14+ WordPress Website Examples for Inspiration

WordPress Website Examples

So you’re WordPress as your website software, and you’re looking for WordPress website examples for inspiration and confirmation that you’re making the right choice.

WordPress powers more than 30% of the Internet. It’s famous for its versatility and ease of use (yes, there is a learning curve. No, it’s not insurmountable). In short, it’s an incredibly popular choice for your website software.

But before we dive into WordPress website examples in the wild, let’s talk about a few common misconceptions about WordPress.

WordPress is a content management system — web jargon for a place where you can log in to your website to create, edit, and manage your content.

It’s also “open-source”, which means a community maintains it. The software and open-source community live and function at WordPress.org. It’s where anyone can grab a free copy of the software. It’s also know was self-hosted WordPress, because you have to provide the server for the software to live on.

WordPress.org is like buying a house. You can make all the customizations you want, but you’re also in charge of the plumbing and electricity.

Learn how to set up a self-hosted WordPress site from scratch here.

And then there’s WordPress.com. This is a for-profit company and service that offers websites powered by their install of WordPress (the software). They bundle hosting, support, services, and software into a single subscription. WordPress.com is like renting an apartment. You can pay for upgrades, but really everything is up to your landlord… including maintenance.

To learn more about WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com and which you should use, check out my article here. 

So what does this have to do with WordPress website examples?

Think of looking for a website builder like looking for a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a website platform should be done in the same way. A website’s design is simply some HTML and CSS. It can be created anywhere. However, the functionality are more dependent on things like hosting, integrations, features, plugins, etc.

We collected the following WordPress examples not just to show you how they look, but how WordPress websites can function so you can be sure you have a website that fits both the style you want and the functionality you need.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

General Website Examples

Let’s start with a general round up of solid WordPress website examples. We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Remember, WordPress is known for its flexibility. It’s incredibly customizable, which means you can accomplish almost anything with the website.

The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company

Want to know just how prolific WordPress is? Even The Walt Disney Company has gotten on board. This website is a great example of a solid, clean layout for businesses. The navigation is clear, the Recent News grid gives visitors a taste of what’s going on with the company, and the stock information is a solid addition to inform consumers on the company’s financial health (keep in mind that you don’t have to be a publicly-traded company to do something like this. What other information could you display here to help visitors learn more about you?).

Now – obviously the rest of us might not have the budget of Disney. You are currently reading a webpage that lives on WordPress. My small personal site lives on WordPress. The point is that your website is not limited in any way by WordPress.

With that in mind, here’s a few more examples.

Trefecta

Trefecta

Not all websites need to be design masterpieces — but if you’re going for a more visual feel, Trefecta’s website is a great place to start for inspiration. The header image is a carousel (which means it’s changes automatically) and features a separate call-to-action for each image, giving visitors the opportunity to dive deeper on each slide. We also liked the breakdown underneath the header, which serves as another navigation point for visitors in addition to the main menu on the left side of the page.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes via my industry-specific roundups.

Wedding Website Example

Wedding websites are a great way to give guests information about the big day, show off your personality, and post updates / pictures / anything else you may want to share with those who are involved with your wedding. Given this website has a shorter lifespan than say, a business website, you’ll want something that’s easy to customize, edit, and manage. Here’s a great example of what you can do with a WordPress wedding website:

Tyler and Tayler

Tyler and Tayler wedding website example

Tyler and Tayler’s wedding website is a great example of how a simple theme can be transformed into a fun, personalized website without having to custom-build something complex. Their story includes fun illustrations, and further down the page, they’ve embedded their engagement photos for everyone to enjoy. These are all elements that make their website unique to them without having to spend time or money on something completely custom-built.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from ThemeForest.

Photography Website Example

Photography websites are all about the portfolio of work. When looking for a WordPress website example to serve as inspiration for your photography, pay special attention to the layout options for your work. You want to be sure you’re showing off your photos in a creative way without sacrificing the user experience (AKA fast photo load speed, easy to navigate, high quality images, etc). Here are a few examples of WordPress photography websites we liked:

Jeremy Chou

Jeremy Chou photography website example

What stood out about Jeremy Chou’s website was the balance of photography and copy. Yes, a photography website is about showcasing your work… but that doesn’t mean you can’t use good copy to help tell visitors what you and your work are all about. If you’re looking for a photography website that balances text and imagery, this is a great one to use for inspiration.

OANA FOTO

OANA FOTO

On the opposite of the spectrum is this website example, which puts the focus solely on the photography. The entire homepage is a carousel of photos, as is the portfolio section, which features a nice interactive scroll feature. OANA FOTO’s website just goes to show that there isn’t a right way to have a WordPress photography website — it all depends on your needs and how you want to communicate with your visitors.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop)

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Ecommerce Website Example

Ecommerce websites are all about their products. A good ecommerce website should have high-quality product images, be easy to navigate, and keep the focus on what you have to offer your shoppers! You’ll also want to include strong product descriptions and an easy check out process. Here are a few of our favorite WordPress ecommerce website examples:

House of Whisky

 

House of Whisky

A great ecommerce website comes down to a few main things: high quality product photos, easy navigation, and easy check out. This website from House of Whisky checks all of those boxes. What stood out to us especially was how straightforward the homepage is. As soon as you get to the page, you have two main options: learn more about House of Whisky, or start shopping. The navigation is so straightforward, it makes it a no-brainer for visitors!

The product page is also a great source of inspiration:

House of Whisky Product Page

The different filters provide a highly-customized shopping experience, and the high-quality product photos tie it all together, making this a great example of an effective product collection page.

Sodashi

Sodashi ecommerce website example

Sodashi is a great example of creating something unique. The skincare company is using a custom-built design on WordPress, which means they’ve created a design that fits their exact specifications. We particularly liked the clean look, easy navigation, and use of copy to explain what Sodashi is all about.

But here’s the great thing about WordPress:

Not only can you use a WordPress theme to get the exact look a website has, but you can also create something completely unique if you want. It all depends on your needs, your budget, and what your goals for the website are.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore similar WordPress Themes from StudioPress.

Artist Website Example

Need to showcase your art? An artist website is a great way to create a digital portfolio of your work. These websites should be easy to navigate, keep the focus on your artwork, and allow prospective clients / commissioners to contact you easily. Here’s an example of a great artist WordPress website:

Amy Paul

Amy Paul artist website example

 

Sometimes, less is more… and that’s exactly what makes Amy’s website so effective. The clean layout draws your eye right to her artwork, which is featured front and center. We particularly liked how Amy only shows one piece of art at a time on the homepage. This is a great example of a WordPress portfolio website that is a good fit for a DIY-er who just needs a place to showcase their work in an easily digestible format.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop)

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Music Website Example

Similar to artist websites, music websites are all about the music. Which means if you’re creating a music website, you’ll need a player so visitors can listen to your work on your site. You’ll also want to give people the opportunity to connect with you by listing social media channels, tour dates, and places they can buy your albums! Here’s a strong example of a music website created with WordPress:

7th Ave Band

7th Ave Band

What stands out about 7th Ave Band’s website is the music page. The copy before the music player is a great way to give an introduction to the band and what they’re all about. We also liked how the music player includes social sharing options, so fans can share the album on social media while listening to it on the website. Last but not least, the site includes multiple place for fans to buy the album, from the official store to the button on the music player. If you’re looking for a straightforward site to showcase your music, this is a great one of inspiration.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Business Website Example

A strong business website showcases your services, gives customers the opportunity to contact you, and builds social proof. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and what you do when they land on their site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. Here are a few examples of strong WordPress business website examples:

Smart Chameleon

Smart Chameleon is a great example of a website that includes interactivity and is built around the brand. As a business that creates digital experiences, you’d expect their own website to be a great digital experience! From the interactive font, to the chat box in the bottom right corner, to the flip cards that showcase their projects, this site is great inspiration for those who want to implement more interactivity and creativity in their site (without having to build something completely custom — this website is built with a theme called Astra, FYI!

BS&A Software

BS&A Software

This WordPress business website is a great example of how to organize your content when you have a lot to offer your audience. BS&A Software has video tutorials, help documents, support, services, etc. Keeping all of that information organized in an intuitive way  is no small feat, and this layout does a great job of it. If you have a significant amount of content for your site and are looking at how other businesses organize theirs, start here for inspiration.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from StudioPress.

Personal Website Examples

Personal websites are exactly what they sound like… personal! Whether it’s a resume / portfolio website you use to get booked or a blog you use to create content, this type of site is all about getting your personal brand online and owning your space on the Internet. Personal website should be easy to edit, manage, and customize. Here’s an example of a WordPress personal website to use for inspiration:

Michelle Sanchez

Michelle Sanchez

It’s easy to get caught up in showcasing your personality and creativity on your personal website. And while adding in some flair is fine, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity in the name of creativity. Michelle’s website is a great example of a personal WordPress website that prioritizes getting the crucial information to visitors in a straightforward way. The headline is strong, the call to action is clear, and the navigation tells visitors exactly where to go for what.

Vladimir Strajnic

Vladimir Strajnic

We pulled Vladimir Strajnic’s website as an example of the versatility of WordPress. You can truly create anything you want — from a templated, easy to fill in website to a completely custom made, interactive website like this one. The key is to remember what your overall goals are. For Vladimir, a designer, he’d want to showcase his skills on his personal website. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for someplace to start blogging and sharing your thoughts with the world, you probably don’t need to create something custom. Define your needs first, then dive in.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from JetPack.

Next Steps

At the end of the day, choosing your website platform goes far beyond design. Why? Because all web pages are made of HTML & CSS with a few scripts thrown in. This means that any website template can exist on any good web platform.

What YOU want to focus on is the design elements and functionality that are available on the platform you’re choosing.

Setup a self-hosted WordPress website step by step here.

Get a bundled WordPress.com subscription w/ free themes here.

If you feel like WordPress fits the design and functionality needs you have for your website, you can explore WordPress templates from ThemeForest, StudioPress, Elegant Themes or JetPack – all providers that I use for my sites & clients.

Not sure if WordPress is a right fit? Explore other WordPress alternatives here.

The post 14+ WordPress Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Starting And Financing A Vending Machine Business

Often, when people think of starting a successful business, they envision high-profile clients signing big checks. But other aspiring entrepreneurs know it makes more sense to think in dollars and cents…and we’re not talking about chump change, here. What we’re talking about is starting a lucrative vending machine business.

Vending machines are everywhere: hospitals, schools, office buildings, malls, and shopping centers. And each year, the vending machine industry brings in billions of dollars in revenue. The great news is you can get in on this profitable venture, whether you have previous business experience or you’re new to the game. All it takes is a little know-how, the right strategy, and one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle: financing.

In this post, we’ll explore starting and financing your vending machine business. We’ll review the ins and outs of the industry, discuss two ways you can start your business, cover the benefits and drawbacks to vending machine businesses, and, of course, talk about how to get the financing you need. Read on to learn more and take the first steps toward launching your successful vending business.

How Vending Machine Businesses Work

We all know how vending machines work from the consumer end of thing — if you’re hungry or thirsty, insert a dollar, some change, or even a credit or debit card to get an instant snack or beverage. Easy!

But, once the machine has your money, where does it go? Most of the money goes directly to the vending machine owner.

The vending machine owner enters into contracts with other businesses. These contracts include details like the commission that will be paid to the business owners in exchange for providing space for the machine.

Vending machines can be used almost anywhere, including but not limited to:

  • Hospitals
  • Shopping Centers & Malls
  • Apartment Complexes
  • Laundromats
  • Hotels
  • Schools
  • Airports

After the machines have been installed, it is the responsibility of the vending machine owner to keep each machine stocked and in working order. Money made from the machines is used to purchase additional inventory, cover maintenance costs, expand the business, and pay business owners per the agreed-upon rate in the contract. After all those expenses are covered, the remaining funds are profits for the vending machine owner.

Pros & Cons Of Vending Machine Businesses

While owning a vending machine business certainly has its benefits, there are some drawbacks to note as well. Let’s fully explore the pros and cons of owning your own vending machine business to help you evaluate whether it’s the right endeavor for you.

Pros

Flexibility

One of the best things about owning a vending machine business is the flexibility it provides. You don’t have to always be on the clock making sure things are getting done. Simply monitor your machines (even easier when you have the ability to do so remotely) and refill stock or perform maintenance as needed. You don’t have to worry about monitoring employees, keeping a watchful eye on your business 24/7, or devoting your entire life to your business. A vending machine business lets you bring in income while still allowing you to focus on family, hobbies, and other business ventures.

Lower Cost Than Other Businesses

Typically, when you start a new business, there are many expenses to consider. You have to find commercial space to rent, lease, or purchase. You have to hire employees. The list goes on. With a vending machine business, you can bypass many of these costs. Sure, you have to purchase your vending machines, keep inventory on hand, pay maintenance costs, and possibly hire an employee to restock your machines. But compared to other businesses, the vending machine business model has extremely low overhead.

Tried-and-True Business Model

In this business, you’re not bringing a risky new product to market that could possibly fail. You’re not operating an overly complicated business that requires expertise and a business degree. You’re using a tried-and-true business model that has been proven to work over decades. Of course, you do have to have a strategy, and you do have to sell yourself and your business to proprietors, but anyone can get started, no matter your previous experience.

Cons

Waiting For Profits

Even though the vending industry rakes in billions of dollars each year, you’re not going to become an overnight millionaire. In some cases, it could take a year or longer to begin seeing profit from your machines. It’s important to go into the business with realistic expectations, a solid strategy, and plenty of patience.

Some Expenses Involved

Even though it’s less expensive to get into the vending machine market than other industries, there are some costs involved. To get started, you have to invest in at least one vending machine. An older, used machine may cost as low as $1,200. A new machine with all the bells and whistles might run you $10,000 or more. The more machines you plan to have, the more expensive it will be to get started.

You’ll also have operating costs, primarily inventory. You can save money by working with a vendor or even buying goods in bulk from big box stores, but this is an ongoing expense that requires capital.

If you plan to expand your business, you face additional costs. This includes hiring an employee or two to keep your machines stocked, purchasing a company vehicle to use for restocking, and upgrading or adding new machines.
While it is possible to start slowly using out-of-pocket funds, most new business owners will need a financial helping hand. This is where loans and other financial products come into play — something we will discuss in more detail a little later.

Two Ways To Start A Vending Machine Business

Does the idea of owning your own vending machine business still appeal to you? If so, it’s important to understand the two ways you can start your business: starting from scratch or buying a pre-existing business.

Option #1: Start From Scratch

The first option for starting your vending machine business is to start from scratch. This requires a little more work in the beginning because you have to scout locations and enter into contracts with other business owners.

Begin by traveling around your area to scout out the best locations for your machines. Strategic vending machine placement is critical to making your business a success. Vending machines should be placed in high-traffic areas where they will be most useful — for example, a coffee vending machine in an office building or a vending machine that dispenses detergent and fabric softener at the local laundromat.

Once locations have been scouted, you’ll work out a contract with the business owner. This allows you to place your vending machines in their place of business at a cost — usually 10% to 20% of your gross sales.

After your locations are mapped out, it’s time to purchase your machines. Only take this step after you figure out locations and what type of machines best fulfill your needs.

Many vending machine business owners invest in machines equipped with credit card readers. Although this equipment is more expensive, these machines have advantages over traditional machines that only accept cash. One of the primary advantages, of course, is that you’ll have access to more customers. Fewer people are carrying cash, so these systems allow them to purchase your merchandise with credit cards, debit cards, or their smartphones. According to Vending Market Watch, consumers spend 32% more when paying with a card versus paying with cash.

Not only is your potential for profits much higher, but these advanced machines come equipped with remote monitoring systems that allow you to keep track of sales, check your inventory, and monitor maintenance needs. This saves you the hassle of having to frequently visit each location in person and helps you ensure your machines are fully stocked and in working order from the comfort of your home or office.

The final step is to make sure that you always keep your machines stocked and well-maintained. If your machine is out of order or out of items, you won’t make money. Evaluate what products are selling well and what items are flopping to maximize your profits.

One last thing to note is that you should always understand the rules and regulations in your area. Laws surrounding vending machines vary by state, so do your research online or contact your local chamber of commerce to learn more about local regulations before diving headfirst into your business.

Option #2: Buy A Pre-Existing Business

The second option is to buy a pre-existing business. Instead of doing the initial setup work yourself, you take over an existing business that already has equipment and, in most cases, locations secured with contracts.

The obvious advantage is that this automatically gives you a more turn-key operation. A major drawback is that this is often the most expensive option. After all, you aren’t just buying the equipment and inventory — you’re also taking over existing contracts.

If you choose this option, it’s best to have some business experience under your belt since you need to hit the ground running. You’ll also need to ensure you can secure the capital needed to purchase the business.

How To Finance Your Vending Machine Business

Whether you’re starting from the ground up or you’re in talks to purchase an existing business, there’s one thing you need before you take the leap into entrepreneurship: money. Even if your business is already off the ground, you’re going to need additional capital to expand and boost your profits — capital that you can receive with a small business loan.

Starting A Vending Machine Business

Starting a vending machine business can be surprisingly low-cost. After all, you don’t have to worry about paying for commercial space or utility bills. However, there are still startup costs associated with this type of business.
Some of the costs you may incur when starting your business include:

  • Equipment
  • Inventory
  • Vending Management System
  • Commercial vehicle used for restocking machines

Unfortunately, qualifying for traditional business financing options is difficult for startups. Many business loans, including those from banks, credit unions, and the Small Business Administration, have time in business and annual revenue requirements that you just won’t meet.

This doesn’t mean you’re out of financing options. Instead, you can use a personal loan for business to cover startup costs.

With a personal loan for business, you’ll use your personal credit score, income, and other information to prove your creditworthiness. Since this isn’t a business loan, you don’t have to worry about annual revenue, business credit score, or other requirements.

Recommended Option: LendingPoint Personal Loan

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Through LendingPoint, you can receive up to $25,000 as quickly as the next business day. Interest rates are between 15.49% and 30%. Your loan is repaid twice a month over terms of 24 to 48 months.

One of the advantages of LendingPoint is that you don’t need a perfect credit score to qualify. These personal loans are designed for fair-credit borrowers. To qualify, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have annual income of at least $20,000
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a personal credit score of at least 600
  • Live in one of the 34 states where LendingPoint operates

Unsure if you qualify? Check out our list of the best free credit score sites to review your credit score. Then, head over to our LendingPoint review to learn more about receiving a personal loan.

Purchasing A Vending Machine Business

If you’ve decided that purchasing an existing vending machine business is right for you, the next step is getting the capital you need to acquire the business. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have an existing business, qualifying for a business loan can be difficult.

As a startup, you may qualify for startup loans or other types of business financing. Learn more about how to get a business acquisition loan.

However, personal loans used for business expenses are also an option. Just as we discussed above, you can use your personal information to qualify for financing to acquire an existing business.

Our previous recommendation, LendingPoint, can only provide up to $25,000. If you need more capital, consider Lending Club personal loans.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

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Lending Club issues personal loans up to $40,000 to qualified borrowers. APRs range from 6.95% and 35.89% and are based on your credit score and history and the amount and term of your loan. There are no prepayment penalties. Repayment terms of up to 60 months are available.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must:

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

Ready to learn more? Check out our Lending Club personal loans review for more information.

Equipment Purchasing

As your business grows, you’ll want to add more vending machines to your lineup. You may also have to replace broken or outdated machines to maximize revenues. Unfortunately, vending machines don’t come cheap. While a used, basic model may cost just over $1,000, newer machines run several thousand dollars apiece. Though this seems like a big investment, you could easily increase your profits and see a big return with more expensive specialty machines or equipment that comes with credit card readers.

Another piece of equipment that may be critical to your business is a commercial vehicle. A van, car, or truck that is used to drive to your locations and restock or manage your machines may be something you consider purchasing as your business grows.

When it comes to buying equipment, there’s one option that stands out from the rest: equipment financing. Just as the name suggests, this type of small business loan is used to purchase equipment, breaking down huge price tags into smaller, more manageable payments.

With equipment financing, you have two options: equipment loans and equipment leases. With a loan, you’ll pay a down payment that is typically 10% to 20% of the cost of the equipment. You’ll take immediate possession of the equipment, and you’ll pay your lender on a weekly or monthly basis over a set period of time. Once you’ve fully repaid the loan (plus interest), the equipment belongs to you.

With a lease, you’ll also pay a down payment and take possession of the equipment. However, your lease period will be for a shorter period of time — usually 2 to 3 years. Similar to loans, you’ll make regularly scheduled payments to the lender. Once your lease is over, you can sign another lease for new equipment. Some lenders even allow you to pay the remaining balance at the end of your lease to take ownership of the equipment. Leasing may be a good option if you plan to upgrade equipment frequently. However, this could be the more expensive option over the long term.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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If you need equipment financing, Lendio has options. This isn’t a direct lender. Rather, it is a loan aggregator that connects you with its network of over 75 lenders. What’s great about Lendio is that you can compare offers from multiple lenders with just one application.

Lendio offers $5,000 to $5 million for the purchase of equipment. Terms are between 1 to 5 years with rates starting at 7.5%.

To qualify for equipment financing through Lendio’s network, you must have the following:

  • A time in business of at least 12 months
  • A credit score of 650 or above
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue

Credit scores below 650 may be accepted with proof of solid cash flow and revenue from the last 3 to 6 months.

Through Lendio, you can also apply for other types of financing including Small Business Administration loans, business credit cards, short-term loans, and lines of credit. Check out our Lendio review to learn more.

Inventory Purchasing

One of the few ongoing expenses you’ll have in your vending machine business is inventory. It’s your responsibility to keep your machines well-stocked at all times, so you’ll need to have inventory on-hand to keep your machines full.
Sometimes, incoming cash flow has slowed or you may need more inventory than usual due to an increase in sales. It’s not uncommon to fall a little short financially from time to time, but when this occurs, you can be prepared with a business credit card or a line of credit.

Business Credit Card

A business credit card works just like a personal credit card. The issuer of the card sets a limit. You can make multiple purchases up to and including the credit limit online, at retail stores or with vendors that accept credit cards. Each month, you’ll make a payment that is applied toward your balance plus the interest charged by the lender. As you pay down your balance, funds will become available for you to use again.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

If you want to go with a business credit card, Chase Ink Unlimited is available for borrowers with excellent credit.
The Chase Ink Unlimited card comes with a 0% introductory APR for 12 months. After the introductory period, the card has a variable interest rate of 15.24% to 21.24%. This card does not have an annual fee.

As a new Chase Ink Unlimited cardholder, you’ll receive $500 cash back if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account. But the rewards don’t stop there. You’ll receive unlimited 1.5% cash back for every business purchase.

To qualify, the recommended credit score is 740 to 850. Learn more by reading our Chase Ink Unlimited review.

Business Line Of Credit

A business line of credit is very similar to a credit card and can be a great option for purchasing inventory. A lender will set a credit limit based on your creditworthiness or the performance of your business. Instead of using a card, however, you’ll initiate draws from your line of credit. Funds will then be transferred to your business bank account, usually within 1 to 3 business days. Lenders charge fees and/or interest on the portion of funds you’ve borrowed. As you pay down your outstanding balance, funds become available to withdraw again.

Both credit cards and lines of credit provide you with on-demand funding, ideal for those times when you need to purchase inventory but come up a little short financially.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Through Fundbox, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000 to cover inventory and other business expenses.
Fundbox offers pricing that’s easy to understand. With each draw, you’ll pay a one-time fee. Fees start at just 4.66% of the amount drawn. If you repay early, all remaining fees are waived. Payments are made weekly and are spread out over 12 or 24 weeks.

Fundbox looks beyond your personal credit score during its approval process. The lender evaluates the performance of your business to determine whether you qualify for a line of credit.

Requirements to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit are minimal. You only need:

  • A business based in the United States
  • A business checking account
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • 2 months of activity in supported accounting software OR 3 months of business bank statements

To learn more and determine if this product is right for your business, check out our Fundbox review.

Final Thoughts

Starting your own vending machine business can be a very lucrative venture with the right strategy in place. This includes calculating the cost of owning and operating your business, doing your research, and getting the right financing.

Understand the potential expenses you’ll encounter, read up on your local laws, then check out our Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Loans to explore more financing options available to you.

The post Starting And Financing A Vending Machine Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Why Square Is A Great Free POS For Markets And Grocery Stores

As a small business owner who is launching a new shop or exploring your payment processing options, finding the right POS to accept payments is not a decision to be made lightly. You probably already know that the grocery industry has its own unique rewards and challenges. Keeping up with supply and demand, getting your name out there, competing with the bigger brands, and strengthening your own brand recognition takes time, energy, and a lot of know-how. Fortunately, Square offers a fantastic POS option for markets and grocery stores that goes way beyond just the swipe.

Read on to find out how Square payment processing tools can benefit your business whether you are opening a pop-up shop, have a brick-and-mortar store, or take your culinary delights on the go to farmer’s markets and trade shows.

Square’s Free Point-Of-Sale Reader & App

Square is best known for the free Square Point of Sale app and the free Square Reader. Square’s iconic white reader plugs into a smartphone or tablet to make mobile payments possible. The Square Point of Sale app allows you to “swipe, dip, or tap payments” whether or not you have an internet signal. If you run into a spotty WiFi connection or have a service interruption, you don’t have to worry about a line bottleneck because the app can securely save data offline.

For the smaller to mid-size shop, the Square Point of Sale app has everything you will need and then some. We dive into all of these features below, so keep reading for a closer look at how Square gives you better control over more parts of your business, from inventory management to sales, employees, and even more.

We’ll also take a look at how Square can also help you completely run or supplement your marketing campaigns with an all-in-one solution that can integrate a loyalty program and private customer feedback. Most of these perks (except for the loyalty program option) are all “in-the-box” features that you won’t pay anything more to use with your free POS Square reader.  Let’s dig in!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Track Inventory

One thing will never change — people love to eat. However, keeping your supply up-to-date can be a challenge when it comes to balancing the ebb and flow of demand. Your customers come in for a specific product or ingredient; making sure it’s always there for them builds loyalty and trust. Managing inventory can be tricky if you don’t have the right tools.

Thankfully, Square builds inventory management right into their product, so you don’t ever have to think twice about shopping around for a suite of tools. It’s easy to set up your inventory — you can bulk import all of your products with a CSV spreadsheet and make any adjustments to name, prices, or quantities as needed. Once your inventory is saved, you can also set low-stock alerts so that Square will let you know if you’re running low on a product. The best part is that you can determine what constitutes “low stock,” whether that’s six of an item, or 100! You’ll also always be able to take a peek in real time at what — and how much — of your products are selling.

Square’s inventory also supports variants and modifiers. Variants are helpful if you carry a product that comes in different flavors or sizes — you can keep the item listing centralized, but still track quantities of each flavor or size and see which ones are most popular. You can even set different pricing for each variant, as appropriate. Modifiers are more applicable to restaurants and cafes, but if you run a small boutique store and want to upsell customers on special bundles or extra discounted products, you could add them as modifiers.

Square’s inventory system allows you to upload photos for each product, and on a tablet you can configure the layout of products. However, if you don’t like browsing for the right item, you can also attach a barcode scanner. While the free Point of Sale App doesn’t have native label printing, you can find several viable workarounds.

Also, if you sell products in bulk, it’s important to know that Square doesn’t currently support tracking partial increments of a product, or selling by weight. Again, you can find workarounds for this, one of them being the variable price point feature. With the variable price point, you can create an item and track sales, but the POS app will prompt you to enter an amount for the sale when you select the item.

Finally, if you have more than one shop, you can take advantage of the free multi-location inventory management tools. Square allows you to set up individual preferences for each location, including taxes. You can build your inventory from Square’s centralized item catalog and adjust pricing and availability as appropriate. Plus, you can run reports to see sales by location, POS device, or even by individual employee (you’ll need an Employee Management subscription for that last report.) 

The best part is that you can control all of this — every location, all of your inventory, all of your devices — from your Square Dashboard, which is a free web portal. Below we also cover a little bit more about the dashboard — including how it helps you keep track of employee sales, tips, peak sales times, and more.

Square Dashboard

The Square dashboard gives you an integrated look at many aspects of your store — and these reporting and analytics features are all free. You can view your stats in real time and see what is going on in your store — or stores — simply by visiting the Sales tab in the dashboard. Whether you want to dig into the data or you just want a quick visual representation of sales, you can find what you need, fast. You can access reports, view all types of transactions, and keep track of deposits all by quickly scanning the three tabs at the top of your dashboard.

The reports tab breaks all of your data down into simple graphs and data to view aspects of your shop, including:

  • Sales Summary: Your sales summary report is updated in real time and can be viewed by day, month, or year.
  • Sales Trends: See your sales performance in daily, weekly, or yearly views.
  • Payments Methods: This report displays how your customers pay and any fees associated with the transaction.
  • Item Sales: Allows you to find out how well any individual product is selling.
  • Category Sales: Get a quick pie-chart view of which categories are bringing in the most sales such as appetizers, side dishes, or drinks, for example.
  • Employee Sales: This report breaks down tips, hours worked, and when an employee’s sales peaked for the day. (Note: You need to subscribe to Square’s Employee Management to access these features)
  • Discounts: Running a promotion? This report tells you how often your customers use a discount, coupon, or another offer when they buy. (More about loyalty programs through Square later in the post.)
  • Taxes: This report breaks all of your tax information down by the type, amount, and records any non-taxable sales in one spot.

Square also allows you to create your own custom reports, so if you want to see certain pieces of information together, you can tell Square to compile that report for you, and even how often to send it.

Don’t forget that the Dashboard is also the centralized management hub for all of your other Square services, including invoicing, employee management or payroll, and any other tools you might be using.

Built-In Marketing Engagement

One of the interesting aspects of Square’s platform is its customer engagement tools, the foundation of which is the customer directory. With Square POS, you can keep a record of all your customers, with their name, phone number, email, purchase history, and even card details, if you prefer (and your customers agree to store the card on file). You don’t need to have Square’s loyalty program to activate this feature, and it comes at no charge. It’s a great way to keep notes on regular customers and their preferences, to see who your most loyal customers are and who spends the most money in your store. 

If you’d like to build marketing campaigns to reach out to your regulars, your new customers, or even lapsed customers, Square has the tools built right in, plus all of the data right at your fingertips. Square’s marketing services start at $15/month, which is a pretty reasonable price. The price will scale with your use of the marketing services.

With the marketing tools, you can segment your customer list and target people automatically with offers to get them in the door. So whether you are welcoming a new customer or re-engaging a customer you haven’t seen in a while with a with a special discount, Square lets you tailor your marketing message to people at different spots in the buying journey.

The email tools are simple — you don’t have to understand how to set up multiple campaigns because Square streamlines the creation process for you through prompts. They give you a lot of template designs to choose from and even have some holiday and special occasion suggestions. You can send out a one-time email for a birthday or set up recurring email campaigns that encourage more interaction and more opportunities to buy from you — it all depends on how you want to run your business. 

Finally, when it’s time to review the success of your email campaigns, Square reports show you how many opens and clicks you get, as well as how many people redeem your offer.

Receive & Manage Feedback Privately

The Feedback feature can be helpful if you want a way to take charge of the customer experience and try to eliminate the troubles they encounter. It allows you to personally engage your customers — while keeping everything private. When you enable feedback management, customers who receive digital receipts also receive an invite to provide private feedback about their experience.

You can then resolve any issues between just you and your customer and hopefully make them happier and engaged. The idea behind this is that it is much easier to respond to private feedback than having to keep track of and respond to negative public feedback. Most customers appreciate being acknowledged whether the experience was good or bad, and if you do have an unhappy customer, you can make it right with a full/partial refund or a coupon for a discount on their next purchase. You can check the customer database to see what their purchase history is like and make a determination of the best offer to send. 

Best of all, the feedback management feature is totally free to use!

Square Loyalty Program

Square encourages customer engagement and sales in yet another way — a loyalty program. The pricing structure of Square’s loyalty program is based on the number of loyalty visits, starting at $25/month. Costs automatically adjust with the participation of your customers, and you can always track the success of any program at your dashboard to see if you’re getting your money’s worth.

Square’s loyalty program is very flexible and allows you to tailor rewards to your business and your branding. You can opt for something as simple as a digital punch card, where customers earn a reward after so many purchases, or you can structure a more advanced reward system that allows your customers to collect points and cash in their rewards when they want. You can even let them choose from multiple tiers — they could opt for two lower-tier rewards, or spend all their points on a single higher-tiered reward. 

However you choose to structure your rewards program, you can track the performance on your dashboard. You can see how many customers enroll, how often customers redeem rewards, and how many subsequent repeat visits you’re getting. 

According to Square, customers who join their loyalty programs spend 37% more after they join it. Across the board, loyalty programs continue to work for businesses of every size to encourage repeat business, and we think that it’s definitely worth giving it a try for a while and seeing if it works for your business.

Fully PCI Compliant & Secure

When dealing with credit card processing companies, one of the biggest questions most business owners have has to do with safety and security. You want to know that your data is secure and your customer’s payment information isn’t going to be compromised, because when it all boils down, the burden is on you to make sure that you are PCI compliant. “PCI” is shorthand for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (also sometimes called PCI DSS). No matter how big or small your business is, if you accept credit cards, you have to follow the best practices of the industry when it comes to security — and you can face penalties if you don’t.

To remain secure and compliant for each credit card you take, you have to follow the security guidelines when you swipe, key in, store, or transmit their card data. For starters, data must be encrypted properly at each stage of processing and storage, and each year the standards change.

The whole security and compliance issue can be expensive for the smaller to midsize business, and for some, the issue is intimidating enough that they avoid credit card payments altogether.

The great news is that when Square offers you their product or service, they are taking the burden of PCI compliance on themselves when it comes to their hardware and app. Square is an industry leader in security and compliance. Their team participates on the PCI board itself and has an inside view into the ever-changing world of data security. What that means for you is that when you use Square, you don’t have to jump through any other security hoops — Square maintains PCI compliance and does the work for you. You won’t even need to pay any PCI compliance fees. 

Cost Per Swipe & Getting Started With Square

Getting started with the Square POS app and the reader you will use to swipe your customer’s cards is entirely free. Square continues to remain a favorite among small business owners because they don’t charge sign-on or monthly fees for their free POS reader or app — and they don’t make you sign contracts and punish you with charges if you decide it’s not for you.

If you bring your own smartphone or tablet and combine it with one of Square’s mobile card readers, you’ll pay 2.75% for each swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction. If you opt for one of Square’s all-in-one hardware systems, such as Square Terminal or Square Register, you’ll pay slightly different rates. With Square Terminal, swiped, dipped, or tapped transactions process at 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction.  If you want to know more about all of Square’s different card readers and hardware, check out A Guide to Square’s Credit Card Readers and POS Bundles.

Considering that these are pretty low rates to begin with, and there are so many additional built-in features like dashboard analytics, invoicing, the customer database, and inventory management, we think that is a pretty sweet deal for any grocery store looking to expand.

If you are curious and want to dig even deeper, check out our Square review or visit the Square Point of Sale page and sign up for free to see how it all works for yourself!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

The post Why Square Is A Great Free POS For Markets And Grocery Stores appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Where To Find Fast $5,000 Loans For Your Business

When most people hear the term “business loan,” they immediately think about the large amounts of capital used to purchase real estate, buy bulk inventory, or hire a new team of employees. But even though business loans can be used to cover big expenses, sometimes all you need a small loan to assist with day-to-day cash flow, deal with an unexpected emergency, cover payroll for a few weeks, or help you get through a seasonal slow-down.

If you need $5,000 fast, a small business loan can help you clear your financial hurdles. The good news is that with a loan this small, you have your pick of online lenders that can get you funded as soon as the next business day. Paperwork requirements are also minimal for these smaller loans. With some lenders, a little basic information and a few bank statements are all you need to get approved.

However, not all online lenders issue $5,000 loans. Some lenders have much higher minimum borrowing amounts. Instead of spending hours weeding through search engine results, kick off the loan process with one of our picks. The following lenders offer loans, lines of credit, and other financial products that can help you get the $5,000 you need fast.

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

1. LoanBuilder

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If you want to “build” a loan that’s customized to your business, consider applying with PayPal’s LoanBuilder. Thanks to the LoanBuilder Configurator, you can get a quick overview of your financing options and pick the borrowing amount, terms, and payments that work best for your business.

LoanBuilder small business loans are available in amounts from $5,000 to $500,000 and have a single fixed-fee structure, with fees starting at 2.9%. Weekly payments are made over 13 to 52 weeks depending on the amount borrowed. In some cases, you can receive your funding as quickly as the next business day.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 9 months, have at least $42,000 in annual revenue, and operate in an eligible industry.

2. Accion

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Accion specializes in term loans in amounts from $300 to $1 million. Term lengths vary based on the loan products you are qualified to receive. Typical APRs are between 7% and 34%. An origination fee of 3% to 5% is required.

To qualify, you must have a credit score of at least 575. Depending on the state you’re in, credit score requirements may be as low as 550. There are no time in business requirements, but you must have sufficient cash flow to repay your loan. You must also be no more than 30 days overdue on any bill, have no bankruptcies within the last year, no late rent or mortgage payments within the last year, and no foreclosures within the last 2 years.

If your business is a startup, you must have less than $500 in debt that is past due, have a referral, and provide a business plan with future cash flow projections.

3. Credibly

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Credibly offers three business financing options: working capital loans, business expansion loans, and merchant cash advances (MCAs). With Credibly’s working capital loans, you can receive up to $250,000 that is repaid over 6 to 17 months. Instead of interest rates, Credibly uses factor rates that start at 1.15. Learn more about factor rates and how they affect the cost of borrowing. Payments on working capital loans are automatically deducted daily or weekly.

Requirements for Credibly’s working capital loans are at least 6 months in business, a credit score of at least 500, and at least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits.

If you need money to grow your business, consider Credibly’s business expansion loans. These loans are available in amounts up to $250,000 with term lengths of 18 or 24 months. Interest rates are as low as 9.99% and payments are made weekly.

Qualifying for a business expansion loan is a bit more difficult. To receive this product, you must have a time in business of at least 3 years and a personal credit score of at least 600. You must also have an average of $15,000 in monthly deposits to your bank, as well as an average daily balance of at least $3,000.

If you don’t qualify for Credibly’s working capital or business expansion loans, a merchant cash advance may help you get the extra capital you need for your business. You can receive up to $150,000 through the purchase of your future receivables. This means that Credibly will deduct a percentage of your sales daily from your credit card processor or bank account until the cash advance plus fees are paid off. With an MCA, repayment terms are set at 3 to 14 months and factor rates start at 1.15.

To qualify, you must have at least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits. Your business must be in operations for at least 6 months, and you must have a personal credit score of at least 500.

4. QuarterSpot

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Through QuarterSpot, you can receive small business loans up to $250,000. Repayment terms are 9, 12, or 18 months. With interest and fees, you may pay as little as 12.5 cents on the dollar to receive your loan. You can also save on interest and fees when you pay off your loan early.

To qualify for a QuarterSpot loan, you must meet several requirements. First, you must be in business for at least 1 year. You must also have a credit score of 550. Your business must make at least 10 sales per month and bring in monthly revenues of $16,000. Your average daily balance must be $2,000 to receive a QuarterSpot loan.

5. Fora Financial

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Like other lenders on our list, Fora Financial offers more than one way to get extra capital for your business. First, this lender offers small business loans from $5,000 to $500,000 with terms up to 15 months.

Fora Financial also offers MCAs for qualified borrowers. There are no set terms, and payments are remitted based on the revenue of your business. You can borrow between $5,000 and $500,000 with this product.

Fora Financial’s small business loans and MCAs both have factor rates between 1.1 and 1.3 and origination fees between 1% and 4%.

To qualify for a small business loan, you must have no open bankruptcies, a time in business of at least 6 months, and at least $12,000 in gross sales.

To qualify for Fora Financial’s MCAs, you must have no open bankruptcies, a time in business of at least 6 months, and at least $5,000 in credit card sales.

6. IOU Financial

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IOU Financial’s core small business loan allows you to receive anywhere from $5,000 up to $150,000 for any business expense. With this loan, you’ll have repayment terms of 6, 9, or 12 months. Repayments are fixed and are made on a daily schedule. For larger capital needs, IOU Financial also offers loans of $70,000 to $300,000 with repayment terms up to 18 months.

To receive an IOU Financial loan, you must own at least 80% of your business. If you co-own your business with your spouse, you must own 50% of the business. You must have a time in business of at least 1 year, at least 10 deposits per month in your business bank account, annual revenue of at least $100,000, and an average ending balance of $3,000 in your business bank account.

7. BlueVine

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If a flexible line of credit would better fit your business needs, BlueVine has an option for you. Through this lender, you can receive a line of credit of $5,000 up to $250,000 with rates starting at 4.8%. There are no prepayment penalties or monthly maintenance fees.

With your line of credit, you can make multiple draws up to your total credit limit. You only pay fees on the borrowed amount, and your account will be replenished as you repay. Payments are made weekly or monthly over a period of 6 to 12 months.

To qualify for a BlueVine line of credit, you must have a personal credit score of at least 600, $100,000 in annual revenue, and a time in business of at least 6 months.

If unpaid invoices are affecting your incoming cash flow, consider applying for BlueVine’s invoice factoring service. You can receive a factoring line up to $5 million with rates starting at 0.25% per week.

To qualify, you must have unpaid invoices, a credit score of 530, and $100,000 in annual revenue. You must also have a B2B business that has been in operations for at least 3 months.

8. Kabbage

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Another option for flexible lines of credit is Kabbage, which offers up to $250,000 to qualified small business owners. With Kabbage, you can make draws (up to your credit limit) as needed to use as working capital for your business. You only pay for what you’ve used, and fees range from 1.5% to 10%. With Kabbage, you can select from 6-month and 12-month terms based on the amount you withdraw.

Kabbage looks at the performance of your business to determine if you qualify. There are no minimum personal credit score requirements. To qualify, however, you must be in business for at least a year and have at least $50,000 in annual revenue. (If you fail to meet this revenue requirement, you can still qualify if you’ve had $4,200 in revenue per month for the last three months.)

The application process with Kabbage is easy and requires you to provide some basic information about yourself and your business. You will also link your business accounts to get the maximum line of credit based on your business performance.

You can also use the Kabbage card. This works just like a credit card and can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. With this card, you can make instant purchases, and Kabbage will create a new loan with the same rates and terms as its traditional draws.

9. Fundbox

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Through Fundbox, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000 based on the performance of your business. Payments are spread out over a 12- or 24-week schedule and include Fundbox’s flat fee. Fees start at just 4.66%.

To be approved for a Fundbox line of credit, you must have a business checking account, at least $50,000 in annual revenue, and a business based in the United States. You must also provide business bank account statements from the last 3 months.

In addition to its lines of credit, Fundbox also offers invoice financing to qualified businesses. You can receive up to $100,000 with your unpaid invoices with fees starting at 4.66%. You must have qualifying invoices to receive this product, and you also must link your accounting software with activity from the last 2 months.

10. OnDeck

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With OnDeck, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000 to use for any business purpose. APRs start at 13.99% for the most qualified borrowers, and payments are automatically deducted each week. There’s a $20 monthly maintenance fee, but this fee is waived if you draw at least $5,000 within 5 days of opening your account.

To qualify for an OnDeck line of credit, you must be in business for at least 1 year, have at least $100,000 in annual revenue, and a personal credit score of 600.

If you don’t meet the requirements for a line of credit, or you’re interested in another option, OnDeck also has fixed term business loans. You can receive up to $500,000 with annual interest rates starting at 9.99%. OnDeck has two different options for its loans: short-term loans with terms up to 12 months and long-term loans with terms up to 36 months. Repayments are made daily or weekly.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 1 year and have $100,000 in annual revenue. Your credit score must be at least 500 to qualify for OnDeck’s term loans.

11. Kiva US

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If you want to bypass traditional and alternative lenders and avoid high interest rates, give Kiva US a try. This crowdfunding platform allows you to borrow up to $10,000 at a 0% interest rate.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, getting funded through Kiva US isn’t quite as easy as other loan options. But with a little extra work, you can receive an affordable loan for your business. Here’s how it works.

First, you fill out the application on the Kiva US website, just as you would any other loan application. Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll prove that you’re creditworthy by getting your friends and family members to loan money to you through the platform over the next 15 days. Once you’ve passed this stage, you’ll be able to use the public Kiva platform to reach over 1.6 million people worldwide to raise your funds over the next 30 days. Once you’ve reached your goal, you’ll receive your money and up to 36 months to repay your loan.

To qualify, you must live in the United States and be at least 18 years old. You must also use your loan for business purposes. There are no time in business, personal credit score, or annual revenue requirements to qualify.

How Fast Can I Get A Business Loan?

The time it takes to receive your business loan varies by lender. For small loans of just $5,000, you could be approved in just minutes and receive your funds as quickly as the next business day. For lines of credit through lenders such as Kabbage and Fundbox, you can make draws immediately after being approved, with funds typically reaching your business bank account within 1 to 3 days.

The key to getting your business loan as quickly as possible is to make sure that you provide accurate information and upload all requested documentation. In some cases, your lender may require additional information or documentation to approve your loan. Make yourself available to answer any questions from the lender and provide the required documentation needed to approve and fund your loan.

What To Do If You Have Bad Credit

If you have bad credit, there are business loan options open to you. Some of the lenders previously mentioned, such as Kabbage and Fundbox, do not have minimum credit score requirements and consider the performance of the business when approving loans. Therefore, if you have steady revenue, you may still qualify for funding.

Business credit cards often have less stringent requirements, so these may be an option if you have a low credit score. Depending on your score, you may be able to qualify for an unsecured card. However, if your credit score is very low or you haven’t yet established credit, you may qualify for a secured card which is backed by a cash deposit. As you make on-time payments, you’ll build your credit score and qualify for unsecured cards and other financial products in the future.

Crowdfunding has also grown in popularity among small business owners. Sites such as Kiva US allow business owners to raise the capital they need without paying high interest rates. Crowdfunding is also a great resource for new businesses and startups that don’t meet time in business or annual revenue requirements of other lenders.

If you have bad credit, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit roadblocks on the path to funding. Not only will your options be more limited, but you’ll miss out on low-interest, long-term loans. To qualify for the best funding opportunities, you must have a solid credit score. Go online to pull your free score, review your credit report, and take steps to build your credit. Pay off all debt obligations as agreed, keep your credit utilization down, and dispute erroneous items on your credit report. Though this method takes time, boosting your credit score opens the door for more affordable loans and financial products in the future. Learn more about how you can raise your personal credit score.

Final Thoughts

Finding a $5,000 loan for your business shouldn’t be too difficult. However, you should go into the process knowing that smaller loans come with shorter repayment terms and may also be accompanied by high fees and interest rates.

Calculate the affordability of the loan to ensure that taking out a loan is a smart financial move. If you’re new to applying for small business loans, educate yourself before you start submitting applications to lenders. Finally, be sure to shop around to ensure you get the most affordable financing products that work best for your business.

The post Where To Find Fast $5,000 Loans For Your Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How Does Customer Financing With Square Installments Work?

Square is best known by online sellers and brick-and-mortar shops for its secure credit card processing solutions. With a free mobile point of sale app — and free credit card reader–, Square has made it easier for the everyday small business owner to start taking credit cards. Card readers like Square’s also make it more convenient for shoppers to buy without carrying cash. That can be a win-win for everyone involved with the sale.

Because a business owner no longer has to purchase an expensive POS system to process credit card payments, it’s no wonder that the use of Square has rapidly grown over the last few years. In fact, a surprising number of businesses still did not accept credit cards at the time Square was launched. For a solo entrepreneur or a smaller shop, it used to be a lot more expensive and time-consuming to get started (not to mention more than a little intimidating, given PCI compliance and other regulations). Nowadays, you can find these portable credit card readers everywhere — from your favorite ice cream place to high-end boutiques, salons, and even consulting agencies. If you’re buying at a local shop, there is a good chance that Square is the company processing your payment.

In typical Square fashion, Square Installments provides a more accessible option for businesses that want to offer financing to their clients. If your company sells higher ticket items — from $250 to $10,000 — and you’d like to offer on-the-spot approval and financing to your customers, read on to find out more about Square Installments. But first — a little primer on customer financing.

What Is Customer Financing?

Before we dig too deep into Square Installments, let’s cover the basics of customer financing. By financing a purchase, customers can take home a product or use a service right away without paying for it in full at the time of purchase.

A common example of customer financing would be heading to the dealership and leaving with a new-to-you car — and a payment plan for the next three years to pay it off. Getting the newest version of your phone and rolling payments into your mobile phone bill is also another (more painless) way to finance an upgrade for your phone with less sticker shock.

Financing makes things a little easier on your customer, but it shouldn’t require you to wait for the cash. When you offer to finance through a third-party like Square Installments, you sell your product or service and permit payment to be settled directly between the lender (in this case Square Capital) and your customer. Square pays you in full at the time of purchase.

Financing customers is all about convenience and accessibility. For your customers, financing can make large ticket items easier to purchase with predictable monthly payments spread out over time. Instead of shelling out the entire lump sum, they have more time to pay. This makes for an easier sell for your salesperson and a more comfortable decision for your customer.

When a purchaser thinks about what they are buying in terms of monthly vs. the total amount of dollars, financing can significantly lower the “sticker shock.” Giving purchasing flexibility to your customers will make buying from you a more attractive and accessible option — and of course, that’s good for your business, too.

Companies that invoice monthly payments for ongoing services are also offering a financing option to their clients, in a way. Yet anyone who has a business model based on retainers or monthly agreements knows that sometimes when the bill comes due, it doesn’t always get paid — possibly because the person you invoiced has bad credit or is in financial trouble. These issues can be virtually nonexistent when you let Square Installments pre-screen and approve your clients — and take on the financial risk.

Read on to find out how Square Installments works and how much it costs so you can decide if Square Installments services are right for you.

How Does Square Installments Work?

There are two ways you can use Square Installments for your business: at the point of sale or via Square Invoices. Once you sign up for Square Installments, your business will get a custom URL. This web address is just for your business and is the link you’ll send to every customer who wants to apply for financing.

The Square Installments Process For In-Store Sales

Once you share the link with your customer, they’ll follow the instructions from their smartphone and fill out a short online application. In almost all scenarios, customer approval happens in real time, right when they’re ready to purchase at your shop.

If approved, they can accept one of the financing options on offer and will receive a one-time-use number for a digital card they use to pay you for their purchase. The number is valid for seven days, and your customer can only redeem it at your business.

When your customer is ready to buy, they’ll present you with the digital card number given to them by Square Installments; you will key that number directly into your Square Point of Sale app, online through Square API, or through your virtual terminal.

Square pays you in full for the amount at the time you process the approved application.

Square Invoices From Square Installments

Square Invoices allows you to send your customers invoices through Square as well. After you are approved and set up, the option for installment payments will appear on your invoice automatically. Once your customers receive your invoice, the process is similar to the one above — they fill out an online application, can pick a plan, and once approved, you get paid upfront and in full.

To spread the word, Square will also send you some free marketing material — both in print and in the form of a banner for your website so your customers won’t miss this new option for buying with you.

You Don’t Need To Be A Financing Expert

Worried about the fine print and fielding financing questions? Don’t be. If your customers have questions about Square Installments, they’ll contact Square directly. In fact, because this is considered a “highly regulated financial product,” it’s essential to pass any questions or concerns off to Square’s own customer service folks. And of course, this arrangement means you’re not burdened with the nitty-gritty details of financing or payment collection.

How Much Does Square Installments Cost?

If you’re a business owner considering whether or not the cost is worth the convenience of the service, here are some figures to help you crunch the math.

Square Installments for Square Invoices costs 2.9% of the purchase price plus $0.30 per transaction. Square Installments at your Point of Sale costs 3.5% of the purchase price plus $0.15 per transaction. If a custom rate applies to your business for keyed-in Square Invoices transactions, this rate also applies to any Square Installments transactions.

The good news is that there are no recurring monthly usage fees or long-term commitments. You can cancel the service any you time want with no fees or contracts for your business to worry about.

For a customer who is considering using Square Installments to pay for a purchase, the annual percentage rate will vary depending on a few different factors. However, every customer will have more three options when it comes to repaying the loan. Square makes things upfront and easy to understand for the borrower, with ease of use in mind.

Should You Use Square Installments?

Small Business Owner Using Square Customer Service

The main benefit of Square Installments is that customers can pay over time — making them more likely to buy and making your business more likely to sell more inventory. Whether to break up payments for a big purchase that a customer normally couldn’t afford, or simply to offer a convenient option other than cash or checks, financing through Square Installments can be a valuable tool for your sales team to leverage.

When the average business owner thinks about customer financing, one of the biggest concerns is that the customer gets possession of the product or service without paying in full. While that may be a concern if you offer in-store financing and manage it yourself, in this case, Square takes on the financial risk entirely. You get paid right away and let Square manage the installments.

There are some important things to keep in mind when you consider whether Square Installments services are right for your business, however. As noted above, Square Installments isn’t free. Also, keep in mind that Square Installments is only applicable for purchases between $250 and $10,000 — so businesses that deal with higher ticket products or services will need to consider other options for financing.

When you make the final decision to use Square Installments, consider the benefits vs. the costs. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Would your target market and current customers likely make the purchase anyway? (In other words: How “warm” or “cold” are the people who come to your online sales page or place of business?)
  • Does opening up financing options also open up the possibility of a new target customer or a larger final sale?
  • If you send out invoices, will Square Installments give you a more convenient or secure option to take secure payments and prescreen users, despite the cost?

For any business owner, the benefits and conveniences should outweigh the cost of Square Installments per sale. Because you don’t need to sign any long-term contracts to use Square Installments, it might be worth it to try the service for a bit, see what you think, and compare sales over the next few sales cycles to be sure either way.

Learn More About Square

While you consider whether or not you want to jump in and offer Square Installments as an option for your customers, check out some of the other reviews for Square services. Find out how much Square charges for their primary services and get armed with more information about Square processing to see if these payment options are right for your business. If you want to see the service for yourself, sign up for a free Square account today and check it out!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

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SBA Loans For Women: What You Need To Know

Being an entrepreneur is never easy. However, if you’re a female entrepreneur, you may face even more challenges when owning and operating your own business. After all, until the passage of H.R. 5050: Women’s Business Ownership Act in 1988, women in many states couldn’t even receive a business loan without having a male cosigner. Thanks to this legislation, more resources are available for women business owners. Unfortunately, though, women still face challenges when applying for business loans and financing.

If you’re a female business owner or you’re ready to start your own business, don’t lose hope. There are resources available to fund the launch or expansion of your business. One of the best resources? The Small Business Administration.

The Small Business Administration — or SBA — provides a variety of resources, including affordable loan programs, to female entrepreneurs. Ready to learn more? Read on to find out more about the SBA, growing your business with SBA loans, and additional resources available for women-owned businesses.

What Is The SBA?

The SBA was founded in 1953 to provide assistance to small business owners. The SBA provides various resources to help small business owners become successful entrepreneurs. This includes in-person and online counseling, low-cost training, and advocacy for small businesses. One of the SBA’s most significant resources is its low-interest loan programs.

Securing a traditional loan from a bank or credit union can be tough for any business owner. These financial institutions view small businesses as a risk, even when the business has established a track record of success. Because traditional lenders tend to avoid risky borrowers, many business owners have the door shut in their face.

At this point, there are a few options to consider. Alternative lenders have fewer requirements but much higher rates and less favorable terms. Low borrowing limits through these lenders may also prove to be a problem.

Instead of simply accepting a loan with less-than-desirable terms, many business owners look to the SBA to receive loans with competitive rates and terms, even when they’ve been turned down for other loans.

Overview Of SBA Loan Programs

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

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Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

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CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

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Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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How The SBA Helps Women-Owned Businesses

The SBA’s Office of Women Business Ownership was created to enable and empower female entrepreneurs. Training and counseling are available to all women through Women’s Business Centers, with over 100 educational centers open nationwide.

The Office of Women’s Business Ownership collaborates with other organizations to provide additional resources to women entrepreneurs. We’ll explore some of these resources a little later in this post.

The SBA also provides federal contracting opportunities for women through the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program. Through this program, certified women-owned businesses can compete for federal contracts.

The SBA does not discriminate when it comes to funding and resources. Women-owned businesses can take advantage of everything that the SBA has to offer. Female entrepreneurs can apply for all SBA loans provided they have a “small business” as defined by the SBA and meet all other requirements. These loans open up funding opportunities for women to launch or grow their small businesses.

One important thing to note here is that the SBA is not a lender. Instead, this organization has created guidelines that keep interest rates low and repayment terms flexible. Money is loaned through lenders known as intermediaries. An intermediary can be a bank, credit union, nonprofit organization, or another lender. The SBA takes the risk off of lenders by guaranteeing large percentages of most loans. This makes it easier for lenders to loan to small businesses, which can then take advantage of these affordable financing opportunities when other options aren’t available.

How To Qualify For An SBA Loan

One of the most valuable resources available through the SBA is access to low-cost loans. Female entrepreneurs that don’t qualify for traditional loans can receive competitive rates and terms through SBA programs.

Starting or expanding your small business takes capital … and sometimes, lots of it. Purchasing or leasing a commercial building, buying equipment, and even having working capital for daily expenses can be a financial burden that most entrepreneurs can’t handle alone. This is when an SBA loan can really be beneficial.

Women can apply for any SBA loan product, provided they meet the requirements. The first requirement is that the business must meet the SBA’s size standards for a small business. The SBA limits the number of employees, annual revenues, and net worth of the business.

To receive an SBA loan, your business must be based in the United States. Most loans are only available to for-profit businesses, although SBA Microloans are also open to nonprofit childcare centers. Businesses in certain industries are also ineligible to receive SBA loans. These industries include, but are not limited to:

  • Multi-Level Marketing Schemes
  • Real Estate Investment Firms
  • Religious Institutions
  • Lending Firms
  • Businesses In Illegal Industries
  • Government-Owned Businesses
  • Gambling Businesses

When applying for SBA loans, your personal credit score will be a factor for approval. Though credit requirements vary by lender, most SBA intermediaries require a solid credit score at least in the mid-600s. Of course, the higher your score, the higher your chances are to receive a loan. Your credit report must also be free of:

  • Recent Bankruptcies
  • Tax Liens
  • Defaults On Government Loans

Other negative items on your credit report will need to be explained to your lender, and depending on the severity, may disqualify you from receiving a loan.

You must also show sufficient revenue to cover your monthly loan payment. Your lender will evaluate your revenue and your current debts during the underwriting process to determine if you can afford the new loan.

Depending on the loan you apply for and the total borrowing amount, you may also be required to pay a down payment and/or put up collateral to secure the loan. You may also be required to pay fees to receive your loan including but not limited to:

  • Guarantee Fees
  • Origination Fees
  • Packaging Fees
  • Loan Service Fees
  • Closing Costs

To qualify for an SBA loan, you must have invested your own time and money into your business. You also must have exhausted all other financing options before applying.

Can I Get An SBA Loan If I Have Bad Credit?

To qualify for an SBA loan, a solid credit score is required. Credit score requirements are not set by the SBA, but this doesn’t mean that your score isn’t important. Your personal credit score is, in fact, an important factor considered by intermediary lenders.

Most lenders want to see a credit score of at least 620, while scores over 700 are preferred. If your credit score falls below 620 or your credit report has negative items such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, or collections, the chances of receiving an SBA loan are slim to none.

If your credit prevents you from receiving an SBA loan, there are a few options. The first is to work on your credit, build your score, and apply when you meet all requirements. Start by receiving your free credit score online, reviewing your credit report, disputing any errors, and paying your current debt obligations as agreed. Although this can be a lengthy process, building your credit score will open up many affordable financing opportunities for you, including SBA loans.

If your financing need is more urgent, you can apply for loans and other financing for bad credit borrowers. Be aware, however, that these loans have less favorable terms, higher interest rates, and are more expensive than SBA loans.

Types Of SBA Loans For Women-Owned Businesses

Now that you have a general understanding of SBA loans, which loans are best for women-owned businesses? While all SBA loans are available to female entrepreneurs, three loans stand out the most: SBA 7(a) loans, Microloans, and CDC/504 loans. Let’s delve into the details of each type of loan to help you determine which is best for your business.

SBA 7(a) Loans

The SBA 7(a) loan is one of the most popular loan options for small business owners. Through the 7(a) program, borrowers are eligible to receive up to $5 million that be used for nearly any business purpose, including the purchase or expansion of an existing business, refinancing existing debt, or to pay startup costs.

Repayment terms are based on the borrower’s ability to repay and are up to 10 years for loans used as working capital or up to 25 years for loans used for commercial real estate. Interest rates are based on the amount borrowed and the repayment terms. The maximum interest rates for a 7(a) loan is the prime rate plus a markup between 2.25% and 4.75%. Check out the current rates for SBA loans.

SBA 7(a) Loan Base Rates + Markups

Loan Amount Less Than Seven Years More Than 7 Years

Up to $25,000

Base rate + 4.25%

Base rate + 4.75%

$25,000 – $50,000

Base rate + 3.25%

Base rate + 3.75%

$50,000 or More

Base rate + 2.25%

Base rate + 2.75%

SBA 7(a) loans of $25,000 or less do not require collateral. Loans of more than $25,000 up to $350,000 may require collateral based on the lender’s policies. All loans that exceed $350,000 must be secured with collateral. Fixed assets of the business are used to collateralize the loan, although trading assets and personal real estate may be used as collateral if needed. A guarantee fee must be paid by the borrower for 7(a) loans over $150,000.

Women-owned businesses may also qualify to receive the SBA’s Community Advantage loan. Through this program, business owners can receive up to $250,000. Loan proceeds can be used for nearly any business purpose, just like with the 7(a) loan. Repayment terms are the same as the 7(a) program, and the maximum interest rate is the prime rate plus 6%.

What makes this loan different from the traditional 7(a) loan? The Community Advantage program is designed for small businesses in underserved markets. Women-owned businesses, businesses located in low-to-moderate income areas, businesses in rural areas, and businesses that are less than 2 years old qualify for funding through this program.

SBA Microloans

If you have smaller capital needs, the SBA Microloan program may be the right financing solution for your business. Women-owned businesses can apply for up to $50,000 through this program. The average loan amount distributed through this program is $13,000. These loans are distributed through nonprofit lenders.

SBA Microloan proceeds can be used as working capital, to purchase equipment or fixtures, or to cover improvements. Microloans can’t be used to repay existing debt.

Maximum repayment terms are set at 6 years. The interest rate is based on the lender’s cost of funds. The lender can add a maximum of 8.5% to its cost of funds when distributing loans. There is no guarantee fee required with these loans. Collateral and/or a personal guarantee may be required by the lender as a condition of receiving the loan.

SBA Microloan Rates & Terms

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

  • No down payment for most businesses
  • Possible 20% down payment for startups
  • Possible 10% down payment for business acquisition loan

SBA CDC / 504 Loans

If you need to purchase commercial real estate or update your existing facilities, consider applying for an SBA CDC/504 loan. This program is a little bit different from other SBA programs because you work with two different lenders.

Proceeds from an SBA CDC/504 loan can be used to purchase buildings, land, or long-term equipment, to improve land or update facilities, to pay costs for new construction, or to refinance debt connected to purchasing or updating facilities or equipment.

This is how the SBA CDC/504 program works: a Certified Development Company that is licensed through the SBA provides 40% of your project costs up to $5 million. A private lender provides 50% of the project costs. You are responsible for paying the remaining 10%. If you’re a new business or purchase a special-use property, you may have to pay up to 10% more.

Your CDC loan comes with repayment terms of 10 or 20 years. Interest rates for the portion of the project funded by the CDC are based on the 5-year and 10-year U.S. Treasury issues. Interest rates and repayment terms funded by the private lender vary.

SBA 504 Loan Rates & Terms

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

No maximum, but the SBA will only fund up to $5 million

Term Lengths

10 or 20 years

Interest Rates

Fixed rate based on US Treasury rates

Borrowing Fees

  • CDC servicing fee, CSA fee, guarantee fee, third party fees (however, most of these fees are rolled into the interest rate or cost of the loan)
  • Possible prepayment penalty

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral required; usually the real estate/equipment financed

Down Payment

10% – 30%

For these loans, additional collateral is not typically required. The assets being purchased act as the collateral. All owners of 20% or more of the business are required to sign personal guarantees to receive this loan.

How To Apply For An SBA Loan

If your business needs financing and you meet the requirements of the SBA, you can apply for an SBA loan. The steps that you take next are determined by the type of loan you select.

To apply for an SBA 7(a) loan, the first step is to find an intermediary lender. You can do this through the SBA’s Lender Match service, which connects you with a lender in your area. You can also get referrals through your existing financial institution.

If you’re applying for an SBA Microloan, you’ll need to find a nonprofit lender in your area. If you’re applying for an SBA CDC/504 loan, you will need to find a CDC that is licensed with the SBA, as well as a private lender that will loan money to cover 50% of your project costs.

Once you’ve found a lender, you’ll fill out an application for the loan of your choosing. In addition to providing details about your business, you may also be required to provide a breakdown of ownership, a summary of how loan proceeds will be used, and details surrounding how you plan to pay back your loan.

Documentation will also be submitted with your application. This documentation will be used to determine if your business qualifies for funding. While requirements may vary by lender, expect to present the following items:

  • Business & Personal Credit Scores/Reports
  • Business Licenses
  • Articles Of Incorporation
  • Business & Personal Income Tax Returns
  • Cash Flow Statement
  • Balance Sheet
  • Profit & Loss Statement
  • Business Plan
  • Financial Projections

Depending on the loan product you select, additional documentation may be required. For example, a letter of intent from a private lender is needed when applying for an SBA CDC/504 loan.

As you move through the application process, be prepared to provide information on the collateral being used to secure the loan (if required) and all owners should be ready to sign a personal guarantee.

Once all documentation and information are gathered, the lender will evaluate your application, taking into consideration factors including credit score, credit history, time in business, and your ability to repay the loan. Don’t be surprised if the lender has questions or requests more information throughout the process. Make sure that your contact information is up to date and you make yourself available to keep the process moving forward.

The underwriters may take several weeks to review your full loan application. With banks and traditional lenders, you may wait 2 to 3 months (or longer) from the application stage to funding. Some lenders offer expedited services to help you get the money you need fast, so if time is an issue, shop around for intermediary lenders that offer fast approvals and funding, like SmartBiz or Lendio.

SmartBiz

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Through SmartBiz, you can apply to receive anything from $30,000 to $5 million to finance your small business. If you want to expand your business, refinance debt, hire employees, purchase inventory or equipment, launch a marketing campaign, or just have funds to use as working capital, consider applying for SmartBiz’s SBA 7(a) Working Capital and Debt Refinancing Loans.

Qualified borrowers can receive up to $350,000 through this program and can be funded in as quickly as 7 days. To qualify, you must have a minimum credit score of 650, a time in business of at least 2 years, and a credit history free of bankruptcies, foreclosures, charge-offs, and settlements. Your credit report should also be free of defaults on government-backed loans and tax liens.

You can also apply for up to $5 million for a 7(a) Commercial Real Estate Loan through SmartBiz. You must have a credit score of at least 675, a time in business of at least 2 years, and no delinquencies or defaults on government loans. The property being financed with loan proceeds should be at least 51% owner-occupied. You must also show proof of sufficient income to cover your loan payment.

Lendio

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Through Lendio, you can apply for the SBA 7(a) loan, the SBA 504 loan, and the SBA Express loan. Loans are available for $50,000 up to $5 million.

To qualify, you must meet all the requirements for receiving an SBA loan. Documentation can be uploaded securely to Lendio’s platform, and if you encounter any trouble along the way, you can work with your personal funding manager.

The average time for funding SBA loans through Lendio’s platform is 30 to 90 days.

Other Business Resources For Women

As mentioned earlier in this article, the SBA offers more than just loans for women-owned small businesses. One program offered through the SBA is the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program.

Through this program, women-owned businesses can bid on federal contracts with less competition. Only businesses that are certified WOSBs are eligible to compete for these contracts. To qualify, a business must be a small business as defined by the SBA, be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens that are female, and have women in charge of day-to-day operations and long-term decisions.

Women that operate economically disadvantaged businesses can bid on federal contracts with even less competition, provided they meet all requirements of the SBA.

Even though legislation has been leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs, the Center for Women’s Business Research found that almost half of women business owners don’t seek outside sources of funding for their business. The SBA believes that one reason women may not seek financing is that they don’t understand the process and may be unsure of who to ask for more information. The SBA has online resources, Women’s Business Centers, and local SBA offices that provide counseling, training, and loan information to women business owners.

There are plenty of other resources for female entrepreneurs outside of the SBA. The National Women’s Business Council offers nearly 200 resources through the Grow Her Business initiative, including accelerators and incubators, business competitions, conferences, crowdfunding, and alternative lender programs.

The National Association of Women Business Owners also provides resources to help empower women business owners. This organization offers training, education, and virtual networking to female entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs can also take advantage of many funding opportunities outside of SBA loans. Learn more about grants and small business loans available for women-owned businesses.

Final Thoughts

Women have come a long way in recent years, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. The great news is that there are plenty of resources available to female entrepreneurs — you simply need to know where to look. By taking advantage of resources like SBA small business loans, you’ll be able to start, build, or grow your business, taking it to new levels you never thought possible.

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Business Loans For Food Trucks: Best Financing Options

Food trucks are rolling out across cities and towns across the nation, bringing delicious dining options to businesses and events. These mobile businesses don’t just benefit hungry diners, though. Restaurants-on-wheels also open up new opportunities for entrepreneurs. With operating costs that are only a fraction of what it would be to open and maintain a traditional restaurant, food trucks are a more affordable way to bring your tasty food to the masses.

Even though your costs are cut, that doesn’t mean they’re nonexistent. You still have to consider the cost of supplies, equipment, POS software, and the truck itself. Whether you already own a food truck business and want to expand or you’re ready to launch your business, these expenses add up quickly … and if you’re like most business owners, you don’t have the funds just sitting in your checking account.

The good news is you don’t have to be a millionaire to start or expand your food truck business. There are plenty of financing options available for your business expenses, from purchasing a new food truck to upgrading equipment and hiring employees.

Ready to roll out your food truck business? Read on to learn more about the types of financing available to you, how to apply, and our recommended options.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Purchasing Or Renting A Food Truck Equipment Financing Lendio
Working Capital SBA Loan SmartBiz
Supplies & Inventory Line Of Credit Fundbox
Hiring & Covering Payroll Installment Loan StreetShares
Cash Flow Shortages Short-Term Loan OnDeck
Emergency Funds Business Credit Card Chase Ink Unlimited

Purchasing Or Renting A Food Truck

It’s no surprise that one of the most important pieces of your food truck business is the food truck itself. Your truck is your mobile restaurant, allowing you to peddle your tasty treats all over town. Without a food truck, you simply don’t have a business.

Unfortunately, the truck will also be one of your biggest expenses. A custom truck stocked with all of the equipment you need to make your edible creations could cost upwards of $200,000 — an expense that just isn’t financially feasible for most entrepreneurs.

Whether you’re investing in your first food truck or adding to your fleet, there are two options to consider: purchasing and renting/leasing. Let’s explore the differences between loans and leases to determine which option is best for your business.

Vehicle Loans VS Leasing

If you want to purchase a food truck, commercial auto loans or equipment loans are your best financing options. These loans can help you buy an expensive food truck without having to pay the full purchase price out of pocket.

When you receive an equipment or vehicle loan, you’ll be required to pay a percentage of the purchase price as a down payment. This is typically 10% to 20% of the total cost, although this can vary by lender. In most cases, the higher your credit score, the lower your down payment requirement will be. However, you may want to consider putting a larger amount of money down to reduce the amount of your loan and decrease your monthly payment.

After making the down payment, the lender will loan you the remaining balance so that you can take possession of the vehicle immediately. Then, you’ll repay the loan through monthly payments for a set period of time. Your monthly payment will be applied to the balance of your loan, as well as to interest charged by the lender. Once you’ve made all loan payments as agreed, you’re the owner of the food truck and can keep it, trade it in for a new truck, or sell it outright if you choose.

If you have an established food truck business, a loan may be the best option for you. Once you pay off your loan, you’ll own the vehicle free and clear and can use it in your business as long as you need.

If you don’t have collateral, it’s no problem. For most equipment and vehicle loans, the equipment being purchased — in this case, your food truck — will act as the collateral.

On the other side of the coin is food truck leasing. When you lease a food truck, you’re essentially renting it. A lease does have a few similarities to a vehicle or equipment loan. With a lease, you are required to pay a down payment. After paying your down payment, you can put the food truck into service.

When you sign a lease, you agree to make monthly payments over a period of time — usually 2 to 3 years. Once your lease ends, you can return the vehicle and sign a lease on a new truck. Some lenders may also give you the option to pay a lump sum at the end of your lease to purchase the truck.

When should you consider a lease over a loan? If you’re new to the industry, a lease may be the better option for you. If things go pear-shaped and you decide to not move forward with your business, you can simply return the truck at the end of your lease. A lease is a good option when you’re not yet sure if you’re in this business for the long haul.

If you’re short on funds for a down payment, a lease may also be the better choice. In many cases, leases have lower down payment requirements. You may also score lower monthly payments with a lease.

However, if you do plan to use your food truck for a longer period of time, purchasing your equipment with a loan is a wise move. While a lower down payment and lower monthly payments are more cost-efficient over the short-term, a lease is often more expensive over the long term.

Still stuck between a loan and a lease? Learn more about equipment loans and leases to make the right decision for your business.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio is an online loan aggregator that connects you with a network of lenders that best fit your financial needs. One of the options that you can apply for through Lendio is equipment financing.

With equipment financing, you can receive between $5,000 and $5 million for the purchase of your food truck. Interest rates through Lendio’s network start at 7.5% for the most creditworthy borrowers. The proceeds from your loan can be used to purchase a new or used food truck. You can also use equipment loans to purchase other equipment for your business, such as a new grill or a point-of-sale system.

To qualify, you must have a credit score of at least 650. If your score is lower, you may still be able to receive equipment financing through Lendio provided you can show proof of solid cash flow and revenue over the last 6 months. You must also have a minimum of $50,000 in annual revenue and a time in business of at least 12 months.

Working Capital

You just can’t operate a successful business without working capital — money that is used to cover your daily operating expenses. Even though the average daily expenses of a food truck — think fuel for your vehicle, payroll, and other operating expenses — are far less than the operating costs of running a restaurant, they can still pile up.

The money you make from selling your food should cover your daily operating costs and add to your profits, but what happens when you fall a little short? Unexpected expenses, a slow season, or other hurdles can pose a challenge to your business and leave you short of the working capital you need.

If you need working capital, there are a variety of financing options to consider, but one of the most affordable is a loan from the Small Business Administration.

SBA Loans

SBA loans come with low interest rates and favorable, flexible terms for small business owners. Even if you’ve been turned down for a traditional bank loan in the past, you may qualify for an SBA loan. The SBA guarantees portions of each loan. This takes the risk off SBA lenders — known as intermediaries — and opens up affordable business loan options for entrepreneurs.

SBA loans are a preferred choice for many small business owners because they have low interest rates, long repayment terms, high borrowing limits, and can be used for nearly any business purpose, including working capital.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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One of the drawbacks of applying for an SBA loan is how lengthy and difficult the process can be. Finding the right lender, gathering the required documentation, and waiting for approval can take weeks — or in some cases months.
If the challenge of receiving an SBA loan has held you back from applying, there’s an easier option to consider: SmartBiz. This online lender specializes in simplifying SBA loans from the prequalification stage to approval and funding.

Through SmartBiz, you can apply for SBA working capital loans from $30,000 up to $350,000. These loans have a variable interest rate — the base rate plus 2.75% to 3.75% –, making the total interest rate between 8% and 9%.
Your working capital loan can be used in many ways, whether you need to purchase inventory or equipment, hire staff, cover operating costs, or even refinance existing debt.

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You must also have a time in business of at least 2 years and show proof that you have sufficient cash flow to cover your monthly loan payment. All borrowers applying through SmartBiz must also have a credit score of at least 640. Your credit report should be free of bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years, defaults on government loans, and outstanding tax liens.

SmartBiz offers a prequalification tool that makes it easy to see if you’re eligible for an SBA loan. The form takes just 5 minutes and will automatically tell you if you qualify to apply. If you do, you can proceed with the application and receive funds as quickly as 7 days after completing your application. If you don’t qualify, SmartBiz can connect you with lenders that offer non-SBA loans that could help with your working capital challenges.

Supplies & Inventory

KDS Kitchen Display System

Running a food truck requires keeping supplies and inventory on-hand at all times. From paper products to food, there are a number of supplies that you need to keep your business operating smoothly. These expenses are recurring, and while your profits should be enough to pay for supplies and inventory, this isn’t always the case.

Whether you have a seasonal increase in sales that require more supplies and inventory or you have cash flow issues that have left your bank account lower than usual, sometimes you need a financial boost. If you need financing to cover the costs of supplies and inventory, a line of credit can help.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a flexible financing option to cover business expenses. When you receive a line of credit, a lender will provide you with a credit limit — the maximum amount you can borrow. You can make multiple draws up to and including this credit limit. Once you initiate a draw from your line of credit, the funds are transferred to your bank account. Most lenders transfer funds immediately, and you can access them as soon as the next business day. Some lenders even have options that give you access to your funds within just minutes.

Once you’ve made a draw on your line of credit, you will make regularly scheduled payments to the lender, which will be used to pay off the balance as well as fees and/or interest charged by the lender. As you pay off your balance, funds will become available for you to use again.

You can use a line of credit to purchase your inventory and supplies as needed. Whether you’re facing a planned expense or a completely unexpected emergency, a line of credit gives you the flexibility you need to make sure you can continue to serve your customers without a hitch.

Recommended Option: FundBox

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Fundbox is a popular option for businesses seeking a line of credit because of its lenient requirements. Even if you’ve had credit challenges in the past, it doesn’t matter with Fundbox. This company takes the performance of your business into account when issuing lines of credit.

Through Fundbox, you can be approved for a line of credit up to $100,000 that can be used for any business purpose. If you have a low personal credit score, it isn’t a problem. There are no credit requirements to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. However, you do need to have at least $50,000 in annual revenue, a business checking account, and a business that is based in the United States. Additionally, you must grant access to your accounting software so Fundbox can analyze the performance of your business. If you don’t use a supported accounting software, you can also submit business bank statements from the last 3 months.

Once you’ve been approved for a line of credit, you can initiate draws into your business checking account. With each draw, a fee will be charged. Fees start at 4.66% of the amount drawn. You will receive your funds in your account as quickly as the next business day. Repayment terms are 12 or 24 weeks, and payments are made weekly through ACH debits. If you repay your loan early, all remaining fees are waived.

Hiring & Covering Payroll

Hiring new employees means that your business is expanding, but this expansion comes at a cost. Or maybe you’re facing a completely different situation and you’re struggling to meet your current payroll. Whether you’re adding to your crew or just trying to overcome a financial hurdle to cover payroll, there are financing options to consider, including installment loans.

Installment Loans

An installment loan provides you with a lump sum of money that is paid back through regular payments over a set period of time. Each payment will be applied toward the balance of your loan, as well as toward fees and/or interest charged by the lender.

Your fees and/or interest will vary based on the lender you select and factors such as your personal credit score. The more creditworthy you are, the more affordable your loan will be. Repayment schedules may be daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the policies of your lender.

If you choose an installment loan to cover hiring or payroll costs, you need to run some calculations before you apply. Since you receive a lump sum, calculate how much you need to cover payroll or how much it will take to hire new employees to ensure you request enough money. If you’re unsure of how much money you need, consider applying for a line of credit or another form of flexible financing.

Recommended Option: StreetShares

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If you need an installment loan, you can apply for $2,000 to $250,000 through StreetShares. Repayment terms are between 3 and 36 months with APRs of 7% to 39.99%. A closing fee of 3.95% to 4.95% is added to the cost of your loan. Repayments on your loan are made weekly.

If you want a more flexible option, you can also receive a line of credit from StreetShares. You can receive between $5,000 and $250,000 with repayment terms between 3 and 36 months. A draw fee of 2.95% is charged for your loan, and APRs are between 7% to 39.99%.

To qualify for a term loan or line of credit with StreetShares, you must be in business for at least 1 year. A minimum revenue of $100,000 per year is required, as well as a personal credit score of at least 620.

Cash Flow Shortages

A cash flow shortage can negatively affect your entire business. Without sufficient cash flow, you’re unable to cover your daily operating expenses, pay your bills, or serve your customers. You lose profits, resulting in even more cash flow problems. Before you know it, your cash flow issue has spiraled out of control.

Cash flow shortages can occur at any time. In the food truck industry, for example, colder winter weather may affect the number of customers you have. Fewer customers mean less cash … and an increased chance of cash flow shortages.

Before you get to that point, take control of your finances by covering cash flow shortages with a short-term loan.

Short-Term Loans

With a short-term loan, you receive the cash that you need quickly and pay it back through regular payments over a set period of time. While some short-term loans come with repayment terms of 12 months or less, some lenders offer up to 3 years to repay your loan.

Many lenders do not use a traditional interest rate for short-term loans. Instead, these lenders opt to use a factor rate. This is a multiplier that determines the fixed fee added to your loan. Let’s say that you borrow $10,000. The factor rate is 1.3. Multiply the borrowing amount times the factor rate to find the total repayment. In this example, the total is $13,000. This means that your fixed fee for borrowing is $3,000. Learn more about factor rates and how they’re used to determine the cost of your loan.

A short-term loan is a good option when you know exactly how much money you need. If you need a more flexible option, consider applying for a line of credit or business credit card.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

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With OnDeck, you can apply for business loans up to $500,000. There are two different options to consider: short-term loans and long-term loans.

OnDeck’s short-term loans have repayment terms of 3 to 12 months with simple interest rates as low as 9%. This means that your interest rate is calculated as a percentage of your loan amount. For example, if your loan of $20,000 has 10% simple interest, you will pay $2,000 in interest.

OnDeck also has long-term loans with repayment terms of 15 to 36 months. Annual interest rates start at 9.99%.
An origination fee is also added to the cost of your loan. For your first loan, you will pay 2.5% to 4% of the total loan amount. Second and subsequent loans qualify for lower origination fees. All loans are repaid daily or weekly through automatic ACH withdrawals.

To qualify, your company must be in business for at least a year. You need at least $100,000 in annual revenue. Your personal credit score must be at least 500.

If you’re looking for a more flexible financing option, OnDeck also offers lines of credit up to $100,000 with APRs starting at 13.99%. To qualify, your company must be in business for at least a year and have $100,000 in annual revenue. You must also have a credit score of at least 600 to receive an OnDeck line of credit.

Emergency Funds

Your food truck is in need of repairs. Your equipment has suddenly given out and needs to be replaced. An unexpected expense has come out of nowhere and has turned your finances upside down. When an emergency arises, don’t panic. Know that there are emergency loans and other financing options available to help you overcome financial hurdles.

In an emergency, you need access to funds quickly. You don’t have days or weeks to wait for a loan approval. In these situations, a business credit card could help.

Business Credit Cards

Once you’re approved for a business credit card, you can put it into action immediately. You don’t have to wait for approval from the lender each time you use your card. If a sudden emergency pops up, your credit card is ready to use. You can use it to pay your suppliers or vendors, pay a bill, cover food truck repairs, or for other business expenses.

When you receive a credit card, the issuer will set a credit limit. You can spend up to and including this limit anywhere credit cards are accepted. Each month, you’ll make a payment that will be applied toward the principal balance and the interest charged by the lender. As you pay off your balance, your credit will become available to use again.

If you apply for a credit card for your business, make sure to compare interest rates and to read all of the fine print. Many cards come with introductory APRs that increase at a later date so make sure you’re aware of all terms for your card. You may also consider applying for a rewards card, which provides you with cash back or points to use for perks and benefits each time you use your card.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

With Chase Ink Business Unlimited, you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back with every business purchase. This card comes with a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months, followed by a 15.24% to 21.24% variable APR. There’s no annual fee, and you can even receive $500 cash back after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account.

To qualify for the Chase Ink Business Unlimited, you must have good to excellent personal credit. Unsure if the Chase Ink Business Unlimited is right for you? Check out other credit card options:

  • Compare Chase Ink Business Credit Cards
  • Best Business Credit Cards For Good Credit
  • Top Business Credit Cards For Fair Credit

When You Want To Start A Food Truck Business

The financing options previously discussed are great for established businesses, but what about food truck startups? Time in business requirements, annual revenues, and business credit scores are required for many loans, so what’s your next move if you fall short of these requirements?

New businesses and startups may not have as many financing options as established businesses, but there are options out there if you know where to look.

For example, you may not qualify for an SBA 7(a) loan, but you could get a smaller loan through the SBA Microloans program. Through nonprofit intermediary lenders, you could receive up to $50,000 to cover startup costs for your new food truck business. Although the maximum borrowing amount is $50,000, the average loan distributed through this program is $13,000, so this is an option that is best for startups with lower capital needs.

Sometimes, you may even have to get a little creative with your financing. Consider crowdfunding to raise money for your business. With crowdfunding, you’ll use an online platform to raise money to fund your startup costs. Investors will invest money in your food truck business in exchange for equity or a reward of your choosing. Your crowdfunding campaign can be a success if you effectively spread the word about your business through social media and other online outlets and offer equity or rewards that are enticing to investors.

If you have good credit, look beyond business loans and consider taking out a personal loan. Your personal income and credit score will be the main qualifying factors with a personal loan. With this option, you can receive very competitive interest rates and terms on a personal loan that can be used to fund your new food truck business. Learn more about using a personal loan for business.

Friends and family that are willing to invest may also be a financial option for your new business. If you receive a loan from your friend or family member, make sure that everything is in writing and that you pay as agreed, just as you would with any other lender.

Bad Credit? Your Best Food Truck Financing Options

Chart of Accounts

If you have a low personal credit score, your financing options are limited. Your low score will also result in higher interest rates and a higher overall cost of borrowing. Instead of being stuck with these higher costs and less desirable financing options, the smartest financial move is to build up your credit.

Know where you stand by applying for your free credit score and report online. Review your credit report for any errors and dispute any erroneous information to have it corrected or removed. Continue paying all loans, credit cards, and other debts as agreed. With a few easy steps, you can boost your credit score. With a higher score, you’ll be able to qualify for better, more affordable loans and financing.

If you’re in a hurry to receive money, waiting for months (or even longer) to build your credit score may not be an option for you. If you need financing quickly, there are options, but be aware that these options come at a higher cost.

If you have bad credit but your business is performing well, consider applying for a line of credit. Lenders like Fundbox and Kabbage consider the performance of your business — not your credit score — as the most important qualifying factor. With these lenders, simply fill out a short form with your personal information, then link your business accounts and/or accounting software to see how much you qualify to receive. Once approved, your line of credit is available to use immediately.

Another type of financing available to borrowers with bad credit is a merchant cash advance. When you receive a merchant cash advance, you receive a lump sum of money in exchange for future revenue. The merchant cash advance company uses a factor rate to add a fixed fee to the total amount borrowed. The money is then repaid through daily ACH withdrawals, although some providers offer weekly or monthly repayments.

With MCAs, you may have fixed or variable repayments. With some providers, the amount you pay never changes. With others, the amount you pay is based on a percentage of your sales. When you have higher sales, your payment is higher. When sales are down, your payment is lower. What you pay depends on the agreement you sign with your provider.

It’s important to proceed with caution when receiving an MCA. Financial experts advise against this type of financing due to the high costs and short repayment terms, which could lead to more debt. If you have a low credit score and no other financing options, carefully weigh out the pros and cons before signing a contract with an MCA provider.

There are also alternative lenders online that are willing to work with borrowers with credit challenges. Shop around, compare your options, and make sure that your return on investment justifies the cost of taking out an alternative loan.

What You Need To Apply For Food Truck Financing

When you apply for food truck financing, what you need to apply is based on the type of loan you’re applying for and the lender you’re working with. At the very least, you’ll need to fill out an application providing personal information including:

  • Full Legal Name
  • Legal Business Name
  • Contact Information: Phone number, email address, mailing address
  • Federal Tax ID
  • Social Security Number
  • Annual Revenue

For some types of financing, like lines of credit and business credit cards, little more is needed. However, loans such as equipment financing and SBA loans may require additional information and documentation, including:

  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Business & Personal Income Tax Returns
  • Balance Sheet
  • Profit & Loss Statement
  • Business Plan
  • Financial Projections
  • Resumes For All Business Owners
  • Debt Schedules

Requirements vary and a complete list of all required information and documentation will be provided by your chosen lender.

Final Thoughts

Running a food truck can be extremely lucrative, but like any other business, you may encounter financial challenges. When this occurs, just know that there are loans and financing that can be used to cover unexpected expenses, expand your business, or even start a new business.

Understand the types of financing available to your business, shop around for the best rates, and make all payments as agreed to open up future financing opportunities and to prove yourself as a responsible borrower and business owner.

The post Business Loans For Food Trucks: Best Financing Options appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business

Selecting the best ecommerce platform for building your online store can be tough. I find it helpful to keep in mind that shopping for this type of software is similar to shopping for any other product (you just happen to be shopping for shopping cart software, which I’ll grant is slightly strange). You ultimately need your ecommerce software to do two primary things: to serve your particular online selling needs, and to accomplish this for an affordable price.

If you’ve heard of any ecommerce software up to this point, you’ve probably heard of a platform called Shopify. Shopify often receives top billing in this category, and with good reason. Still, it’s by no means the perfect solution for everyone. Along with Shopify, we’ve compiled a few other great options worth considering in your search for an online home for your store.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

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Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

From a bird’s-eye view, our main reasons for recommending these platforms are user-friendliness, a solid feature set, and an accessible price. Notice that they’re also all SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, meaning you are not responsible for downloading, installing, and hosting the shopping cart on your own server. Instead, you subscribe to the service (most often for a monthly fee), and all the hosting and software updates that underpin your online store are automatically handled for you. Easy! eCommerce software has been trending in this direction over the past several years, and the available SaaS options have only become more robust and customizable over time.

What To Look For In An Ecommerce Platform

Before we discuss the individual recommendations further, here’s a quick overview of the key factors we consider when evaluating ecommerce software:

  • Pricing: How does the monthly subscription system work (what factors determine the different pricing levels), and what are the options/costs associated with accepting payments from shoppers?
  • Features & Add-ons: How strong is the core feature set of the software, and how well can these features be expanded upon using the platform’s associated app marketplace?
  • Ease Of Use: How steep is the learning curve for ecommerce beginners (particularly those without any coding experience)? What is the balance between user-friendliness and the capability of the platform to accomplish both basic and advanced tasks?
  • Web Design: How attractive, modern, and functional are the available theme templates for designing storefronts? What customization options are available, and how robust/flexible are these tools?
  • Customer Support: What is the availability and quality of email, live chat, and phone support for the software, along with any other self-help resources provided by the company and user community?

And, of course…

  • User Reviews: What are real store owners (like you!) saying about the software, both good and bad?

That’s our basic guideline. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each platform, highlighting the main benefits and drawbacks of each one, along with the types of online sellers we think the software typically suits best. We’d definitely recommend reading our full review of each platform before making your final choice. We’ve also posted one-on-one comparisons for several of the platforms if you’d like to check out those in-depth articles as well.

1. Shopify

As mentioned, Shopify is our most commonly recommended ecommerce platform. The combination of strong core features, an exhaustive app marketplace, and high ease-of-use put Shopify at or near the top of most SaaS ecommerce platform rankings.

Pricing

There are technically five Shopify plans, but the three subscription levels in the middle are considered the standard options for most SMB owners needing an online store. The price jumps between the three middle plans are based primarily on additional features and the ability to set up more staff accounts. Here are all five levels:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/mo. Embeddable cart, but no standalone store website.
  • Basic Shopify: $29/mo.
  • Shopify: $79/mo.
  • Advanced Shopify: 299/mo.
  • Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.

When it comes to accepting payment from your customers, you should note that this is the only platform on our list that charges an extra commission per sale. This goes above and beyond the normal processing fees you’ll need to pay to your credit card processor. Shopify’s commission decreases incrementally as you climb the subscription ladder: 2% on Basic, 1% on Shopify, 0.5% on Advanced.

You can avoid these extra Shopify transaction fees if you sign up for the in-house payment processor — Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) — but this gateway is only available in 10 countries. In addition to eliminating the extra transaction fee, Shopify struck a deal with Stripe to offer lower payment processing fees with Shopify Payments than if you were to use Stripe (or a similar processor) by itself. These discounts apply to your processing if you’re on the Shopify Plan or the Advanced Shopify Plan.

Shopify does provide over 100 alternative gateway options. You’ll just be saddled with that extra percentage Shopify charges per sale when you stray from Shopify Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

Shopify is defined by a quality core feature set that works well for a wide variety of sellers. Moreover, Shopify has a very large app marketplace (of around 2500 apps) that will provide virtually any additional feature you might need. If there is one disadvantage to this system, it is that these integrations can add to your monthly operating costs. Meanwhile, merchants appreciate how many of Shopify’s third-party apps are fully-fledged software platforms that are commonly used to support ecommerce, rather than just simple extensions that add a small feature or two (the app store does have those as well, though!)

Here are a few Shopify features we like:

  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Built-in shipping software (Shopify Shipping)
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Automatic tax calculation
  • Shopify POS & other POS integrations
  • Extensive order fulfillment & dropshipping integrations
  • Coupons, discounts & gift cards

Ease Of Use

Shopify has one of the easiest learning curves in the ecommerce software market. Simplicity is the name of the game for Shopify — it’s clear they’d rather offer the ability to expand the platform’s capability with optional add-ons than to overwhelm the newbie with a complicated dashboard or intricate customization options from the get-go.

The Shopify dashboard is clear and well-organized, and any built-in feature can be manipulated easily with zero coding knowledge.

Web Design

Shopify offers 10 free themes (made by Shopify), as well as 67 paid themes (made by third-parties) that range in price from $140-$180. Technically, the total theme count is a bit higher, because each theme has multiple style variations that swap out colors and whatnot. Shopify themes are some of the more elegant and functional options we’ve seen. As a nice bonus, the theme marketplace can be searched by desired theme features.

While the Shopify theme editor may not be as flexible as that of a top-notch website builder (like Wix), the drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to stack and rearrange page elements, called “Sections.” (Perhaps don’t go quite as far as I did with awkward colors and fonts — just showing you what can be changed):

Beyond the theme editor, you also have the opportunity for more customization with a combination of HTML, CSS, and Shopify’s own theme templating language (called Liquid). Most novices won’t open that coding can of worms straight away, but it’s good to know it’s there.

Customer Support

Shopify offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all subscription levels. Although no customer support system is perfect, we’ve found Shopify’s responses helpful and timely in the grand scheme. On top of this, the strong community of users and developers currently working with Shopify makes finding resources, reviews, and feedback a breeze. The library of self-help articles, tutorials, courses, and videos produced by Shopify is also impressive.

Who Is Shopify Best For?

If this were a little kids’ recreational sports league, Shopify would receive the “Most Well-Rounded Player” award, if not the full MVP as well. Shopify is suited to the widest variety of store types and sizes. When Shopify works for merchants, it works really well. Store owners who benefit the most from Shopify will most likely be based in one of the 10 countries in which Shopify Payments is available, because that’s the only way Shopify’s extra commission per sale is avoided. However, the quality of Shopify’s platform is strong enough overall that many merchants are willing to accept those extra transaction fees, even if they can’t (or won’t) use Shopify Payments.

Of course, we can’t mention Shopify without also mentioning one type of merchant in particular: dropshippers. Shopify is definitely the dropshipper’s go-to platform.

2. BigCommerce

If you asked most experts at large, they’d probably tell you that BigCommerce is Shopify’s most direct ecommerce SaaS competitor. BigCommerce also has an enterprise solution (BigCommerce Enterprise) that’s comparable with Shopify Plus.

Pricing

Subscription levels with BigCommerce are organized by added features at each level, but also annual revenue caps. This means you’re automatically bumped to a higher subscription once you reach a cap. Here are the plans and their associated sales limits:

  • Standard: $29.95/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79.95/month (sell up to $150K/yr.)
  • Pro: $249.95/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
    • add $150/mo. for every additional $200K/yr. in sales, up to $3M
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing

Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce never charges an additional commission per sale. For payment processing gateways, you have about 60 options. One of these is Braintree (a division of PayPal), which gives access to discounted processing rates as you move up the BigCommerce subscription ladder.

Features & Add-Ons

BigCommerce has a particularly strong set of native features, while also maintaining a sizable app marketplace for optional add-ons (ballpark 600 in total). The balance of out-of-the-box features versus add-on apps leans more toward the former, especially when compared to Shopify. Offered features include:

  • Faceted (filtered) search
  • Single-page checkout
  • Customer groups & segmentation
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Product ratings & reviews
  • Up to 600 product options/variants
  • Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
  • Square POS integration

Ease Of Use

Some may argue that the balance toward more features included from the get-go can make BigCommerce harder to use at first. Personally, I wouldn’t let fears about user-friendliness stop a beginner from using this software. Extensive out-of-the-box features don’t complicate BigCommerce dashboard beyond reason, and the included features are intuitively configurable without any coding knowledge.

Web Design

BigCommerce offers around 125 themes, along with close to 500 total variations (or “styles”) of those themes. Seven of these themes (25 styles) are free; the rest are available for $145–$235. Quality of design is always subjective, but BigCommerce definitely has a wide variety of elegant templates from which to choose.

It’s a good thing this variety and quality of templates pre-exists, because customization options without coding knowledge or adding a separate integration are somewhat limited with BigCommerce. The theme editor lacks a drag-and-drop element, and you’ll be stuck with the theme’s fonts and colors for the most part.

Customer Support

Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all plan levels. We’ve had mixed experiences with BigCommerce’s support, but find that more users praise the service than knock it. You can definitely make the argument (and we have) that BigCommerce support is just as good or better than Shopify’s. There are also active community forums and plenty of BigCommerce-produced support materials available online.

Who Is BigCommerce Best For?

The target market for BigCommerce overlaps significantly with Shopify’s. Much of your decision will come down to the appeal and specific fit-to-business of the extra features that come built-in with BigCommerce at your targeted subscription level. For example, I think B2B and wholesale merchants would do well to take close look at BigCommerce’s feature set. Support for more product variants or discount types will be interesting to other sellers. If you’re confident you’ll actually use most of the native features BigCommerce offers, you could definitely end up saving money and headaches. You’ll just need to be prepared for the automatic subscription bumps as your revenue grows.

Perhaps the most obvious appeal for BigCommerce is the freedom to choose your payment processor with no penalty of an extra transaction fee. That extra cut Shopify takes from your sales feels especially unfair if you’re not even based in one of the 10 countries where Shopify Payments is supported.

By the same token, maybe you already have a merchant account and/or payment processor that you like, or are looking for a specialized payment processor for your particular sales volume and/or risk profile. We often recommend merchants processing over around $100K per year look into credit card processors that offer your own dedicated merchant account with interchange-plus pricing. These accounts can provide more transparency and account stability (and often cost savings) than a standard flat-rate processor like Shopify Payments, PayPal or Square. With BigCommerce, your payment acceptance options are quite open.

3. 3dcart

3dcart

This platform has been around longer than any other on our list, and I’d actually heard of it before I’d even heard of Shopify. Over the years, 3dcart has developed a substantial and nuanced core feature set and continues to add and improve features at a steady clip. The software’s low monthly cost, extensive features, and plentiful payment gateway options make it worth a look when opening an online store.

Pricing

Subscription packages with 3dcart are delineated mainly by annual online revenue, number of staff accounts, and available features. You can sell up to 100 products on the Startup plan, while the other plans allow you to list unlimited items.

  • Startup: $19/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Basic: $29/month (sell up to $100K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79/month (sell up to $200K/yr.)
  • Pro: $229/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
  • Enterprise: Custom

3dcart comes in at a lower starting price than BigCommerce or Shopify (if you exclude the Shopify Lite plan that doesn’t let you build a standalone store website). At the same time, the $29 plan level with 3dcart accommodates twice the annual store revenue of the $29.95 plan on BigCommerce.

On top of this, 3dcart never charges its own fee per sale, regardless which of the over 160 compatible payment gateways you select. For US merchants, there also are several “preferred” processor options (e.g., Square, Stripe, PayPal, and FattMerchant) that may give you access to discounted processing rates at the Plus and Pro subscription level.

Features & Add-Ons

3dcart prides itself on a rich supply of native, built-in features. We can vouch that the feature set is robust, especially for the price. And, while it’s true that 3dcart has managed to avoid some of the excessive “app creep” from which Shopify suffers, you can still connect with lots of useful third-party software via the app store.

We’ve mentioned that packed-in features can result in sacrificed user-friendliness. 3dcart keeps some of its complexity at bay by offering advanced features and modules that can simply be turned on and off depending on whether you need them.

Here are just a few of 3dcart’s noteworthy features:

  • Unlimited product options/variants
  • Single-page checkout
  • Robust discount/coupon engine
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Create/print shipping labels in-dashboard
  • Gift certificates on all plans
  • Wish lists & gift registries
  • Customer reviews & product Q&A
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Waiting list & pre-orders

Ease Of Use

When it comes to actually working with all of 3dcart’s plentiful features, we’re still looking at a user-friendly platform overall. You should just be aware that the learning curve you encounter may be slightly steeper than it is for Shopify (and perhaps BigCommerce as well) depending on your experience.

Like many worthwhile endeavors, 3dcart simply requires you put in a bit more effort in order to get more out of it in the end. The menus go a little deeper, the dashboard screens are more complex, and some advanced functions can be a little tricky to locate and use at first. Still, the basic setup and navigation are comparable to the ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed so far. You won’t need coding knowledge to operate your store.

Web Design

3dcart recently streamlined its entire theme marketplace, resulting in less quantity and more quality. The revamp brought 3dcart into better stylistic alignment with the ecommerce competitors we’ve discussed so far, but we’re still missing a bit of variety and uniqueness amongst the remaining options.

Of the 45 total themes available, about half are free, and more than half were created by 3dcart. Premium themes range from $149-$249.

With 3dcart, you get a very basic theme editor to change out photos and font colors, but you can’t rearrange any page elements:

Beyond these simple changes, you must use HTML and CSS inside the template editor:

Customer Support

Another key reason 3dcart makes our “best” list is the availability of 24/7 phone, live chat, email support. The only subscription that doesn’t offer phone support is the $19/month plan, but you still have the ability to talk to someone in real time with live chat. Support quality and responsiveness receive mixed reviews, but this is typical of all the software apps on our list. No ecommerce solution has cracked the code for keeping 100% of customers satisfied, but we’ll let you know if any of them do!

You’ll also have access to plenty of online resources produced by 3dcart, as well as an active community forum. Just note that while the knowledgebase articles are helpful, they’re sometimes low on screenshots and high on text.

Who Is 3dcart Best For?

We think 3dcart is a solid option for small-to-midsize businesses owners on a budget who still appreciate lots of built-in features. If you’ve experimented with Shopify or BigCommerce and felt a little boxed in when it came to flexibility and customization, and as long as you’re not intimidated by a relatively detail-oriented system, 3dcart opens up options for you. Or, if you’re skeptical of jumping on the Shopify bandwagon just because “everybody’s doing it,” and you balk at feeling hemmed into Shopify Payments lest you pay a penalty, 3dcart may be just the alternative you seek. Not to mention, we appreciate your Maverick spirit!

3dcart has a tried-and-true and even somewhat old school vibe, but without feeling clunky or inflexible. It has managed to stick around amongst an onslaught of newer competitors by quietly improving the quantity and quality of its core offerings over time. Meanwhile, you can still add on plenty of extra features via the app market, or do a bit of template tinkering on your own with basic coding knowledge.

4. Ecwid

Ecwid diverges the most from the software options we’ve discussed so far. At its core, Ecwid is an ecommerce shopping cart plugin (or “widget,” as the name implies) you can embed into an existing website. In this way, Ecwid is similar to WordPress’ WooCommerce, except you can add Ecwid to any website, not just WordPress sites. Ecwid also allows you to create a very basic standalone website and sell up to 10 products — for free! The company claims over 1.5 million users, which is significantly more than Shopify’s 600,ooo. The availability of a free plan likely has a lot to do with that!

Pricing

Subscription levels are organized by several aspects: available features, number of listed products, file storage, customer service access, and number of staff accounts. We’ve described the details of each level in our main Ecwid review, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Free: $0/mo. (10 Products)
  • Venture: $15/mo. (100 Products)
  • Business: $35/mo. (2500 Products)
  • Unlimited: $99/mo. (Unlimited products)

Happily, Ecwid does not charge an additional commission per sale. Along with offering around 50 payment gateway options for your store, Ecwid also has a special partnership with a payments provider called WePay. Together, they created Ecwid Payments, which offers discounted payment processing rates for merchants in the US, UK, and Canada. And, if you accept ACH or direct bank payments at your store (which is cheaper than accepting credit cards), you also qualify for discounted rates on those transactions with Ecwid Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

With Ecwid’s freemium pricing model, you can expect several new features unlocked at each subscription level. The free plan will definitely get you started with a small online store, but we don’t see most serious sellers staying on this plan for long. Fairly basic features such as inventory management, discounts, SEO tools, and access to the Ecwid app store require a paid plan. The Ecwid app store is on the smaller side, but you’ll still find several ecommerce staples in the shipping, tax, and accounting categories. And, don’t forget that if you’re embedding the Ecwid shop widget into another website, you’ll have access to that sitebuilder’s integrations as well.

Noteworthy Ecwid features include:

  • Create & edit orders
  • Several POS integration options, including mobile POS
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Branded shopping app for your store
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Wholesale pricing groups
  • Mobile store management app

Ease Of Use

Intuitive dashboard navigation and foolproof feature manipulation make Ecwid an extremely user-friendly platform. Ecwid’s ease of use closely rivals Shopify’s. The Ecwid backend was clearly designed with the ecommerce beginner in mind.

Web Design

Remember that Ecwid’s main purpose is to act as a shopping cart plugin for an existing website that already has an established look and feel. That said, Ecwid does provide one theme template for a standalone online store. Here’s my in-progress edit of the starter template:

There aren’t a lot of customizations you can make to this starter website besides adding your own main image, your store name, and your 10 products. If your store is embedded into an existing website, you can purchase a third-party theme that helps your shop tie in with the rest of the site. Basically, unless you’re using the Ecwid Starter Site, web design for your storefront is largely dependent upon whatever existing sitebuilder you’re using.

Customer Support

Availability of customer support with Ecwid depends on which plan you have:

  • Free: Email only
  • Venture: Email & live chat
  • Business: Email, live chat, & phone; 2 hours of custom development (annual plan)
  • Unlimited: Email, live chat, & priority phone support; 12 hours of custom development (annual plan)

Also, note that email and live chat are not open on the weekends, and phone support is on a callback system. Despite these limitations, most users rate the actual quality of Ecwid’s support quite highly. Knowledgebase articles and video tutorials are also good quality.

Who Is Ecwid Best For?

Generally, we think Ecwid is a great option for small-to-midsize sellers. We highly recommend Ecwid for newcomers to online selling — particularly those with an established online presence who simply need to add a store component. If you love the platform your current website is built upon, and you’re already nailing your brand’s image and following, there may be no need to rush off and migrate to an all-in-one “website + ecommerce” system like the ones we’ve covered so far.

If you don’t have a website but would like to dabble in selling a few products online, you could also get an Ecwid starter site going for free while you develop a full-blown website on the side. It’s hard to argue with free! If you’re really on a shoestring budget or you’re just starting out with ecommerce, I’d encourage you to compare Ecwid’s free plan to Shopify Lite (at $9/mo.) to see which system might work best for your needs.

5. Wix

So, Ecwid built an ecommerce shopping cart widget that goes inside other website builders, but Wix is a website builder that actually built its own ecommerce widget (called Wix Stores) to go inside itself. I know, it’s a bit confusing! The point is that Wix began as a traditional sitebuilder, but now has ecommerce capability built in as well. Combining new ecommerce tools with its existing popularity in the no-coding-required-website-design niche, Wix presents quite an attractive (both figuratively and literally) option for online sellers.

Pricing

You may have heard that Wix lets you create a website for free. While this is true, you need a paid plan to use Wix’s ecommerce features. Below are your ecommerce subscription options, defined by file storage, customer support, and whether or not email marketing campaigns are included:

  • Business Basic: $25/month (20GB storage)
  • Business Unlimited: $30/month (35GB storage)
  • Business VIP: $40/month (50GB storage)

We’ve listed the true month-to-month price here, even though Wix advertises its monthly price if you pay for a full year. This drops the prices to $20, $30, and $35, respectively. All of the other platforms we’ve highlighted also offer discounts when paying annually — Wix just leads with these discounted figures in its advertising.

Regardless of which payment processor you choose (there are currently close to 20 options), Wix never charges an extra commission per sale.

Features & Add-Ons

If you choose to build an ecommerce website with Wix from scratch, the core of your site will be built upon the Wix Stores app. If, however, you already have a different type of Wix website (e.g., restaurant, hotel, photography site, etc.) and want to add an online shop, you simply switch to a Business subscription plan and add the Wix Stores app to your dashboard.

Wix is still working on adding some features that are becoming more standard amongst ecommerce platforms (like abandoned cart recovery), but we like a lot of what it has on offer so far:

  • Email marketing
  • Integrate with Square POS
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Send & manage invoices
  • Checkout on your own domain
  • SEO Tools
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Inventory & order management
  • Library of stock photos for your site

The Wix app marketplace includes hundreds of apps, but not all are ecommerce-specific. You may also notice limited pre-built connections to third-party integrations (shipping and accounting software, for example). These sorts of apps become more indispensable as a store grows, but are not as critical for a store that manages fewer products and orders.

Ease Of Use

Wix Stores integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Wix dashboard. eCommerce features and settings are simply added to the left sidebar menu, like in any other ecommerce platform. Further dashboards open as you explore each individual feature (like adding a product or creating a coupon). Wix is defined in the DIY web design market by its ease-of-use, and this extends to its ecommerce functionality as well.

Web Design

There are actually two ways to design an ecommerce storefront in Wix. The first begins in a familiar fashion — selecting a template.

Wix offers over 500 templates to choose from, with over 70 of these already built upon the Wix Stores app (although you can easily add the app to any template). A nice perk of Wix’s template system is that all are included free with a Business subscription to Wix. The only tricky part is that you can’t switch templates once get your store up and running!

Wix provides the most flexible no-coding-required theme editor of any ecommerce platform we’ve covered here. Rather than simply dragging and dropping elements up and down your pages, you can adjust and place page elements virtually anywhere.

The second (and even easier) method of creating an ecommerce website with Wix is via Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). If you choose this option, you’ll be asked a series of detailed questions about your business, and Wix will use this information to draft a storefront for you.

Sites created with Wix ADI also have a theme editor available, but this editor’s flexibility is more limited than the standard WIX editor. Nevertheless, it’s comparable to Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor. You can stack and arrange elements up and down your pages.

If you decide you’d like to micromanage your design a bit more after creating your Wix ADI site, you’re welcome to switch over to the more advanced theme editor. You just can’t switch back to Wix ADI without losing your changes.

Customer Support

Here’s a quick rundown of Wix’s customer support channels:

  • Phone: Callback service open Monday-Friday, 5AM-5PM Pacific
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: None

As you can see, the phone channel is somewhat limited, but we like that you have access to this channel of support on all plans. The Business VIP plan also offers priority support, meaning your emails and callback requests jump to the front of the queue. Wix doesn’t have as thorough a set of self-help resources specifically for ecommerce as some of the other platforms, but the resources it does maintain are well done and useful.

Who is Wix Best For?

Wix may differ from the other ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed, but we see this variety as a very good thing. This platform is a great option for merchants who need a multifunctional (but still user-friendly) website — not just an online store. The way native apps like Wix Stores, Wix Bookings, Wix Restaurants, Wix Hotels, and others weave together to form a seamless dashboard on the backend, plus an elegant web presence on the front end, is really slick.

Speaking of elegance, the other (sometimes overlapping) group of store owners Wix works nicely for are those with a smaller number of visually-detailed products. You’re probably not going to want to run a massive fulfillment and shipping operation with Wix, but small shops with aesthetic priorities are perfect for Wix.

Quick Pricing Comparison

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our comparison of these five good options for building an online store. Before we wrap this baby up, let’s recap the subscription plans for each one, along with the main ways the levels are distinguished from one another. As you’ve clearly seen, pricing is just one component of your final choice, but it’s usually where people start.

eCommerce Platforms Pricing Summary

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

  • Available features
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Payment processing discounts
  • Shopify’s commission per sale

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue
  • Number of products
  • Number of staff accounts

Ecwid

Free: $0/mo.

Venture: $15/mo.

Business: $35/mo.

Unlimited: $99/mo.

  • Available features
  • Number of products
  • Storage
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Customer service

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Final Thoughts

Did you find your ecommerce match? We know it’s a lot to take in at once. The great news is that all of these platforms allow you to test the software before you buy. We’d suggest narrowing down our five suggestions to a couple that look like strong candidates for your store and starting a free trial of each. Test drive all the features you possibly can, work on customizing your storefront, and pepper customer support with questions at all hours. That’s the only way you’ll know which is the best fit, even with our attempts to simplify the decision-making process for you.

Generally speaking, the first three platforms we mentioned (Shopify, BigCommerce, and 3dcart) are quite similar and will work for a lot of the same types and sizes of stores. 3dcart is probably the most complicated and detailed of the three out-of-the-box, and typically requires a bit more out of the user. This is not necessarily bad, though. BigCommerce may be a good middle ground between 3dcart and Shopify, combining ease-of-use with a dense set of out-of-the-box features. And, even with Shopify’s super annoying transaction fees (if you don’t use Shopify Payments), Shopify is still a very solid recommendation — it’s just good software.

Ecwid and Wix each have their own advantages as well, especially for smaller stores. Both are well-designed and user-friendly. Ecwid has an enticing free plan and can be embedded in any existing website, while Wix allows you to develop a particularly elegant and multifunctional storefront using your choice of not one, but two different methods.

We think most small business owners will find a good solution from among these five options. And, we’ll let you in on a rather little-known secret: it’s not the end of the world if you end up needing to migrate platforms. That goes for right now if you’re looking to make a switch, or later if you decide your software isn’t working for you anymore. Nevertheless, you can still head into your decision with the confidence that you’ve done your research and tested the software thoroughly before handing over your credit card. (You’re going to test them first, right? Promise? Good.)

Do you have experience with one or more of these ecommerce platforms? Let us know how you think they compare in the comments. We love feedback from real users like you!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

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Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

The post The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Finance A Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Financing any small business is a headache, but acquiring funding for a medical marijuana dispensary can be even more of a challenge. Medical — and recreational — marijuana is legalized in states across the nation, but it is still illegal under federal law. These laws make it more difficult for owners of medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for loans, open merchant accounts, or receive other types of financing to cover operating expenses or to scale their businesses.

However, even though financing may be limited, there are options out there. To fund your business, you have to know where to look and even get a little creative when other options don’t pan out. Whether you need money to expand your business or you’re seeking funding for your startup, we’ll review the financing options available to you and how to qualify. Read on to learn more and to move toward financing your medical marijuana dispensary.

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Medical Marijuana Dispensary Funding Challenges

Obtaining funding for any business is no easy task. You have to find a lender that offers the best rates and terms to receive the most affordable loan. Once you’ve identified your lender, you go through the underwriting process, making sure you have all of your paperwork in order to prove that your business is qualified to receive financing. Challenges may pop up throughout the process. Depending on the lender you work with, it may take weeks or even months to receive financing, from start to finish.

With a medical marijuana dispensary, there are even more hurdles you have to clear on the race to financing. Even though more states are legalizing medical marijuana, it remains illegal under federal law. Most lenders want to avoid the potential legal repercussions of working with businesses in the cannabis industry, as these businesses are considered high-risk. Even opening a checking, savings, or merchant account for most medical marijuana dispensaries is a hassle, while receiving financing through traditional lenders is nearly impossible.

And if you do find a financial institution that will allow you to open accounts, there are many associated costs, including fees for background checks and for regular reports to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Businesses that don’t have merchant accounts and work with cash have additional business expenses to protect their earnings — think high-tech video surveillance systems and reinforced windows and doors.

In other words, medical marijuana dispensaries have the same expenses as regular businesses (utility bills, property leases, etc.) as well as additional expenses to keep their business protected. These expenses pile up quickly, but due to legal issues, traditional financing is often not an option. Therefore, medical marijuana dispensaries either have to make enough capital on their own to keep the business moving forward, or these business owners have to seek out other means of financing.

See our guide on best practices for using personal credit cards for business expenses

Can I Get A Dispensary Loan From A Bank?

Banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. A bank that works with companies that violate federal law will not be insured by the FDIC. This includes medical marijuana dispensaries. Instead of taking on this risk, most banks opt to simply avoid working with businesses in the cannabis industry.

There are also legal issues that a bank could potentially face when working with businesses in the cannabis industry. For example, a bank could be charged with money laundering for accepting deposits from a medical marijuana dispensary. Although the odds of this law being enforced are slim, lenders simply don’t want to take that risk.

For those reasons, most banks will not loan money to medical marijuana dispensaries or other businesses in the cannabis industry. While a FinCEN report showed that over 400 banks in the U.S. operated accounts with marijuana businesses in early 2018 — up 20% from early 2017 — marijuana businesses still do not have access to a full range of banking and financial services offered to other businesses, such as loans, credit cards, and merchant accounts.

When most business owners can’t receive funding from banks, they turn to another great resource: the Small Business Administration. The SBA provides educational materials, training, and low-interest, long-term loan options when small businesses can’t receive traditional loans. Do medical marijuana dispensaries receive access to these same loans?

Unfortunately, the SBA does not work with medical marijuana dispensaries. A policy went into effect on April 3, 2018, that prohibits SBA intermediary lenders from providing loans to businesses in the marijuana and hemp industries.

Though this news may be understandably frustrating if you’re seeking an affordable loan, there are financing options available to you. You just won’t find them at a bank or through the SBA.

Equity Financing For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

business line of credit loan

One option that you may consider to fund your medical marijuana dispensary is equity financing. With equity financing, an investor or group of investors will provide you with the capital your company needs in exchange for ownership interest in your business.

Debt refinancing — traditional loans, lines of credit, and other financial products — requires you to make regular payments along with interest and fees. With equity financing, you’ll receive the money you need without having to make these regular payments. However, the tradeoff is that your investor will own a stake in your company. Once your business becomes profitable and successful, your investor will be able to take a percentage of your profits for the life of your business, unless you buy them out.

The benefit of equity financing is that you won’t have to worry about paying interest or regular payments right away. The drawback is that you are giving up ownership, and in some cases, the investor may be able to have a say in the operations of your business. For example, if later down the road you decide to make a large purchase to expand your business, the equity investor may disagree. With equity financing, you no longer have full control over your business.

The Best Loans For Marijuana Businesses

If equity financing isn’t for you and traditional bank financing and SBA loans are off the table, how do you get financing for your medical marijuana business? Alternative lenders have made it easier than ever to receive funding. While rates and terms may not be as favorable as traditional financing, solid revenues and a high credit score can help you score affordable loans to fund operations or expansion of your business.

While you may find alternative lenders are more willing to work with your business, just know ahead of time that some lenders may have restrictions on financing businesses in the cannabis industry. Before applying, do your research to find lenders that work with medical marijuana dispensaries and other high-risk businesses.

You also need to consider what type of financing you need for your business. Whether you need a flexible line of credit or financing to purchase new equipment, alternative lenders have options available for you.

Review

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Short-Term Loans

When you receive a short-term loan, you’ll receive one lump sum that can be used for any business purpose. A short-term loan can be used as working capital, to purchase equipment, for hiring new employees, or for other business expenses.

Although some short-term loans are true to their name and have shorter terms of 12 months or less, some lenders have repayment terms up to 3 years. Depending on the lender you choose, you may have daily, weekly, or monthly payments.

One way that short-term loans differ from other loan options is that most do not have an interest rate. Instead, a multiplier known as a factor rate (or factor fee) is used by the lender. This factor rate is a one-time fee that is added to the cost of the loan and replaces traditional interest. Like interest rates, your factor rate is typically determined by a combination of factors such as the performance of your business and your personal and business credit histories.

One of the benefits of short-term loans is that you often receive money quickly. Some lenders provide funding in as little as 24 hours, while others may approve and fund your loan in 3 to 5 days.

Equipment Financing

If you need capital to purchase new equipment, equipment financing is an option that’s available to you. With equipment financing, you can purchase nearly any type of equipment for your business, from vehicles to point-of-sale systems to furniture and fixtures.

There are two types of equipment financing. The first is an equipment loan. When you receive an equipment loan, you’ll pay 10% to 20% of the total cost of the equipment. The lender will pay the rest of the costs so that you can take possession and put the equipment into use immediately. If you have good credit, you may qualify for $0 down financing. However, putting at least a small percentage down, even when it’s not required, helps lower the cost of borrowing and your payment amounts.

After you’ve received your equipment, you’ll pay the borrower on a scheduled basis — typically weekly or monthly. Your payments will go toward the balance of the loan as well as the interest charged by the lender. Once you have made all payments as scheduled, you take full ownership of the equipment.

The second type of equipment financing is an equipment lease. With an equipment lease, you may also have to pay a down payment. Once you make the down payment, you can use the equipment through your lease period. Once the lease period ends, you return the equipment and sign a new lease for updated equipment.

With an equipment lease, you never own the equipment unless you pay the remaining balance at the end of your lease. A lease may be a good idea if you plan to upgrade any of your equipment regularly. Equipment leases may also come with lower down payment requirements and lower monthly payments. However, you’re essentially renting the equipment and you may end up spending much more over the long term with leasing.

Lines Of Credit

If you need a flexible form of financing, a line of credit is an option to consider. With a line of credit, you don’t receive just one lump sum. Instead, the lender will set a credit limit for your account. You can make multiple draws from your line of credit up to and including the credit limit.

With a line of credit, interest or a fixed fee will only be charged on the borrowed amount. Fees and interest vary by lender and are usually based on your creditworthiness or business performance.

Even if you have credit challenges, you may qualify for a line of credit. Some lenders base their approvals solely on cash flow and other performance factors.

A line of credit is good for any small business because it is so flexible. Funds can be used for any business purpose, and you won’t have to wait for approval. Once you initiate the draw, the lender typically transfers the funds to your banking account immediately, and you can access your funds as soon as the next business day.

Lines of credit are also flexible in how they’re used. You can use funds to cover operating expenses, hire new employees, handle an emergency situation, or for any other business purpose.

Merchant Cash Advances

If you haven’t been in business long, have a low credit score, or don’t qualify for other loan options, you may consider applying for a merchant cash advance.

Even though you can receive funding quickly through a merchant cash advance, these loans often have high interest rates and short repayment terms. This is why it’s more important than ever to do your homework to find a lender with the best rates and terms.

When you take a merchant cash advance, you agree to sell future revenue to the lender. The lender pays you a lump sum amount, and a factoring fee is added to the amount of the loan. Other fees may also be added.

The lender will then withdraw money from your account on a regular basis. Most lenders take payments daily, while others may have weekly or monthly schedules. These withdrawals will be made until the loan balance and all fees have been repaid.

Some merchant cash advances have fixed payments. Others deduct a specific percentage of your sales. When sales are up, your payment is higher. When sales are down, your payments are lower.

The funds from merchant cash advances can be used for any business purpose, including the purchase of supplies, inventory, and equipment or for use as working capital.

Crowdfunding Your Medical Marijuana Dispensary

go fund me for business start up

Another option for financing your medical marijuana dispensary is crowdfunding. With the rapid growth of the internet, crowdfunding has become a popular option for many small businesses, even those in controversial industries.

Crowdfunding is a way to raise money from multiple investors in exchange for equity or rewards. With crowdfunding, you’ll promote your campaign online by sharing with friends and family and posting links to social media. Anyone can donate to help you reach your fundraising goal.

There are two types of crowdfunding campaigns. The first is equity crowdfunding, which is when you give up equity in your business in exchange for investments. The second is non-equity crowdfunding. With this type of campaign, you won’t give up ownership of your company but will instead offer a reward or benefit to investors.

The tricky part of crowdfunding is that medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited from posting on many of the most popular crowdfunding platforms. However, there are a few platforms that allow businesses in the marijuana industry to launch and promote campaigns.

One crowdfunding platform to consider is Fundable. Through Fundable, you have the option of launching a rewards campaign, an equity campaign, or both. It’s important to note that equity campaigns on Fundable can take years to complete. There is no limitation on the length of your equity campaign. However, you must pay a hosting fee of $179 per month through the duration of your campaign.

The Best Financing Options For Startups

As we’ve already established, finding financing for your medical marijuana dispensary can be a challenge. While there are options available for established businesses, what if you’re brand new to the industry or haven’t even opened your doors yet?

If you need financing to get your business off the ground, there are funding options for startups. The first step is to determine what expenses you’ll have and how much money you’ll need before exploring your financing options.

The Costs Of Starting A Medical Marijuana Dispensary

A medical marijuana dispensary has many of the same expenses as any other startup business, with a few added expenses since this is still such a new and controversial industry.

Before you even get your business started, you will have to apply for licenses and permits. Application and licensing fees range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. In the state of Colorado, for example, licensing fees are $20,000. One of the first things you should do before starting your business is to learn about the laws, requirements, and fees specific to your state.

Because you’ll operate a storefront, you’ll need to rent, lease, or purchase commercial space. If utilities aren’t included in your monthly rent, these additional expenses will add to your total startup costs. You may have to do some remodeling to make the space suitable for your business, which will add in more costs.

Even if you plan to run a very small dispensary, you’ll still need staff. Whether you’re hiring one person or ten, you’ll need to consider the costs of hiring and training staff members and managers.

Additional purchases for your dispensary include a POS system, furniture, fixtures, and a high-tech security system. One of the most important expenses is your inventory, which is a recurring cost you should consider when calculating your total business expenses.

When planning how to fund these expenses, there are a few financing options to explore. One option may work well to best fit your needs, or you may consider combining a few options to fully fund your startup business.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a way to raise funding for your startup business. For a medical marijuana dispensary, an equity-based campaign is typically the best option. Even so, it may take several months or longer to raise the money you need to start your business.

Unlike other businesses, you can’t just go to any crowdfunding site. Marijuana dispensaries are prohibited from using some of the most popular crowdfunding platforms. However, as I mentioned above, Fundable is one option to consider. You can also explore options that are centered solely on the cannabis industry, such as Fundanna and CannaFundr. These are relatively new options, so it’s important to do your research, explore all associated fees, and know what you’re getting into before signing up.

Alternative Lenders

Alternative online lenders could help you receive the money you need to fund your medical marijuana dispensary. These lenders are typically more flexible to work with than traditional lenders, although interest rates and fees may be higher and terms not as favorable. Alternative lenders provide a variety of financing options for you, including short-term loans and lines of credit.

Before applying, make sure that you choose a lender that works with businesses in the cannabis industry and other high-risk businesses. Some lenders have restrictions on lending to medical marijuana dispensaries, so make sure to choose a lender that is willing to work with you. There are even online lenders that specialize in financing businesses in the cannabis industry.

Personal Loans For Business

If you have a solid credit score and steady income, you may qualify for a personal loan that you can use to finance startup expenses.

This is an option that many startups choose because the revenue, time in business, and business credit score aren’t taken into consideration for loan approval. However, you do have to disclose how the funds will be used. Some lenders may not loan money due to the industry you’re in, so you may have to shop around for a lender willing to work with your situation.

Investors

One way to finance your startup is to find an investor. Seek out private equity firms, venture capitalists, or angel investors that will provide the funds you need in exchange for a stake in your company.

Credit Cards

A business credit card is a good option for any business. A credit card can be used to pay recurring expenses, cover an emergency, or pay for startup expenses. There are plenty of great credit card options for good and fair credit borrowers. If you have bad credit, you may also qualify for unsecured or secured credit cards, although your credit limit will be lower and interest rates higher.

What You Need To Qualify For Medical Marijuana Dispensary Business Financing

The requirements needed to qualify for medical marijuana dispensary financing are similar to requirements for any other type of business.

Your requirements will vary based on the lender you select, as well as the type of financing you seek. For example, applying for a business credit card may require basic information, such as your name, the name of your business, contact information, and annual revenue. Applying for a loan or line of credit may require additional information and documentation.

Before you gather your documents, though, there is some prep work that can be done on your end. Calculate how much money you need for your business. Then, figure out if your business is able to afford the loan.

Next, pull your free credit score online. If you have credit challenges, working to build your credit may help you qualify for more options at better rates. If you’re in a time crunch to receive your financing, there are bad credit loan options available, but you should expect higher fees and interest and a more expensive overall cost of borrowing.

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Once you’ve established how much money you need (and can afford) and where you stand in terms of credit, it’s time to start shopping for lenders. After you’ve narrowed down your selection, understand the requirements of each lender. Again, this varies but you should generally expect to present the following:

  • Personal Information: Name, Social Security Number, and contact information
  • Business Information: Business name, address, and Federal Tax ID
  • Business & Personal Credit Score
  • Personal Background Check
  • Business Licenses & Permits
  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Profit & Loss Statement
  • Income Statement
  • Balance Sheet
  • Detailed Business Plan

Final Thoughts

Operating or opening a medical marijuana dispensary comes with its challenges. While many options available to other businesses aren’t open to you, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find financing. With a little research and creativity, you can find a lender that is willing to work with you to help make your business a success.

Want to get started with a loan for your medical marijuana business right away? Try LoanBuilder.

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The post How To Finance A Medical Marijuana Dispensary appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Loans And Other Financing Options For Wholesale Distribution Companies

Wholesale distributors play a critical role in the retail supply chain. It is crucial for a wholesale distributing business to be a well-oiled machine: storing manufacturers’ products, then shipping them as needed to retailers, which then sell these products to customers. If the wholesale distributor fails in its critical tasks, retailers won’t have the products they need, leading to many unhappy customers.

Like it is for other businesses, one of the most important resources for the success of a wholesale distribution company is capital. Heavy equipment, warehouse space, and inventory requirements are just a few of the big expenses these companies face. Incoming cash flows certainly help fund day-to-day operations, but what happens when more capital is needed than is readily available in your checking account?

If you’re running short on funds, a business loan can help. Before signing the dotted line for a loan, read on to explore the different types of financing available to you, which options are best for your situation, and how to kick-off the application process.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Financing Lendio
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Purchasing Inventory Line Of Credit Kabbage
Cash Shortages Invoice Financing BlueVine
Emergency Funding Business Credit Card Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Why Take Out A Loan For A Wholesale Distribution Business?

If you’re in the wholesale distribution business, you may be familiar with situations where you’re running a little short on cash. Whether your business is booming and you need to expand your facilities or your bank account is too low to purchase inventory for a seasonal uptick, there will be times when you need extra money.

With a business loan, you’ll receive the money you need right away with the benefit of being able to pay it back over time. Since there are many different types of loans, the type you choose should be based on the unique financial needs of your business.

Purchasing Equipment

As a wholesale distribution company, your business is reliant upon heavy equipment. From forklifts and pallet jacks that are used in your warehouse to delivery vehicles, software, and mailing systems, your business requires equipment to be efficient. Unfortunately, this equipment doesn’t come cheap.

Whether you’re updating your equipment or adding new equipment as part of your expansion, make these large purchases more affordable for your business by applying for equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is a type of funding that is used for the purchase of equipment. Instead of paying the full cost up front, you’ll pay a smaller down payment — typically 10% to 20% of the equipment’s cost — and be able to put the equipment into use immediately. You’ll make payments on a scheduled basis to your lender on the balance of the loan. Interest is also charged by the lender for providing the service. The equipment purchased with loan proceeds is the collateral for this type of financing.

There are two main types of equipment financing to consider: equipment loans and equipment leases. With an equipment loan, you’ll make a down payment, followed by regularly scheduled payments. At the end of the repayment term, you take ownership of the equipment. At this time, the equipment is yours to keep, sell, or trade. You own it free and clear.

With an equipment lease, you may also pay a down payment, although it’s typically lower than the down payment required with an equipment loan. You’ll make regular payments for the duration of the lease, which is typically around 2 years. Once your lease is over, you return the equipment and upgrade with a new lease, or you may have the option to pay a lump sum to take ownership of the equipment. While you’re essentially “renting” the equipment, a lease may be a consideration if you want a lower down payment or if you upgrade your equipment frequently.

Credit and revenue requirements vary by lender, but borrowers with solid credit histories and strong businesses qualify for the lowest rates, best terms, and lower down payments.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio isn’t a direct lender. This loan aggregator allows you to submit just one application to connect with multiple lenders, so you can shop for a loan more efficiently. Through Lendio, you’ll find the most affordable equipment loan for your situation.

Lendio offers access to equipment loans from $5,000 to $5 million. Loan terms are spread out over 1 to 5 years, with interest rates as low as 7.5% for the most qualified borrowers.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 1 year, have a minimum annual revenue of $50,000, and a personal credit score of at least 650. If your credit score doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, you may qualify based on your cash flow and revenue over the last 3 to 6 months.

Business Expansion

Expansion is a good sign — it means that your business is growing. The drawback, however, is that expanding your business takes money, and you may be stalling because you don’t have the funds. When your business is ready to grow, follow the lead of other smart business owners by applying for a Small Business Administration loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, has loan programs to provide affordable, flexible financing for businesses that encounter difficulties when applying for loans from traditional lenders.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

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Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

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CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

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Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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SBA loans are backed by the government in amounts up to 85%, so there’s less risk for lenders and higher rates of approval when compared to bank or credit union loans.

There are several programs offered by the SBA. One of the most popular is the 7(a) program. SBA 7(a) loans can be used for almost any business purpose, from real estate purchases to working capital. With a 7(a) loan, you receive up to $5 million with repayment terms up to 25 years. Interest rates are set by the SBA, so these loans are extremely competitive and affordable. SBA 7(a) loans are available through SBA-approved lenders known as intermediaries.

When you’re expanding your business, 7(a) loan funds can be used to purchase land or real estate, pay for improvements in your facilities, or purchase equipment. High borrowing amounts, low interest rates, and flexible usage make 7(a) loans a popular choice among business owners.

For business expansion, another SBA loan to consider is the CDC/504 loan. Through this program, up to 40% of your project costs are funded by an SBA-approved Certified Development Company. A traditional lender provides 50% of the project costs, while you’re responsible for the remaining 10%.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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If you’re familiar with SBA loans, you’ve probably heard that the application process is difficult and time-consuming. If the process is intimidating to you, SmartBiz has made it easier for business owners to receive the capital they need.
SmartBiz offers SBA commercial real estate loans for $500,000 to $5 million for qualified borrowers. The interest rate is set at the base rate plus up to 2.75%. As of November 2018, rates are between 6.75% and 8%. Repayment terms are available up to 25 years.

With a commercial real estate loan, you can refinance your commercial mortgage, purchase the property you’re currently occupying, or buy a new commercial property.

SmartBiz also offers working capital and debt refinancing loans between $30,000 and $350,000 with rates between 8% and 9%. Repayment terms for these loans are 10 to 25 years. Loans can be used to purchase equipment, hire new employees, or for other business expansion plans.

To qualify for SBA working capital loans, a minimum credit score of 650 is required. Commercial real estate loans require a credit score of at least 660. The time in business requirement is at least 2 years. No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years, open tax liens, and outstanding collections should appear on your credit report.

Anyone who has been delinquent or defaulted on a government loan in the past is not eligible to receive an SBA loan. If real estate is being purchased, the property must be at least 51% owner-occupied. Your business must also be considered a “small business” as defined by the SBA. Depending on the amount of the loan and your credit history, collateral may be required.

Purchasing Inventory

Your retailers depend on you to ship the inventory they need for their brick-and-mortar and online shops. If you don’t have the inventory in stock, you can’t make your shipments. If you don’t make your shipments, you lose business and the revenue that comes with it.

It’s not uncommon to face financial burdens that make purchasing inventory more difficult. A seasonal increase in orders that brings higher expenses, an unexpected emergency, or another situation could prevent you from purchasing needed inventory. Fortunately, there’s a solution: a line of credit that can help you through these tough financial times.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit works like a credit card. However, instead of using a card to make purchases, you make draws from your line of credit. With every draw, the money is sent directly to your checking account. These funds can be used for any business expense, including the purchase of inventory.

A line of credit is a flexible financing option. Instead of receiving a lump sum for a specific amount, your lender will provide you with a credit limit. You can make multiple draws as needed up to this credit limit. You only pay fees or interest on the portion of the credit that has been used. Most lenders initiate transfers immediately, so you can have funds as soon as the next business day.

Rates, repayment terms, and credit limits vary. With most lenders, a solid credit score yields the best interest rates and terms. If you have a low personal credit score, there are lenders that evaluate the performance of your business to approve your line of credit and set your credit limit.

Recommended Option: Kabbage

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Kabbage provides lines of credit up to $250,000. Depending on the amount borrowed, repayment terms are set at 6 or 12 months. Kabbage charges a monthly fee with rates between 1.5% and 10% on the borrowed portion of funds. If you pay your balance off early, you’ll save money on monthly fees.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least one year. Revenue requirements are as follows: $50,000 in annual revenue or $4,200 in monthly revenues for each of the last three months. When you apply for a line of credit, you’ll link your business accounts — including PayPal, QuickBooks, eBay, and your business checking — so that the lender can assess the health of your business and issue your approval and credit limit. There are no personal credit requirements to qualify.

The application process takes fewer than 10 minutes, and you can be approved immediately. When making draws, transfers are immediate and you can receive your funds as soon as the next business day. However, Kabbage also offers the Kabbage card, which gives you instant access to the funding you need. When using your Kabbage card, a new loan will be taken out with the same rates and terms as traditional draws.

Cash Shortages

Cash shortages happen in any business. In the distribution industry, there are a number of reasons this can occur, including slow-paying customers. It’s not uncommon to have unpaid invoices that have impacted your incoming cash flow. If you’re facing this problem and waiting for payments is affecting your operations, why not use invoice financing to help fill in the gaps?

Invoice Financing

Invoice financing is available for B2B business (like distributors) that are suffering from unpaid invoices and need money immediately to cover business expenses.

The invoices serve as the collateral, and with many lenders, you don’t need a high personal credit score to receive a loan. Instead, the lender will consider the quality and quantity of your unpaid invoices. Your invoices should be of a sufficient amount to cover any fees or interest associated with a loan, and your invoices must be for customers who are likely to pay.

Invoice factoring is one type of invoice financing. The lender pays a portion of the unpaid invoice directly to you. After the lender collects payment from your customer, you’ll receive the remaining balance after fees and interest have been taken out.

With invoice discounting, you’ll receive most of the balance up front. After you collect payment from your customers, you’ll repay the loan along with interest and fees to the lender.

Invoice Financing Invoice Factoring

Uses invoices as collateral for a line of credit

Sell invoices for immediate cash

You are granted a credit facility based on the value of your unpaid invoices, and can draw from your available funds at any time

Factor gives you an advance when the invoice is sent and sends you the rest once the customer pays (minus a factoring fee)

You are responsible for collecting invoice payments

Factor is responsible for collecting invoice payments

Recommended Option: BlueVine

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BlueVine is a lender that provides invoice factoring lines up to $5 million. The factoring fees for receiving the line of credit start at 0.25% per week. BlueVine pays 85% to 90% of your invoice amount up front, and pays the remainder, minus fees, after the invoice is paid.

To qualify, you must have a minimum personal credit score of 530 and a time in business of at least 3 months. You must be a B2B business with qualifying invoices and at least $100,000 in annual revenue. The application process takes about 10 minutes, and you can be approved for financing as quickly as 24 hours after applying.

Emergency Funding

Emergencies happen, and often, these emergencies come with unexpected expenses. When these emergencies occur, time is of the essence. A flexible form of financing, like a business credit card, can help you get over these financial hurdles and even reward you for responsible borrowing.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card is a great resource to have if an emergency arises. Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you can put it into use immediately. You won’t need additional approval to use your card, and you won’t have to wait on money transfers.

Once you’re approved for a business credit card, your lender will set a credit limit. You can make multiple purchases as needed up to this credit limit, so you can cover your emergency, purchase supplies and inventory, or tackle other business expenses. The borrowed portion of funds will incur interest based on the rate assigned by the lender. The sooner you pay down or pay off your balance, the more affordable this financing becomes. As you pay down your balance, funds become available to use again.

With a solid credit history, you’ll receive lower interest rates and a higher credit limit. There are options available for high-risk borrowers with low credit scores, including secured cards, which require a deposit and can help build credit.

Some of the best business credit cards have rewards programs. With every purchase, you’ll receive points to redeem for perks or cash back offers as a reward for responsible use.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited card is targeted at borrowers with good to excellent credit. This card comes with no annual fee and an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited has variable APR of 15.24% to 21.24%.

In addition to competitive rates, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card gives 1.5% cash back on all purchases. The card also has a bonus offer of $500 cash back after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account.

If you don’t qualify for the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card due to your credit score, check out other business credit card options for fair credit and bad credit.

The Best Loan Options For Starting A Distribution Business

If you’re an established business with proof of solid performance, getting a business loan isn’t difficult. However, what if your financial needs are different? What do you do when you need money to get your business started?

Getting a loan to start a distribution business can be a challenge. After all, traditional lenders like banks and credit unions want to work with established, low-risk businesses. Because your business is non-existent or very new, you haven’t yet proven yourself to these lenders. But that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of options. You may just have to get a little more creative and dig a little deeper to find a lender that will work with your situation.

In addition to the SBA loans we’ve already discussed, the SBA has a Microloans program that’s suitable for new businesses and startups.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

  • No down payment for most businesses
  • Possible 20% down payment for startups
  • Possible 10% down payment for business acquisition loan

SBA-approved nonprofit lenders can provide up to $50,000, although the typical loan is around $13,000. Loan proceeds can be used to purchase inventory, supplies, fixtures, furniture, or equipment. Funds can also be used as working capital. Rates can’t exceed the limits set by the SBA and are generally between 8% and 13%. Borrower requirements include a credit score in the high 600s and qualifying as a small business based on the SBA’s definition.

If you don’t qualify for an SBA Microloan, other nonprofit organizations have microloan programs available. Credit requirements, maximum borrowing amounts, rates, and terms vary by lender. In addition to microloans, many nonprofits offer additional resources for new business owners, including training, classes, and mentorships. Looking for a microlender? Check out the options below.

Lender Max. Borrowing Amount Rates Req. Credit Score Next Steps

$500,000

2.9% – 18.72% factor rate

550

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$250,000

9% – 36% factor rate

500

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$500,000

9.4% – 99.7% APR

500

Apply Now

Another financing option to cover startup expenses is a personal loan. If you have a high credit score, you may be able to obtain a personal loan with low rates that can be used to fund your business. Approval for a personal loan will be based on your personal credit score and history, as well as your personal income. The following lenders offer reasonable rates for personal loans that can be used for business:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest Rate Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$2K – $25K 2 – 4 years 15.49% to 30% 600 Apply Now

$1K – $50K 3 or 5 years 8.16% – 27.99% 620 Apply Now

$2K – $35K 3 or 5 years 6.95% – 35.99% APR 640 Apply Now

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$1K – $40K 3 or 5 years 5.32% – 30.99% 640 Compare

You can also jump online and look into peer-to-peer lending options and crowdfunding. Peer-to-peer loans are often easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans, while crowdfunding allows you to use a platform to raise money from investors.

Finally, loans from a friend or family member could be an option that works for you. Make sure that any loan agreement is on paper and signed by all parties involved. Be careful to treat the loan just as you would any other by paying it back on time as scheduled.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

In order to receive a loan, you have to choose a lender that is willing to work with you. In the past, most business loans were obtained from a bank, credit union, or another traditional lender. Today, there are more options than ever thanks to online lending.

The good news is that with so many lenders, it’s easy to find at least one willing to work with you – even if you have credit challenges, a short time in business, low annual revenues, or other factors that would disqualify you from traditional loans. The bad news is that finding the right lender can be overwhelming. With so many choices, which is best for you? To narrow down the lender pool, ask yourself these key questions to find the best loan for your financial situation.

How Will I Use The Loan?

This should be an easy question to answer. Why do you need a loan? Did an emergency expense pop up out of the blue? Have you been planning an expansion for the last 6 months and you’re ready to take action? By knowing how you plan to use the loan, you’ll be able to select the loan product best for that situation and can narrow down your selection of lenders.

Let’s say you want to expand your business and need a commercial real estate loan. In this case, lenders that offer short-term loans or lines of credit with low limits wouldn’t be the right choice. Instead, you’d want to find lenders that offer long-term loans with low interest rates, like SBA loans.

How Much Money Do I Need?

You should never apply for a loan without an idea of how much you need and how much you can afford to borrow. Taking money just because a lender offers it is can lead to unnecessary debt that can negatively impact your business. Instead, run some calculations and borrow only what you truly need.

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to use the loan, take the time to figure out what amount would cover that financial need. Going back to the commercial real estate example, you could begin looking at properties online comparable to what you’d like to purchase to get an idea of the market values in your area. If your loan is going to be used to purchase equipment, shop around, get bids and quotes, and have an idea of the total cost of your purchase.

Not only will this help you prevent unnecessary debt, but it can also help whittle down the number of lenders you’re considering. If your loan needs are $500,000, a lender that has maximum borrowing limits of $100,000 can be crossed off of your list.

Do I Meet All Borrower Requirements?

Before you apply for a loan, make yourself familiar with the lender’s borrowing requirements. Time in business, annual revenue, and credit scores are factors considered by most lenders. If you don’t meet the requirements of the lender, you won’t qualify for a loan.

Most lenders perform a soft credit pull when prequalifying you for a loan. A hard credit pull — the kind that shows up on your credit report — is performed further along in the process for most financial products. However, some lenders do perform a hard pull once you hit “Submit” on your application. Avoid an unnecessary inquiry by ensuring that you meet all credit requirements. Before you apply, make sure to check your free credit score online.

Remember, there are many financing options available to business owners, regardless of credit score, time in business, or revenues. Take the time to find the loans that you’re qualified to receive.

Does The Lender Offer Rates & Terms That Work For My Business?

When you select your lender, you want to work with one that will offer you the best rates and terms for your particular situation. A short-term loan that’s funded almost immediately may seem appealing, but a high overall cost of borrowing could put a burden on your business. If you have a solid credit score and a healthy business profile, you should be able to shop around to find rates and terms that are most affordable for you.

If you have credit challenges, there are options available for you. However, there are some drawbacks to these high-risk financial products, like high interest rates and fees or daily payment requirements. If you don’t need the money immediately, you can take steps to boost your credit score so you can apply for a more affordable loan in the future.

What You’ll Need To Apply For A Wholesale Distribution Loan

You’ve decided what type of loan best fits your needs, and you’ve calculated how much you need and can afford. You’ve selected a lender. Now, it’s time to begin the application process. Before you start, there are a few key items the lender will require to approve and fund your loan.

For all loans, you’ll be required to provide basic information about yourself and your business. This includes the name of your business, contact information, your social security number, and your federal tax ID. For some loans, such as business credit cards, this may be the only information you need.

For other loan options, you’ll be required to submit documentation. This documentation will allow the lender to see how your business is performing and if you’ll be able to afford a loan. Documentation requirements vary by lender, but commonly requested documents include:

  • Business & Personal Credit Reports/Score
  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Income Statements
  • Business Licenses

If you’re a new business, you may be required to submit the resumes of all business owners, a detailed business plan, and financial projections. If your loan requires collateral, you’ll submit information about the collateral you’re putting up to back the loan. If no collateral is required, you may still be required to sign a personal guarantee or agree to a blanket lien before receiving your loan. Learn more about business loan requirements.

Application, underwriting, approval, and funding times vary based on the type of loan you’re trying to receive. SBA loans take at least several weeks, while lines of credit and business credit cards may be approved on the spot. During the application process, your lender may need to speak with you to ask questions about information and documentation you’ve submitted or to request additional information. Make sure your lender has current contact information on file and that you make yourself available for calls or emails as needed to continue moving through the loan process.

Final Thoughts

Running a distribution business takes organization, hard work, and capital. As a business owner, it’s your job to bring these things to the table, but it’s understandable when money becomes an issue. A business loan can be an excellent resource to keep operations running smoothly or to grow your business provided you do your planning, shop around for the best rates, and understand what your business can afford.

What’s Next
    • Check out the top 8 small business startup loan options
    • Business loan options that don’t require a credit check
    • Your guide to low-cost SBA loans

The post Business Loans And Other Financing Options For Wholesale Distribution Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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