6 Free Square Tools To Make Running Your Small Business Easier

If you own a business, you don’t need anyone to tell you about the value of time-saving tools. Personally, whenever I uncover something that unexpectedly makes business run more efficiently, it can almost feel like winning the lottery — time is that important to me. If you juggle a lot of responsibilities during your day, you probably feel the same way. That’s why I was pretty stoked to pull back the curtain and see what’s really behind the scenes when it comes to Square — one of the most popular payment processing apps available. 

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the tools you may not have heard about that are available with any standard Square account. While I also get pretty excited about some of the premium options on offer (like Square’s email marketing and CRM tools), we are going to stick with the freebies in this post. Keep reading to learn about tools you can start using today that may help you do business a little smarter.

Note: Keep in mind, we’re not touching on all of the free software and tools you get with Square — just some of the most valuable ones. Check out our in-depth Square review for a closer look at everything Square has to offer.

Inventory Management

When we talk about what is waiting when you open up a free Square account, one of the most important tools is your inventory management. Good inventory management is so important to keep your customers happy and ultimately help support your bottom line. Understanding what is most popular and identifying your best sellers can help you not only maintain the right amount of stock but support your promotional efforts as well.

So let’s start with the basics. After you enter in an item in your Square dashboard or the POS app, you can add the current stock amount, enable tracking, and set up a low stock alert right from the same screen. Whether you ring up the item from your POS, virtual terminal, or send an invoice, Square adjusts your stock automatically.

You can add item variants as well. Add different price points for sizes, add-ons, or customize however you like. Just name the variant, set the price, and add a unique SKU if needed. And if you sell in bulk, you can use Square’s variable price point feature to leave the price open based on the weight/quantity sold. 

Need a customizable option like a topping change, a special dietary adjustment, or another type of swap-out? You can create modifiers for that, too! Unlike item variations, modifiers don’t decrease inventory accounts. You can opt to assign a price to your modifier, however.

When it comes to managing your physical stock, it is worth mentioning that the free POS account isn’t set up to print barcodes for your SKUs. Some business owners use a Dymo label printer as a workaround. If you have a lot of inventory and need a more robust solution for advanced inventory management (including barcode scanning and printing) in one solution, Square for Retail may be worth your while. Check out our full Square for Retail review for pricing and a better look at all the extra inventory-related features included with the POS. 

Customer Directory

small business loyalty program

When you use Square’s customer directory, the amount of data you have access to automatically builds with each sale. With just a swipe of the card, your list collects data such as your customers’ names, when they visited which location, and their visit frequency. During the sale, your customer may also have entered in their email address with you to get a digital receipt. Of course, if you are feeling bold, you can also ask your customers one-by-one for their email addresses so you can start building a healthy list.

Square’s customer database is accessible through Square Point of Sale or through the Square Dashboard. Under each customer in your directory, you can add a note, upload a file, view any feedback they have left you on their receipts, or create an invoice to send directly (more on that below).

When all of these customer insights build over time, you can start to get a clearer picture of who your loyal customers are, who has visited more than once, and who hasn’t visited you in a while. You can also see what their favorite products are — all of which is useful data for your business in general, and especially for marketing purposes. 

Again, the Square Customer Directory is entirely free to use, and it syncs with all of Square’s other tools — that includes paid software options such as loyalty and email marketing. The Square email marketing tool lets you segment customers, then customize email campaigns based on their habits. Square has pay-as-you-go pricing at 10 cents an email, or you can opt for a monthly subscription to send unlimited emails. Square offers a 30-day free trial for an email marketing subscription, and pricing starts at $15/month for up to 500 customers.

Card On File

deferred interestYou can make it easier for your repeat customers to order by phone or for a future invoice by saving your customer’s credit card information using Square’s Card on File feature. Be aware that your customers have to “sign off” so you can appropriately save their card on file, however. If you are completing a sale on your computer through Square’s Virtual Terminal, you will be prompted to print out the approval release and have your customer sign it. Keep this document in a safe place, because it proves you received their permission to store their card and can protect you from chargeback issues.

If you are at your free Square POS app, your customer can approve saving the card on file by entering in their zip code at the permission screen. After that, you can process their payments quickly and easily with no need to present the card. While it costs nothing to store a card on file or use the feature regularly, keep in mind that you will pay a little more with each transaction (3.5% + $0.15 per transaction instead of 2.75% per swipe/dip/tap) because they process as card-not-present, rather than card-present.  

Is Card On File Secure?

What’s the Difference Between Chip-and-PIN and Chip-and-Signature Cards

Square lets you store your customer’s credit card information with their approval, and yes, it’s fully compliant with the payment security standards set up by the PCI-DSS. That’s because when you enter credit card data, it is only going through the secure Square app. Also take note that when you enter in credit card data — whether during a sale or saving a card on file, the full number isn’t viewable to your or your staff once it’s entered in the system.

Securely saving customer card data is vital to your financial protection as a business and prevents very costly fraudulent risks. For more about Square’s security, check out our related post, Is Square A Secure Way To Accept Credit Card Payments?

Gift Cards

Gift cards may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to business tools, but here are some pretty neat statistics for you: In a 2018 press release, First Data shares a study that found that consumers, on average, spend $59 over the original value of the gift card they receive. Not only that, but shoppers plan to spend 55% of their annual gifting budget on gift cards. That is no small potato when it comes to amping up your revenue.

If I’ve piqued your interest, I have some more good news. Square’s digital gift cards are completely free for you to sell. If you want to offer physical gift cards, you could start with a stock of 20 for $40 or opt for higher quantities with a significantly lower cost with each tier. When your customer pays for the gift card using a credit or debit card, standard processing fees will apply. (There’s no charge for payments made with cash.) When it comes time for the gift recipient to spend with you, you won’t face any additional costs. Square treats this transaction like cash, and they only deduct the amount of the sale from the card. And it’s great that you don’t need to pay any monthly fees to accept gift cards — you just pay the cost of the physical cards (if you want them) and any associated payment processing when purchased. 

Invoicing & Installments

Square Invoice Tutorial

When it comes to invoicing clients, Square makes it pretty easy. First, you can send an unlimited amount of professional-looking invoices for free. And instead of your customer having to call you with their number or waiting for a paper check, they follow the prompts and pay securely online. You can also send files, images, contracts, or attach information along with the invoice.

If you sell larger ticket items and want to finance your customers, you may also be interested in Square Installments. With this service, you can let your customer pay over time, while getting all of the funds upfront from Square. That’s because Square takes the risk by checking their credit and approving or denying the purchase. To find out more about letting your customers pay by installments, check out How Does Customer Financing With Square Installments Work?

If you want to assume more of the risk or set up a layaway program, however, you can also send out a regular invoice to request a down payment or partial payment as well. There is simply a lot of flexibility afforded with invoicing and installments. Read our Square Invoices Review to find out more about this tool and how to use it for your business.

Virtual Terminal

 

Don’t have a card reader handy? Does a customer want to pay over the phone? You can accept payments securely at your own computer when you log into Square dashboard and go to your Virtual Terminal. There are many scenarios when taking payments at your virtual terminal can empower your business model — and it makes for a great backup if other devices are misbehaving. 

In any case, you can still take payments quickly via Square’s Virtual Terminal. You can manually enter in the credit card information, or you can pull up a customer in your directory and charge a card you have saved on file. If you have a Mac or Chromebook, you can still connect a basic magstripe reader and swipe the card at your computer, too! 

Square charges no software fees to use the virtual terminal and it’s included with all free Square accounts, but you will still have to pay transaction costs. With keyed entry, you’ll pay 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction, or 2.75% for swipe transactions.

Square Card

At first glance, the Square Card may seem like just another line of credit, but it isn’t. The Square Card is a debit card that gives you instant access to any of the funds that are in your Square account in real time. So why are so many business owners stoked about the Square Card? For one, it can help manage and organize cash flow. One way to separate business expenses from everything else is to keep all of your business expenses on your Square Card. It makes sense because you’ll also always have an itemized list of exactly what you spent at the Square app under “Card Spend.”

Keep in mind that once you get the ball rolling with your Square Card, your funds are automatically going to sit in your Square balance unless you manually transfer funds into a different account. You can do so at any time and Square will deposit funds in the next 1-2 business days. If you want your funds deposited into your main bank account faster, you can also opt for a same-day instant deposit for the fee of 1% of the total amount.

When it comes time to spend your balance, the Square Card is a debit card accepted at any merchant that takes MasterCard. As far as cost, the Square Card is completely free with no annual or usage fees whatsoever. The other cool bonus is that you get a 2.75% discount at all other Square merchant locations. If you have a Square account, you can request your free Square Card under Deposits at the Square Dashboard. Note that Square doesn’t automatically send you a card when you open your account.

Is Square Right For You?

There is no doubt that Square offers an abundance of tools and add-on software apps that can help you run your business more efficiently. Utilizing inventory management tools can help you stay on top of the ebb and flow of demand, and payment processing options offer flexibility when you need it.

We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to Square’s tools because there are many layers to Square’s solutions. Check out our Square Review to get even more details about features and pricing so you can make the decision that’s right for you. You can also set up a free Square account and play around in the dashboard and check out the tools yourself.

The post 6 Free Square Tools To Make Running Your Small Business Easier appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Site123 Review: Pros & Cons of using Site123 Website Builder

Site123 Review

Site123 is a fast-growing, independently-owned, website builder based in Israel focused exclusively on DIYers. They claim to be “the most intuitive and easy to use website builder on the market”.

Check out Site123’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Site 123 a try for a small project after receiving a few reader questions. But before I get into the pros and cons of my Site 23 review, let’s consider a bit of background on building a website in general.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Site123?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Site123 lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. I wrote a post on Website Builders, Explained for more background.

Using Site123 is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control with all software, but especially with website builders.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Site123, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Site123 competes with all-inclusive hosted website builders like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, Gator, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed and ease by providing done-for-you templates and designs so you can focus solely on content.

Instead of operating like a traditional drag-and-drop website builder, Site123 has you pick your niche and then customize a curated template based on that niche, which appeals to beginners who have no design or development experience (think DIY-ers who need to create a website ASAP without having any website experience).

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Site123 Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Site123 — not just in comparison to other website builders, but as an overall website solution.

Straightforward Signup Process

One of Site123’s best features is how quickly you can get up and running. Signing up for the platform is a simple, three step process (hence the name Site123), and it’s straightforward, easy to understand, and efficient.

Site123 Set Up

Plus, Site123 builds in education through a simple, step-by-step tutorial that walks you through how to customize your assigned theme and add content to your website, which is an excellent feature for users who haven’t customized / built a website before.

Site123 Tutorial

Simplicity

Site123 is also seriously simple to use. As I mentioned before, Site123 provides you with a template based on your selected industry and type of business/website within that industry.

Site123 Template Selection

While the website builder is not drag and drop, you can choose from a menu of page elements to change the design within your selected theme.

Site123 Select Page Elements

The whole setup is like painting by numbers.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having limited but accessible design options.

The site layout is mobile-friendly and maintains an acceptable look/design no matter what you do to the design options.

Product Integration

Another benefit of Site123 is their extensive list of product integrations. Aside from offering DNS and hosting services, Site123 also offers several plugins (software that you can “plug in” to your website to get additional functionality). From advertising software to analytics tools to marketing + support, their library is extensive.

Site123 Product Integration

Site123 also offers ecommerce functionality. One thing to note here though — to use the integrations, you have to have a paid plan.

And to get ecommerce functionality, you have have to choose between the two higher-priced tiers. We’ll talk more about pricing in a moment, but just know that you could get the same (or better) functionality for less elsewhere.

Cons

But of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Here are the cons I found with using Site123

Pricing

Site123’s paid plans start at $10.80/month, which includes a free domain for a year/the ability to connect your domain, 10 GB of storage, 5 GB of bandwidth, and the ability to send 100 email messages (side note – who counts email messages?) to your mailing list per month. It also removes the Site123 branding that comes with the free plan.

Site123 Pricing

But compared to their direct competitors like Wix and Weebly, Site123 is much more expensive and offers much less. At each stage, Site123 doesn’t even allow unlimited bandwidth or storage.

And compared to self-hosting (piecing domains, hosting, and email separately) – it’s not a good value at all.

If you’re using Site123 for more than a few months, it’s going to be more expensive than going with a competitor (and more restricting due to the design and technical limitations – more on that shortly).

Limited Feature Set – Design

With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control.

And you can really see this trade-off with the Site123 website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward, fast, and not confusing. It puts your focus solely on getting your content onto the premade template by generating a curated template for you.

But here’s the thing — if you don’t like the template you’re given, changing it up is a pain. If you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are very limited with Site123.

For your theme, you can edit the color, the font, and the general ‘feel’/structure of the design.

Site123 Theme editing

With pages, you can choose certain layouts from pre-made choices.

Site123 Page Layout Editing

But you cannot change the layout. You cannot drag and drop. And you certainly cannot edit the HTML and CSS, much less add any other design element.

Site123 Page Editing Example 2

It’s even difficult and near impossible to edit the menu without changing other design elements on the website.

Site123 Menu

The best way to describe it is a ‘paint-by-numbers’ set up. It’s great to have the basics, but if you want to do anything extra or outside of bounds, then you’re out of luck.

If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a Site123 website builder website.

Limited Feature Set – Technical

The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations. Technical limitations are features and functionality that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet. Now as I mentioned above, Site123 does offer additional features through plugins and apps, but due to the control you give up with the website, you’re fairly limited in how much you can integrate, add on, or even edit within the tools provided.

For example, let’s look at simply editing SEO elements on a page. With the Site123, I can add in a meta description and site slogan, but that’s about all I can do aside from adding header tags inside the content editor. Even basic SEO needs more than that.

Think of it like the difference between cooking in your own kitchen and building your own burrito at a fast food restaurant.

With Site123, you can certainly choose the ingredients that go into your burrito, but your choice is really an illusion because you’re limited to the ingredients that are offered by the restaurant. Like the design, that can be a good thing if you need something simple, and will always need something simple. But if you ever need to upgrade or do something unique or custom, it can be very limiting.

Culture & Lock-in

After looking at a lot of companies across domains, hosting, VPNs, website builders, ecommerce, and more – I’ve noticed that company culture, structure, and policies can speak more about a customer’s long-term experience than a feature matrix.

A website builder is inherently a global business. Every Internet company has remote employees and worldwide data centers. But I’m never a fan of companies not sharing their story or what they are all about. Site123 is incredibly vague about their story, their policies and your relationship to them as a customer.

For example – here’s their about page.

Site123 About Page

It’s a sales page. Here’s a couple answers to FAQs –

Site123 Data Export

Site123 Moneyback

Now – I get that they are a free, hosted website builder. Most website builders have trouble with website export. But their messaging is quite stark with no offer of help scraping or downloading even image files and text.

And the cancellation policy is very odd because it conflicts directly with the purported difficulty of providing a website download. A hosted website builder service should be able to be cancelled at a click of a button. There should be no manual reviews of forms.

Again – this point isn’t meant to raise a potential non-issue for no reason. Site123 might provide a fantastic long-term experience. However, difficult cancellation policies and vague about pages tend to correlate with less than ideal long-term experiences.

Site123 Review Conclusion

Site123 certainly makes getting a website up and running easy, especially if you need something that’s done-for-you and requires little customization. They have a straightforward user-experience and easy-to-use editor that makes getting your content out there a breeze.

Check out Site123’s plans here.

However, there are trade-offs to consider with an all-inclusive website builder — specifically functionality, customization, and control. And this is where Site123 falls short when compared to other all-inclusive website builders. If you’re looking to create a website with a base template but still have some flexibility over design and functionality, Site123 may not be the best option for you.

Not sure Site123 fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Site123 Review: Pros & Cons of using Site123 Website Builder appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For North Carolina Small Businesses

North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation and has posted significant economic growth over the last 30 years in cities such as Greensboro, Raleigh, and Charlotte. The city of Charlotte is one of the largest banking centers in the United States and the information and biotechnology industries are thriving thanks in part to the Research Triangle Park, Gateway University Research Park, and the Piedmont Triad Research Park. In 2018, North Carolina was ranked in the top ten on CNBC’s Top States for Business list.

With all this growth and opportunity, it’s no surprise that more people are considering entrepreneurship. Maybe you’ve thought about starting your own small business, or maybe you’ve already opened your doors. Either way, you’re here because you want to learn more about financing opportunities and resources for new and established businesses in North Carolina.

In this post, we’re going to look at the best opportunities for small business owners in North Carolina. From easy online loans to small business grants for new and innovative businesses, we’ll explore the many options available to North Carolinians. Let’s get started.

Online Business Lenders For North Carolina Businesses

online loan companies

If you need an easy and convenient small business loan, look no further than your computer. You can secure a business loan without even leaving your home or office by working with an online lender. Not being stuck in a bank for hours isn’t the only benefit to online lending, either. If you don’t qualify for a traditional loan for any reason (low credit score, new business, or low revenues, for example), you can find a lender that’s willing to work with your specific situation.

Finding an online lender isn’t difficult. Just typing search terms like “small business loan” in a search engine brings up thousands of hits. Unfortunately, though, not all lenders are cut from the same cloth. In your search for an online business loan, you’ll encounter lenders that aren’t reputable, charge ridiculously high fees, or have poor reviews from their borrowers. It’s easy to get caught up for hours just finding a lender, so save time and start with one of these options.

Fundera

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You want to shop around when it comes to financing options, but you don’t want to submit application after application. You also want to avoid having multiple hard inquiries on your credit — a move that could bring your score down or even disqualify you from receiving a loan. By working with Fundera, you can avoid these hassles.

Fundera allows you to fill out one easy application to see what financial products you qualify to receive. Fundera uses a combination of technology and experienced lending specialists to find the best financing options for your business. You’ll work with your lending specialist to evaluate all offers to determine which is best for you. Then, you select your funding and receive the money in your bank account. Your lending specialist will even continue to work with you to determine how you can receive even better options in the future.

Working with Fundera is free, and there’s no impact to your credit score just to shop around your options. However, it should be noted that once you accept an offer, a hard pull will likely be performed on your credit.

Fundera offers several financial products for small businesses, including:

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Lines Of Credit: Starting at $10,000 with terms up to 5 years
  • Term Loans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 5 years
  • Startup Loans: Up to $150,000 with terms up to 4 years
  • Equipment Financing: Up to 100% of equipment value
  • Invoice Financing: Up to 100% of invoice value
  • Short-Term Loans: Up to $250,000 with terms up to 18 months
  • Personal Loans For Business: Up to $35,000 with terms up to 5 years
  • Merchant Cash Advances: Up to $250,000

Rates, terms, and borrower requirements vary based on the financial product selected.

Lendio

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If you want to compare lender offers, Lendio is another option to consider. This loan aggregator has over 75 financing partners you can reach through just one application. There’s no fee to apply, and submitting your application won’t affect your credit.

The application process takes just minutes, and you could receive funding in as little as 24 hours depending on the product you select. Lendio has a variety of financial options available to small businesses including:

  • SBA Loans: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Term Loans: Up to $2 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Lines Of Credit: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Equipment Financing: Up to $5 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Commercial Mortgages: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Business Acquisition Loans: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Startup Loans: Up to $750,000 with terms up to 25 years
  • Short-Term Loans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 3 years
  • Business Credit Cards: Up to $500,000
  • Accounts Receivable Financing: Up to 80% of receivables with terms up to 1 year
  • Merchant Cash Advances: Up to $200,000 with terms up to 2 years

Rates, terms, and borrower requirements vary by financial product.

BlueVine

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If you don’t want to work with a loan aggregator and want to dive in immediately with a direct lender, BlueVine is a reputable lender to consider. BlueVine offers two financial products for small businesses: lines of credit and invoice factoring.

If you want a flexible financing option, a line of credit could be the right choice for you. Instead of receiving one lump sum payment, you’ll have access to a revolving line of credit to use whenever you need it.

You may qualify for as much as $250,000 with BlueVine. You don’t pay if you don’t use your line of credit. When you do make a draw, rates start at just 4.8%. Payments are made monthly or weekly over 6 or 12 months. As you make payments on your line of credit, funds become available for you to use again for unexpected expenses, emergencies, purchasing inventory, or filling revenue gaps.

To qualify for a BlueVine line of credit, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • Personal credit score of 600 or above
  • At least 6 months in business
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue

With BlueVine’s online application, you can be approved for a line of credit in as little as 20 minutes.

If unpaid invoices are plaguing your business, BlueVine offers a solution with its invoice factoring service. You can qualify for a line of credit up to $5 million using your unpaid invoices. You can receive up to 90% of the money upfront for your invoices. Fees start at 0.25% per week, and you can be approved for financing in as quickly as 24 hours.

To qualify for invoice factoring, you must have:

  • A personal credit score of 530 or above
  • A time in business of at least 3 months
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • A B2B business

Amex Business Loans

American Express OptBlue

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If you have an American Express Business Card, you may qualify for a small business loan. Not only will you receive a loan with competitive interest rates, but applying has no impact on your credit since the lender uses your information that’s already on file.

With an American Express loan, you can receive $3,500 to $50,000 to use for your business expenses. Interest rates are 6.98% to 19.97% with repayment terms of 1 to 3 years. You can be approved in just seconds and receive funds in your bank account in as little as 3 business days.

The only drawback to this product is that you must be a preapproved American Express Business Card member to receive the offer. You can find out if you’re preapproved by logging into your American Express account. To receive an offer, you must be a Basic Card Member in good standing, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and at least 18 years old. Please note that meeting these minimum requirements does not guarantee an offer.

IOU Financial

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IOU Financial offers flexible business financing that can be delivered to your bank account in as little as 24 hours. Through IOU Financial, you can receive up to $500,000 for growing your business. Even if you’ve faced challenges receiving funding in the past, you may qualify for an IOU Financial product, as the lender preapproves 85% of all applications.

IOU Financial offers financing with terms up to 18 months. Fixed daily or weekly payments are automatically taken from your business bank account. There is no early payment penalty if you pay off your loan early. If you need more capital, you may qualify for renewal once you’ve paid 40% of your loan. The lender doesn’t use a traditional interest rate but instead uses a factor rate between 1.15 and 1.31. Learn more about factor rates and how they affect the cost of your loan.

To qualify for a loan through IOU Financial, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Own at least 80% of your business OR at least 50% if owned with a spouse
  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least 10 daily deposits
  • Annual revenue of at least $100,000
  • Average ending balance of at least $3,000 per day in a business bank account

P2Binvestor

P2Binvestor P2Bi logo

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If you need access to a large amount of capital, look to a lender like P2Binvestor. You can qualify for asset-backed lines of credit from $500,000 to over $10 million. These funds are unrestricted and can be used for any business purpose, from purchasing commercial property to covering payroll. P2Bi’s lines of credit have 1-year revolving terms with interest rates in the high teens.

According to the lender, the ideal candidate for a line of credit should:

  • Have time in business of at least 1 year
  • Have at least 10 employees
  • Have an experienced management team
  • Be a B2B business
  • Have at least $10 million in revenue
  • Have at least 10% annual revenue growth
  • Have accounts receivables that pay within 90 days

Businesses in the construction, real estate, medical insurance billing, and cannabis industries do not qualify for funding through P2Bi.

Kabbage

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If you want a flexible line of credit without having to jump through hoops to get it, apply with Kabbage. This lender offers a quick, easy application process that can give you access to capital in just minutes.

Kabbage specializes in small business lines of credit up to $250,000. Repayment terms are 6 months or 12 months and are based on how much you borrow. Fees are between 1.5% and 10% of your loan balance. If you pay off your loan early, no prepayment penalties are charged and you can save on your monthly fees. Payments are made monthly and are automatically withdrawn from your business bank account. No fees are charged until you use your line of credit.

One thing unique to Kabbage is the Kabbage Card. You have the option to make a traditional draw on your line of credit. Your funds will hit your account typically within 1 to 3 business days. Or you can use the Kabbage Card anywhere Visa is accepted to immediately access your funds. If you go this route, a new loan with the same rates and terms will be created on your Kabbage Dashboard.

To qualify, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue OR at least $4,200 per month for the last 3 months

There are no credit score requirements, as Kabbage bases its approval decisions on the performance of your business. However, a credit check for the business owner is performed.

LendingPoint

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If time in business requirements are holding you back, consider getting a personal loan for business. By going this route, you can qualify for funds using your own personal income and credit score.

LendingPoint is one option to consider for personal loans. This lender provides up to $25,000 for qualified borrowers. APRs start at 15.49% and go up to 35.99%. Repayment terms are 2 to 4 years with payments due twice per month.

To qualify for a LendingPoint personal loan, you must meet these requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid ID and Social Security Number
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have an annual income of at least $20,000

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In North Carolina

If going a more traditional route makes more sense for you and your business, there are plenty of banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders that serve business owners in North Carolina. If you have a business or personal checking account, you can check out the services available through your own bank. Or if you are shopping around for a specific product or lower rate, consider these picks.

BB&T

BB&T is one of the largest banks in North Carolina with branches in nearly 200 cities including Asheville, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, and Greensboro. In addition to business checking and savings accounts, BB&T offers multiple borrowing options including:

  • Small Business & Startup Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • SBA Loans
  • Business Credit Card

You can also take advantage of other business services provided through BB&T including merchant services, payroll services, and employee benefits such as retirement solutions. You can learn more about opening an account and the services provided by calling BB&T’s toll-free number or visiting a local branch.

Truliant Federal Credit Union

Truliant Federal Credit Union was first chartered in Winston-Salem, Burlington, and Greensboro in 1952. Since then, the credit union has grown to serve over 200,000 members in cities throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Truliant branches are located all throughout North Carolina in cities including Charlotte, Asheboro, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem.

In addition to business checking and savings, you can apply for:

  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Commercial Auto Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Construction Loans
  • SBA Loans
  • USDA Business & Industry Programs
  • Equipment Financing

You can begin the process online by downloading and completing a business loan application. Once complete, bring the application, your business debt schedule, and a personal financial statement to your local financial center.

Business accounts and financial products are available to Truliant members. To become a member, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live, work, attend school, or worship in an area served by Truliant
  • Work at one of Truliant’s partner companies
  • Have an immediate family that is a Truliant member
  • Be a member of the American Consumer Council that lives in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, or Tennessee

Self-Help Credit Union

Self-Help is an organization made up of two credit unions, an advocacy group, and a nonprofit loan fund. Self-Help is a designated community development financial institution that provides opportunities to underserved communities.

Self-Help Credit Union provides financial services including checking and savings accounts to North Carolina residents. Self-Help also offers funding opportunities for small businesses, nonprofits, child care centers, and faith-based organizations.

Loan options available through Self-Help include:

  • Small Business Loans: Up to $250,000
  • Commercial Loans: $250,000 and up
  • SBA 504 Loans
  • New Markets Tax Credit Loans
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Environmental Loans
  • USDA Rural Development Loans
  • Specialty Loan Funds: NC Rural Center Small Business Loan Program and Golden LEAF Loan Program
  • Small Business Recovery Loans
  • Food System Finance Loans
  • Child Care Loans
  • Charter School Loans
  • Multifamily Housing Loans
  • Neighborhood Stabilization Program Loans

To apply for any of these loan programs, you must be a Self-Help member. To qualify, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live, work, attend school, or worship in an eligible county
  • Meet family or employer affiliation criteria
  • Member of the Center for Community Self-Help

Carolina Small Business Development Fund

The Carolina Small Business Development Fund is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution that has served communities in North Carolina since 1990. This organization provides business loans and training to community-based organizations, startups, and existing businesses.

Through Carolina Small Business, you can apply for loans and lines of credit up to $250,000. Rates are typically 8% to 12%.

To apply for a loan, you must complete the online application. Along with the application, you must upload documentation including:

  • Personal & Federal Tax Returns
  • Business Plan
  • Resumes Of Managers
  • Financial Statements

Additional information may be requested by a loan officer throughout the application process. Businesses requesting less than $50,000 will receive a loan decision within 10 business days. If the loan exceeds $50,000, a decision will be given within 15 business days.

Small Business Grants In North Carolina

You’ve probably seen the advertisements while watching late night TV: “Access the secret to millions of dollars in business grants for the low, low price of $99.95!” Unfortunately, obtaining a business grant isn’t exactly easy — or even possible — for most small businesses.

This doesn’t mean that grants (financing you don’t have to repay) don’t exist. They do. But most are open only to specific industries and applicants, like veterans, women, or minorities. Even if you do qualify for a grant, competition is often fierce.

If you want to explore all financing options, here are a few grants that may be a good fit for your business.

NC IDEA

NC Idea is a private foundation that provides grants and other resources to entrepreneurs in North Carolina. Opportunities include:

  • NC IDEA MICRO: Up to $10,000 for the advancement of new business ideas
  • NC IDEA SEED: Up to $50,000 for innovative startups with a proven concept

Additional resources include leadership training through NC IDEA LEAD and mentorships for female entrepreneurs through NC IDEA SOAR.

Deadlines and requirements vary. Applicants can learn more by visiting the NC IDEA website.

City Of Raleigh Office Of Economic Development Grants

If your business is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, there are several grants available to small businesses. These grants include:

  • Business Investment Grant
  • Building Up-Fit Grant
  • JobsRaleigh Grant
  • Façade Grant Program
  • Downtown Raleigh Retail Up-Fit Grant
  • Impact Partner Grant

These grants are designed to help encourage growth, development, and job creation in the City of Raleigh. Requirements and deadlines vary by program.

National Association For The Self-Employed

Through the National Association for the Self-Employed, you could receive $4,000 through the NASE Growth Grant. Grant funds can be used to expand your business through advertising, marketing, hiring employees, or expanding your facilities.

To qualify for the grant, you must be an NASE member. Annual memberships are $120 for most entrepreneurs. Students can become members for just $25 per year, while veterans pay only $99 annually. A monthly membership plan is also available.

Grants are awarded each month, and you can apply through the NASE website.

Loans & Resources For Startups In North Carolina

Getting the capital you need to grow your business is difficult, but getting the financing you need to launch your business can be even tougher. Many of the loan options already discussed may be unavailable to you if you don’t have revenue or haven’t been in business for a specific period of time.

This doesn’t mean you’re down and out. There are plenty of business financing options and resources for startups if you know where to look. Unsure of where to start? We’ve rounded up some great options that can help you get your business off the ground.

SCORE

SCORE is one of the nation’s leading resources for startups and small businesses. Through its 300 chapters, it has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs since it was launched in 1964. SCORE offices are located all throughout the nation, including the state of North Carolina and cities including Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro.

You can contact SCORE to be connected with a business mentor. There is no cost for this service. You can also lean on SCORE’s other business resources, including live and recorded webinars, online courses, and workshops.

Thread Capital

Thread Capital is a program launched by the NC Rural Center. This organization offers custom financing solutions for small businesses. Thread Capital also emphasizes helping underserved business owners, including women, minorities, low-income borrowers, and businesses located in rural areas.

Thread Capital offers small business loans from $500 to $50,000. Startup businesses with less than one year of documented revenue are eligible to receive up to $20,000. Established businesses with more than 12 months of documented revenue may be eligible to receive up to $50,000.

Loan terms are up to 72 months and interest rates start at 12.99% based on a number of risk factors. There are no prepayment penalties if your loan is paid off early.

To qualify for a startup loan through Thread Capital, you must:

  • Have at least 1 employee, which may include the owner
  • Have a business located in North Carolina
  • Put up all available assets as collateral
  • Have all individuals with more than 20% ownership co-sign the loan

As you become more established, Thread Capital offers additional loan options through its lending partners. Loans up to $5 million are available through these lenders.

Small Business and Technology Development Center

Since 1984, the Small Business and Technology Development Center has provided North Carolina small business owners with resources to help them grow and create jobs.

Whether you’re a brand new business or you’re an established business that has stalled on the path to growth, SBTDC offers business counseling and educational services to benefit you. These include:

  • Business & Management Advice
  • Financial Analysis
  • Marketing Assistance
  • Research
  • Financial Assistance
  • Strategy Development & Implementation
  • Leadership & Employee Performance

Most services are free and are always confidential. There are multiple SBTDC locations located throughout the state of North Carolina, serving areas including Boone, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington. You can visit the SBTDC website to learn more about the services offered and to submit an online request for counseling.

Small Business Center Network

The Small Business Center Network has 58 centers located throughout the state of North Carolina to support the growth and development of new and existing businesses.

Through the SBCN, business owners can receive confidential business counseling, access to resource libraries, seminars, and workshops. All services are available at no cost or for a minimal fee.

Business counseling is available on a variety of topics, including:

  • Business Plan Development
  • Marketing Assistance
  • Management & Human Resources
  • Sources Of Capital & Loan Preparation

Business Link North Carolina

If you’re ready to start a small business in North Carolina, check out the resources offered through Business Link North Carolina. Through this partnership with the NC Department of Commerce, you can receive free one-on-one phone consultations with a business counselor.

Business counselors can answer your questions on multiple business topics such as:

  • Regulatory Requirements
  • Licensing
  • Training

The toll-free hotline is available Monday through Friday. You can also submit an online request to have a counselor get in touch with you.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

Now that you’re aware of the financing options available to you, you’re one step closer to choosing a lender. There’s one problem, though: which lender is right for you?

Whether you’re spinning your wheels trying to narrow down your choices or you’re making the final decision between two lenders, ask yourself:

Do I Qualify?

This is an easy question that may immediately eliminate multiple lenders. Do you meet all the requirements of the lender? Is your credit score where it needs to be? Do you have enough revenue? Is your credit report free of anything that would disqualify you from receiving a loan?

If you don’t meet all minimum requirements, move on to another lender. If you find it difficult to qualify with most lenders, evaluate where you’re falling short. Get your free credit score, evaluate your credit report, and look at the financials of your business. If your funding need isn’t urgent, consider taking steps to resolve any issues that prevent you from qualifying for affordable loan options before submitting applications to lenders.

Does The Loan Amount Fit My Needs?

Before you seek funding, you should know how much capital you need. Maybe you need just a few thousand dollars to purchase new equipment. Maybe your financial needs are greater, and you need hundreds of thousands to renovate your commercial space. No matter how much capital you need, it’s important to find a lender that offers loans and financial products that have borrowing limits large enough to fund your project.

Can I Afford This Financing?

Before you submit applications and accept a loan offer, you need to make sure your business can afford to take on new debt. After determining whether your business can afford a loan, shop around to make sure you’re getting the best rates and terms for your business. High fees and interest rates, daily or weekly payments, or very short-term options could equal very expensive financing that could hurt — not help — your business.

Final Thoughts

Whether you apply for an online loan, a traditional bank loan, or a small business grant, there are plenty of financing options available to small businesses in North Carolina. Do your research, compare your options, and determine what opportunities are best to start or grow your business successfully.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For North Carolina Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business

You’re an experienced mechanic that’s been working for someone else for your entire career. You’re ready to spread your wings and fly (or drive) right to your own auto body shop. Sound like you? If you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, then maybe it’s time to set out on your own.

Even if you’re the best at what you do, venturing out into the small business world can be scary. If you’re an employee at a collision center, you probably feel like you have some stability. Why risk a “sure thing” to start your own shop, especially if you don’t have any previous experience running your own business?

Starting your own business is risky and it takes hard work (and a lot of it). But opening your own auto collision shop can be an extremely lucrative venture. The automotive collision repair market brings in billions of dollars in revenue each year, and studies show that revenue will only continue to grow in the years ahead. Isn’t it time you got your share?

If you’re thinking about starting your own auto body shop, this guide is for you. We’ll go through all of the steps of starting your own business, from creating a business plan to finding the right lender. We’ll review potential costs, hiring employees, and other critical steps to building a successful business. If you’re ready to take the next step into entrepreneurship, read on to find out how to get started.

Create A Business Plan

You’ve made up your mind: you’re ready to open your own collision or auto body center and you have an idea of how to do it. That’s good enough, right? Actually, you need to be more prepared before you even begin to move on to other steps in building your business. The best way to be prepared? Create a detailed business plan.

Let’s illustrate the importance of a business plan with an example. You’re going on a hike in the woods. There are lots of paths to choose from. Some of these paths may bring you out of the woods — your end goal — but there may be additional challenges along the way, like steep terrain. Some paths may be wrong altogether … and you’ll have to backtrack to right your course. In short, you can enter the woods without a map and risk getting lost. Or you can get a map ahead of time, plot out your course, and set out only after you’ve planned your route and know what to expect.

A business plan works in the same way. A good business plan outlines how to get from your starting point (launching your business) to your goal. Every entrepreneur has a different goal. Maybe yours is to run a successful local business that sets your family up for life. Maybe you have bigger goals — starting your own chain of auto body shops, for example. The most important thing is to set a concrete goal and create a map of how to get there.

Not only will a business plan keep you on the right track, but you must have a plan to present to investors or lenders when you’re seeking capital.

New to writing a business plan? At a minimum, here’s what you should include:

  • Executive Summary: A concise summary detailing each section of your business plan
  • Overview: A description of your business, including the legal structure, location, and type of business
  • Market Analysis: An overview of your market and a definition of your target market
  • Competitive Analysis: Strength and weaknesses of your competition
  • Management Team: The members of your management team and their responsibilities within your organization
  • Financial Projections: A forecast of the financial future of your business

Find A Location

As realtors say, “Location, location, location!” As you plan your own body shop, location is key, but there are a few other considerations to weigh before you put your name on that lease or mortgage.

You want to make sure that you purchase or lease the best location you can afford. Sure, that commercial property on the outskirts of town is much cheaper, but your customers have to be able to find you. Find a property that’s convenient for your customers and is located in a high-traffic area or at least off of a major road.

Another consideration is whether you’re going to buy an existing business or start from scratch. Buying an existing business comes with definite perks, including an established clientele, equipment, and even licenses and permits. However, there are a few drawbacks. This is one of the most expensive options, especially if the business is successful. You may also have to put additional costs into the business for renovations, like replacing outdated equipment.

If you start from scratch, you’ll rack up costs with the price of equipment, licenses, and building renovations.
Unsure of which to choose? Build a business plan looking at both options, calculate costs, and determine which makes the most sense financially, both in the short- and long-term.

Another option to consider is opening a franchise. With a franchise, you have less flexibility in terms of designing your brand and shop. However, you’ll have a working business model that takes a lot of the guesswork out of owning your own business.

Register Your Business

Before you open your auto body shop to the public, you need to register your business. Not only will you be seen as a legitimate business by your customers, but registering is also required when you want to hire employees, protect your assets, or seek capital from investors.

To register your business, you need to first determine what form of business entity to establish. There are several structures to choose from, including:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure. This is best for businesses with just one owner. Sole proprietors can file their business profits and losses on their personal income tax returns. No paperwork is required to register as a sole proprietorship. However, this structure isn’t without its drawbacks. Raising money as a sole proprietorship is difficult, and you are personally responsible for the liabilities of your business.

Partnership

A partnership is a good choice for companies that will be owned and operated by two or more people. There are several different partnership types to consider:

  • General Partnership: Doesn’t require filing with the state and has few requirements
  • Limited Partnership (LP): One partner has unlimited liability and the others have limited liability. The personal assets of the limited partners can’t be used to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the business.
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): Used by professional service businesses, this type of partnership offers personal asset protection for all partners.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC has several benefits for business owners. With an LLC, a business owner will receive liability protection without paying the high tax requirements of corporations.

Corporation

This is the most complex and expensive business structure. More regulations and tax requirements are put in place for corporations. This structure is best for businesses that plan to raise capital through the sale of stock.

The type of structure you select for your business varies by the number of owners that you have and the future plans for your business. In most cases, however, single owners of auto body shops lean toward LLCs, while businesses with more than one partner select the partnership business structure. Before choosing your business structure, talk to your accountant and/or lawyer to find out which makes the most sense for your business.

Once you’ve determined your business structure, you’ll need to select a name for your business. Choose a name that reflects your brand and the services you offer. You also want to choose something that’s catchy and/or easy for customers to remember.

Your business will need to be registered with city, state, and federal governments. You’ll need to sign up for an employer ID number through the Internal Revenue Service if you plan to hire employees. To learn about the specific business license and permit requirements in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, Department of Revenue, or Small Business Administration office to learn more.

Calculate Your Startup Costs

Every new business has one thing in common: the need for capital. In order to start your own collision center, you need money. The big question, though, is how much do you need?

One of the first steps to starting your own business is to calculate your startup costs. In order to do that, begin by making a list of everything you need for your business.

One of the biggest expenses for your new business will be equipment and tools. While your list may look a little different, some of the most common equipment and tools in this industry include:

  • Hydraulic Lifts
  • Hand Tools
  • Pneumatic Tools (Air Tools)
  • Air Compressors
  • Diagnostic Machines
  • Wheel Balancers
  • Paint Guns

Additional startup costs to consider include your business licenses and certifications, insurance, hiring employees, and shop rental or mortgage fees. You should expect to spend at least $50,000 to get your shop up and running. However, as you make a list of your costs and research pricing, this number could potentially rise.

Before you seek funding for your business, a good rule of thumb is to always overestimate your costs by about 30 percent. For example, if you calculate that your expenses will be $200,000, plan to seek $260,000 in funding. In other words, always plan for the unexpected.

Seek Funding

Now that you’ve calculated your startup costs, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it all. If your bank account looks a little low, don’t worry. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the funds to cover these costs out-of-pocket. Instead, they turn to a lender to get the financing they need. Consider these loans and other funding options when you need capital to start your new body shop.

And if you can’t find the option you’re looking for here? Check out more recommendations in the post, Business Loans For Auto Repair Shops.

Personal Savings

If you have money in a savings account, consider using these funds to pay your startup costs. There are several benefits to using your own money. You won’t be indebted to a lender, so there are no monthly or weekly payments to worry about. You also won’t have to pay interest or fees. On the downside, though, if your business fails, you risk losing your savings.

Friends & Family

If you have a friend or family member with extra money to invest, consider pitching your business to them. Present your business plan and tell them why they should invest in you.

There are two ways to go about this. You can stick with traditional debt financing. This means that you would take a loan from your friend, family member, or colleague and pay it back over a set period of time, along with interest and fees.

You may also consider equity financing. Instead of taking out a loan, you’d receive capital in exchange for ownership in your business. The investor would get their money back over time through a share of your profits. While the risk falls on the investor and you wouldn’t have to begin paying back money immediately, you would have to share your profits and lose some control over your business.

Unsure of which option is right for you? Learn more about debt financing vs. equity financing.

Personal Loans For Business

One of the biggest challenges a new business owner faces is meeting the requirements for a business loan. Many lenders – especially the ones with the lowest rates and best terms – want to work with established businesses with high revenues and solid business and personal credit histories. If you haven’t even opened your doors to a single customer, meeting these requirements is impossible.

However, if you have a high personal credit score, you can take out a personal loan to use for your startup costs. Time in business, annual revenue, and business credit history aren’t required to qualify for personal loans. Instead, you use your personal credit score and your own income to qualify.

If you choose this option, it’s important to make sure that your lender doesn’t have any restrictions prohibiting you from using funds to pay startup costs or other business expenses. Most personal loans don’t have restrictions and can be used to purchase equipment, hire employees, pay operating costs, or use as working capital.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lender that provides personal loans up to $40,000 to qualified borrowers. Repayment terms are 3 years or 5 years with APRs starting at 6.95% for the most creditworthy applicants. APRs for less creditworthy borrowers go up to 35.89%.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or live in the U.S. on a long-term visa
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a personal credit score of at least 600

In some cases, Lending Club may recommend adding a co-borrower to increase your chances for approval. If you meet all requirements, you can get funded in as little as 7 days.

As you grow a more established business, you can later take advantage of Lending Club’s business loans. Lending Club offers up to $300,000 in business funding with terms of up to 5 years and fixed monthly payments.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a form of financing you should consider if you want instant access to cash without having to wait for lender approvals. Once you’ve been approved for a line of credit, you can make draws as needed to inject cash into your business.

Here’s how it works. You apply for a line of credit with a lender. The lender looks at a number of factors, such as your personal credit score or business performance, when determining whether to approve your application. These factors will also be considered when setting your credit limit.

Once you’ve been approved, you can initiate as many draws as you’d like from your line of credit up to and including the credit limit. Funds are typically transferred to your bank account immediately, and you can access the money in 1 to 3 business days with most lenders.

As you repay the borrowed funds plus fees and interest charged by the lender, the funds replenish and become available to use again.

Lines of credit are useful for unexpected expenses, emergencies, or to fill revenue gaps. Having a line of credit allows you to access money when you need it without having to go through the application and approval process over and over again.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox offers lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified businesses. The lender charges a one-time fee for each draw that starts at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Terms of 12 weeks or 24 weeks are available, and automatic payments are drawn from your bank account each week. You can save by paying your loan off early, as Fundbox will waive all remaining fees.

There are two ways to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. The first is by linking your business bank account or submitting bank statements. These will be used by the lender to evaluate the performance of your business. If you have unpaid accounts receivables, you can use these to qualify. All you have to do is link your supported accounting software.

Minimum requirements to receive a Fundbox line of credit are:

  • Business checking account
  • U.S.-based business
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • At least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account OR at least 2 months of activity in accounting software

Once you’ve filled out Fundbox’s quick application and have linked your accounts or submitted documentation, you can be approved in just minutes. Then, you can instantly put your line of credit to work for your business.

Business Credit Cards

Another option for fast funding is a business credit card. Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you can use it any time. You can use your card as often as you wish provided you stay within your set credit limit.

Business credit cards can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. You can make purchases online or in-person. You can also use your card for recurring payments, such as utility bills, which is even smarter when you use a rewards card that gives cash back or other perks.

Like lines of credit, business credit cards are revolving forms of credit. This means that as you pay down your principal balance and interest, funds will become available to use again. Once you’re approved for a business credit card, your card is ready to use immediately whenever you need it. This makes it a great payment option for emergency expenses, purchasing supplies or inventory, or for paying recurring expenses.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

If you have excellent credit, consider applying for the Chase Ink Preferred card. With this rewards card, you can receive 3 points for every dollar spent on combined purchases in travel, shipping, cable, internet, phone services, and advertising. Even though earning three points on these purchases is capped at $150,000 per year, you can still earn one point per dollar spent with no limitations on all purchases.

If you’re approved for the Chase Ink Preferred card and spend $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you’ll receive an additional 80,000 bonus points. Points can be redeemed for rewards including vacation packages, gift cards, Amazon purchases, and cash back.

This credit card comes with a variable APR of 18.24% to 23.24%. A $95 annual membership fee is required.

To qualify for Chase Ink Business Preferred, you must have good to excellent personal credit.

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

Withdrawing retirement funds may be tempting, but who wants to pay penalties and taxes for early withdrawal? Luckily, there’s a way that you can leverage these funds to put capital into your new business. This method is known as rollovers as business startups, or ROBS.

How does ROBS work? The first step is to create a C-corporation. Then, a new retirement plan is created for the C-corp. Next, the funds from your existing retirement plan are rolled over into the new plan. These funds are used to purchase stock in the new C-corp, giving you access to the capital you need to get your business running.

Sound too complicated for you? Then consider working with a ROBS provider. A ROBS provider will get everything set up for you legally and ensure you maintain compliance. In exchange, you’ll pay a one-time setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee with most ROBS providers.

When you use this type of financing to fuel your business, you don’t have to worry about repaying a lender. After all, you’re using your own funds. However, be aware that if your business is unsuccessful, you risk losing your retirement funds.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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Guidant Financial is a ROBS provider that can help you leverage your retirement funds. All you need is a qualifying retirement or pension account. Qualifying accounts include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • TSP
  • SEP
  • Keogh

Qualifying accounts must have a minimum of $50,000. You must also be an employee of the business.
By working with Guidant Financial, you can receive funds in as little as 3 weeks. The setup fee is $4,995. You must also pay a Plan Administration fee of $139 per month.

Unsure if a ROBS plan is right for you? Don’t worry — Guidant Financial offers other business financing options including:

  • SBA 7(a) Loans
  • SBA Working Capital Loans
  • Unsecured Business Loans
  • Equipment Leases

Purchase Financing

If you’re looking for a way to pay your vendors that frees up some of your cash flow, purchase financing might be the solution you’re looking for. With purchase financing, your vendor gets paid immediately for your purchases – think tools, fluids, and other critical shop supplies. In the meantime, you’ll get additional time to pay. Instead of paying off the full balance of your purchase up front, you’ll be able to split it into more affordable regular payments.

Purchase financing gives you more control over your cash flow, freeing up funds and allowing you to pay back on a schedule that works best for your business. Of course, like with other financing, you do have to pay interest and fees for this service.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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Behalf offers purchase financing of $300 up to $50,000. You’ll receive up to 6 months to repay the lender and can choose between weekly or monthly payments.

Monthly fees for the service start at 1% and are based on creditworthiness. There are no additional fees for using Behalf’s financing.

There are no time in business or revenue requirements to qualify. However, Behalf performs a hard pull on your credit, considers business credit history, and looks at other business performance factors to determine if you are eligible for financing.

Choose Business Software

Small Business Online Accounting Software

To keep operations flowing smoothly, you need to pick the right business software for your repair shop. Business software helps you more efficiently run your business, from keeping up with customers to tracking your finances for tax purposes.

Accounting Software

Accounting software allows you to perform various accounting functions so that you can track and record all financial transactions. With accounting software, you can track accounts receivable and accounts payable. Most modern accounting software also offers additional tools including bill payment, payroll, and invoicing. You can purchase accounting software or pay a fee to subscribe to an online service.

Accounting software not only allows you to keep track of your finances at any time, but it also can be used to run financial reports that may be required to receive financing. These reports will also serve you well when it comes time to do your taxes.

No experience in accounting? Don’t worry — we have you covered. Check out our free eBook “The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting” that breaks complicated accounting concepts into ones that are easy to understand.

Auto Repair Invoice Software

Accounting software often has a feature that allows you to create and send invoices. However, you might want to invest in specialty software for auto body repair shops.

Auto repair invoice software includes a variety of tools that can be used to track service requests, create invoices and estimates, track leads, and manage inventory and orders.

Payment Processing Software

No longer do we live in a cash-only world. Now, customers almost always make their purchases using debit cards, credit cards, and even smartphones.

In order to be able to accept these forms of payment, you’re going to need a payment processing service. The payment processor serves as the communicator between your customer’s bank and your own bank, allowing you to process credit, debit, and other forms of payment.

For your auto collision business, you might want to consider getting a point-of-sale system. With POS software, you’ll be able to process credit cards, scan barcodes, print receipts, track inventory, run reports, and perform other functions. For a fee, your business can receive the software and hardware needed to best serve your customers.

Hire Employees

While you may start your collision center as a one-man operation, you have to hire employees if you want to grow.

One of the first hires you’ll make is a mechanic that will work on repairing vehicles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanics make approximately $39,550 per year. An auto body and glass repairer averages around $40,580 annually.

As you bring in more employees, you’ll also want to hire a manager to oversee them all. Salaries for managers vary widely based on experience and how many employees they will be overseeing. Managers may bring in anywhere from $45,000 upwards of $60,000 per year.

Eventually, you may also want to hire a front-desk receptionist. The role of the receptionist is to greet customers, answer the phone, and make appointments. This employee may also take payments from customers and handle some of the company’s bookkeeping. The average salary of a receptionist is around $27,000 per year.

Do some research to find out more about salaries in your area, as these numbers can vary. You also need to take into consideration that there are additional expenses associated with hiring employees including:

  • Onboarding & Training
  • Background Checks
  • Drug Testing
  • Taxes
  • Benefits

When you’re ready to hire an employee, there are a few ways you can find quality candidates. The first is to ask for referrals. If you know someone in the industry, ask if they know of any potential employees. Even if you don’t have connections with anyone in the industry, ask around among your friends, family members, and colleagues.

You can also post your jobs on online job boards. Make sure that your job listing has an overview of responsibilities and requirements for all candidates. As resumes hit your inbox, you can set up interviews and hire new employees for your business.

Bolster Your Web Presence

Before you even hold your grand opening, you need to start your marketing efforts. The best place to start is the internet. When researching new businesses, most people use their laptops or smartphones. If you don’t have a web presence, how will your customers find you?

Getting your business online is easy. Start with these simple steps.

Create Social Media Profiles

It seems like everyone’s on social media these days, from your teenage nephew to your grandmother. Social media doesn’t just connect friends and family members, either. It’s also a great place for users to find new brands and businesses.

Setting up your social media profiles is free and easy. Consider starting with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Add your logo, contact details, and important information like services provided and hours of operation. As you build your business, you can update your profiles with specials, coupons, photos of your completed work, and other information.

Create A Website

You also want to make sure that you have a website that provides important details to your customers such as your shop hours, specials, and services provided.

No web design experience? No problem. These days, any small business owner can create a professional website with easy web builders that feature templates, drag-and-drop design, and other tools to create a website in just minutes.

Your website should be a reflection of your brand, so make sure to choose templates, photos, and colors that best represent your shop. Your domain name should also represent your brand, so make sure it’s easy to remember and avoid numbers, symbols, or very long URLs.

Your website shouldn’t be overly complicated, and it should be easy to navigate. You don’t have to load down your site with lots of information. Start off by including key info such as hours of operation, services performed, and contact information. Also make sure to highlight any features that make your shop stand out, such as certifications, free estimates, or rental car/shuttle services offered to your customers. In the future, you can add additional features such as a signup option for email newsletters or online scheduling.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more about creating and maintaining an online web presence for your business.

Advertise Your Business

Your website and social media profiles are a great way to start advertising your business, but in order to grow and scale, you can’t stop there. You need to plan a marketing and advertising campaign to get the word out about your business.

Consider paying for social media ads or pay-per-click ads on search engines, or sign up with Yelp For Business. These options can be affordable for new businesses and are easy to set up.

You can also look beyond the internet to advertise your business. Consider placing flyers or door hangers in the area around your business to bring in new customers. Before you take this route, though, make sure to understand the local laws in your area regarding the posting of flyers on public and private property.

As your business grows and becomes more successful, you can explore options including radio and TV advertisements and mailers. However, these ads are typically quite expensive, so hold off on these options until your business is bringing in steady revenue.

One of the most important things to remember here is that word-of-mouth advertising is one of the best forms of advertising. If you perform a great service, your customers will tell others about your business. Keep customer satisfaction high to increase those referrals and draw in more revenue for your body shop.

Final Thoughts

While you may be itching to get your auto body shop off the ground immediately, a business isn’t born overnight. Take the time to plan out your business, and you’ll increase your chances for success. The hard work doesn’t stop after your grand opening, either. You’ll need to continue working hard to bring in customers, increase your revenue, and become a successful entrepreneur.

The post How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top 10 Tax Deductions For Freelancers

Understanding the nuances of the small business tax code has never been a walk in the park (especially when the tax laws are constantly changing), but when it comes to freelance taxes…? Let’s just say that those are a whole different ballgame.

According to a 2015 study done by Xero, 73% of freelancers don’t deduct any expenses when filing their taxes. Considering how many people now rely on freelancing gigs as a primary source of income, that number is frankly shocking and prompts the question: Are you maximizing your tax deductions as a freelancer?

If you are a freelancer, there are 10 very important tax deductions you need to know about. Gaining a basic understanding of how freelance taxes work and what you can and can’t deduct can save you a good chunk of change and spare you from trouble with the IRS down the line.

Read on for several money-saving tips and to learn about the top 10 tax deductions available for freelancers.

The Basics Of Freelance Taxes

Freelancing is a form of self-employment in which a person offers their service for a fee (rather than relying on a traditional employment arrangement). A person is required by law to pay taxes to the US government if they receive a freelance income of $400 (or a church employee income of over $108.82) in a given year.

When you’re paid by a traditional employer, standard taxes on Medicaid and Social Security are automatically taken out of each paycheck. This isn’t the case for freelancers and independent contractors, who are instead required to pay self-employment taxes. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3% (12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicaid). In addition to self-employment taxes, freelancers are also required to pay income tax.

If you are a freelancer, you will have to save a certain percentage of your income in order to pay your taxes. Most financial professionals advise freelancers to save around 25% (or even 30%) of their total income to cover these taxes. Freelancers may be required to pay taxes every quarter rather than annually (cue estimated quarterly taxes), depending on the size of their earnings.

Estimated Quarterly Taxes

Most tax-payers are used to the April 15th deadline when filing taxes for the previous year. However, freelancers are often required to pay estimated quarterly taxes. Instead of paying taxes once a year, some self-employed individuals will pay these estimated taxes four times a year.

Quarterly Tax Period Estimated Quarterly Taxes Due

January 1 – March 31

April 18

April 1 – May 31

June 15

June 1 – August 31

September 17

September 1 – December 31

January 15

Note: These due dates are specifically for 2019 and will vary slightly each year.

So, how do you know if you need to pay estimated quarterly taxes? According to the IRS, individuals who expect to pay at least $1,000 in taxes for the year should file estimated quarterly taxes instead of waiting until April to file. The 1040-ES form can help you approximate your total income for the year as well as your estimated tax payments.

As always, we recommend consulting with an accountant or tax professional for tax advice — especially when it comes to freelance taxes. They will be able to assist you in officially determining whether you need to pay estimated quarterly taxes, and if so, how much.

Tracking Freelance Finances

When you’re self-employed, it’s incredibly important to keep your finances organized. That’s where accounting software comes in.

Most freelancers would probably rather be finding new clients, creating new marketing strategies, improving their brand and social media presence — basically doing anything but accounting. But earning freelancer income is only half the battle. Managing that income and keeping track of your business earnings and expenses — that’s what sets you up for long-term success.

Luckily, there are multiple accounting programs that are designed specifically for freelancers, like QuickBooks Self-Employed. QuickBooks Self-Employed helps freelancers keep track of their income and expenses, manage deductions, and calculate estimated quarterly taxes. It even includes a Turbo Tax plan so you can easily file your taxes. Read our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review to learn more.

Whichever accounting software you choose, it’s important to record your income so you can set aside the proper amount for taxes, track your expenses so you can maximize deductions, and keep your finances organized in case you ever face an audit.

Tip: Hire A Tax Professional

The biggest tip I have for freelancers is to hire an accountant or tax professional. When you’re self-employed and trying to save as much money as you can, it seems counterintuitive to hire an accountant, but trust me — the expense will more than pay for itself.

As a previous independent contractor, I’m speaking from experience here. When I started out as a 1099 contractor I knew a little bit about self-employment deductions. I saved 25% of each check, kept a careful record of my business-related mileage, and saved all of my business expense receipts. But without the help of an accountant, I still would have missed out on over $3,000 worth of deductions I didn’t know about.

Accountants and tax professionals can help you navigate the murky waters of freelance taxes and find you all sorts of savings. They know exactly what you can write off, which deductions you qualify for, and which deductions could put you on the radar for an audit. This expertise is priceless.

But, don’t let your accountant do all the work. Knowing which deductions you are eligible for and keeping careful records of your receipts and expenses throughout the year can help ensure you save as much on your freelance taxes as possible. (And, since accountants are often paid by the hour, the less work they have to do the more money you’ll save.)

Top 10 Tax Deductions For Freelancers

Top Freelance Tax Deductions

Whether you about to file your taxes and are searching for last-minute savings or you are trying to track your deductible expenses throughout the year to get ahead of the tax game, here are the top ten tax deductions freelancers and independent contractors should know about:

1. Self Employment Tax Deduction

Rember when we said that freelancers are required to pay a 15.3% self-employment tax? Since freelancers are self-employed, they serve as both the employee and the employer, resulting in the 15.3% tax rate. In a traditional job, half of that tax would be covered by the employer.

This deduction allows you to deduct the employer-equivalent portion of your self-employment tax (approx. 50% – 57%). This deduction only affects your income tax. Contact an accountant or tax professional to see if you’re eligible for the self-employment tax deduction.

2. Health Insurance Premiums

Since freelancers have to provide their own health insurance, self-employed individuals can often deduct their health insurance premiums. The deduction cannot exceed your annual earned income.

3. Home Office Deduction

If you have a designated space in your home that is used exclusively for your business, you may be eligible for the home office deduction. You can use the simplified method and claim $5 per square foot, or you can use the complex method and write off direct expenses related to your office, including furniture, maintenance, equipment, and a portion of your utilities. Contact your accountant to see if you are eligible and to determine the best way to claim your home office deduction.

4. Office Supplies

Do you use printer ink or buy stamps to run your business? There’s a deduction for that!

Freelancers (and small businesses) can deduct office supplies so long as they are “ordinary and necessary” (which is the IRS’s rule of thumb for all deductions). Be sure to save all of your receipts so you can file your taxes properly at the end of the year.

5. Travel

As a freelancer, you can deduct travel expenses so long as the travel is strictly business-related. Again, be sure to save your receipts, airline tickets confirmations, etc.

6. Mileage

If you’re self-employed, you can deduct business-related mileage. The 2018 mileage rate is 54.5 cents per mile, which adds up surprisingly quickly.

Carefully log your start and end mileage, your starting point, your destination, and the purpose of the trip in a notebook (or using a tax software program like QuickBooks Self-Employed). You can also choose to deduct vehicle expenses instead of mileage. Talk to your accountant about which option is best for you.

7. Hardware & Software

If you require specific hardware and software to run your business, these purchases can count as deductions. Talk to your accountant about the best way to deduct these expenses as some bigger purchase may need to be depreciated.

8. Education 

Certain educational or certification expenses can also be deducted so long as they are directly related to your current line of work, not a new career. Keep track of your tuition and other education expenses throughout the year to claim this deduction.

9. Retirement Contributions

Since self-employed individuals are responsible for their own retirement accounts, retirement contributions can also be deductible. Keep track of any contributions you make to your SEP or IRA plans throughout the year to take advantage of this deduction.

10. Advertising & Marketing

Advertising and marketing expenses used to expand your business and bring in new customers can also be deducted.

New Tax Laws May Equal Savings

Top Deductions for Freelancers

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was one of the biggest changes to tax law in decades. While the IRS is still rolling out the full implications of these changes, one of the most important changes for freelancers is the new 20% qualified business income deduction, otherwise known as the pass-through credit.

Certain types of businesses — like sole proprietors, S corporations, and partnerships — are eligible for an up to 20% deduction on taxable income. There is an income limit for this deduction, so be sure to talk to an accountant or tax professional to see if you qualify.

Start Saving!

 

Now that you know about the top ten freelance tax deductions, it’s time to start saving! (Saving receipts, that is.) Make sure to carefully preserve all expense receipts and keep detailed financial records of anything you plan on deducting. This assists your accountant to maximize your deductions and helps prevent a tax audit.

You can now rest easy knowing exactly what’s expected of you as a freelancer when it comes to filing taxes. You can also be confident about the best ways to save money on your freelance taxes so you can continue to do what you love — and get paid for it.

As always, we recommend consulting an accountant or tax professional for the best tax advice.

The post Top 10 Tax Deductions For Freelancers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Ohio Small Businesses

Finding financing and other business resources can be a challenge for any small business. Maybe you don’t know where to look, or maybe there are just too many options and you have no idea where to begin. If you’re a small business owner in Ohio that needs help finding the right resources for your business, you’re in the right place.

In this post, we’ll explore the different financing resources available to your small business. We’ll review our picks for online business lenders that make the loan process faster and easier than ever. We’ll take a look at local banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders that offer financing to Ohio businesses. We’ll even explore small business grants that can put free money into your business. Whether you’re just starting a business in Ohio or your established business is ready to grow, there’s an option out there for you. And after reading this post, you’ll know exactly where to find it!

Online Business Lenders For Ohio Businesses

Small business owners are often strapped for time. From managing day-to-day operations to planning an expansion or gearing up for an upcoming busy season, it’s difficult to find enough hours to tackle your daily tasks, much less pile anything else on your plate. You need capital, but you just don’t have the time to sit on a phone with a lender or head into a bank to pitch your business.

Or maybe you have the time to get a loan, but you fall short in another area. Your credit score is low. Your time in business is too short. Your annual revenues aren’t where they need to be to qualify for a bank loan.

Whether it’s time, borrowing requirements, or some other issue that’s keeping you from applying for a small business loan, there’s an alternative: an online business loan.

You probably already use the internet to perform tasks for your business: bookkeeping, communicating with clients and suppliers, or ordering inventory, just to name a few. Why not leverage the internet to find the capital you need to start your business, grow your brand, or overcome a financial hurdle?

With online lenders, you can apply for your loan without ever stepping foot into a bank or office. You can shop your options, learn about requirements, and compare lenders from your computer or smartphone. Some lenders can even give immediate approvals and send over your funds in as little as one business day.

In addition to ease and speed, online lenders are opening up more opportunities than ever for small business owners. Bad credit? No business credit? Low revenues? Startup? No problem — there’s an option out there for you.

Ready to find an online lender? Instead of weeding through thousands of search engine results to find legitimate options, start your search with these lenders.

Lendio

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Lendio makes shopping for the best financial product easier than ever. This loan aggregator has over 75 financial partners that you can reach through one simple application. You can compare multiple lender offers to find the most affordable option for your Ohio small business. From long-term, low-interest Small Business Administration loans to merchant cash advances, Lendio has it all.

Some of the financial products offered to small businesses through Lendio’s network include:

  • SBA Loans: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Term Loans: Up to $2 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Commercial Mortgages: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Startup Loans: Up to $750,000 with terms up to 25 years
  • Lines Of Credit: Up to $150,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Short-Term Loans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 3 years
  • Equipment Financing: Up to $5 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Merchant Cash Advances: Up to $200,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Accounts Receivable Financing: Up to 80% of receivables with terms up to 2 years
  • Business Acquisition Loans: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Business Credit Cards: Up to $500,000

Filling out the application is quick and easy, and there’s no impact to your credit until you accept an offer. Depending on the type of financing you select, you could have the capital you need in as little as 24 hours. Borrower requirements and required documentation vary based on the product selected. Rates and terms vary by lender.

SmartBiz

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If you’ve been in business for some time, you’re probably at least aware of the Small Business Administration. If not, you’re missing out on a very important resource. The SBA is not just an advocate for small businesses but also provides competitive, long-term loan options.

The SBA is not a direct lender. Instead, this organization guarantees small business loans distributed through its programs. Nonprofit organizations, banks, credit unions, and other lenders can feel more secure in taking on the risk of small business lending. Meanwhile, this opens the door for low-cost loan options for small business owners in Ohio, just like you.

Navigating the SBA loan process can be tricky, but smart business owners lean on SmartBiz to do the heavy lifting. SmartBiz simplifies SBA loans, removing the stress of the application process while putting money in your bank account faster than ever.

SmartBiz offers two SBA loan options for you. If you need to refinance high-interest debt or need extra money for working capital, marketing campaigns, inventory, equipment purchases, or operating expenses, you can apply for $30,000 to $350,000. You’ll have up to 10 years to repay your loan, and you’ll receive competitive interest rates of 8.25% to 9.25%.

To qualify, you must meet the requirements below:

  • Time in business of at least 2 years
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Credit score of 640 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No prior defaults on government-backed loans
  • No outstanding tax liens

If you need to purchase commercial real estate or refinance a commercial real estate loan, apply for the SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan. You can receive between $500,000 to $5 million with repayment terms up to 25 years and interest rates of 7% to 8.25%.

The borrower requirements for SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans are as follows:

  • Property must be at least 51% owner occupied
  • Purchase price must be more than $500,000
  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Credit score of 675 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow
  • Funds can’t be used to purchase investment properties or fund construction
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No prior defaults on government-backed loans
  • No outstanding tax liens

Credibly

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Credibly is an online lender that offers multiple financing options for small business owners. Credibly can preapprove you for up to $400,000 with final approvals in as little as 24 hours.

One of the financial products offered through Credibly is a working capital loan. You can qualify for up to $400,000 with repayment terms up to 18 months. These loans do not have traditional interest rates. Instead, Credibly’s working capital loans have factor rates that start at 1.15. Repayments on your loan are made daily or weekly.

To qualify for a working capital loan, you must have:

  • Time in business of at least 6 months
  • Personal credit score of 500 or above
  • At least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits

Need longer terms for your loan? Credibly’s business expansion loans have terms of up to 2 years. These loans are available in amounts up to $250,000 with interest rates starting at 9.99%. This loan is repaid through weekly payments.

To qualify for a business expansion loan, you must meet these requirements:

  • At least 3 years in business
  • Personal credit score of 600 or above
  • At least $3,000 in daily balances
  • At least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits

Another option to consider through Credibly is a merchant cash advance. With this financing, you’ll receive up to $400,000. The anticipated duration of Credibly’s MCAs are 3 to 18 months, and repayment is based upon your receivables. Factor rates for MCAs start at 1.15.

To qualify for this type of funding, you must:

  • Have a personal credit score of 500 or above
  • Be in business for at least 6 months
  • Have at least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits

Fundbox

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Wouldn’t it be a relief to have a source of funding available to you on-demand? If an emergency pops up, you’d have the funds to cover it. If you needed extra inventory or money to pay for operating expenses, you wouldn’t have to wait days (or weeks) for loan approval. If your Buckeye business would benefit from this type of funding, a line of credit from Fundbox may be just what you need.

Fundbox offers revolving lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified businesses. You can make one or multiple draws on your line of credit up to your set limit. As you repay borrowed funds, they become available to draw again. You can select from 12- or 24-week terms, and fees start at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Weekly payments are automatically deducted from your business bank account.

Qualifying is simple, as Fundbox considers your business performance when approving lines of credit. To receive yours, you must have:

  • A business checking account
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • A U.S.-based business
  • At least 2 months of activity in accounting software OR at least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account

Prosper

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If you’re a new business with no (or very low) revenue, how are you going to qualify for a small business loan? Unfortunately, there will be many small business financing options unavailable to you if your business is brand new or hasn’t yet opened its doors. If this sounds familiar, you may have to get a little creative with your financing. One of the best options? A personal loan for business.

With a personal loan for business, your personal credit score and income can help you qualify for the funding you need. This is a great way to pay for startup costs or to cover any business expense when you don’t qualify for small business financing.

One lender to consider for personal loans is Prosper. You may qualify for up to $40,000 with APRs of 6.95% to 35.99%. You can select from terms of 3 years or 5 years.

To qualify for a Prosper personal loan, you must meet the following minimum eligibility requirements:

  • Source of income
  • Debt-to-income ratio below 50%
  • No bankruptcies within the last 12 months
  • Less than 5 credit inquiries within the last 6 months
  • At least 3 open trade accounts on your credit report

Amex Merchant Financing

American Express OptBlue

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If your business accepts American Express, you may qualify for Amex Merchant Financing. You can receive a loan of $5,000 up to $2 million for one fixed fee of 1.75% to 20%. A fixed amount is deducted daily, or you can opt to have a percentage of your daily receivables deducted.

Repayment terms are spread over 6, 12, or 24 months and automatic payments are deducted daily from your account. If you repay your loan early, you could get up to 25% of your fixed fee back, helping you save on the cost of your loan.

To qualify, you must:

  • Accept American Express cards
  • Have at least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Have at least $12,000 in annual debit and credit receivables
  • Have been in business for at least 2 years

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Ohio

negotiating credit card processing fees

Online lenders are convenient, but maybe you prefer working with more traditional lenders. Banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders throughout Ohio provide loans and other financial products at competitive rates. You can also sign up for other business services, such as checking and savings accounts, payroll services, or employee benefits.

Huntington Bank

Huntington Bank has branches located in hundreds of cities in Ohio, including Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. Small business owners can open a checking and savings account through this bank. If you need extra capital to start or grow your business, Huntington Bank offers multiple financial products tailored to small businesses including:

  • Term Loans
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Business Credit Cards
  • SBA Loans

Huntington Bank is a particularly good choice for SBA loans, as it has been ranked the top SBA lender in the region for the last 10 years.

Rates, terms, and borrower requirements vary by product. If you’re interested in getting financing through Huntington Bank, call their toll-free number or visit a branch near you to learn more.

Wright-Patt Credit Union

If you prefer more personalized service when seeking your small business financing, consider joining a credit union. In Ohio, Wright-Patt Credit Union is one of the largest with over 30 locations throughout the state.

As a member of Wright-Patt Credit Union, you’ll be able to handle all of your finances in one place. In addition to traditional financial products including business checking, savings, and money market accounts, members can also apply to receive financing through:

  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Terms up to 25 years
  • SBA Loans: 7(a), Express, and 504
  • Commercial Auto Loans: Terms up to 84 months
  • Term Loans: Terms up to 10 years
  • Business Credit Cards
  • Lines Of Credit

Rates, terms, and borrower requirements vary by financial product. Some financing options, including auto loans and business credit cards, have online applications available to Wright-Patt members.

To become a member, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live, work, attend school, or worship in one of the Ohio counties serviced by the credit union
  • Be a military or civilian employee of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
  • Live in the Fairborn area with no access to other credit unions
  • Be a student, faculty member, staff member, or alumnus of Wright State University
  • Have a family member that is a Wright-Patt member
  • Be in a group affiliated with Wright-Patt Credit Union

Finance Fund Capital Corporation

Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) is a nonprofit community development financial institution. Through FCAP, eligible Ohioans can apply for funding through the Small Business Loan Fund. Loans are available in amounts from $100,000 to $1 million. Funds can be used for the following business purposes:

  • Working Capital
  • Real Estate Acquisitions
  • Construction
  • Leasehold Improvements
  • Equipment

Loans come with terms up to 7 years. However, there are longer options for commercial real estate and fixed asset purchases. Rates are based on the creditworthiness of the borrower and the risk of the project being funded.

To qualify, a business must:

  • Be a for-profit sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation
  • Provide vital services to the area
  • Operate in an underserved market
  • Have a viable business idea

Loans are also given through the SBA Community Advantage program. To learn more and to apply for the Small Business Loan Fund, call or email Finance Fund Capital Corporation.

Small Business Grants In Ohio

If your business needs capital, turning to a lender isn’t your only financing option. Your business may qualify for a small business grant. The best thing about small business grants is that funds don’t have to be repaid, so there’s no worrying about monthly payments, high interest rates, or fees.

On the flip side, scoring a small business grant isn’t just as simple as filling out an application, having a credit check performed, and getting the funds you requested. Small business grants are extremely competitive. You must also meet very specific requirements — such as operating in a certain industry, having a veteran-owned business, or being a woman business owner — for most grants.

In the state of Ohio, there are several grant programs to consider. Start with these options.

JobsOhio

JobsOhio is a nonprofit corporation that aims to create jobs and promote economic development in Ohio by attracting, retaining, and expanding businesses. Through JobsOhio, small business owners have access to grant and loan programs including:

  • Economic Development Grant: Focuses on fixed asset and infrastructure investment of companies, including site development, machinery and equipment, land, and buildings.
  • Revitalization Program: Provides funds for businesses, nonprofits, and governments for costs related to redevelopment projects, including demolition, building renovation, and site preparation.
  • Workforce Grant: Provides funding for company training costs including information technology, leadership skills, technical training, and on-the-job training.
  • Growth Loan Fund: While not a grant, the Growth Loan Fund provides low-cost loans for established businesses that have limited access to traditional funding sources. Loan funds can be used to purchase fixed assets including land, buildings, machinery, and equipment.

Ohio Development Services Agency

The Ohio Development Services Agency has multiple programs that are designed to help Ohio businesses grow and create jobs. These programs include small business grants, low-cost loans, tax credits, and bonds.

Programs available through the Ohio Development Services Agency include:

  • Alternative Fuel Transportation Program: Provides financial assistance to businesses that purchase and install alternative fuel facilities and terminals.
  • Energy Loan Fund: Provides low-cost financing to businesses and manufacturers for improvements that reduce fossil fuel emissions and energy usage.
  • Ohio Minority Business Direct Loan Program: Provides low-interest loans to minority-owned businesses

City Of Cleveland Green Technology Business Grant Program

New green technology businesses located or relocating to Cleveland, Ohio, may qualify for the Green Technology Business Grant Program. To qualify, a business must create at least five new jobs within its first year.

The grant provides up to 1% of new payroll for up to 3 years. An additional $5,000 is also available as a Moving Assistance Grant. Interested small business owners can apply online through the City of Cleveland Economic Development.

Loans & Resources For Startups In Ohio

Startup businesses may find it a challenge to get the capital and resources they need to grow. Fortunately, the state of Ohio offers multiple resources to help new businesses and startups succeed.

Minority Business Assistance Centers

The Ohio Development Services Agency offers assistance to minority-owned businesses through its Minority Business Assistance Centers. Through these centers, minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses can receive services including accounting assistance, business management counseling, marketing plan development, and help identifying local resources.

SCORE

SCORE is one of the nation’s best resources for startup and small business owners. Through SCORE, you can receive free business counseling with an expert mentor. You can meet face-to-face with your mentor or you can receive counseling online.

SCORE also offers free and low-cost business training, workshops, and other resources such as business templates and guides.

SCORE chapters are located throughout the state of Ohio in cities including Mansfield, Columbus, Toledo, and Newark.

Ohio Small Business Development Centers

Whether you’re launching your business or taking your existing business to the next level, the Ohio Small Business Development Centers have resources for you. You can work with a Certified Business Advisor to get your business on the right track.

Services available through SBDC include business planning, one-on-one counseling, finding sources of capital, workshops, and training programs.

Offices are located throughout Ohio in cities including Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

Now that you know just a few of the options available to you, narrowing down your choices to just one lender can be tricky. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind to help you choose the right lender for your business.

Type Of Financing

What type of financing are you seeking? If you want a flexible line of credit, you can cross off any lenders that offer long-term loan options. Interested in SBA loans? Then don’t give short-term lenders a second glance. Determine what type of financing works best for your business, then select a lender that provides this type of funding.

Borrowing Amount

If you need $500,000 to purchase commercial real estate, a $10,000 loan isn’t going to get you very far. Consider the borrowing limits of each lender, then choose the lender that is able to provide the capital your business needs.

Affordability

When you receiving financing, you have to consider the overall cost of borrowing. Calculate the fees, interest, and other costs associated with each lender you’re considering. Working with one lender may be faster and easier, but the costs may be much higher … and could be too much of a burden for your business. Consider your options, don’t feel obligated to take the first offer, and know how much your business can afford. Remember, you want to grow your business, not slide into a cycle of debt.

Borrower Requirements

Do you meet all of the requirements of the lender? Lenders consider factors such as personal credit score, business credit score, past credit history, time in business, and annual revenue. If you don’t meet these requirements, you won’t get approved, so why waste your time? Grab your free credit score, read up on borrower requirements, and submit your application only when you know you meet all requirements. Also, please remember that meeting the minimum requirements of a lender is not a guarantee of approval.

Final Thoughts

Starting and operating a business is tough for even the most experienced entrepreneur. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. As a business owner in Ohio, there are multiple lending options and other resources available to you to keep your business on the path to success.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Ohio Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Texas Small Businesses

We’ve all heard the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” From ranches to buildings to cowboy hats, this adage applies to many aspects of Texas living. It even applies to opportunities. For small business owners that need capital or other resources, the state of Texas has many great opportunities. Whether you want a quick and easy online loan, a state grant that puts free money into your business, or training and mentorships, there are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look.

We’ve taken the guesswork out of getting a loan in Texas and have done the research for you, compiling a list of loan and financing resources for your small business. New business? No problem! Low personal credit score? We’ve got you covered. From startups to established businesses, these resources can help any Texan achieve your business goals. Read on to learn more.

Online Business Lenders For Texas Businesses

It wasn’t that long ago that one of the only ways to get a business loan was to head to your local bank. Today, you don’t have to step foot into a bank to get the capital you need for your business — thanks to the internet.

Online business lenders are popping up everywhere, offering competitive rates and terms to draw in your business. Not only is working with one of these online lenders quicker than going to the bank and sitting on the phone with your loan officer, but many have more relaxed borrower requirements, making it easier than ever to get the capital you need.

With an online lender, you’re able to apply for a loan online. Most lenders offer up their rates, terms, and borrower requirements right on their website. You can communicate with your lender through email or secure web forms. Some lenders allow you to complete the entire process from application to funding all from the comfort of your home or office — no telephone calls or in-person visits required.

Funding is faster than ever, too. No longer do you have to wait weeks or months for approval. Instead, many online lenders offer instant approvals and funding in as little as 24 hours.

An online search for a small business lender leads to thousands of results, so how do you know which one to choose? Start your funding search with these recommendations.

Fundera

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Who has time to fill out application after application with multiple lenders? Why spend hours trying to connect with the lender that’s right for your business when you can do it all with just one simple application?

With Fundera, you can connect with multiple lenders with just one application. Once you fill out your application, you’ll be connected with a lending specialist who will learn more about your business. Then, your funding specialist will go to work for you to find the best financing options for your business.

You may receive one or even multiple offers. Your lending specialist will work with you to go over the details of your offers, helping you find the best, most affordable financing option. The best part? You receive all of this for no cost!

Fundera has multiple loan options available for your small business, including:

  • SBA Loans: Up to $5 million with rates starting at 6.75%.
  • Term Loans: Up to $500,000 with rates at 7% to 30%
  • Lines Of Credit: Starting at $10,000 with interest rates at 7% to 25%
  • Invoice Financing: Up to 100% of invoice value with rates at 8% to 30%
  • Startup Loans: Up to $150,000 with rates at 7.9% to 19.9%.
  • Equipment Financing: Up to 100% of equipment value with rates at 8% to 30%
  • Short-Term Loans: Up to $250,000 with rates starting at 10%
  • Merchant Cash Advances: Up to $250,000 with factor rates of 1.14 to 1.18
  • Personal Loans For Business: Up to $35,000 with rates at 5.99% to 36%

Borrower requirements vary based on the financial product you select. For example, most borrowers that qualified for a term loan had annual revenue of at least $300,000, a credit score of 680, and a time in business of over 3 years. Borrowers who have qualified for short-term loans had annual revenue of at least $150,000, a credit score of at least 600, and a time in business of over 2 years.

Fundera’s loan specialists will evaluate your business, personal credit history, and other factors to help you select the best product for your situation.

Fundation

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Whether you’re ready to expand your business or you have short-term cash needs, Fundation has a financial solution for you. Through Fundation, you can apply for a term loan or line of credit.

With a term loan, you can pay for an expansion, purchase equipment, or fund capital improvements. You may qualify for up to $500,000 with repayment terms up to 4 years. APRs range from 8.99% and 29.99% and payments are made twice per month.

Fundation’s lines of credit are available in amounts up to $150,000 with terms up to 18 months. APRs range from 8.99% and 29.99% and are based on the creditworthiness of the borrower. Payments are made once per month.

To qualify for a Fundation financial product, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • Annual revenue of at least $100,000
  • Good personal credit

SmartBiz

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Qualifying for a traditional bank loan is tough. Luckily, the Small Business Administration has lending programs that make it easier for startups and small businesses to qualify for low-interest, long-term loans. Because the SBA guarantees a portion of loans distributed through its programs, lenders feel more confident in lending to small business owners, even those with less-than-perfect credit scores or who have just launched their businesses. The SBA is not a direct lender. Instead, small business owners turn to intermediary lenders to get the funds they need – lenders like SmartBiz.

SmartBiz simplifies the SBA loan process, helping small business owners in Texas move quickly and easily through the process. Through SmartBiz, you have two SBA loan options: SBA working capital and debt financing loans or SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans.

SBA working capital and debt refinancing loans are available in amounts from $30,000 to $350,000. Funds can be used to purchase equipment or inventory, refinance existing debt, pay for a marketing campaign, or just for working capital purposes. Interest rates are between 8.25% and 9.25% with maximum repayment terms of 10 years.

To qualify for this SBA loan, you must:

  • Have a time in business of at least 2 years
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Have a personal credit score of 640 or higher
  • Have sufficient cash flow to pay your loan
  • Have no bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • Have no outstanding tax liens
  • Have no previous defaults on government-backed loans

If you want to purchase commercial real estate or refinance your existing commercial mortgage, you could qualify for $500,000 to $5 million through the SBA 7(a) program. Interest rates are 7% to 8.25% through SmartBiz with repayment terms up to 25 years.

To qualify, you must meet these requirements:

  • Use funds for a property that is at least 51% owner occupied
  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Personal credit score of 675 or higher
  • Have sufficient cash flow to pay your loan
  • Estimated purchase price must be higher than $500,000
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No previous defaults on government-backed loans
  • No outstanding tax liens

Funds through this loan program can’t be used to purchase investment properties or fund the costs of new construction.

If you’re not ready to apply for a loan through SmartBiz’s SBA programs, the company has also teamed with lender partners to offer affordable, long-term bank loans up to $350,000 for qualified borrowers.

LoanBuilder

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Haven’t been in business for long or have a low credit score? Don’t worry – there are options available for you. One of those options is LoanBuilder. Through this online lender, you can “build” your own loan, personalizing your loan using the LoanBuilder Configurator.

With LoanBuilder, you can receive $5,000 up to $500,000 to build your business. Repayment terms are 13 to 52 weeks, with weekly payments debited directly from your business bank account. LoanBuilder makes it easy to understand the cost of borrowing by charging a one-time fee. This fee is 2.9% to 18.72% of the borrowing amount and is added into your loan. There are no additional fees for receiving a LoanBuilder loan.

To qualify for a LoanBuilder loan, you must have:

  • A time in business of at least 9 months
  • At least $42,000 in annual revenue
  • No active bankruptcies
  • A U.S.-based business
  • Personal credit score of 550 or above

You must also be in an eligible industry to qualify. Most industries will qualify, but some that are excluded include attorneys, collection agencies, schools, gambling businesses, auto dealers, and non-profit organizations.

OnDeck

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If you don’t qualify for a loan through a bank or other traditional lender, OnDeck is another lender with minimum requirements that can give you the capital you need. Through OnDeck, you have two financial products to choose from: term loans and lines of credit.

With OnDeck’s term loans, you can receive up to $500,000. The lender offers two loan options: short term loans and long term loans. Short term loans have repayment terms of 3 to 12 months and can be used for purchases that have immediate returns, such as launching a new marketing campaign, hiring new employees, or purchasing inventory.

OnDeck’s short term loans have a simple interest rate as low as 9%. This means that the interest rate is a percentage of your borrowing amount. For example, if you have a $10,000 loan with a 9% simple interest rate, you’ll repay $10,900. Additional fees may apply.

OnDeck’s long term loans have terms of 15 to 36 months and can be used to expand your business, purchase equipment, or develop new products. These loans come with an annual interest rate starting at 9.99%.

All term loans have an origination fee of 0% to 4% of the loan amount. Payments are made daily or weekly and are automatically deducted from your business bank account.

To qualify for term loans through OnDeck, you must have:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 500 or above

OnDeck also provides lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified borrowers. The APR starts at 13.99%. Repayments are made weekly and are automatically deducted from your business bank account. OnDeck’s lines of credits do not have draw fees. However, there is a $20 monthly maintenance fee. This fee can be waived by drawing at least $5,000 within 5 days of opening your account.

To receive an OnDeck line of credit, you must meet these requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 600 or above

Kabbage

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If a flexible line of credit would work best for your financial needs, consider applying with Kabbage. Through Kabbage, you can get up to $250,000 as a line of credit to use for your business. Funds can be used for any business purpose, from expansion to hiring new employees to filling gaps in revenue during a slow season.

Kabbage lines of credit come with terms of 6 or 12 months. Kabbage charges monthly fees of 1.5% to 10%, and your rate is based on the performance of your business. If you pay off your balance early, remaining fees will be waived so you can save money on your loan. Repayments are made monthly and are automatically debited from your business checking account.

Kabbage bases its approval decisions on the performance of your business, not just your personal credit score. To qualify, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue OR at least $4,200 per month for the last 3 months

One thing that makes Kabbage stand out from other lenders offering lines of credit is the Kabbage Card. You can make a regular draw from your line of credit, which you receive in your bank account within 1 to 3 business days. Or you can get instant access to funds with the Kabbage Card. Simply use the card anywhere credit cards are accepted to make an immediate purchase. Once you’ve used your card, Kabbage will create a new loan with the same rates and terms as traditional draws.

LendingPoint

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Some of the options already discussed work for more established businesses, but what if you haven’t yet opened your doors? As a new business owner, meeting the requirements for a business loan can be a challenge, even through alternative lenders. If you have at least a fair credit score, one option to consider is a personal loan for business through a lender like LendingPoint.

With LendingPoint, you can receive a loan up to $25,000. Repayment terms for LendingPoint loans are 24 to 48 months. Interest rates start at 15.49%.

Because this is a personal loan, time in business, business credit history, and annual revenues are not requirements for approval. Instead, you must meet these requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid social security number
  • Have at least $20,000 in annual income
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a credit score of at least 585

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Texas

If you’d rather work with a more traditional lender for your small business loan, Texas has plenty of banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders to choose from, including these picks.

Security Service Federal Credit Union

Security Service Federal Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in Texas with nearly 70 locations across the state. Branches are located in cities including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Portland, and New Braunfels.
There are multiple small business financing options available through this credit union. Your options include:

  • Commercial Mortgages
  • Commercial Construction Loans
  • Capital Improvement Loans
  • Vehicle & Equipment Financing
  • Term Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Business Credit Cards

The rates, terms, borrowing limits, and borrower requirements are based on the product you select. This institution also offers merchant services, payroll services, and business checking and savings accounts.

To become a member of Security Service, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • You live, work, worship, attend school, volunteer, or own a business located in the state of Texas
  • You’re a member of the military or are employed by the Department of Defense living in the service area
  • A family member or someone in your household is a member of the credit union

Wells Fargo

If you want to stick with a traditional lending institution, Wells Fargo is one of the largest banks in Texas. Wells Fargo branches are located all throughout the state in cities including Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston.

Wells Fargo offers a variety of small business products and services to its customers. This includes:

  • Secured & Unsecured Business Credit Cards
  • Unsecured Business Loans: $10,000 to $100,000 with rates starting at 8.25% and terms up to 5 years
  • Equipment Loans: $10,000 to $100,000 with rates starting at 7% and terms up to 5 years
  • Term Loans: $100,000 to $500,000 with terms up to 1 year
  • Lines Of Credit: Up to $500,000
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Up to $1 million
  • Commercial Real Estate Refinancing: Up to $1 million
  • Commercial Real Estate Equity Loans: Up to $500,000
  • Commercial Equity Lines Of Credit: Up to $500,000
  • SBA 7(a) Loans: Up to $5 million
  • SBA 504 Loans: Up to $6.5 million

Borrower requirements vary based on the financial product you select. Additional business products and services include business bank accounts, merchant services, and payroll services. To learn more about opening an account, you can sign up online or visit your local Wells Fargo branch.

LiftFund

LiftFund specializes in providing small business loans to businesses that don’t qualify for traditional bank financing. Through LiftFund, you may be eligible to borrow $500 up to $1 million. LiftFund also is a Certified Development Company that administers SBA 504 loans. Borrowers may also qualify for up to $250,000 through the SBA 7(a) program.

To qualify for a loan, LiftFund considers the following:

  • Ability to repay
  • Personal character
  • Commitment to improving business and personal credit
  • Good payment history with other creditors
  • Collateral
  • Alternate sources of income
  • No Chapter 7 bankruptcies within 2 years
  • No Chapter 12 bankruptcies within 1 year

The average borrower has a personal credit score of 575. The lender works hard to match business owners with a loan regardless of credit history, time in business, or annual revenues.

BCL Of Texas

Through BCL of Texas, you can receive up to $50,000 with the Texas Small & Diverse Growth Fund. This loan program is open to minority and women-owned businesses. To apply, you must have a one-on-one consultation with a BCL specialist and complete a Financial Readiness Assessment. Once these two steps are complete, you can apply for loans between $5,000 and $50,000. Through this program, you can also receive business coaching for the life of your loan at no additional cost.

BCL also offers new business loans of $20,000 to $50,000. Loan funds can be used for working capital, real estate purchases, equipment purchases, or as a line of credit. A loan inquiry can be submitted through the BCL website to learn more.

As your business grows, BCL offers additional loan options. The Business Growth Fund provides up to $300,000 for the purchase of real estate or machinery, working capital, or to refinance existing debt. Rural business loans up to $250,000 are also available through BCL. SBA 504 loans are also available through this lender.

Small Business Grants In Texas

If you don’t want to be stuck repaying a loan plus interest and fees, a small business grant could be what you need for your business. A small business grant is money that doesn’t have to be repaid. Unfortunately, competition for these grants is stiff. Plus, many small business grants have very specific requirements that your business might not meet. However, it never hurts to apply for grants that you are qualified to receive. In the state of Texas, there are several grants available to small businesses. Read on for some of the top options to consider.

Texas Workforce Commission Skills For Small Business Program

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Skills for Small Business Program provides grants for training new employees. With these funds, small business owners can pay for employee training at their local community college, tech college, or Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

Through the program, businesses can receive up to $1,800 per year for each new employee that receives training. Existing employees can receive up to $900 per year for training.

To qualify, businesses must have fewer than 100 employees. Only full-time employees are eligible to receive training. All wages for employees must meet or exceed the prevailing wage in the area where the business is located.

To apply, you must complete and submit the TWC application by fax or through email.

Texas Enterprise Fund

The Texas Enterprise Fund awards “deal-closing” grants to businesses that are competing with out-of-state sites for a project. Projects may include opening or expanding a business.

In addition to having at least one out-of-state competitor, qualifying businesses must also plan to create more than 75 full-time jobs in urban areas or more than 25 in rural areas. The average wage for new jobs must meet or exceed the average county wage. Qualifying businesses must also show significant planned capital investment and must be financially sound.

All businesses must submit an application packet and then undergo an 11-step screening process. Once completed, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House review applications and must unanimously agree in order for the grant to be awarded.

Texas Department Of Agriculture

The Texas Department of Agriculture has several loan and grant programs for businesses in and outside of the agriculture industry. Programs include the Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, and Capital for Texas. Requirements and deadlines vary based on the program you select. All information and applications can be found on the Texas Department of Agriculture website.

Loans & Resources For Startups In Texas

Many startup businesses seek outside financing and resources in order to increase their chances for success. In the state of Texas, there are multiple resources to consider that provide financing opportunities, mentorships, and much more to help you more effectively start and build a business.

SCORE

SCORE, a resource partner through the Small Business Administration, offers free business mentors to small business owners across the nation. Through SCORE, not only will you connect with an experienced business mentor, but you can also take advantage of other resources including workshops, webinars, and business courses.

There are multiple SCORE offices throughout the state of Texas in cities including Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. You can contact your local SCORE office to find out more about the resources available to you, or you can visit the SCORE website to connect with a mentor, check out webinars, and more.

The Governor’s Small Business Workshops

Through the Office of the Governor, small business owners can participate in Small Business Workshops held throughout the year all throughout the state of Texas. These workshops cover a variety of business topics including startup essentials, access to capital, and business opportunities for women, minorities, and veterans.

America’s Small Business Development Centers

New and existing business owners can take advantage of the resources offered through Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). Through SBDC, you can receive free business consulting and low-cost training across multiple business topics including accessing capital, tech development, marketing, and more.

There are over 60 business centers located throughout Texas. You can locate your local office through the SBDC website to learn more about the opportunities available

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

Still on the fence about which lender to choose? Doing your homework and weighing out your options is a smart move. However, if you’ve done your research and you still can’t seem to nail down a lender, ask yourself the following questions:

How Much Money Do I Need?

Your financing application will require you to request an amount of money to borrow, so make sure you know how much capital your business needs. Knowing how much money you need can also help you narrow down your selection of lenders. Let’s say you need $200,000 for an overhaul of your business. Lenders that have lower maximum limits can be immediately marked off your list.

How’s My Credit Score?

Got bad credit? The bad news is that you may not qualify for certain types of financing, such as a traditional bank loan. The good news is that there are alternative loan options available to borrowers with poor scores or no credit. However, be aware that these products often come with higher fees and interest and shorter terms than options available to more creditworthy borrowers.

If you’re unsure of where you stand in terms of credit, pull your free credit score before applying for financing. Then, apply only to lenders with credit score requirements you can meet. If your score is low and your funding need isn’t urgent, consider evaluating your credit report to determine your weak points. Then, take steps to boost your score, which will open up new financing options with improved rates and terms.

Do I Meet All Other Requirements?

Most lenders look at more than just your credit score. Some lenders consider factors such as time in business, annual revenues, debt-to-income ratios, and even the size of your business and the number of employees you have. Make sure you meet all borrower requirements before submitting your application. Remember, if you don’t meet all of one lender’s requirements, there are plenty of other lenders willing to work with your business.

How Will I Use My Funds?

How do you plan to use the capital you receive from a lender? Some lenders impose restrictions on how funds are used. For example, an equipment loan must be used to purchase equipment or fixtures. You can’t use these funds to hire employees or cover payroll. Choose a lender that offers a financial product that works for your business needs. Then, ensure that there are no restrictions that would prevent you from using your capital in a way that’s best for your business.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have an established business or you’re gearing up for your grand opening, there are plenty of resources in the state of Texas to help your small business. Do your research, calculate the affordability of any loan you pursue, and make sure your next steps will only better your business.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Texas Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Do I Need Business Insurance?

Do I Need Business Insurance?

Insurance isn’t a fun purchase. In terms of your small business, it’s far more enjoyable to order business cards, design window decals, work on a marketing plan, and think about how to make your product the best you can. Some business owners push off business insurance because they can’t help asking: “Is this really necessary? Can I afford this extra expense for things that may or may not happen?”

The real question is: Can you afford not to insure your business? The commercial insurance company Insureon completed a study and discovered that only one in four businesses have adequate business insurance and 80% of businesses cannot recover after a disaster. With that in mind, business insurance is a small cost to pay to keep yourself safeguarded from financial ruin.

Do I Need Business Insurance?

The insurance industry is in the business of doom and gloom and disasters. They see your cute storefront located right in the middle of flood territory and say, “Hey, business owner. Let’s imagine that river floods and you can’t open your shop and you lose sixty-percent of your inventory and now you can’t pay your employees and…”

And now you’re in the fetal position wondering if anything in life is worth the risk. Except, it doesn’t have to be like that. Unless you are a thrill seeker who likes to live dangerously, eschewing all ethical responsibilities to others, consider business insurance part of the cost of doing business.

What Is Business Insurance?

Business insurance protects you and your assets from disasters, accidents, lawsuits, theft of property, data breaches, and even mundane hassles like clogged drains. Commercial insurance plans are tailored specifically to your industry and your specific risks. Many factors affect insurance costs, including business location, number of employees, and risky behavior. For example, if you run the ax-throwing brewery near my house (this is a real thing) and want to put sharp objects in the hands of people also drinking beer, get yourself some insurance, people! (I’m confident they are well-insured. And I am also confident I will visit.)

Are You Legally Required To Have Business Insurance?

If you are a sole proprietor of your business and don’t have any employees or customers (see ax-throwing reference above) to protect, business insurance might legally be optional. However, the rules are often state specific, so it’s important to talk to a business lawyer or state insurance representative to make sure you are compliant with state requirements.

However, the government requires businesses with more than one employee to provide worker’s compensation, unemployment, and disability insurance. If you have employees driving business vehicles, you will also need commercial auto insurance, and some landlords and leaseholders require renter’s insurance or commercial property insurance as part of a rental agreement.

Another legal requirement might be health insurance. If you have fifty or more employees six months or more out of the year, then you are legally required by the federal government to provide health insurance. If you aren’t required legally to provide health insurance and you do anyway, then you’re eligible for a tax break.

Reasons You Should Have Business Insurance

How To Get Business Insurance in 4 Easy Steps

Business owners might wonder why they should invest in protecting their business and assets. Here are some important reasons to consider as you weigh your insurance needs:

It Fulfills A Legal Requirement

If you have more than one employee, you need to provide worker’s compensation, disability, and unemployment insurance. Also, your landlord may legally require you to hold renter’s insurance. (These requirements are state specific, so check your state’s legal requirements.)

People Like To Sue Other People

Humans are litigious and sue-happy. No matter what business you start, there is the potential for someone, at some point, to become unhappy with the business or your product and engage you in a lawsuit. Handling a lawsuit without liability insurance could be disastrous to any small business — even if the business is eventually found not liable. (And, yup, if you aren’t fully covered, the plaintiff could come after your personal assets.) A lawsuit is costly and stressful. And insurance is more affordable than you might think — a sole proprietor of a business who wants one million dollars in liability coverage could pay as little as $30 a month for peace of mind.

Protects Your Business In The Event Of A Disaster

The word disaster in this scenario could be anything from an Act of God, a fire, theft or vandalism, or anything else that has the potential to stop your business from running smoothly or running altogether. A business owner’s policy that provides a package of general liability and commercial property insurance will protect from the most common disasters.

Protects The Humans You Employ

Insurance isn’t just doom and gloom. Offering insurance protection to your employees creates a positive work environment and sends the message that you care about the people working for you. While you may have to provide basic protections like worker’s compensation, disability, and unemployment, you can also offer health insurance (and if you aren’t legally required to provide it, you can receive a tax break for doing so) and life insurance policies to help attract and retain quality workers.

Provides Tax Breaks

Business insurance is a tax write-off and you can claim your premiums as deductions. (Except, funny tip: if you are a beneficiary for one of your employee’s life insurance policies, you can’t deduct that insurance policy…so, since tax laws become oddly specific, it’s important to check with a tax expert for your state.)

Contracts May Require Proof Of Insurance

If you want to borrow money for your business, the bank may require you to prove your business is insured. Also, if you work with clients or other businesses as independent contractors, they may also require proof of insurance before choosing to work with you. Insurance doesn’t just provide peace of mind for the business owner but also for the people who engage in the business.

What Type Of Business Insurance Do You Need?

Okay, you’ve made the wise choice to insure your business. Now you’ll need to research which policies are the best fit for your business model. Businesses in riskier industries will need more insurance, but there are options for all types of business owners, from sole proprietors to corporations. The most basic types of insurance types are:

  • General Liability Insurance: General liability protects your business in the event of a disaster, lawsuit, or accident. Claims against a business can arrive in the form of bodily injury, property damage, personal injury to a customer (including slander or libel), or false advertisement.
  • Commercial Property Insurance: A commercial policy insures your building, business products inside your building, and other people’s property while it’s in your care. Property damage due to theft also falls into this category.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: Also referred to as E&O insurance, this is additional liability insurance that helps cover your business from professional liability of either errors (where your business caused a financial loss for a client) or omissions (an employee didn’t do his/her job as required).
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance: If an employee is injured at work, this will protect your employee and you if a lawsuit should arise. This is a requirement for businesses with more than one employee.
  • Commercial Auto Insurance: If your business involves a fleet of vehicles or if an automobile is needed, you will want to cover those vehicles under a commercial insurance plan.
  • Business Owner’s Policy: This is a policy offered by most insurance companies; it includes both general liability and commercial property protection.
  • Renter’s Insurance: This might be a requirement if you are renting/leasing business space. This protects your location from damage and liabilities for that damage.
  • Business Interruption Insurance: If something stops your business from functioning (a flood, an Act of God, or an illness or other accident), this insurance will help pay for lost income incurred during the interruption. This insurance specifically covers income and profits and covering the cost of getting your business back up and running.

Industry Specific Insurance

The type of insurance your business needs is directly correlated to the type of business you run. Again, if you are running an ax-throwing business and putting beer in those customers’ hands, you will need a larger liability package than say someone who is working as a freelance writer (loss of limbs versus paper cuts, possibly?) and so knowing what kind of insurance might be specific to your industry is important.

Insurance For Retail

In addition to the basic coverage types mentioned above, there are a few other insurance policies that are specifically for small business retail owners. Franchise upgrade insurance, for example, helps a franchise pay for the cost of an upgrade required by your franchise agreement. Also, if your retail store is dependent on other businesses to provide you supplies, then you can request business income from dependent properties insurance which pays you out if your business is harmed due a business interruption from someone you work with.

Insurance For Restaurants

If you serve alcohol in your establishment, then liquor liability insurance is an important policy that specifically protects you from the damages caused by someone drinking too much in your establishment or even starting an alcohol-induced fight. Any lawsuits, costs, or damages that arise from serving liquor can be covered by that policy. Another restaurant industry-specific policy is a temperature change policy. If you lose power and your refrigeration unit shuts down (or breaks) and you have spoiled food, a temperature change policy will cover the cost to replace any lost product.  

Insurance For The Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, you might have many concerns about how your business might impact your quality of life. Renter’s insurance and/or homeowner’s insurance will protect the items in your business should your house suffer an accident or disaster (flood, fire, theft). It’s important to check with your insurance company to see if your homeowner’s insurance protects businesses run within the home, and if it doesn’t, then discuss an add-on liability package to cover your business. 

Insurance For Professional Services

If you run a professional service (legal, accounting, consulting, engineering), several types of insurance options might make sense for your business. The first is director & officers insurance (D&O) which protects the individual directors and board members in your business from lawsuits claiming their decisions had a direct financial impact on the plaintiff. While D&O insurance is mostly for larger corporations, small businesses and even non-profits are starting to see the importance of adding a D&O policy. Your managers could make a mistake and be personally liable for that mistake; this policy protects them and the company from the cost of lawsuits targeting a specific individual’s actions.

There are a few other policies that might be worthwhile. If you are a firm that runs a cloud-based storage system for clients and the cloud goes down, you could have a policy to protect yourself from damages related to lost files. And if you have physical files stored somewhere and they are ruined by wind, rain, fire, valuable papers and records coverage will cover the cost to replace and reproduce documents.    

Insurance For Technology

Today, most companies should absolutely prepare for a data breach if they collect sensitive information like social security or credit card numbers. Data breach coverage pays for costs that incur because of the loss of information, including notifying impacted clients, advertising the data breach to get the word out, and paying the cost of PR firm to help navigate the media. If personal information is lost or stolen from your technology business, you have legal requirements to follow in the aftermath and having data breach coverage will help you follow the law.

Insurance For Manufacturing & Wholesale

Product liability is a needed coverage to add to your general liability package that products your company in the event that someone sues you because of injuries or damage caused by your product. If you manufacture goods, product liability is a smart bet to protect against any litigation that comes your way. (Weird and true lawsuit fun fact: The widow of the murderer in the 1984 San Diego McDonald’s massacre sued McDonald’s saying their product, fast food, caused her husband to go into their establishment and kill 21 people. She lost.) Protect yourself now and worry about all the weird ways people might sue you over your product later.  

Insurance For Real Estate

Employees practices liability coverage protects your real estate agency from claims of discrimination, breach of contract, harassment, wrongful termination, among other employee-related lawsuits. It covers your defense and legal costs related to a claim, but it won’t cover any punitive damages that may occur as a result. (Damages are usually covered in a general liability policy.) 

Insurance For Construction

Construction jobs are risky and involve many moving parts. Sometimes a construction business has a physical store location in addition to a traveling business of workers in and out of other people’s homes. A specific brand of liability insurance specially designed for construction businesses will protect your business when things do go wrong. Construction insurance covers claims related to any part of your construction business, including medical and faulty workmanship.

Insurance For Personal Care Services

Do you run a hair salon? Does extra hair clog your drains? Well, there’s insurance to cover that. Back up of sewers and drains coverage is designed to cover all claims related to flooding caused by a sewer drain (no matter the reason it floods). Or computers and media coverage helps insure the technology needed to run your small business.

How Much Does Business Insurance Cost?

The cost of business insurance will vary depending on all your individual business factors. Are you a home-based business or do you have a storefront? Do you have employees or are you working solo? What are the risks involved with running your business (see: ax-throwing brewery) and do you have a product to protect? Business insurance might not be a fun expense, but it’s necessary to be one of the 20% of businesses that will survive a disaster.

While the average cost will vary depending on the industry requirements, for a business owner looking for a basic business owner’s policy for a small business, the average yearly premium is $1200. However, policies can start as low as $300.

Meet with an insurance expert to assess your individual needs and discuss the ways you can protect the business you love.

The post Do I Need Business Insurance? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Florida Small Businesses

Does finding capital for your small business seem like an insurmountable task? While it may seem impossible on the surface, the secret is that there are lots of lenders willing to finance your business. The key is knowing where to look.

If you’re a small business owner in Florida, you’re in luck. There are many options to consider when it’s time to apply for small business financing. Whether you’re new to the game and need money for startup costs or you’re an established small business looking to expand, we’ve got you covered.

In this guide, we’ll explore the financing options available to you. We’ll cover national lenders that offer easy online applications and take a look at local banks and credit unions. We’ll explore small business grants which give you free (yes, free!) money for your business. Finally, we’ll take a look at the options available to startups. Ready to get your financing? Let’s go!

Online Business Lenders For Florida Businesses

The internet has made our lives more convenient than ever. From online banking to communicating with family and friends to watching our favorite funny cat videos on YouTube, the internet has changed the way we interact with the world.

For small business owners, the internet has also opened up new opportunities in lending. Just a few decades ago, getting a business loan meant heading to your local bank, presenting your pitch, and waiting for that phone call approving your loan … or, more likely, turning you down. Today, you can apply for loans, lines of credit, credit cards, and other financial products from the comfort of your home or office.

Not only is the application process easier, but now, small business owners that wouldn’t qualify for bank loans have options as well. No matter your industry, time in business, annual revenue, or personal credit score, there’s an online lender that can help you get the financing you need.

Lendio

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Want to shop options without filling out a million applications? Give Lendio a try. Lendio isn’t a direct lender. Instead, it’s a loan aggregator, connecting you with more than 75 financing partners with just one application.

Through Lendio, you can apply for all types of small business financing. If you need a large amount of capital to fund your expansion, apply for a low-interest, long-term Small Business Administration loan. Looking for a flexible form of financing? See if you qualify for a line of credit or business credit card. Need new equipment for your business? Try equipment financing.

Some of the financial products offered through Lendio’s network include:

  • Small Business Administration Loans: $50,000 to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Lines Of Credit: $1,000 to $500,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Equipment Financing: $5,000 to $5 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Term Loans: $5,000 to $2 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Short Term Loans: $2,500 to $500,000 with terms up to 3 years
  • Merchant Cash Advances: $5,000 to $200,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Commercial Mortgages: $250,000 to $5 million with terms up to 25 years

Borrower requirements, rates, and terms vary based on the type of loan you select, the lender you work with, your borrowing amount, and your creditworthiness. Applying with Lendio to receive offers does not affect your credit score. However, if you move forward with a lender’s offer, a hard credit pull may be required.

SmartBiz

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Have you tried to receive a bank loan, but your application was rejected? You’re certainly not alone. Most small business owners find that receiving a low-cost, long-term loan from a bank is difficult. This is because banks take a hard look at risk. Banks and credit unions want to work with low-risk borrowers — established businesses with solid business and personal credit profiles and high annual revenues.

For many new and growing businesses, meeting these requirements is impossible. But this doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with only high-interest, short-term loan options. You can receive affordable financing with great terms by applying for a Small Business Administration loan.

These loans are backed by the SBA, so banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders feel more comfortable loaning to small businesses – even those with less-than-perfect credit or low revenues. The SBA takes on some of the risk for lenders, while small business owners get to enjoy flexible, affordable loan options.

You can apply for an SBA loan through your bank or credit union. Or you can do what many busy entrepreneurs do and apply through SmartBiz.

With SmartBiz, you can pre-qualify for an SBA loan in just minutes with no effect on your credit score. You may be eligible to receive funding as quickly as 7 days after completing your application — much faster than the weeks it may take through your bank.

SmartBiz offers two types of SBA loans. Working capital and debt refinancing loans are available in amounts of $30,000 to $350,000. These funds can be used for a variety of purposes including:

  • Refinancing Debt
  • Equipment Or Inventory Purchases
  • Hiring Employees
  • Business Expansions
  • Marketing Costs

To qualify for a working capital and debt refinancing loan, you must meet the following requirements:

  • At least 2 years in business
  • Personal credit score of 640 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow to support loan payments
  • No outstanding tax liens
  • No bankruptcies or forecloses within the last 3 years
  • No previous defaults on government-backed loans

Working capital and debt refinancing loans have interest rates between 8.25% and 9.25% with repayment terms of 10 years.

You can also apply for an SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan. These loans start at $500,000 and can go up to $5 million; they can be used to purchase commercial real estate or refinance your existing property loan. Funds can’t be used to purchase investment properties or to fund the construction of a new commercial building.

To qualify for an SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan, you must meet the following borrower requirements:

  • The property must be at least 51% owner-occupied
  • At least 3 years in business
  • Personal credit score of 675 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow to support loan payments
  • Property purchase price must be higher than $500,000
  • No outstanding tax liens
  • No previous defaults on government-backed loans

SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans have interest rates of 7% to 8.25% with repayment terms of 25 years.

If you don’t want to apply for an SBA loan or need funding quickly, SmartBiz has also partnered with banks to offer competitive term loans. These loans are available in amounts from $30,000 to $350,000 with terms of 2 to 5 years. Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% to 26.9%.

OnDeck

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If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan or you need money fast, you could get the capital you need with an alternative online lender like OnDeck. OnDeck offers two financial products for small businesses: term loans and lines of credit.

With an OnDeck term loan, you could qualify to receive up to $500,000. OnDeck offers short-term loan options with terms of 3 to 12 months. These loans are best for purchasing inventory, paying marketing expenses, or seasonal hiring or inventory needs. Short-term loan options have a simple interest rate starting at 9%.

Long-term loan options are also available with terms of 15 to 36 months. These loans are best for larger projects including purchasing equipment or business expansion. Annual interest rates for long-term loans start at 9.99%.

For both loan options, fixed daily or weekly payments are automatically deducted from your business bank account. To qualify for OnDeck loans, you must:

  • Have a time in business of at least 12 months
  • Have at least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Have a personal credit score of 500 or above

If you want a more flexible financing option, you can apply for a line of credit up to $100,000. You can use your line of credit whenever you need it, including when you have unexpected expenses or gaps in cash flow.

The APR for an OnDeck line of credit starts at 13.99%. Fixed weekly payments are automatically taken from your business bank account. There are no draw fees, but a monthly maintenance fee of $20 is required. This fee is waived for 6 months if you draw at least $5,000 within 5 days of opening your account.

To qualify for an OnDeck line of credit, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • A personal credit score of 600 or above

Fundbox

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If a flexible line of credit seems like the best option for your business, consider giving Fundbox a shot. Fundbox is unique in that the performance of your business — not your personal or business credit score — is the most important qualifying factor.

With Fundbox, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000. Your line of credit can be used for nearly any business purpose, from buying inventory and supplies to covering payroll or an unexpected emergency. You can make multiple draws from your line of credit, and funds can be transferred to your account as quickly as the next business day.

Fundbox fees start at 4.66% of the draw amount. You can choose from 12- or 24-week terms, and repayments are automatically deducted from your business bank account each week. If you repay your balance early, remaining fees are waived. No fees are charged if you don’t use your line of credit.

To qualify for a Fundbox line of credit, you must have:

  • A business checking account
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • A U.S.-based business
  • At least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account OR at least 2 months of activity in supported accounting software

A soft credit inquiry is performed during the application process, so your credit will not be affected just by applying. After you’re approved and draw funds for the first time, a hard credit inquiry will be performed.

BlueVine

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BlueVine is another lender that offers flexible lines of credit. However, this lender also offers an additional option for qualified borrowers: invoice factoring.

With a BlueVine line of credit, you could qualify to receive up to $250,000. Rates start at 4.8%, and you only pay for the used portion of funds. Your line of credit can be used for any business purpose. Weekly repayments are automatically taken from your business bank account.

To qualify for a line of credit, you must have the following:

  • A personal credit score of 600 or above
  • A time in business of at least 6 months
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue

If you have unpaid invoices, you may qualify for BlueVine’s invoice factoring service. Factoring lines of up to $5 million are available for qualified borrowers. Rates start at just 0.25% per week.

With invoice factoring, you’ll submit an application to BlueVine. Once approved, you can automatically sync your invoices from a supported accounting software. You can also upload your invoices to the BlueVine dashboard.

Once your invoices are received, BlueVine pays you 85% to 90% of the invoice amount up front. Once the invoice has been paid, you’ll receive the remaining funds, less fees charged by BlueVine.

To qualify for BlueVine’s invoice factoring, you need:

  • A B2B business
  • A personal credit score of 530 or above
  • A time in business of at least 3 months
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue

Amex Business Loans

American Express OptBlue

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If you’re an American Express business cardholder, you may qualify for an AmEx business loan. The great thing about these loans is that no credit check is required since American Express already has your information on file.

With an Amex business loan, you can receive $3,500 to $50,000 for any business purpose. The only restrictions are that funds can’t be used to pay for personal expenses or to repay debts to American Express. Repayment terms of 12, 24, or 36 months are available. Fixed interest rates are 6.98% to 19.97%.

To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Have an American Express Business Card and be in good standing

Upstart

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If you’re a new business, meeting the time in business or annual revenue requirements of business loans may be difficult. However, if you have at least a fair credit score, you have a financing option: using a personal loan for business expenses.

With a personal loan, your personal information, including your credit score and annual income, are used to determine if you qualify. Since this isn’t a business loan, annual revenue, business credit score, and time in business requirements won’t be a consideration for approval.

Upstart offers a personal loan option that may work for you. When you apply for a personal loan, you may qualify to receive $1,000 to $50,000. Rates with Upstart begin at just 8.09% for the most creditworthy borrowers. Maximum APRs are 35.99%. Payments are made monthly over a period of 3 to 5 years.

Unlike other lenders, Upstart looks at more than just your credit score. While this is still a factor in qualifying for a personal loan, your credit history, education, and job history are also considered for approval.

To qualify for an Upstart loan, you must have:

  • A credit score of at least 620
  • A solid debt-to-income ratio
  • No bankruptcies or public records
  • No delinquent accounts
  • No public records
  • Less than 6 credit inquiries over the last 6 months
  • At least $12,000 in annual income

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Florida

If you want loan options with extremely competitive rates and terms, consider applying for financing through a bank, credit union, or nonprofit lender. We’ve compiled some of the top options in the state of Florida that offer everything from traditional business loans to commercial mortgages and SBA loans.

Florida First Capital Finance Corporation

Florida First Capital Finance Corporation has been licensed by the SBA since 1984. Since that time, this nonprofit Certified Development Company has helped small businesses through the SBA 504 loan program.

Funds through the 504 program can be used to purchase commercial real estate, machinery, or equipment. Funds may also be used to refinance qualifying debt. Through the 504 loan program, Florida First Capital Finance Corporation provides up to 40% of loan funds. A traditional commercial lender provides up to 50% of loan funds. The remaining project balance is paid by the borrower as a down payment.

To qualify for a 504 loan, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Own a small business that meets the size standards set by the SBA
  • Be a U.S. citizen or registered alien
  • Operate a for-profit business
  • The net worth of the business must be $15 million or less
  • Average net income of the business must be $5 million or less
  • Business can’t be engaged in rental real estate investment

Suncoast Credit Union

Suncoast Credit Union is the largest credit union in the state of Florida. Branches are located in and around the Tampa area, and online services are available to members.

Through Suncoast Credit Union, you can apply for multiple financial products for your small business. In addition to business checking and savings accounts, payroll services, and employee benefits, Suncoast Credit Union also offers:

  • Business Lines Of Credit
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Vehicle & Equipment Loans
  • SBA Loans
  • Business Credit Cards

Rates, terms, and borrowing amounts vary by product selected and your creditworthiness.

To become a member of Suncoast Credit Union and be eligible to apply for business financing, you must have an immediate family member that has joined, live in a qualifying county in Florida, or be a Florida College alumnus.

Chase Bank

Chase Bank is one of the largest banks in Florida, with over 300 branches located across the state. Chase offers a variety of financial products targeted at small business owners. Not only does the lender offer business checking and savings accounts, payroll services, and merchant services accounts, small business owners can also apply to receive:

  • Business Lines Of Credit: Up to $500,000
  • Commercial Lines Of Credit: At least $500,000
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Conventional or SBA loans starting at $50,000
  • Small Business Loans: Starting at $5,000 with terms up to 84 months
  • SBA Loans: 7(a), Express, and 504 loans
  • Equipment Financing
  • Business Credit Cards

Rates, terms, and maximum borrowing limits are based on the product selected and the creditworthiness of the borrower.

Small Business Grants In Florida

With most small business financing, you get the capital your business needs and repay your borrowing amount, interest, and fees over time. With grants, you receive capital without having to pay back the funds. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the one drawback is that grants are very difficult to receive. Competition is high for small business grants. Many grants also have very specific requirements and may be awarded only to businesses owned by a minority or businesses in a specific industry. If you don’t meet all requirements, you won’t be eligible to receive a grant.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply. There are several small business grants available to business owners in the state of Florida that you may qualify to receive.

Enterprise Florida Inc.

Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) offers training, development, and financing opportunities to small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and entrepreneurs.

There are multiple funding opportunities available through EFI. This includes:

  • State Small Business Credit Initiative: This program reduces the risk taken by lenders by purchasing up to 50% of loan funds, making it easier for small businesses to qualify for affordable loans.
  • Microfinance Guarantee Program: This program provides a guarantee on loans, similar to the SSBCI program. This helps lenders feel more secure in lending money to small businesses.
  • Florida Opportunity Fund: EFI is a sponsor of the Florida Opportunity Fund, which offers funding to businesses through programs including the Fund of Funds Program, the Clean Energy Investment Program, and Florida’s Venture Capital Program.

EFI has also partnered with other organizations to provide additional resources and funding opportunities to small businesses.

WomensNet Amber Grant

Women-owned businesses in Florida and across the nation can apply for a small business grant through WomensNet’s Amber Grant Program. Each month, a $1,000 small business grant is awarded to a woman-owned business. At the end of the year, all 12 monthly winners will be entered to win a grant of $10,000.

One of the best things about this grant is that the application process is simple. There are no lengthy applications to fill out and no extensive documentation to submit. Instead, all women business owners can apply by answering a few short questions about their business. There is a $15 application fee to enter. Deadlines for applications are the last day of each month.

Palm Beach County Job Growth Incentive Grant

Businesses that are relocating or establishing a business in Palm Beach County, Florida, may qualify for the Job Growth Incentive Grant Program. This award is given through the Economic Development Office and is available to startups and established businesses that will create jobs in Palm Beach County.

Interested businesses can contact the Palm Beach County Department of Housing and Economic Sustainability or the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County to learn more about applying for this grant.

VISIT FLORIDA Targeted Marketing Assistance Program Grant

If your business is in the tourism industry, you may qualify for VISIT FLORIDA’s Targeted Marketing Assistance Program Grant. Through this program, marketing costs up to $5,000 are matched with a grant.

To qualify, a business must be an approved TMAP business and a partner with VISIT FLORIDA. Applications must include a marketing project overview, a marketing strategy and media plan, anticipated results, and a marketing budget.

All independently owned and operated businesses with gross revenues of $1.25 million or less that are in the tourism industry may apply to become a TMAP business. Some nonprofit organizations may also qualify.

Loans & Financial Resources For Startups In Florida

Even established businesses may encounter challenges when applying for business financing. So, it should come as no surprise that startup businesses — businesses that haven’t yet established a credit profile or aren’t bringing in revenue — may have a more difficult time getting needed funding and resources.

Luckily, though, there are resources available to new businesses and startups. In the state of Florida, there are a few good options to consider.

SCORE

SCORE has 300 chapters throughout the nation, with chapters located in the state of Florida. Through SCORE, you can tune in to live and recorded webinars and take courses on small business topics. You also have access to e-guides, articles, blogs, and online workshops.

One of the most beneficial features of SCORE is that you can be matched with an expert business mentor. You can get advice at no charge with your mentor either face-to-face or online.

Small Business Development Center

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers multiple resources to business owners in Florida. The SBDC has online and offline resources, including videos, in-person workshops, and low-cost training.

The SBDC also offers consulting at no cost. New business owners can work with a Capital Access Specialist to find, prepare, and receive business financing.

There are several locations throughout the state of Florida in cities including Cape Coral, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Boca Raton, Miami, and Pensacola.

The Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center

A good online resource for business owners in Florida is the Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center. Through this website, you can find business resources by city. This includes links to your local Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Councils, forums, and more.

If you want to take advantage of offline resources, the website has a list of events taking place all over the state. These events are centered on topics such as business and personal credit, SBA loans, business planning, and cybersecurity for small businesses.

Find An Investor

If you need capital for your startup, where do you turn? One option is to find an investor. While you can certainly find these investors on your own — think a friend, family member, or colleague — you can also hop online and give crowdfunding a shot.

With crowdfunding, you’ll use an online platform to pitch your business to potential investors. In exchange for their investment, you can offer up a reward (such as a new product for free or a reduced cost) or equity in your business.

One of the best things about crowdfunding is that there are no credit score, time in business, or revenue requirements, which is ideal for businesses that are just getting started. However, you do have to perfect your pitch, share your campaign online, and work harder to bring in investors that are willing to back your company.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

Now that you’re aware of the loan options available to you, the next step is to choose your lender. Unfortunately, this is when having so many choices has its drawbacks. If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to selecting a lender, ask yourself the following questions:

How Will I Use The Money?

You want to select a lender that offers financial products that best fit your needs. Let’s say you need working capital for your business. A loan used to purchase commercial property won’t be a good fit, so you could scratch this lender off the list. Plan how you intend to use your funds, then choose lenders that don’t have restrictions that would prevent you from effectively using your capital.

How Much Money Do I Need?

Knowing how much money you need is a critical step before you even start filling out an application. This not only helps you plan and budget for your own business, but most lenders want to know how much you need to borrow. Having a number in mind can also help you decide which lenders work best for your specific needs. If you need $250,000, a line of credit that maxes out at $100,000 just won’t work for your business.

Do I Meet The Lender’s Requirements?

Save yourself the trouble of unnecessary rejections by understanding the borrower requirements of every lender that interests you. If a lender requires a time in business of 2 years and you’re just opening your doors, you won’t qualify. If you need a personal credit score of 700 but yours is just 620, it’s time to search for another lender. Start your search by checking your free credit score online, then make sure you meet all borrower requirements before applying. Also, keep in mind that meeting the minimum requirements is not a guarantee of a loan offer.

Do I Want A Lump Sum Or Flexible Financing?

If you have a specific financial need in mind — purchasing new equipment or buying a commercial property, for instance — work with lenders that offer lump-sum loans. If you’d rather have a more flexible financing option — making payroll or covering revenue gaps — find a lender that offers a flexible form of financing such as a line of credit or business credit card.

Can I Afford It?

Sure, you may want a million dollars to build your business, but can your business afford it? Consider your outstanding debts and obligations, your current and project revenues, and shop around your options. Understand the fees and terms of your loan to determine if it’s something you can handle … or if it could drag your business deep into debt. Learn more about calculating the affordability of your small business loan.

Final Thoughts

In the state of Florida, there are plenty of lenders and small business resources at your disposal. The only thing you have to do is find the right resources for your business and leverage them to successfully start and build your business.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Florida Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Find Out If You Are Prequalified For A Credit Card

So you’ve decided your business needs a new credit card. Unfortunately, you’ve heard that the credit card application process can negatively impact your credit score, and since credit history can impact your business’s ability to make financial moves in the future, you don’t want to apply for a card unless you’re sure you’ll be approved.

Luckily, many issuers offer checks to see if you’re prequalified for their credit card offers. This will give you a chance to see if you should go through with applying for a card. Once you’re prequalified, you’ll have the confidence needed to go through the full-on application process.

For everything you need to know about prequalification, keep reading. We’ve got you covered!

What Does “Prequalified” Mean?

Prequalified means that you’ve been selected as potentially “qualified” by a credit card issuer for a particular card offer. Usually, the issuer has done a soft pull on your credit score and found that you’ve met the certain criteria necessary to qualify for the credit card. This soft pull should not affect your credit score.

In some cases, you may also be deemed prequalified because an issuer bought your information via a marketing list from a credit bureau. In this case, the issuer may check if you are on their list to see if you are prequalified.

If you are prequalified for a credit card, you have an 80% to 90% chance of actually qualifying for the card should you go through the application process. It’s worth adding that you don’t need to be prequalified in order to apply for a card—you can still be approved without prequalification. This process just gives you extra confidence before actually applying.

Note that by actually applying for a card, the issuer will likely perform a hard pull on your credit history. This will show up on your credit history. In most cases, a hard pull won’t be a problem long-term because having a credit card should only help your credit into the future (as long as you follow the best practices for a credit card). However, you’ll want to avoid applying for too many cards in quick succession as frequent hard pulls in a short span may lower your credit score.

How To Get Prequalified For A Credit Card

There are several ways to get prequalified for a credit card. Here are the most common:

  • Online: By far, the best option is to go to an issuer’s site and check for prequalification via their own checking tools. In most cases, this will take only a few minutes. Plus, you’ll be able to see if you qualify for a card offered by an issuer you already like. In addition, some of our favorite credit scoring-checking websites also have prequalification tools readily available for you to use.
  • By mail: Issuers frequently send out credit card offers to people who have met their prequalification criteria already. As such, if you’re looking for your next card, simply opening up your mail might be a quick and easy option. Of course, this method doesn’t offer much flexibility when it comes to what you’re preapproved for.
  • In-Person: Many physical bank branches offer prequalification checks. Note that you may already need to be a member of the bank beforehand, however. Additionally, you might be able to go to a retail store and find out during check-out if you’re prequalified for that store’s co-branded credit card.

Most major credit card issuers let anyone check online for prequalification:

  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Chase
  • Citibank
  • Credit One
  • Discover
  • U.S. Bank

Other issuers—like Synchrony Bank, Wells Fargo, or USAA—either don’t have an online prequalification service or only let current members check online.

FAQs About Prequalified Credit Card Offers

Will getting prequalified hurt my credit score?

In almost all cases, no. This is because issuers do a soft pull on your credit history, which does not impact credit scores. Note that actually applying for a card (which causes a hard pull) will affect your credit history.

Can I get prequalified if I have bad credit?

Yes. Different issuers have different requirements when it comes to prequalifying someone for a credit card. So just because you weren’t prequalified for a particular card doesn’t mean you won’t be prequalified for another one.

Curious which credit cards are aimed towards people with bad credit? Merchant Maverick has your back.

Is there a difference between being pre-approved and prequalified?

Yes, although the difference is very slight. If you’ve been prequalified for an offer, it means that your credit score likely falls within the recommended range for a particular card. If you’ve been pre-approved, however, the issuer has targeted you more specifically for an offer.

Do I have to get prequalified before applying for a credit card?

No, becoming prequalified just gives you extra confidence before actually applying. You can still be approved for a credit card without being prequalified.

Final Thoughts

Prequalification processes can help give you peace of mind before applying for a credit card. They can potentially shield your credit score from an unnecessary hard pull and save you hassle, letting you focus on what matters—your business.

Did a check but didn’t get prequalified? Find out how to improve your credit score. Did get prequalified but want to know if that card is the right choice? Read up on our favorite business credit cards.

The post How To Find Out If You Are Prequalified For A Credit Card appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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