The Million Dollar Question Every Business Owner Asks – Where’s the Money is No Longer a Secret

Its no secret most entrepreneurs have limited resources as it pertains to how and where to secure capital infusion. It is these limitations, which precludes small businesses from moving past level one in business and on to a more lucrative future.

There are numerous loan programs and lending institutions servicing small business owner’s nationwide. The problem is not getting the money, it’s how and where to find it. If more business owners knew how and where to secure capital, there would be a larger number of businesses growing and succeeding than those that are dissolving-today.

When our government enacted laws and policies to protect and support our economic system, which is the mainstream source for derived goods and services supplied by the business community, it included providing capital infusion to businesses for the continuity of our economy’s stability and growth. Today there are various resource centers, which provide an array of business development services such as the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Women Business Centers (WBC), and Veteran Business Opportunity Centers (VBOC). Take advantage of them, they can be viable to the success of your business.

First things first- you must do your research. You should know: the different types of lenders; what loan programs they offer; how much they will lend you and what is their criteria; what other financing options are available to you and what are their lending policies.

To get you started. There are four types of lenders:
(1) Traditional Lenders- larger chain banks; strict criteria; larger loans; preferred SBA lender,
(2) Third-Party Lenders- community sub-lenders which offer smaller loans and partner with traditional lenders to process loans ranging from $100,000 to Millions,
(3) Private Lenders- provides in house financing, offer smaller loans; lower interest rates; flexible criteria and accommodates start-ups, and
(4) Investors- require a higher interest rate on their return; part ownership of the business; some will provide management support and have access to viable resources.

It’s very important to know whom you are asking money from. It’s like the term we use “know your competitors inside and out”, well the same principle applies here. Why? to compare financial products that best accommodates your needs. You want to secure the best deal at the best rate. I always recommend my clients prepare a Where’s The Money Strategy. Having this kind of strategy helps you identify your financial need, compare loan products, determine which lender best suits your need and which lender offers the best deal.

Now you might be saying, “there’s no money available, lenders are not issuing credit to anyone right now”, yes there are still some cash flowing lenders out there. Traditional lenders might have tightened their reigns, however private lenders, local community banks and some third-party lenders are still in the business of lending money. Although we are currently in an economic downturn, they have not been inflected in such away as the traditional banking institutions, which allow these lenders to remain strong and more vital to the business community.

Did you know the Small Business Administration has loan programs designed to meet the financial needs of all aspects of the business industry ranging from $5,000 to Millions? There are six programs used widely to address these needs. The Community Express Loan, Patriots Express Loan, SBA Express Loan, and CAP Lines which is an umbrella of five additional programs (1. Seasonal Line of Credit, 2. Contract Loan Program, 3. Builders Line Program, 4. Small Asset Based Line (SABL), and 5. Standard Asset Based Line). Then there are the two most common loans 7a and 504.

Why Micro Loans Could Be The Answer to Many Small Business Owners Financing Needs

Small business owners, if you have never considered accessing a Micro Loan, you might want to take a look at this viable financing option. Some of you might think that these types of loans are used only in Third World countries. Perhaps you have heard of lending sites such as Kiva dot org, which primarily finances individuals living in countries other than the United States who are starting their own businesses.

Micro Loan financing is one of the best small business financing options available in today’s tight lending climate. This type of financing has been around for many years. Micro Lenders have finance entrepreneurs to the tune of billions of dollars worldwide. There are many other financing options available, but this type of financing has survived the recent financial storm and continues to grow exponentially.

To know if a this financing solution is a good fit for you, first, determine if a small loan amount is adequate for your business. Next, consider the criteria you must meet to be approved for the loan. There are many types of Micro Lenders and they all have different processes in place to either approve or decline your loan request

The answers to the questions below will help to determine if a Micro Loan is right for you:

Why should I use a Micro Loan? Large numbers of loan requests have continued to be approved since the financial crisis hit in 2008. Prior to the economic downturn, lenders would typically take two to three weeks to approve a loan request. Since 2010, traditional loan approvals have taken as long as 10 weeks or more. Many of these loans are now being approved in 6 to 8 weeks. This time-line is, of course, based on factors that must be taken into consideration on a per client basis.

Where do I access a Micro Loan? These loans are available through local, regional, national, and international sources. These sources have their own guidelines for approving loans. Some of these lenders are privately held “for-profit” companies, while others are nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations.

What do I need to access a Micro Loan? The lender will require such documents as your credit report, itemized Use of Funds list, cash flow statements, bank statements, and any other document the lender deems necessary for them to feel comfortable in approving your loan request.

How do I qualify for a Micro Loan? You will qualify for a loan based on the requirements of the Micro Loan lender you use. These lenders will request enough documentation, collateral, and other information to make them comfortable with the risk they are taking to loan you money.

Does my type of business fit this loan option? Each lender sets their industry specific requirements. You’ll need to determine if the source you’re working with will finance your type of business. If you don’t know your industry category, check the NAICS codes system or North American Industry Classification System at Census dot gov.
Many of you may have tried unsuccessfully to get loans from traditional financing sources such as banks. Perhaps your lender did not explain clearly why you failed to qualify for a business loan. Maybe you did not prepare well for traditional financing. For example, if your credit score was too low, or you didn’t have sufficient collateral to offset the risk associated with the loan amount you requested.

If this is the case, a Micro Loan could potentially improve your financial situation. This loan option is a great way to get your business moving quickly. You can access this type of financing based on a number of factors.

Factors to Consider for such a loan are:

Start-ups less than 2 years in business – $15,000 to $25,000 loans available

Seasoned businesses more than 2 years in business – $35,000 to $50,000 loans available

Loans use available collateral such as equipment, vehicles, jewelry, etc.

Loan approval time-line – 6 weeks to 10 weeks or more per lender

Some lenders lend nationwide, while others finance regionally or locally

Types of industries – All types included with restrictions in the construction and medical industries
If Micro-Loan financing fits your small business needs, then by all means use it to grow your business or help stabilize it. Remember, it’s a loan option you can use and reuse in shorter periods of time when compared to repaying a loan for a larger amount. Be sure to prepare effectively for this or any other financing option so you can qualify and get the working capital you need.

If you don’t know where to look for Micro Loan sources, check with your local area bank, Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center, Small Business Technical Center, local Chamber of Commerce, or a business consultant in your area.

Karlene Sinclair-Robinson is the author of ‘The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Alternative Funding: What The Small Business Owner MUST Know To Get Through These Financial Times’. Sinclair-Robinson is an entrepreneur, business consultant, Alternative Financing Expert, Speaker and Motivator based in Northern Virginia. With access to capital, Sinclair-Robinson focuses on Non-Traditional Financing Solutions for small to mid-size businesses.

How to Finance Your Startup Without Venture Capital and Angel Investors

Venture capitalists and angel investors can be very useful external sources of capital for established businesses, but the value they bring to new ventures and start-ups is questionable at best. Entrepreneurs should aim to finance their ventures by means other than venture capitalists, private equity and angel investors unless a large fortune is needed to finance business start-up activities or they choose to work with investors specifically focused on very early-stage start-ups. Here are eight strategies in which many entrepreneurs might choose to finance their ventures:

Business Credit Cards
Many successful businesses, such as Under Armour, were financed through credit cards in the very early stages of their venture. While credit cards are not necessarily the most ideal source of financing as they do have their drawbacks, if used correctly they can be a very effective source of financing.

How to use a business credit card correctly:
- Effectively manage cash flow by not having to pay for purchases until the end of the billing cycle.
- Use to pay for start-up fixed and upfront costs so you can make your first sale
- Plan ahead on how you will pay off the balance, then create a backup plan

Things to look for in a business credit card:
- If you will be carrying a balance, look for low APR
- If you will not be carrying a balance, look for great cash rewards and introductory promotions

Supply Chain Financing
If you are selling goods, see if your supplier, manufacturer, or distributor could issue you a very favorable loan or line-of-credit. After all, the more successful you are, the more successful they are, and they understand this. You will be surprised how common this is – many suppliers, manufacturers and distributors even have set procedures for these circumstances. All you have to do is ask.

SBA Microloans
If your venture needs less $35,000 or less, you should consider taking out a microloan. A microloan is a small, short-term loan available to small businesses that can be used as working capital or towards purchasing new inventory, supplies or machinery. These microloans are made available through the SBA but are distributed by intermediary nonprofit community lenders. Although these loans usually do require some sort of collateral, they also provide very favorable terms and are quick and easy to receive.

Business Plan Competitions
There are numerous business plan competitions across the country dedicated to awarding prize money to selected entrepreneurs to finance their businesses. While the vast majority of these competitions are directed towards undergraduate and graduate students, there are plenty of local and state competitions opened to the public.

Many schools such as University of Texas Austin host business competitions opened to all students at accredited universities. Other colleges such as University of Maryland host competitions open only to their students.

If you are not a student, don’t worry. Try searching Google for business competitions in your state or county as many local chambers of commerce host competitions to support local businesses. For instance, there is the Washington DC Economic Partnership Competition, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce Competition, Enterprise Center Boston Competition and the Bizzy Awards.

All of these competitions are great because not only do you get great experience pitching your idea to investors, but you have the opportunity to win a substantial amount of free money and receive tons of free press.

Grants
Grants are essentially free money, and are one of the most desirable sources of funding for just that reason. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most difficult to obtain. Most grants are awarded by state and local governments, and most grants are reserved for businesses that have the potential to provide a great service to the community, such as medical research and high-tech companies. Searching for grants can be a very grueling process with scams around every corner. Start your search at Grants.gov and State Small Business Grants, and be weary of any non-government or for-profit entity.

Personal Savings
While not the most creative source of financing for a start-up, personal savings remains to be one of the most popular methods. Personal savings allows entrepreneurs to own 100% of their company’s equity. Relative to other financing methods, personal savings provides very attractive terms as it leaves you liable to no one but yourself, and the cost of capital is simply the opportunity cost of investing that money elsewhere. Personal savings should always be strongly considered as it is one of the most ideal sources of financing.

Friends and Family
Not even experts agree on the role friends and family should play in financing a start-up. In one hand, financing from family and friends can be fairly simple and straight forward as there is already a mutual respect and understanding. Friends and family will be more willing to give you very favorable terms and might also be less stringent in their rules on how the money can be used. However, in the other hand you have the possibility of straining important relationships in your life over money. If the business starts going sour, there could be unnecessary pressure coming from the very people you need support from. In the end, this source of financing is up to each individual entrepreneur and depends on a number of specific circumstances.

Bartering
Many start-ups are very short on cash and credit. Paying for a necessary good or service might be impossible, leaving many entrepreneurs in a catch-22 situation. One possibility would be to barter for that necessary good or service. First, build a strong relationship with the other party, and then make a proposition. Remember, always consider the other side’s point of view and “what’s in it for them”.

The above are suggestions as ways to finance a start-up business, but ultimately each situation is unique. Always evaluate each possibility thoroughly and compare to comparable alternatives.

The Best Car Insurance Rates

If your car insurance is due for renewal and you are considering buying another policy then this article will provide you with important facts that you should know about. Car insurance policies are getting increasingly expensive and you should do all that you can to reduce your costs. How much you have to pay for your car insurance is dictated by a variety of factors as they apply to you and your vehicle.

In this article we will examine coverage limits, your age, gender and marital status, your location and insuring other household members. All of these factors will have a great influence on how much you will have to pay for your policy.

Coverage limits are generally dictated by the price that you are willing to pay for your insurance. A higher level of coverage will generally result in higher premiums. The best way to find a good value policy is to comparison shop. Nowadays it is generally accepted that the best way to do this is by using a car insurance comparison website.

Your age, gender and marital status will have a great effect on the auto insurance rates that you are offered. Insurers rate drivers using a variety of criteria, if you are a young single male driver you will usually have to pay higher rates. If you are a middle-aged female married driver then your rates will be lower. Insurers calculate the best car insurance rates for you by comparing levels of risk. Those groups which are statistically more likely to be involved in an accident have to pay correspondingly higher rates.

Location plays an important part in deciding how much your premiums will cost. Drivers who live in an urban environment will usually pay more than those from a rural area. This is because drivers who live in cities and heavily populated areas are more likely to be involved in an accident, or to have their car stolen or vandalized. Insurers generally offer better rates if you’re able to demonstrate that you keep your vehicle in a garage at night. You may also be able to improve the security arrangements of your automobile by fitting an alarm, immobilizer and steering wheel lock.

Insuring other household members will have an influence on the cost of your policy and the best car insurance rates that you offered. If you have teenage family members living with you and they are added to your policy, then your costs will increase. This may still work out cheaper than if your teenage driver were to have a separate policy in their own name.

In conclusion, there are a variety of different factors which can affect your ability to be offered the best insurance rates. Some of these are coverage limits, how old you are, whether you are male or female and whether you are married or single. Your rates will also be affected by the area where you live and whether other household members are included in your policy.