a minimum annual revenue of $25,000 to $50,000. While that still may be true for some lenders, the rise of online lenders has made business lines more accessible, even for applicants who don’t meet traditional eligibility standards.
Like the personal equivalent, a business credit card gives you ongoing access to a revolving line of credit, up to your approved limit. When balances are paid in full by the due date, you can typically escape interest payments. When carrying a balance to the next billing cycle, you’ll likely be charged an interest — unless, of course, the card carries a 0% intro annual percentage rate offer.
There are a slew of business credit cards out there, each of which carries its own qualifications, rates, fees and benefits. Rates are often closely tied to your credit score, with better credit earning lower interest rates, as well as access to prime cards. If you’re considering using a credit card as a form of small business funding, be sure to review all your options to find the best one based on your creditworthiness, financial needs and preferred benefits and rewards.
When used properly, a business credit card can be a great boost to your business. It can help you manage cash flow, pay for unexpected expenses and build your business credit. Business credit cards also can give you access to rewards programs, added purchase protections and other benefits like travel perks.
While many of the funding options above can be used for an array of business expenses, equipment financing, as the name suggests, is used to purchase or lease new or used business equipment. This includes things like commercial ranges, construction vehicles and office equipment.
Overall, this type of small business funding offers borrowers access to equipment at a relatively low APR, though borrowers with average or below average credit will likely find higher rates and less flexible terms.
Keep in mind that financing equipment, while certainly a valuable path when needed, isn’t always ideal. This is particularly true if you have a longer repayment term on equipment that quickly becomes outdated.
Invoice financing ia a small business funding options that allows business owners to turn their outstanding invoices or accounts receivable into cash. Because it’s based on invoices, it is only an option if your business offers goods and services in advance of payment.
Under this type of agreement, an invoice financing company will give the borrower a percentage of the invoice value upfront, typically between 80% and 90%, though it varies. Once the customer pays the invoice, the financing company will give the borrower the remaining funds minus fees.
This type of funding is often best if you need to free up cash flow as you wait for payment on net-30, net-60 or net-90 accounts. And because the invoices act as collateral, you may be able to secure this type of funding even if your credit isn’t ideal.
Simply put, grants are free money. Therefore, small business grants, which may be issued by federal, state or local governments, as well as private entities, are the ideal funding solution.
There are hundreds if not thousands of grants available to businesses, many of which are designed with certain types of businesses in mind. For example, some grants may be geared toward minority or women-owned businesses, while others may be awarded to start-up companies, nonprofit organizations or businesses that meet environmental or community-enrichment objectives.
As you may assume, many business owners would prefer free money, so the grant process is typically competitive. It’s also important to note that applying for a grant often means meeting specific deadlines and eligibility standards and waiting through the review and notification process. You can find grants in numerous places, including the SBA, Grants.gov, state and local government websites and local business development centers.
While grants are terrific, securing them can be challenging, and often, use is restricted. Shoot for the stars and apply for the grants, but it helps to have a contingency plan.
Though the aforementioned funding types represent some of the most popular options available to small business owners, there are a few others that you may want to consider along the way, particularly if you’re looking for start-up funding.
Crowdfunding: As the name suggests, “crowdfunding” is a fundraising effort that draws funds from a pool of investors, be they everyday consumers or entrepreneurs and professional investors. If you’re considering different crowdfunding platforms, it’s important to pay specific attention to your marketing efforts, as much of your success will depend on your ability to make your product or services attractive to potential investors.
Venture capitalists/angel investors: Though there are some differences between the two, both venture capitalists and angel investors offer access to funds in exchange for equity in the company. In addition to funding, these investment groups or individuals can bring to the table valuable connections and industry expertise.
With so many options, where should you seek funding first? Here are a few questions you can ask to help narrow the search.
How much funding do you need? Lenders typically set maximum and minimum funding limits. Determine how much you need and eliminate lenders that can’t accommodate your request.
How quickly do you need funding? Some lenders provide funds within 24 hours of approval; others may have a lengthy application process or release funds weeks later. Determine which lenders are capable of meeting your time-to-funding needs.
Why do you need funding? Some lending options — such as lines of credit, credit cards and term loans — may be flexible. Others, such as equipment financing and 504 loans, are limited in use. Other options, such as invoice finances, are designed to meet certain needs like gaps between payments. Keep that in mind as you narrow your choices.
How is your credit? One of the biggest determining factors in your pursuit for funding is often your credit score. A good or excellent credit score can give you access to the best rates, flexible terms and numerous options like prime business credit cards. Poor credit, on the other hand, may limit your options. For instance, a business owner with poor credit may find it’s easier to secure funds through invoice financing as opposed to a business credit card.
What’s the total cost of the loan? It’s easy to assume that interest rates are the biggest indicator of affordability, but the total cost of a loan also includes any fees. Origination fees, prepayment fees and application fees can increase costs. Always find out what fees you’ll need to pay and factor them into your decision.
Where can I find business funding for startups? Funding a new or growing business isn’t always easy. Some lenders prefer that borrowers meet revenue or time in business milestones, many of which are just out of reach for start-ups. There are, however, many options to those who seek them out. Invoice financing, equipment financing, some SBA loans and business credit cards are all viable paths to start-up funding. In addition, crowdfunding and grants can also provide you the capital you need to forge ahead.
Is it possible to get small business funding with bad credit? Though they aren’t always easy to find, there are small business funding options for borrowers with bad credit. Secured business credit cards and term loans are designed specifically for borrowers with poor credit. Similarly, equipment financing and invoice factoring can be ideal for borrowers with bad credit. That said, your best bet at funding is to improve your credit score, so if you have time, you may want to take the steps to build your credit. You can start by requesting a credit report, addressing any errors, paying bills on time and even opening and responsibly using a business credit card.
Can you get business funding with no credit check? The answer to that depends on the type of funding you want. Long-term business loans and even most short-term loans require the borrower to undergo a credit check. The same is true for many credit cards and equipment financing options.
Where can I find small business funding review? Small business funding is a common need, so there are plenty of reviews available to those who look. You can find a plethora of reviews on our website, specifically in our marketplace, but that’s not the only place you should look. As you sift through your options, it’s best to check numerous financial resource and review sites, including Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau. It also may be helpful to check the lender’s social media accounts and Google reviews before you sign off on a loan agreement.
This article originally appeared on www.nav.com.