Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It?

Venmo has earned its status at the top mobile wallet and P2P payments app, ranking along with PayPal and Square Cash as easy, free, and trusted ways to move money around and pay back friends or family.

Venmo launched in 2009 and was eventually acquired by Braintree and then PayPal. Despite being owned by PayPal, Venmo is hardly a PayPal clone. With an estimated 10 million users, Venmo combines a social element with its payments platform, publishing a record of the transaction (though not the amount) to its social feed, along with a note or comment (or sometimes just an emoji). If you want a more detailed look at Venmo, check out our Venmo review for more information!

This social network aspect is one of the ways Venmo sets itself apart from its competitors. The company has also more recently begun allowing merchants to accept payments through Venmo — though with some rather stringent requirements. If you’re wondering whether Venmo could be right for your business, you’re in the right place — we’ll talk about what the requirements are to implement Venmo as a payment option at checkout, and what kinds of businesses Venmo is best suited to.

How Do You Accept Venmo For Businesses?

Venmo is both painfully clear and annoying vague about what kinds of businesses are eligible for accepting Venmo payments. For example, there isn’t a list of prohibited businesses (like you’d find with PayPal, Braintree, and Square). However, Venmo also says that “Venmo can be used to purchase items directly from participating approved apps and online stores.”

Be aware that you can’t natively build Venmo acceptance into your website or app. Instead, you need to go through either Braintree or PayPal for payment processing to add this option. Braintree says that the following use cases are not permitted:

  • Selling goods or services in person.
  • Receiving payment for goods or services through the Venmo app.
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer transactions between two Venmo users.

What does that all mean? Essentially it means you can’t use Venmo directly to accept payments. If you, for example, sell Pampered Chef, Scentsy, LulaRoe, or any other kind of product, your clients can’t just send you a payment via Venmo. If you sell something on Facebook, you can’t meet up with someone and hand them the item in exchange for a Venmo transaction. If you want to accept Venmo for payments, you need to follow the appropriate steps and build the payment option into your website or mobile app.

It also means that you can’t set up a service that says “You send us the money (plus a possible convenience fee) and we’ll send it to someone else for you.” It should be pretty obvious that is a no-no, but generally, those kinds of things need to be clearly stated for legal purposes.

The last requirement? You must be based in the US, which a major difference between Venmo and its global parent company, PayPal. Venmo currently isn’t available to users outside the US at all.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s talk about how to you can actually implement Venmo payments.

Option 1: Accept Venmo Through Braintree

Braintree Payment Solutions (read our review) is a merchant services provider with a special focus on online and mobile payments. The company, as I mentioned early, is owned by PayPal, and its offerings work pretty seamlessly with PayPal’s, but it is a fairly separate entity. For example, you do get a traditional merchant account. (PayPal is a third-party payment processor, which leads to a greater degree of account stability than merchant accounts.) Braintree is global friendly — even if that’s irrelevant in the case of Venmo payments — and it supports a huge array of payment types, both in apps and on the web. As a result, it will take a developer to implement Braintree payments and get the most out of the Braintree platform.

Braintree specifically says that in order to use Venmo, you must be using one of the following SDKs:

  • iOS v4
  • Android v2
  • Javascript v3 

What this means is you can build Venmo into iOS or Android apps, or into web/mobile web payments that use Javascript. Braintree, on the whole, supports several other programming languages as well. Braintree will also allow customers to save their payment information for subscriptions and recurring billing, including Venmo payments.

Finally, Braintree’s standard pricing applies for Venmo transactions, so most merchants will pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction unless they’ve already negotiated special pricing. Venmo transactions are settled according to the same terms as Discover card transactions, but you can identify them in your dashboard by looking for the Venmo logo in the payment type.

Option 2: Accept Venmo Through PayPal Checkout

If Braintree isn’t quite what you’re interested in, you can also implement Venmo Payments using PayPal Checkout (formerly known as Express Checkout). Checkout is PayPal’s recommended option if you are adding payments to an ecommerce shopping cart or offering PayPal as a supplemental option to another credit card processor. Keep in mind that PayPal (read our review) is a third-party payment processor and, as such, comes with an inherent risk of account instability — the potential for holds on funds or even an account freeze if PayPal’s system flags any suspicious behavior.

Also, this option still requires a developer and some code work. PayPal has upgraded its Checkout offering with “Smart” customizable payment buttons and contextual tools that will display multiple checkout options — PayPal, PayPal Credit, or Venmo — based on what it knows about a consumer. Currently, Venmo is only available on mobile devices, though that may change in the future. It’s also worth noting that PayPal Checkout doesn’t allow you to present Venmo as a stand-alone payment option. If you’d like this feature, you’ll need to go with Braintree instead.

With Venmo transactions, you’ll pay your standard PayPal rates, which will be 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for most merchants. (Keep in mind that PayPal does have a micropayments option for merchants whose average transaction sizes are under $10.) PayPal treats them just like all other transactions; currently, they are not identifiable as Venmo transactions. Again, PayPal may change this feature down the line.

Finally, it’s important to note that because Venmo is owned by PayPal, PayPal’s Seller Protection policy applies to Venmo transactions. For buyers, Venmo has its own protection policy, which is the same as PayPal’s in many ways, though Venmo admits there are some differences. Venmo lays out its terms and conditions for merchants in the user agreement if you’d like to take a closer look.

Should You Add Venmo To Your Payments Set Up?

Venmo is a powerful tool. An estimated 10 million users make for a significant userbase that many merchants may want to tap into. But all the same, accepting Venmo for your business only makes sense in certain contexts. You can’t just use the Venmo app to accept payments directly — you can’t process any sort of in-person transaction, as a matter of fact. If you do sell online, adding Venmo only makes sense if you have a very strong mobile user base. For one, PayPal will only display Venmo as a checkout option for mobile devices. Second, there’s no sense in adding Venmo if your customers don’t even know what a mobile wallet is.

However, if you do have a mobile app and your audience is young, tech-savvy and social, adding Venmo as an option makes a lot of sense. It’s available on both Android and iOS, and if you go through Braintree you can present Venmo as a standalone checkout option rather than as a payment option that is linked with PayPal.

It’s pretty likely that we’ll see Venmo sinking more resources into its business platform in the coming year, so we could very easily see some changes to Venmo’s requirements for business. If you’re still on the fence about Venmo, there’s no rush! Familiarize yourself with the product and wait to see what else Venmo has in store before you make a decision.

Have questions or comments? We always love to hear from our reader base, so check out our comment guidelines and leave us your thoughts!

The post Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Website Builders Explained

Website Builders Explained

Website builders are a type of software that turns visual design elements into HTML / CSS files that browsers can show as a website. Modern website builders are usually bundled in some form with hosting to provide storage & server abilities for those files.

As an analogy, imagine a website is like a physical home. Website builders are a bit like pre-built houses or condominiums with infrastructure & services provided. Usually the land (hosting), address (domain) and services are bundled with the home. There are usually costs & limitations, but also much more convenience compared to building a home from scratch.

That’s the short version. But there’s more to website builders than the definition. I’ll cover common questions like –

  • What Are Website Builders?
  • How Do Website Builders Work?
  • Are Website Builders Worth It?
  • Are Website Builders Good for SEO?
  • What Makes a Good Website Builder?
  • What Website Builders Are Best?
  • What Website Builder Should I Use? & Next Steps

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

What Are Website Builders?

Website builders are a type of software that turns design and content elements into valid HTML / CSS that can show up in an Internet browser. They have a long history, but have dramatically changed in recent years.

As long as the Web has been around, people have wanted to create websites without writing the underlying HTML & CSS programming languages. Back in the early days, website builders were actual desktop computer programs that you had to download and use (FrontPage FTW!!). They were called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) software.

But as the Internet, software, and consumers developed, website builders started rapidly evolving and changing. Nowadays, very few people write HTML & CSS from scratch.

Everybody, including seasoned front end web developers, use some form of what used to be called a “website builder”. Everyone is looking to build websites faster with more features and better design elements. The “website builder” market has shifted so that now it’s much more common to hear people using templates, libraries, themes, theme frameworks, content management systems, scripts, etc to build faster and better.

Because of this shift, what we now call a “website builder” really refers to a web-based software that provides not only the actual HTML & CSS conversion but also the hosting, security, customer support, integrations, media storage, and marketing tools that most people want when they say “I want a website”. The technical term should be “hosted website builder.”

For an analogy, think about different housing types. Originally, a “website builder” was simply pre-cut construction material to help you build a house quickly. Nowadays, a “website builder” is more like a condominium or townhome development. You have way less say over what you want. But – you have a home that you can customize while simply paying a fee for garbage pickup, lawn care, maintenance, etc.

For the rest of these FAQs, we’ll be focused specifically on hosted website builders that not only build your website’s HTML & CSS but also bundle hosting, security, support, etc into a single subscription fee.

How Do Website Builders Work?

Website builders usually use proprietary software, so it’s hard to say *exactly* how they work, but they all work in broadly the same way.

When you sign up for an account, hosted website builders will carve out server space that runs proprietary software that provides both a “backend” where you can login and manage your design & content along with your actual website files that browsers will use to create the “frontend” that visitors will see.

Here’s a backend example from the Wix backend…

Wix MenuAnd what shows up on the front-end…

Double Arrow Vet

This setup is exactly the same as it would be if you bought your own hosting and installed your own software (ie, WordPress).

But – their software is built to have a drag and drop interface that allows you to literally drag and drop and edit your website. When you save your work, the software will convert your backend work into a combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript files that will render in an Internet browser. And – your hosting usage is automatically optimized and calibrated to their platform.

Are Website Builders Worth It?

It depends on your goals, need & knowledge.

If you are confident in your abilities to solve problems and you want to build a long-term project with lots of versatility, then I highly recommend that you stay away from hosted website builders, and learn how to set up a website on your own hosting account – that goes for a multitude of different types of websites.

If you value convenience and speed, have budget for the monthly fees, and want to DIY, then yes, website builders are absolutely worth it. They provide most everything you’d need in a single, predictable monthly price. They have tailored customer support and handle all the updates.

It really is like shopping for a house vs. a condominium. Homeowners may swear up and down about owning a home. But the thing about a house is that…like you are responsible. Even if you don’t cut the grass, you have to pay someone to. And you have figure out who to call. You can build a pool…but you have to maintain it.

Condo owners just cut a check to the Homeowners’ Association. But – they also have to abide by the HOA’s rules and are inherently limited to what they can do to their property,

Are Website Builders Good for SEO?

It depends on your goals, needs & knowledge. This question is a bit like asking whether a condo is good for hosting parties.

There’s a few variables to clear up – like, how hands-on are you with parties? Do you just want the place to look nice so that you can focus on the food or are you looking to build out the ultimate party pad over the course of a couple of years?

Website builders do have a bit of notoriety with SEO because of Flash. Back in the day, every website builder used Flash for their drag & drop functionality. They would also have some weird URL structures. Due to that the old school Googlebot had an impossible time crawling & indexing websites built with common web-based website builders.

SiteBuilder SEO Duplicate Content

Most of the big brand website builders do not have this issue any more, and Googlebot is much better than circa-2012. Some website builders do still have lingering issues, but general “SEO” is no longer the main purchasing concern in my opinion. The main concern should be what *you* want to do with SEO. Here’s some examples from past clients / readers of mine.

Client A wanted to build out a large presence in a sub-market of the senior housing industry. They wanted to rank for certain high-competitive terms and wanted to update & revise many pages with Schema markup and roll out a regular content strategy. They were using Wix. My first recommendation? Stop everything and leave Wix. Spend money to rebuild the entire site on self-hosted WordPress. Using a hosted website builder like Wix would simply not have the flexibility to run the type of content & integrations that we needed.

Client B wanted to build a website for a hyper-local deli & restaurant. They wanted to rank for specific local terms & brand names. They had no time or budget to keep the site updated – other than the menu, which they needed to edit every week via smartphone. They had used Wix in the past, and knew how to add food integrations. I told them to go with it – and they do very well with the SEO that they need (ie, Google Maps, local terms, and menu terms).

Client C launched a side-project on personal fitness. They didn’t have huge plans for it – and just wanted to get going. Due to time and simplicity, they just got going on Squarespace. It worked for a few years until all of the sudden, their blog took off. They need plugins & capabilities that you can only get with your own hosting account. So they bit the bullet and built their own site with WordPress on a self-hosted VPS account and migrated away from Squarespace. Organic traffic has since dramatically improved but mainly because they can easily manage the content – not because Squarespace’s SEO was “bad”.

As so on – see it depends on what “SEO” you need. Website builders are not “bad” for SEO. But they aren’t “good” for SEO unless they match what you want to do.

What Makes a Good Website Builder?

A good website builder is one that helps you succeed at your project. That’s all.

If the “BEST!” website builder has so many features or limitations or whatever that it keeps you from achieving your goals, then, well, it’s not the “BEST!”.

Sure, there are absolutely some website builders that are better than others. Some I wouldn’t touch with ANY project – no matter what.

But for yourself, write out some features that you want. Rank the features. Write out what your goals are. What you write is not as important as the fact that you are thinking through what you want.

For some people, drag and drop might not be as important as data export…which might not be as important as phone customer support.

A good website builder should, though, produce readable, crawlable, and indexable HTML & CSS that visitors can access. Beyond that – it’s up to you.

What Website Builders Are Best?

Again – the implied preposition here is “for you.” With that in mind, I created a little quiz and summary to help you find the best website builder for you.

I’ve reviewed some of the big name brands like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, GoDaddy and WordPress.com. But there are plenty of options out there – and even some hybrid options like BoldGrid which overlays a drag and drop functionality over a self-hosted WordPress install. There are brand new ones like GATOR and plenty of others. Read all my website builder reviews here.

What Website Builder Should I Use?

It depends! Go to these resources to figure out some ideas –

  • Best Overall Website Builder
  • Best Simple Website Builders
  • Best Online Store Builder
  • Best Wix Alternatives
  • Best WordPress Alternatives

Next Steps

Your next steps should be to go research based on your goals – and get started with your project! Most website builders offer a short free trial period. Take advantage of those to make a final call.

The post Website Builders Explained appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App

Many business owners know and love Square for its free mobile point of sale app and free credit card readers, but some don’t realize that Square automatically provides some pretty powerful reporting and analytics features with their processing service.

Even if you’re primarily using Square to accept payments. Square dashboard feature is worth a closer look. Now more than ever, understanding data is critical to making smart business decisions every day, no matter what industry you’re in.

Read on for a look at some of the most notable features and benefits of the Square dashboard.

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$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Square’s Online Dashboard Features

The Square Dashboard makes it easy to understand both simple and complex aspects of your business. Best of all, it’s completely free with all Square accounts, and you can check it out from your favorite browser with no issues. (Note: Square’s Dashboard app is currently only available for iPhones; an Android version is coming soon. We’ll take a more in-depth look into the mobile app’s capabilities later in this post.)

The Square Dashboard boasts a simple, easy-to-use interface, and its intuitive design allows you to find what you want quickly. You can play around with your Home screen until it displays the sections in the order you think makes the most sense. This dashboard is so user-friendly that data geeks and amateurs alike can find something to love. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Manage Settings

The Settings area acts as a control center where you can manage all kinds of permissions and security settings, including setting up 2-step verification for sign-in for you and your employees. Here, you can also edit your business name as it appears on your receipts and statements and change your bank account if needed.

Settings is also the place to manage multiple business locations (if applicable) and get device codes set up for each of your devices rather than simply relying on your email and password.

Get Paid From Your Dashboard 

One of the most important functions of the dashboard is getting paid!

If you are using your Virtual Terminal, you can access it directly from your dashboard to accept payment. Payments here are 3.5% + 15¢ per keyed-in transaction — or, if you have your Square Reader for magstripe, you’ll pay 2.75% per transaction. (A quick note, you need to have a Chromebook or Mac computer to take advantage of this.)

Square’s Virtual Terminal

If you invoice your customers, you can send a one-off invoice or set up recurring invoices from your dashboard, too. Invoices are free to send out, and you will pay 2.9% + 30¢ per invoice when your customers pay with credit or debit online. Square has beefed up its features in this regard, with the option to let customers pay in installments as well as the ability to request a downpayment.

Transferring Funds To Your Account

The Settings area also allows you to play around with your deposit schedule. By default, your account is set to deposit funds accrued by 8:00 pm EST to your account the next business day.

Need them even sooner? If you are in need of your funds right away, you can opt to use instant deposit. Instant deposit transfers your sales balance to your linked debit card whether it’s a business day or a weekend (for an additional 1% of the balance). Check out How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work? for a more detailed look at this feature.

 

Now that we have covered the basics of some of the features under Settings, let’s discover more about the reporting features, found in the Square Reports tab (under Sales).

Reporting

Within the Sales section of the Square Dashboard, you’ll discover important insights into how your business (and your employees) operate. For instance, in the Reports tab, you have multiple subsections that give you visual data about nearly every part of your business.

The Square Reports tab is broken down by sections:

  • Sales Summary: The summary shows all of your gross sales, net sales, discounts, and more. You can change the time period of the report to display an overview of the whole year or see what your sales are doing today, in real time.

  • Sales Trends: Trends gives you a visual representation of all of your sales in the form of a line graph to quickly see how your sales perform day to day, week to week, and year to year.
  • Payment Methods: The payment methods feature gives you a snapshot of how customers are paying, how many transactions they have with you, and the fees associated with each type. Whether your customers are paying with cash, card, or gift card —it is all right there.
  • Item Sales: This section breaks down sales totals by item. Get an exact count on what products and services are selling the best — and which are selling the least.
  • Category Sales: Not only can you see an itemized list of everything you’re selling in the item sales section, but Square’s reporting feature also breaks things down by category.
  • Mobile Staff Sales: Keep track of who your best mobile sellers are with a quick view that shows you when they sell through the day. Finding out when sales peak can help you schedule and better manage your entire remote staff — and help you spot your best sellers for the day.
  • Employee Sales: Similar to the mobile staff sales section, the employee sales section helps you keep track of who is selling what. This section shows you sales per hour, tips, hours worked, and when sales peaked for the day. To be able to use this, you’ll have to have an Employee Management subscription, which costs $5/employee per month.
  • Discounts: The discount sections shows a list for the amount and frequency of your discounts that are applied to anything your customers buy.
  • Taxes: This section breaks the sales tax information down for you by the type of tax, how much it is, and any non-taxable sales you have.
  • Gift Cards: Find out what you need to know about any gift cards you sell. This section overviews any gift cards you load, how much was put on them, how many were redeemed, and how many existing gift cards you have floating around at any time.
  • Comps: Comps keep track of changes to orders that may affect your bottom line. If a change will cause a loss to your business, or if you want to place a discount on an order and eat the cost, you will utilize the comp function.
  • Voids: For a change to an order that doesn’t affect inventory or costs (i.e., a customer changes an order before it’s made), you will use the void function.

Worried about keeping accurate books? You can also export your data from nearly any accounting software. The best part is that because the dashboard is so easy to navigate, you don’t have to wade through a lot of Excel sheets to get to your data. Keeping things in one central location can mean less hassle, as you have created a streamlined workflow from data to decisions. And that can make for smart business decisions at every level. 

Customer Care

Square has some excellent — and entirely free — built-in features that can help you understand and take control of customer satisfaction. The foundation of this is the Square Directory, a free tool you can use to build customer profiles, including their names, contact information, and purchase history. You can also keep notes on each customer! A detailed transaction and activity history can help you understand how your customers interact with you through time.

Square offers insights that show you how often your customers visit and how often they return to you. The insights can help you track retention patterns, and if you have multiple locations, help you understand which of your locations is doing better. You can create segments of your “regulars” or identify customers who have lapsed in visits and (if you opt to use Square’s Marketing suite) reach out to them with promotions.

The other tool worth mentioning is Square Feedback. Here, you can encourage any customers who have negative issues to leave you private feedback where you can offer resolution directly. Your customers can send private feedback from their receipt so you can keep track of any repeated issues or isolated issues quickly. It’s possible to respond to the feedback, issue refunds, or send coupons — all through the Square dashboard.

Square’s Customer Feedback Features

Inventory

While you can create items from within the Square Point of Sale app, the Square Dashboard offers much more comprehensive tools to manage your inventory. You can create items manually, one by one, or do a bulk upload with a CSV file. In the dashboard, you can also manage quantities of items and set low-stock alerts, so you know when it’s time to re-order something. Square’s inventory supports barcodes (though it can’t print labels), as well as variants and modifiers. You can even sort your inventory by category.

Square gives you access to reports that will break the sales data down into beautiful graphs for you to keep track of what inventory items are selling the best. By using the inventory tools, you can quickly see what inventory is moving the fastest and can make better decisions about what to do next.  This real-time data reporting feature means you always have the most up-to-date, accurate information when it comes to re-ordering, managing promotions, and distribution (if you have more than one location). 

How Square Dashboard Insights Lead To Smart Promotions

Sure, the capability to easily keep up with your inventory, sales, and customer management are all benefits, but the dashboard can also give you powerful insights when it comes to making decisions about marketing your business.

For example, you may have a great product that hasn’t quite caught on with customers yet. This app shows you who is buying that lesser-known service or item, allowing you to then run a referral campaign as an incentive for those people to tell their family and friends.

And when it’s time to run a promotion, or you have ongoing discounts to offer, you can track the success of those promotional pushes as well. You’ll find this handy feature in the reporting feature under the Discounts section.

Don’t forget: Square’s Loyalty Program (which starts at $25/month) can be managed from within the dashboard. It syncs with the Directory and allows you to customize your loyalty program perks, right down to the branding of the program. Square really does offer you a centralized way to manage your interactions with your customers and make smart decisions on how to drive sales.

The Square Dashboard App

The Square Dashboard App allows you to take some of the Dashboard’s analytic and real-time updating power with you on the go — if you have an iPhone with the latest version of iOS running. (For those of you with an Android phone, Square is working on developing a compatible app, so stay tuned.)

After you download the app, you can sign into your account. You’ll see right away that it is a bit more simplified than the full online Square Dashboard.

That said, the Square Dashboard App still gives you quite a bit of control on the go. You can view live sales data from more than one location, add customers to your directory, and take a peek at activity through the day. What you can’t do is send an invoice from your app; you will have to log in to your online Square Dashboard to update and submit invoices and send them from within Square Point of Sale.

Make Smarter Business Decisions For A Low Cost & High Value

Ready to get started and dig into the reporting and analytics features? You don’t have to do anything if you are already using Square. It’s all in your Dashboard. You will find every section we highlighted above — from sales summaries and trends to employee sales activity through the day — and it’s all accessible in real time, completely free with your account. 

For any business owner, the ability to quickly track pending invoices and handle customer feedback concerns privately can mean the difference between success and failure. And when it comes to comparing location performance, employee activities, and sales trends over the long term, the dashboard can help you make smarter, more informed decisions for your business.

With everything that Square offers in terms of free features and reporting options, the cost-to-value ratio is a no-brainer. You get a lot of benefit out of this robust product that keeps delivering real-time data to you all year.

Remember, though: While Square doesn’t cost anything to use, you will be responsible for paying credit card processing costs! But unless you opt for a monthly subscription product such as Loyalty, Marketing, or Employee Management, transaction fees will be your only consistent costs with Square.

With Square, fees for each type of transaction can vary, but you’ll pay the same for any type of card. Here is a quick break-down of the most common transaction costs:

  • Square Point of Sale with a mobile card reader: 2.75% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction.
  • Square Register: 2.5% + $0.10 per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction
  • Square Terminal: 2.6% + $0.10 per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction

For more on Square’s transaction pricing, check out How Much Does Square Charge?

If you are interested in learning more about all of Square’s hardware options, check out our Guide to Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles.

Try the Square Online Dashboard For Free

If you are already a Square user, the next step is simple: head over to your dashboard and start checking things out. If you haven’t gotten started with Square yet, you can sign up for a free account with Square and test it out for yourself. There are no credit checks for this, and a free mag-stripe reader comes to your mailbox after you sign up.

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Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

Get things set up, keep doing what you do best, and then watch Square build reports for your business in real time.

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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 We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How to Accept Credit Cards For Your Taxi Business

 

credit card processing for taxi drivers

If you are a taxi driver, there is no shortage of options when it comes to accepting credit card payments from your customers. But the truth is, point of sale solutions don’t all offer the same type of features and benefits. And when you consider that most customers today whip out their credit card when it’s time to pay the bill, finding the best credit card processing company for your taxi business is really important.

If you’re a taxi or ride-share driver looking for a good payment processing app, we’ve created this post just for you — read on for an overview of some of the features you may want to look out for when you choose a processing company for your taxi business. At the end of the post, we’ll also tell you which company offers the best processing features (and value) for your money — and why.

What Makes A Good Mobile Payments Processor?

Mobile App & Card Reader

Of course, the most essential thing to have when accepting payment in your taxi is good, basic functionality in the mobile app and credit card reader you’re using. First things first: Look for a reader that is compatible with the mobile device on which your software is installed — whether that is your iPhone or Android phone, iPad, or another type of tablet.

You will also want to pay attention to any costs associated with the card reader itself. Are the reader and app free to use? If not, could you get a better deal elsewhere? Read our article on the best credit card readers for more information about choosing good hardware.

As a taxi driver, the ability to accept multiple types of payments is important for the convenience of both you and your customer, but you need to be able to count on it to work wherever you are. It’s critical to choose a company that has built up an excellent reputation through reliable and secure service.

Of course, it’s critical to consider things like rates, fees, usability, and other bells and whistles that might come along with your service, so keep reading to find out more about what makes a good credit card processing solution for your taxi company.

Offline Mode

Mobile credit card readers are built to go wherever you do, but that doesn’t mean they are always going to function if your internet service gets interrupted. Since you can’t always rely on the connectedness of your device, finding a credit card reader that also works offline is a must.

You may be asking, ‘So how does it work if you are offline?’ If a card reader has an “offline mode,” you can still swipe payments without worrying about a spotty connection (or just re-swiping and crossing your fingers). Connection problems don’t just affect taxi drivers and other mobile businesses — they can affect brick and mortar businesses as well. Having an offline mode takes some of the worry and the hassle out of accepting payments, so you never have to worry about a disconnection interfering with a sale.

Low Processing Rates

One of the first questions anyone should ask when it comes to credit card processing is, of course, how much does it cost? After all, it is your business and your bottom line, so understanding all of the fees that come along with your service is important. Taxi drivers understand better than many business owners what high processing fees can do to earnings.

Many processing companies charge exorbitant rates per transaction, leading some people to stick to cash transactions and avoid processing credit card payments altogether. Thankfully, not all processing companies are out to screw you over — we include our best recommendation at the end of the post, so keep reading if you are curious!

Look for a company that has easy-to-understand rates, with preferably no added monthly fees. Nowadays, you also should look for freedom when it comes to contracts. As a taxi driver, you shouldn’t be bullied into signing a long-term contract with any credit card processing company. In fact, a contract of that sort is often a red flag that there may be more hidden fees once they hook you, so avoid these high-pressure tactics if you can.

Educate yourself before you begin negotiations with any potential payment processor. Read our Complete Guide To Credit Card Processing Rates and Fees, check out our infographic on payment processing fees for a visual overview, or download our free eBook, the Beginner’s Guide To Payment Processing.

Intuitive Tipping Functionality

One of the great things about accepting payments through a mobile reader is that tipping is made easy for your customers. Tips can add up to a pretty big chunk of your take-home pay if you drive cabs for a living, so pay close attention to any app you are considering when it comes to the tipping experience. Look for an app that offers up some preset tip amounts first but also allows your riders to choose a different amount if they want. When an app suggests a pre-set percentage, it removes any mental math skills and makes it even easier to tip you at the end of the ride.

Customer Experience Feedback

Another perk to check out when you are shopping around for the best mobile app for your taxi company is the feedback function. Does the app allow your customers to rate the drive or give you any input? If there are any issues, resolving them directly with you through the app is preferable to a customer posting a public review or calling your company. These customer feedback functions can also show you how you or your staff are doing each day and over time— and allow you to communicate with your customers about their experience directly.

Backend Reporting

Nowadays, when it comes to finding the right mobile processing app, there is so much more available than just the swipe feature. Check out some of the other services that may come along with the app, like reporting and analytics. The ability to track sales history and amounts, see peak service times, store customer data, and create other insights can be powerful tools to help you make better decisions. 

The Best Mobile Payment App For Taxis & Ride Shares

With all of the potential benefits — and pitfalls — in mind listed above, there really is only one company that offers the whole package. When it comes to credit card readers that deliver more than just a swipe function, our favorite payment processor is Square.

Best Overall Mobile POS


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Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

Square has some of the lowest rates with no surprise monthly charges or hidden fees. Not only are costs low, but you can also get your funds deposited directly into your bank account in as little as one or two business days. Also, fees are the same no matter what card you take —  and yes you can start taking every major credit card, including American Express. With the free Square POS app, it is just 2.75% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction — and the card reader itself is free.

We like that when you take payment, the offline feature is backing you up in the event service is interrupted. Keep in mind that with Square, no data is saved to your device, so you can be confident you are offering a fully secure and PCI compliant solution.

We also like that with Square POS, you get access to analytics that you may not have had before. For instance, the Square dashboard feature makes it easy for you to see every time you or any other driver connected to your account to process a payment with Square. At the Square dashboard, you can see this activity happening in real time. The simple charts allow you to quickly determine peak times and sales activity for each driver (or yourself), so you can make better decisions when it comes to scheduling.

If you want to check out a little bit more about Square before making a decision, check out our other resources, including How Much Does Square Charge, and How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work? By doing a little research and checking out the features most important to you, you can find the best solution that you are comfortable with — and that makes your life a lot easier.

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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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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The Best Business Grants For Veterans

Many veterans that have spent their lives protecting our nation and our freedom also own and operate small businesses. According to a Small Business Administration study, there are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. These veteran business owners continue to give back to the nation by providing jobs to 5.8 million employees.

Like any other small business owners, veterans face financial hardships on the path to entrepreneurship. Emergency expenses, cash flow shortages, and expansion are just a few situations where a business might need extra capital. Veteran-owned businesses may face even more financial challenges – for example, if a reservist that also owns a small business is suddenly deployed, money, time, and resources may become scarce quickly. While your incoming revenue should cover most of your expenses in theory, there will always be times when the current cash flow situation just isn’t enough.

If you’re a veteran who runs your own business and are facing a financial challenge, there are options available to you. One of the best options? Grants for veteran-owned businesses. With a grant, you can receive money to fund startup costs, pay for the research and development of new products, or support your established business. Best of all, grants don’t have to be repaid.

What’s the catch? Obtaining a grant is difficult for many business owners. You may not know where to even begin to find these grants. Once you find them, the application process can be confusing, and you’ll find the competition extremely stiff. Not only do you have to be a veteran to qualify for these grants, but you may also have to meet additional requirements, including the location of your business, the industry you’re in, and your time in business. Grants are available through the federal government, nonprofit organizations, and even corporations.

However, just because it’s difficult to receive a grant doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The first step is to understand what grants are available to you, learn the requirements, and move through the application process. In this article, we’ll explore the best grant options available to veterans, how to find your own grants, and other financial options available for your business. Ready to move one step closer to getting the business funding you need? Let’s get started!

StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award

StreetShares is an online lender that specializes in lending to veterans. In addition to financing products like loans and lines of credit (which we’ll discuss later in this post), small business grants are also available through the StreetShares Foundation.

As of 2018, the StreetShares Foundation awards grants to three winners. First place receives $15,000, second place receives $6,000, and third place wins $4,000.

The StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award is open to any military veteran, reserve or active duty member of the Armed Forces, or a qualifying spouse. Applicants must live in the U.S., be at least 21 years old, and own at least 50% of the business. All businesses must be legal entities and must have an impact on the veteran community to qualify. Award amounts and additional requirements may change from year to year.

To be eligible for the grant, all applicants must view educational content through StreetShares. Once qualifying content has been downloaded or viewed, the application is available. Applicants must write a summary of their business and submit a video. The Foundation will choose up to 10 finalists based on the business idea, how the award will be used, the history of the business, the product-market fit, and the social impact on the military and veteran community. Once the finalists are selected, their businesses will be presented to the public and put to a vote to determine the winners.

National Association For The Self-Employed Growth Grants

For businesses with smaller capital needs, the National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grant provides small grants up to $4,000. Like other grants, the funds must be used for a specific purpose, such as purchasing equipment or hiring new employees.

Applications are reviewed quarterly and awards up to $4,000 are distributed monthly. To qualify, you must submit an application outlining your business need and providing details of how you will use the grant to fund this need.

You must also be a member of the NASE to qualify. Annual fees are $120, but veterans only have to pay $99 for an annual membership. Once you’ve joined, you are eligible to apply, and your application will be reviewed based on the association’s quarterly review schedule.

FedEx Small Business Grant Program

The FedEx Small Business Grant program has awarded over $500,000 in grants since its launch in 2013. In 2018, FedEx awarded $120,500 to 10 U.S.-based small businesses. The top prize for the contest is a $25,000 grant and $7,500 worth of FedEx Office services. Other winners bring home smaller grants and money to be used toward printing and businesses services.

To qualify, all businesses must be for-profit and based in the U.S. All small businesses must have fewer than 99 employees and must have a time in business of at least 6 months. Participants must fill out an application, write a short profile for their business, and upload four photos. Participants may also submit a 90-second video for voting, although this isn’t required. Participants do not have to be military veterans to apply.

The annual program usually opens its entry period at the end of February, and interested small businesses can apply through the FedEx website.

USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program

Through the United States Department of Agriculture, eligible small businesses can receive grants from $10,000 to $500,000. To qualify, you don’t have to be in the agriculture industry, but your business must be located in an eligible rural area.

Other requirements include operating a business that has no more than 50 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenues. Grant proceeds can be used to purchase or develop commercial real estate, to cover expenses related to business planning, and for purchasing equipment.

All applicants can apply for the grant through their USDA Rural Development state office.

How To Find & Apply For VA Small Business Grants

small business loans for veterans

If you’ve missed the deadline for applying for the grants discussed in this article, don’t qualify, or are looking for more grant opportunities, there are additional resources you can use to find your own grants.

To find federal grant opportunities, check out Grants.gov. This searchable database of federal grants is easy to use. Through this website, you can search and apply for grants, use their educational resources to learn more about grants, and even track your submissions. A mobile app is now available for Android and iPhone, making it easy for you to search for grants on the go.

Another great resource is the SCORE Association. This nonprofit agency has counselors and mentors located nationwide. These volunteers can not only point you toward national and local grants, but also provide free business advice for starting or building your business. You can participate in online workshops as well, and take advantage of the other free resources available to small business owners.

Try using resources at your local library to find small business grants. Many library branches offer specialized tools, including search engines and databases, that provide information on available small business grants for startups and established businesses in all industries.

Once you’ve found grants, the next step is to begin the application process. Because grants are to be used for very specific purposes and are extremely competitive, take the time to adequately prepare.

Before getting started, make sure that you meet all requirements of the grants that interest you. Once you’re sure that you qualify for a startup grant, complete all required registrations. This may include registering on a website to fill out an application and/or applying for an Employer Identification Number or DUNS number.

The next steps vary based on the specific grant program. Some grant programs require you to create a short business profile or a short video giving information on your business and why you need a grant. Other grants have more extensive requirements, including writing a detailed business plan and in-depth summary of how you plan to use grant proceeds. Work through these steps very carefully. You don’t want to overlook a minor detail that could render you ineligible to receive the grant.

Your grant proposal should sound professional and include details. Your proposal should be well-organized, and you should do your research on details such as potential costs. Include supporting documentation and citation to back up your claims as needed.

If you’re new to the application process, consider hiring a grant writer. If this simply isn’t in your budget, there are free resources online that can help you through the process.

Other Financial Resources For Veteran-Owned Businesses

Whether you don’t qualify for a grant program or have greater financial needs than a grant can cover, there are more financing options available for your business. The Small Business Administration and StreetShares stand out by offering low-cost loan options to veteran-owned businesses just like yours.

VA SBA Loans

SBA loans have developed a reputation among small business owners for their low interest rates and great terms. Rates and terms are comparable to bank and credit union loans. The best part, though, is that even if you don’t qualify for traditional loan options, you may still receive an SBA loan. This is because these loans are backed by the government in amounts up to 85%, taking some of the risk away from the intermediary lender. What does this mean for you? Your small business can still be approved for an affordable loan, even if you’ve been turned down by other lenders.

One of the most popular loan options is the SBA 7(a) program. Through this program, you can receive up to $5 million for nearly any business purpose. The SBA sets the interest rates at the prime rate plus a maximum markup of 4.75%, so these loans are extremely affordable.

For military veterans, the SBA Veterans Advantage program is available. Through this program, you’ll receive the same high borrowing limits and low rates and terms of the 7(a) loan, with the added advantage of reduced guarantee fees.

To qualify for the SBA Veterans Advantage loan, your business must be a veteran-owned business that is considered a small business based on the SBA’s definition. You must demonstrate the ability to repay the loan and meet all criteria for receiving an SBA loan, including personal credit score requirements.

If you’re a military reservist or are in the National Guard, a deployment can throw your business off track. You shouldn’t have to worry about a pile of expenses that pose a threat to your business when you go on active duty. Luckily, the SBA has a financial solution.

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program provides loans up to $2 million for military reservists or National Guard members during or immediately following deployment. Under this program, you can receive a loan with interest rates set at 4% and repayment terms up to 30 years. Loan proceeds can be used to cover operating costs but can’t be used to refinance debt, expand a business, or cover lost income or profits.

You may also qualify for other SBA loan options not specific to veterans. For example, if you need capital for your startup costs, you can apply for SBA microloans up to $50,000 through an SBA-approved nonprofit lender. Interested in learning more about SBA loans? Check out our post on SBA loans for veterans.

StreetShares

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We already touched on StreetShares earlier when discussing grants. However, if you missed the deadline to apply, don’t want to go through the hassle of applying for the program, or don’t qualify, StreetShares has traditional financing options for your business.

StreetShares was founded by veterans and was originally targeted only toward veterans. Today, however, any qualifying business owner can apply for StreetShares financing. There are some special concessions made for veteran-owned businesses, which we’ll discuss in detail a bit later.

You can apply for a StreetShares installment loan of up to $250,000 to be repaid over 3 to 36 months. The interest rates for these loans are around 6% to 14%.

If a flexible line of credit better fits your financial needs, StreetShares offers those, too. You can apply for a line of credit of up to $250,000 with repayment terms of 3 to 36 months. Interest rates are around 6% to 14% for a StreetShares line of credit.

To qualify for a loan or line of credit, you must be in business for at least 2 years. However, some businesses may qualify with a time in business as short as 6 months. You must also have a minimum personal credit score of 620. However, if you’re a veteran, this score requirement is lowered to 600. You must also have an annual business revenue of $100,000.

If you have federal, state, or commercial contracts, you could also qualify for contract financing. You can receive up to 90% of your contract in advance by paying a factor fee. You can apply for contract financing in addition to an installment loan or line of credit.

Final Thoughts

Grants for a veteran-owned small business are difficult to receive, but you can improve your odds by doing your research and taking your time throughout the application process. A grant is a great way to fund your business, and you don’t have to worry about repaying funds.

Even if you don’t qualify for grants, your veteran-owned business can take advantage of other affordable financing options to start or expand your business. Consider SBA loans or our picks for small business loans for veterans to give your business the financial boost it needs to be successful.

The post The Best Business Grants For Veterans appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Advertise on Quora Effectively

Quora Ads

Quora Ads are one of the myriad options for advertising online. Like eBay, Reddit, and LinkedIn, Quora is one of those Web 2.0 properties that feels like it should be dated, but remains surprisingly relevant.

In fact, while Quora is itself has been around since 2009, Quora’s self-serve Ad Platform only rolled out in 2016.

Quora has 300 million active users and some interesting reasons to advertise.

Why Use Quora Ads

First, you have access to both social data and search intent.

Like Pinterest and Reddit, you can reach people based on demographic and psychographic data AND you can reach people who are actively searching for answers OR you can layer both to run hyper-targeted campaigns to people who are both your target customer and actively researching.

Second, you have access to lots of qualified organic traffic. Quora has plenty of internal usage. But their organic search traffic is their secret weapon.

Due to their brand and enormous amount of content, they rank well in Google & Bing for highly qualified search terms. I’ve written how you can use Quora for “barnacle” SEO and content.

But – that approach requires work. With Quora Ads, you can pay to jump to the front of the line. Advertise on pages that rank well for target keywords.

Quora Ad Alternative

Third, you get to define best practices & deal with lower competition.

Every big brand and agency is on Google & Facebook. Best practices and budgets are well-defined. Quora requires more work and thought to succeed.

I’ll share my experience in this post, but my main takeaway is that there is no “right” answer. Quora is still wide-open and open for testing & experimentation. If you have more time / skills than budget, Quora is a great place to go.

How To Setup Quora Ads

Quora has done an excellent job with self-service. The platform is straightforward and comes with a surprisingly useful email course.

To get started, all you need is some basic business information.

Within your Ads Manager Dashboard, you can Manage Ads, setup a Quora Pixel, manage your retargeting audiences, and setup email reports.

Whether you setup an ad campaign or not, I highly suggest that you immediately implement your Pixel, dabble with Audiences and setup a couple curated Email Reports.

Quora has a the familiar menu of retargeting audiences. Standard setup is for Website Traffic.

In the next step, you’ll setup your Quora Pixel to tag visitors. You can pre-segment your Website Traffic to make retargeting a bit easier.

3 Quora Remarketing

If you have a lot of educational content on your site, I would start with that segment. Quora is a common research tool, especially with high-consideration purchases. If you can reach users doing intensive research across platforms, you’ll be less likely to lose them.

Additionally, once you’ve built an audience, you can create a Lookalike Audience.

This feature is huge because you can reasonably expand your reach across Quora to reach someone who you *know* is familiar with your brand.

Remember how I mentioned that Quora is hybrid social / search? This is where that power comes in.

For example, imagine you are recruiting entry-level engineers out of college.

You have the ability to tag visitors to your site, and then reach them throughout Quora whenever they are asking career related questions.

Plus – you’ll get insight into the types of questions that you your audience asks. This feeds back into a successful content strategy based on data that *only* you have access to.

Lastly, if you have permission, you can upload a list of current contacts to rebuild your existing customers within Quora.

It’s a lot of work, but for high consideration campaigns, it’s worthwhile.

Like any & all retargeting strategies – Audiences can be creepy, invasive, and sometimes illegal in the European Union without explicit consent.

Most people either consent or live in jurisdictions that do not require explicit consent. These tools do exist and are worthwhile for many businesses. Retargeting is here to stay. The key is to keep it classy. Time, thoughtfulness, and testing creates the best outcome for advertisers, publishers, and customers.

Email Reporting is straightforward. But I would set the settings you like so that you actually view the reports rather than automatically deleting them.

4 Quora Email Reports

Now you’ll need to set your Quora Pixel, which is the snippet that “fires” on your webpage to track website visitors.

The setup depends on your website, but you’ll need to place it wherever you have your Google Analytics tag.

5 Quora Pixel

Now you can get started on a campaign! Head to Manage Ads and select your objective.

6 Quora Ads Create Campaign

If you select Conversions, you’ll need to select a conversion type to pass to your Quora Pixel. You’ll also have to manually tag any actions (like Add to Cart).

Conversion Tracking is accurate and can be worthwhile. But unless you are running large campaigns, some of this Conversion Tracking might not be worth the effort.

8 Quora Ads Conversions

For my campaigns (and most advertisers), I use the Traffic objective. But I also tag all of my ads so that I can track conversions within my existing Google Analytics setup.

9 Quora Ads Objective

Once you’ve created your Campaign objectives, you’ll need to set up a new Ad Set.

Ad Sets each have their own targeting and bids. After setting up an Ad Set, you’ll write individual Ads for each ad set.

But Ad Sets are where the fun really happens.

You have 4 primary targeting methods. I’ll cover each below. But the short version is that you can do –

  • Topic Targeting – Target content that falls within a category regardless of user interest.
  • Question Targeting – Target specific questions on Quora regardless of topic or user.
  • Audience Targeting – Target your audiences everywhere on Quora (see above).
  • Interest Targeting – Target people who are interested in a topic regardless of content.

After that, you can choose several secondary targeting methods. You can focus your ads by Location or Device. You can also exclude specific questions or audiences (ie, people who have successfully purchased from your site).

10 Quora Ads Targeting

Topic and Question Targeting are my favorite options. They both target based on content not the user.

When you are looking to expand reach or target based on intent – this is the option that you should use. Topic Targeting lets you quickly target a bunch of questions quickly.

The key to Topic Targeting is to provide Quora with a relevant but broad set of keywords. There’s a bit of an art to it, but be sure to play around with different combinations before committing to a set of Topics.

Additionally, make sure you go and manually explore those Topics to vet the questions, the likely audience, and and related Topics that you are missing.

11 Quora Ads Topic Targeting

But if you have time, the best targeting option is Suggested Questions.

With this option, you can advertise with specific ads on specific questions.

From a purely data perspective, this targeting option is the only place to get Weekly Views stats for Quora questions, which can help your content marketing efforts separate from any paid campaigns.

13 Quora Question Ad Suggestions

Interest Targeting targets the user rather than the content that they are looking at. This option is great for casting a wide-net to reach your audience everywhere on Quora.

However, note that you’ll reach them even when they are looking at irrelevant questions. This option is great to layer with other options (like exclude questions). Be careful using it alone though.

12 Quora Ads Interest Targeting

There are also options for targeting an existing audience and also a Broad Topic option.

After selecting your targeting with exclusions and bids set, you’ll need to create your actual ads.

Quora provides lots of space and encourages “content-like” ads. They want complete sentences that are relevant to your targeting. They are not great for hard-sells, but pair *very* well with custom landing pages or educational content.

Be sure to add UTM parameters to your landing page URL to effectively track visits throughout Google Analytics.

 

14 Quora Ad CreationThat’s how you setup Quora ads. But keep in mind that the magic is in customized ads, landing pages, targeting and constantly improving each metric.

That said – how do Quora ads perform “out in the wild”? I’ve run a few campaigns for myself and for clients. Here’s the results of my most recent campaign.

My Experience with Quora Ads

Now – I almost exclusively use Question Targeting for my Quora ads. I also commit to spending probably too much time on research for my small campaigns (although some of that research gets re-used for content campaigns).

The campaign highlighted below was a fairly small content promotion campaign. I had a new piece of content that I wanted to promote without traditional, manual outreach.

I found several questions that aligned with the content. I devoted around $100 to promotion.

Quora Campaign Results

This campaign aligned with the common takeaways from my Quora campaigns.

  • The impressions were high for such a niche topic – and surprisingly consistent day to day.
  • The CTR was uncommonly high for online ads.
  • Conversions were solid.
  • Cost per click was a bit higher than expected, but nowhere near Google Ads territory.

Additionally, I did not have to filter or account for a lot of spam (I’m looking at you, Google Display and Facebook…).

My numbers in Google Analytics lined up perfectly with Quora. Engagement was high and as I’d hoped.

Quora Ads Experiment

All in all, this (and all my campaigns) go back to the same general takeaways for Quora Ads.

  • Quora Ads are hard to roll out “at scale” but are very effective with the right amount of time devoted to set up & research.
  • They are great for high consideration ads and great to reach new, smart audiences.
  • You have to have the right website content to provide good, engaging landing pages.
  • Often small campaigns are worthwhile simply for the data.

In many ways, they remind me of both Pinterest and Reddit Ads. They aren’t for everyone, but certainly a solid opportunity for the right advertisers.

Next Steps

Quora Ads are not for everyone. There’s not a ton of inventory. To do it well, you really need to spend some time on your research and ad setup.

However, in an increasingly crowded and expensive online ad market, the market represents a solid opportunity.

At the very least, you should go set up an account and grab the Quora Pixel to build an audience.

From there, you can reach you existing users on yet another platform. You can expand your reach based on small tests and the time you have to research interests.

If you found this article useful, please link, share or bookmark. Happy advertising!

The post How To Advertise on Quora Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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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

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

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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The Best Business Loans For Good Credit

As a business owner with good credit, you’re in a great position when it comes to loans and other financing options. A good credit score is one of the most important factors lenders consider when assessing risk. In fact, a solid credit score is one factor that puts you in the “low risk” category. That means you’re more likely to qualify for loan and financing options with lower rates and better terms.

However, having good credit isn’t the only piece to the financing puzzle. Before applying for a business loan, it’s important to go into the process knowing more about lender requirements, types of loans available, and what you need to apply for a loan. Read on to learn more about the business loans available for borrowers with good credit and which options are best for your financial situation.

What Is Good Credit?

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If you’ve ever applied for a personal or business loan or any kind of financing, you know how important credit scores are to lenders. Your credit score is a measure of your risk. A good credit score shows that you’re low risk. You pay your debts on time each month, your credit history is free of major blemishes like bankruptcies, charge-offs, and defaults, and you’re a reliable borrower. Because of that, more creditors are willing to work with you.

So, what makes a good credit score? Generally, a score of 700 or above is considered “good” on a scale of 300 to 850, although some lenders may view a score in the high 600s as a good score.

Having a high credit score helps you qualify for more financing options with lower rates, improved terms, and a lower overall cost of borrowing. As a business owner, having a good credit score is extremely important. Whether you want to hire more employees, acquire a business, build new facilities, or receive cash for an unexpected emergency, you’ll have more options with a good credit score.

In this article, we’ll focus on the best loan options for business owners with good credit scores. If your score is holding you back from receiving these loans, however, you still have options. Check out loan options for bad credit to find financing that’s the right fit for you.

Best Loans For Purchasing Equipment

equipment financing

No matter what type of industry you’re in, there typically comes a time when you need equipment. Whether you need tools to manufacture your products, require a delivery or company vehicle, need new appliances, or must purchase a point-of-sale system, all equipment has one thing in common: it costs money. If you need to purchase equipment to expand your business or to replace outdated or broken equipment, and you don’t have the cash up front, there’s a funding option for you: equipment financing.

If you apply for an equipment loan, a lender provides you with the cash needed to purchase equipment. All you have to pay is a reasonable down payment. With good credit, you may even qualify for $0 down financing. After receiving your loan and making your purchase, you can put the equipment into use for your business immediately. Then, you simply pay your lender back through fixed installments that are applied toward the loan principal and the lender’s interest and fees. Once you make all payments as scheduled, the equipment belongs to you.

If you need to upgrade equipment frequently, you may consider another type of equipment financing. With an equipment lease, you sign a lease for a period of time — on average about two years. You agree to make scheduled payments to the lender through the duration of the lease. Once the lease period ends, you can return the equipment and choose a new model. You’ll then sign another lease. You’ll never take ownership of the equipment unless you pay a lump sum at the end of your lease.

Recommended Lender: Lendio

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Lendio is a loan aggregator that connects borrowers with equipment loans from $5,000 to $5 million. Repayment terms for equipment loans are from 1 to 5 years, and interest rates for the most creditworthy borrowers start as low as 7.5%.

Equipment financing can be used to purchase any type of equipment, including software, furniture and fixtures, commercial vehicles, and even solar panels for your facilities. To qualify for equipment financing, you must be in business for at least 1 year, have a credit score of at least 650, and have at least $50,000 in annual revenue.

Best Loans For Business Expansion

Expansion is a huge milestone for your business. Expansion means that you’re growing bigger and getting better at what you do. Unfortunately, opening another office, upgrading your existing facilities, or purchasing a new commercial building doesn’t come cheap. Instead of cleaning out your bank account, fund your expansion with a Small Business Administration loan.

The Small Business Administration has made it easier for businesses to get affordable loans. Even if you’ve been turned down for a traditional loan, you may be eligible to receive a loan through an SBA intermediary lender. Portions of SBA loans are backed by the government, taking some of the risk off of lenders and opening up more low-interest financing options for small businesses.

Recommended Lender: SmartBiz

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Through SmartBiz, you can receive SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans from $500,000 to $5 million. Your loan can be used to purchase a commercial property or refinance your existing property.

If you’re expanding your business in other ways, SmartBiz also offers working capital and debt refinancing loans from $30,000 to $350,000. These funds can be used for hiring employees, purchasing inventory or equipment, marketing, and other business expansion plans. Interest rates for SmartBiz’s SBA loans are between 6.75% and 9% with repayment terms from 10 to 25 years.

To qualify, you must be an eligible business based in the US and must meet the requirements of a small business as defined by the SBA. You must be in business for at least 2 years. To qualify for a 7(a) commercial real estate loan, your credit score must be at least 675. For working capital and debt refinancing loans, a minimum credit score of 650 is required. Your credit report must be free of recent bankruptcies, foreclosures, settlements, charge-offs, and defaults on government loans. For commercial real estate loans, the real estate that’s purchased must be at least 51% owner-occupied.

Recommended Lender: Fundera

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You can also apply for SBA loans through Fundera. With Fundera, you can receive between $5,000 and $5 million with repayment terms between 5 and 25 years. Interest rates begin at 6.75%, and you can receive funding as fast as 3 weeks after applying.

Most borrowers that are approved for an SBA loan through Fundera have a credit score of 680, annual revenue of at least $180,000, and a time in business of over 4 years. When applying for an SBA loan through Fundera, the lender will walk you through the process and help you select the SBA program that’s right for you, including 7(a) loans, CDC/504 loans, or Microloans.

Best Loans For Working Capital

merchant cash advance industry

You can’t operate a successful business without working capital. While your incoming cash flow should cover daily expenses in theory, sometimes you may fall a little short. This is when a working capital loan can help.

A working capital loan gives you the money you need to cover your operating expenses, from payroll to debt payments. These short-term loans give you access to the money you need right away and are paid back through regularly scheduled payments.

Recommended Lender: BlueVine

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BlueVine offers two financing options for business owners. The first is a line of credit from $5,000 to $250,000. Proceeds from your line of credit can be used as working capital or to fund any business expense. Repayment terms are set at 6 months or 12 months with rates as low as 4.8%. Monthly or weekly payment options are available.

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

Another financing option available through BlueVine is invoice factoring. If your working capital has been affected by unpaid invoices, invoice factoring offers a solution. BlueVine has factoring lines up to $5 million with rates starting at 0.25% per week. The lender provides 85% to 90% of the total of your unpaid invoice up front. Once the invoice is paid, you receive the remaining amount, minus the lender’s fees.

To qualify, you must be a B2B business with a minimum credit score of 530 and $100,000 in annual revenue. You must also be in business for at least 3 months to qualify.

Recommended Lender: Breakout Capital

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Another financing option to boost your working capital is a business loan from Breakout Capital. This lender issues loans up to $250,000 with repayment terms up to 24 months. Rates start at 1.25% per month, and you can select from daily, weekly, or monthly repayment schedules. A one-time origination fee of 2.5% of the total loan is charged by the lender. Prepayment rebates are also available if you choose to pay off your loan early.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 1 year and have a personal credit score of at least 600. Monthly revenue of at least $10,000 is required to receive a Breakout Capital loan.

Breakout Capital also offers FactorAdvantage, an invoice factoring service. Through this service, you can receive up to $500,000 for your unpaid invoices. There are no time in business, personal credit score, or monthly revenue requirements to qualify.

Best Loans For Marketing & Advertising

You have an existing client base, but in order to scale your business and boost your profits, you need more customers. The best way to draw in new customers and clients is with a marketing and advertising campaign.

Unfortunately, effective marketing and advertising cost money — money that may not be in your budget. Instead of putting off marketing your business, consider a term loan to help you fund your marketing and advertising expenses.

A term loan is a loan that provides you with a set amount of money up front which is later paid back through regular installments. Repayment terms are typically spread out over a few years, and payments are made daily, weekly, or monthly toward the principal loan amount and fees and interest charged by the lender.

Since a term loan is for a specific amount of money, it’s important that you know exactly how much you need before applying. Take the time to calculate your marketing and advertising costs to ensure you receive the money you need for your campaign.

Recommended Lender: OnDeck

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OnDeck offers several financing options for your marketing and advertising needs. This lender has short-term and long-term loans available up to $500,000. Short-term loans are repaid within 3 to 12 months and have simple interest rates as low as 9%. Long-term options are available with repayment terms from 15 to 36 months with annual interest rates as low as 9.99%.

To qualify for OnDeck term loans, you must be in business for at least 1 year. A personal credit score of 500 and $100,000 in annual revenue are also needed to qualify. Origination fees of up to 4% are added to your loan, and you can sign up for fixed daily or weekly payments.

If you want a more flexible financing option, OnDeck also has lines of credit up to $100,000 with APRs starting at 13.99%. To qualify for a line of credit, you must be in business for at least 1 year, bring in $100,000 in annual revenue, and have a personal credit score of at least 600.

Best Loans For Cash Flow Problems

No business is immune to cash flow problems. Maybe it’s a slow season or an emergency expense affected your incoming cash flow. Regardless of your financial challenges, you need cash flow to keep your business operating as it should.

If temporary cash flow issues are impacting your operations, consider a financing option such as a merchant cash advance (MCA) a short-term loan to receive the money you need quickly. Merchant cash advances have a reputation for being one of the most expensive forms of financing. However, a financial product like American Express Merchant Financing can provide the benefits of MCAs without the notoriously high fees.

Recommended Lender: American Express Merchant Financing

American Express OptBlue

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Through American Express Merchant Financing, you can receive between $5,000 and $2 million that is repaid over 6, 12, or 24 months. A fixed fee between 1.75% and 20% is charged based on your creditworthiness and other factors, including term length. Your loan is repaid through daily debits or through your receivables, including American Express transactions.

To qualify for American Express Merchant Financing, you must have at least $50,000 in annual revenue and at least $12,000 in annual credit and debit receivables. Your business must accept American Express cards, and you must be in business for at least 2 years.

Recommended Lender: IOU Financial

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If you don’t qualify for American Express Merchant Financing, another short-term option to consider for resolving cash flow problems is a small business loan from IOU Financial. You can apply for $5,000 to $300,000 with repayment terms between 6 and 18 months. A factor rate of 1.15 to 1.31 is charged by the lender.

To qualify, you must sign a personal guarantee. You also need at least 10 deposits each month in your business checking account. A personal credit score of 600, a time in business of at least 12 months, and annual revenue of $120,000 are requirements to qualify for IOU Financial’s short-term business funding.

Best Loans For Cash Shortages

You need to make payroll, but your business banking account is running low. You have upcoming expenses, but the cash just isn’t there. If you’re facing cash shortages in your business, a line of credit can fill in the gaps.

A line of credit is a flexible form of revolving credit. Once approved, your lender will set a credit limit. You can make multiple draws up to and including your credit limit. Most lenders initiate transfers immediately, so you’ll receive the cash you need in your account as quickly as the next business day. You won’t have to wait for approval with each draw, so you’ll quickly and easily receive the money your business needs.

Fees and interest are only charged on the used portion of your credit line. As you make payments, funds will become available to withdraw again as needed.

Recommended Lender: Kabbage

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Kabbage issues lines of credit up to $250,000. Repayment terms are 6 months or 12 months, and your payment is automatically withdrawn each month. Kabbage charges fee rates between 1.5% to 10% for each month you carry a balance.

To qualify for a Kabbage line of credit, you must be in business for at least 1 year. Revenue requirements are: $50,000 annually or $4,200 per month for the last 3 months. There is no minimum credit score required to qualify. Loan approval and your credit limit are based on the performance of your business.

One standout feature of this lender is the Kabbage Card. In addition to taking traditional draws, you can use your Kabbage Card for instant access to capital. Once you use your Kabbage Card, a new loan will be added to your account with the same rates and terms as traditional draws.

Best Loans For Supplies & Inventory

Supplies and inventory are critical for the success of your business. Without your required supplies, your business won’t run efficiently. Without inventory, you won’t be able to service your customers. Your operations may slow down … or even come to a screeching halt.

While your incoming cash flow will often cover the costs of supplies and inventory, there may be times when this just isn’t enough. An emergency expense that comes at the wrong time or a seasonal uptick in sales are just two scenarios where it becomes difficult to handle the burden of purchasing supplies and inventory alone. When this occurs, consider the benefits of inventory financing.

Inventory financing is a loan or line of credit that is used to purchase supplies or inventory to keep your business operating as it should. You’ll receive the upfront cash you need to make your purchase, then repay the loan through regularly scheduled payments. This is an affordable way to purchase your supplies and inventory when your bank account is running low or you don’t want to tie up all your funds.

Recommended Lender: StreetShares

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StreetShares offers several financing solutions for the purchase of supplies and inventory. Through StreetShares, you can receive a Patriot Express line of credit between $5,000 and $250,000 with repayment terms of 3 to 36 months. Interest rates are between 6% and 14%, with a draw fee of 2.95%. Your line of credit is repaid weekly.

Installment loans between $2,000 and $250,000 are also available through StreetShares. You can borrow up to 20% of your annual revenue. These loans come with terms of 3 to 36 months. Interest rates are between 6% and 15% with closing fees up to 4.95%.

To qualify for a StreetShares installment loan or line of credit, you must be in business for at least 1 year and have annual revenue of at least $25,000. A personal credit score of at least 620 is required to receive a StreetShares line of credit.

Best Loans For Emergency Funds

Chart of Accounts

An emergency always strikes when we least expect it and brings with it expenses that just aren’t in our budgets. Emergency funding needs can put a dent in your bank account and temporarily derail your operations.

If you’re stuck without an emergency fund and shuffling around your finances isn’t a viable option, it’s time to consider a business loan. There are multiple financing options that will work for you  — such as credit cards, lines of credit, and short-term loans — but regardless of what you choose, you need financing and you need it fast.

Recommended Lender: American Express Business Loans

American Express OptBlue

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With an American Express business loan, you can receive $3,500 up to $50,000 with repayment terms of 12, 24, or 36 months. Amex loans come with fixed interest rates starting at 6.98% up to 19.97%. Amex loans can be approved within seconds and funds sent within 3 to 5 business days.

To qualify, you must be the cardholder on an eligible American Express Business Card and be a US citizen that’s at least 18 years old. You must also be pre-approved in order to apply.

Recommended Lender: FundBox

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If you don’t qualify for an American Express business loan, another fast financing option for small business owners is Fundbox. You’ll receive a credit decision for a Fundbox line of credit in just minutes. Once approved, you can make your first draw instantly and receive a deposit as soon as the next business day.

Through Fundbox, you can apply for flexible lines of credit up to $100,000. The lender charges fees starting at 4.66% of the draw amount. Repayment terms are set at 12 or 24 weeks.

To qualify, you must have an active business checking account and at least two months of activity in Fundbox-supported accounting software. If you don’t work with accounting software, you can supply bank statements from the last three months. You should also have a minimum annual revenue of $50,000, and your business must be based in the US.

Best Loans For Starting A Business

All of these financing solutions work well for established businesses, but what if you need money to get your business up and running? Time in business and annual revenue requirements could hold you back from receiving a loan, even if you have a high credit score.

Put your good credit to use by applying for a personal loan to use for business. Because it’s a personal loan, factors such as your time in business or revenues won’t be a factor for approval. Instead, the lender will consider your own personal credit history and income when approving your loan. If you have good credit and enough income to support a loan payment, you can receive a very affordable loan that can be used to launch your business or cover startup costs.

Recommended Lender: LendingPoint

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You can receive up to $25,000 with a LendingPoint personal loan. Repayment terms are 24 to 48 months. APRs for LendingPoint personal loans range from 15.49% to 35.99%. Lending Point charges origination fees between 0% and 6% of the total loan amount.

To qualify for a loan, you must reside in one of the 43 states where LendingPoint operates. Applicants in Washington D.C. are also eligible to apply. Additional requirements include a minimum income of $20,000, a verifiable bank account in your name, and a credit score in the 600s.

Recommended Lender: Prosper

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Prosper personal loans are available in amounts from $2,000 to $40,000. APRs range from 6.95% to 35.99%. Repayment terms are 3 years or 5 years.

To qualify for a Prosper loan, you must have a credit score of at least 640. You must also have a debt-to-income ratio below 50%. You must have a source of income, although there are no minimum income requirements. Your credit report must have less than five credit bureau inquiries within the last 5 months, no bankruptcies within the last 12 months, and at least three open trades.

Recommended Lender: Upstart

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Upstart personal loans are available from $1,000 to $50,000. Repayment terms are 3 years or 5 years with fixed rates between 8.89% and 35.99%.

To apply for an Upstart loan, you must be at least 18 years old. Applicants in Iowa or West Virginia are ineligible to apply. You must have a personal bank account with an institution located in the US, and you must have a full-time job, a job offer within the next 6 months, a part-time job, or another source of income. A minimum personal credit score of 620 is required to qualify.

Further credit requirements include no delinquent accounts, bankruptcies, or public reports. You must have less than 6 credit inquiries from the last 6 months, although student loans, mortgages, and vehicle loans are excluded. Upstart will also consider your DTI when approving your loan.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

Now that you have an idea of the types of loans available for your business, the next step — if you choose to move forward — is to find your lender. Maybe you’re torn between a few lenders, or you want to do your own research to find the most affordable loan option. When you’re searching for a lender, ask yourself the following questions.

How Much Money Do I Need?

This simple question will help you narrow down the playing field. If you need $100,000 but a lender has maximum loan amounts of $10,000, move on to the next option. Before you apply, know the amount that you need — and make sure it coincides with the amount that you can afford.

Do I Meet All Requirements?

Even if you meet the credit score requirements of the lender, make sure you meet all other requirements as well. Get the most up-to-date view of your credit score by receiving your free credit score online. Most lenders have basic requirement for age and citizenship. However, others have minimum requirements for your annual income and revenues, time in business, and DTI ratio.

How Will I Use The Loan?

Some lenders have restrictions on how loan proceeds are used. For example, an equipment loan can’t be used as working capital. It can only be used to purchase equipment. Plan how you will use the loan to determine which type of loan best fits your financial needs. Then, find a lender that offers this type of loan.

What You Need To Apply For A Business Loan

Improve Business Loan Application

By this point, you should know the amount of money you need (and can afford) and the type of loan that’s best for your business. You may even have a list of lenders that you’re considering. Before you apply, know what to expect before heading into the application process.

For all loans, you’ll need basic information about yourself and your business. This includes:

  • Business Name
  • Legal Name
  • Contact Information: Email address, phone numbers, address
  • Annual Income
  • Annual Revenue
  • Federal Tax ID
  • Social Security Number

Depending on the type of loan and the amount you’re seeking, you may have to provide additional information and documentation, including:

  • Business & Personal Income Tax Returns
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Debt Schedules
  • Voided Check
  • Business Plan
  • Driver’s License

Requirements vary by lender, so make sure to review and submit all documentation requested during the application process. Also, be sure to keep in contact with your lender to provide additional information and documentation as needed until your loan is approved and funded.

Final Thoughts

Having a high credit score will help you obtain a business loan, but don’t lean solely on your solid credit. Research your lenders, know your options, and find products suitable for your financial needs to ensure you get the low-interest, affordable loan your business deserves.

The post The Best Business Loans For Good Credit appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Financing And Loan Options For Manufacturing Companies

Operating a manufacturing business is extremely rewarding. Whether you’re creating products that ship directly to retailers or you’re working with other manufacturers, the potential for profits is great. However, as you’ve likely already seen in your business, owning a manufacturing company isn’t all smooth sailing. In order to make those big profits, you have to invest in your business.

Once you have steady cash flow, it’s easy to cover day-to-day operating expenses. But what happens when your bank account is running a little low or a major expense poses a threat to your operations? From emergencies to expansions to cash flow shortages, there are multiple scenarios where you fall a little short financially.

Instead of worrying, take action. When your manufacturing business has an expense you can’t handle on your own, there are loan and financing options for any situation. Don’t panic if you’re unsure of where to start. In this post, we’ll cover the types of loans available for your business, how to choose the right lender, and what to expect when it’s time to apply.

Read on to learn more and take the next step to fund your manufacturing business.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Financing Lendio
Purchasing Materials Line Of Credit FundBox
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Cash Shortages Invoice Factoring BlueVine
Hiring, Training & Covering Payroll Term Loan OnDeck
Marketing & Advertising Business Credit Card Chase Ink Preferred

How To Finance A Manufacturing Company

Your business is unique, and so are its financial needs. The type of loan or financial product you select is primarily centered on how you plan to use your funds. For example, if you want to purchase real estate, you should seek out long-term, low-interest options instead of a short-term loan. If you need to cover this month’s payroll, an equipment loan won’t help you out. The key is to identify why you need the money and select the right financial solution for your situation.

Purchasing Equipment

No matter what type of manufacturing business you operate, you need equipment to keep operations running efficiently. If you manufacture clothing or garments, sewing machines and pressing machines are essential equipment. If you operate a furniture manufacturing business, your business needs saws, planers, sanders, and other expensive tools and equipment.

Over time, your equipment may become old and outdated. Or maybe your equipment is still in good working order but you need to add more as part of an expansion. Either way, buying equipment doesn’t come cheap, and funding these expenses out-of-pocket can be tough, if not impossible. Instead of breaking the bank, you have a more affordable option: equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

When you receive an equipment loan, your lender will fund the full purchase price of your equipment. After paying a small down payment of 10% to 20%, you can take possession of the equipment and put it into use immediately. Then, you’ll simply make scheduled payments to your lender, which are applied to the balance of your loan (and toward any additional fees and interest charged for taking the loan).

With a high credit score, you may be able to qualify for $0 down financing. However, if at all possible, you should make a down payment to lower your scheduled payments and reduce the overall cost of borrowing.

Equipment loans can only be used to purchase equipment, including machinery, tools, furniture, fixtures, and vehicles. When you receive equipment financing, additional collateral is typically not required. Instead, the equipment being financed serves as the collateral and can be repossessed if payments are not made as agreed. Once your loan has been paid off, the equipment is yours to keep, sell, or trade.

Equipment leases are another option to consider. When you take out an equipment lease, you can use the equipment for a set period of time, such as 2 years. At the end of your lease, you have two options: pay a lump sum to purchase the equipment or return the equipment and sign another lease for new equipment. Unless you pay the remaining balance at the end of the lease, you will never take ownership of the equipment. This may be a good option for you if you update your equipment frequently or if you desire a lower down payment and lower monthly payments.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio isn’t a lender; rather, it is a loan aggregator that matches you with a lender that best fits your needs. One of the financial products offered through Lendio’s service is equipment loans.

Through Lendio, you can apply for $5,000 to $5 million to finance your equipment purchase. Repayment terms are available from 1 year to 5 years, with interest rates as low as 7.5%.

To qualify with a lender through Lendio’s network, a time in business of at least 12 months is required. You must also have at least $50,000 in annual revenue and a personal credit score of 650. If your credit score falls below this threshold, solid cash flow and revenue could still help you qualify for financing.

Purchasing Materials

Image of hands holding credit card and pressing a keys of keyboard

As a manufacturer, you need materials to manufacture your goods to sell to other manufacturers or retailers. When you don’t have the right materials, you can’t produce your goods, which negatively affects your revenue. If financial troubles prevent you from buying the materials you need, keep your business operating without a hitch by using a line of credit for your purchases.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a flexible form of revolving credit. Instead of receiving a lump sum payment, your lender will assign a credit limit. You can make draws from your credit line as often as you need for any amount within your set limit. This is ideal when you need to make multiple purchases over a period of time or you’re unsure of the exact amount of money you need.

You can use your line of credit for any business expense, including purchasing supplies, materials, and inventory. Once you make a draw from your line of credit, the funds are typically transferred immediately and will be deposited in your business bank account as soon as the next business day. Interest or fees are charged only on the used portion of the credit line. As you pay down your balance, the funds will become available for you to use again.

It’s easy for most business owners to qualify for a line of credit. However, the best rates and terms and the highest credit limits are given to the most established, creditworthy businesses.

Recommended Option: FundBox

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FundBox provides revolving lines of credit up to $100,000. When you make a draw, payments are made over a period of 12 or 24 weeks. Equal payments are made weekly and are withdrawn directly from your checking account.

Fees for drawing from your Fundbox line of credit start at 4.66% of the total draw amount. Your fee will be based on the health of your business. If you repay early, any remaining fees are waived, helping you save money.

To qualify for a Fundbox line of credit, you must have a business checking account and at least $50,000 in annual revenue. You must show two months of activity in Fundbox-supported accounting software. If you don’t have activity in accounting software, bank statements from the last three months are acceptable.

Business Expansion

Your business is growing, and it’s time to expand. There’s just one problem: expansion costs money that you don’t have. Purchasing commercial real estate, funding improvements for your facility, building an addition, or constructing a new building all come at a price that even the most successful manufacturing companies can’t pay up front. When it’s time to expand your business, move forward with confidence with the help of a Small Business Administration loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration provides a variety of resources to help small business owners succeed. One of the best resources is the organization’s low-cost, flexible loan options. SBA loans are available through lenders known as intermediaries. This could be banks, credit unions, or nonprofit organizations.

If you’ve applied for a business loan through a traditional lender like a bank, you may have been turned down. With an SBA loan, your chances for approval are higher because these loans are guaranteed by the government in amounts up to 85%, so there’s less risk for the lender.

One of the most popular types of loans for large expenses like business expansion is the 7(a) loan. With a 7(a) loan, up to $5 million is available to qualified businesses for nearly any business purchase, including commercial real estate, land development, improvements and upgrades, equipment, and more. Loan terms are set at 10 years for most purposes, although real estate purchases have terms up to 25 years.

The cost of borrowing varies based on the type of loan you select and the amount borrowed. The SBA has a set of standards used by its intermediary lenders to keep interest rates low, making loans more affordable for business owners.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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Applying for an SBA loan doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful when you work with a lender like SmartBiz. SmartBiz simplifies the SBA application process, helping you get the money you need as quickly as possible.
There are two types of SBA loans available through SmartBiz: working capital and debt refinancing loans and SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans.

With working capital and debt refinancing loans, you can apply for $30,000 to $350,000 to use for business expansion, marketing, hiring employees, purchasing inventory, or refinancing existing debt. Interest rates are between 8% and 9% with repayment terms of 10 years. To qualify, you must be in business for at least 2 years and have a personal credit score of at least 650.

SmartBiz also offers SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans from $500,000 to $5 million. You can use these funds to purchase a new commercial property or refinance your existing property. Rates are between 6.75% and 8% with repayment terms of 25 years. To qualify for this loan, you must be in business for at least 2 years with a credit score of at least 675. Any property funded with loan proceeds must be at least 51% owner-occupied.

Additional requirements for SBA loans include no outstanding tax liens, recent charge-offs, or defaults on government loans. You must not have any bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years. You must also qualify as a small business based on the SBA’s definition, which limits your company’s net worth, number of employees, and annual revenues.

Cash Shortages

Cash shortages happen to everyone. A seasonal drop in sales, an unexpected emergency expense, or another situation could leave your bank account running a little short. Sometimes, the real problem is your unpaid invoices. For times when money is tight, invoice factoring can help make up for these shortages.

Invoice Factoring

Unpaid invoices can leave you in a financial bind. Instead of waiting weeks or months to receive payment, consider invoice factoring. If you’re a B2B business and you have unpaid invoices, you may qualify for this type of financing. With invoice factoring, a lender pays a large portion of an unpaid invoice directly to you. Once the invoice is paid by the customer, the remaining amount of the invoice is paid to you after the lender takes any fees charged for the service.

With invoice factoring, the invoices are the collateral for the loan. A high credit score is typically not needed to qualify. Your invoices are the most important factor in this type of financing. A lender will ensure that your invoices are a sufficient amount to cover any fees. Lenders will also make sure that your invoices are for customers who are likely to pay.

Recommended Option: BlueVine

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BlueVine has invoice factoring lines up to $5 million. Rates may be as low as 0.25% per week. You can receive approval in as little as 24 hours when working with BlueVine.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 3 months and have at least $100,000 in annual revenue. You must be a B2B business and have a personal credit score of at least 530.

Hiring, Training & Covering Payroll

It’s time to expand your business, which means hiring and training new employees, but your funding falls short. Maybe you’re not ready for expansion, and your business is struggling just to cover your current payroll. No matter the situation, a term loan can help.

Term Loans

When you apply for a term loan, you’ll receive a lump sum of money that can be used for any purpose, including hiring, training, covering payroll, or for use as working capital. The terms of these loans vary. While some lenders provide loans for up to 12 months, other lenders may offer repayment terms of several years.

If you’re applying for a short-term loan, one difference you may notice is that a factor rate is used to calculate how much you owe. This multiplier is used to determine the one-time fee that is added to the cost of your loan, replacing a traditional interest rate. The factor rate is based on the lender’s policies, as well as the creditworthiness of the borrower.

Other term loans have a traditional interest rate. Your interest rate and repayment terms will be based upon your creditworthiness and ability to pay back the loan.

One thing to note is that some term loans, such as short-term loans with low borrowing requirements, come at a very high cost. As with any other type of financing, shop around to find the best rates and terms for your business.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

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OnDeck has loan options up to $500,000 for qualified borrowers. There are two different loan options available. Short-term loans come with repayment terms between 3 and 12 months. These loans have simple interest starting at 9%.

Loan options with longer terms are also available. These loans come with terms of 15 to 36 months with annual interest rates starting at 9.99%.

For all loans, origination fees are charged by the lender. For the first loan, fees are between 2.5% and 4% of the total loan amount. Subsequent loans have reduced fees.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least one year and have a gross annual revenue of $100,000. You must have a personal credit score of at least 500 to qualify. Daily or weekly payments are automatically deducted from your checking account.

If you’re looking for other financing options, OnDeck also has lines of credit up to $100,000.

Marketing & Advertising

You want to get the word out about your business to bring in more customers and increase your revenue. Word-of-mouth and free social media advertising may bring more customers your way, but you’re not going to scale at a higher level until you launch a paid marketing and advertising campaign.

Marketing and advertising can get expensive very quickly, although the return on investment is often high enough to justify this expense. But what happens when you just don’t have the extra funds to market and advertise your business and services? A business credit card can help, and you can even be rewarded just for using it.

Business Credit Cards

One of the best things about a business credit card is that it can be used any time for any business purpose. When you have marketing and advertising expenses that need to be covered, you won’t have to wait days or weeks to get financing approval. Instead, you’ll be able to use your credit card immediately to cover the expense.

A business credit card is great for marketing and advertising campaigns because you won’t have to request a specific amount. You can use your card as needed to cover any expense, whether it’s marketing and advertising costs or an emergency expense.

When you’re approved for a business credit card, your lender will provide you with a credit limit. Your purchases can’t exceed the credit limit assigned to your card. You can make multiple purchases with different vendors as needed provided you don’t exceed your credit limit. Each month, you’ll pay at least a minimum payment that will be applied to the borrowed balance and the interest charged on used funds.

Business credit cards can be a very expensive form of financing if you only make the minimum payment each month. Cut down on the amount of interest you pay and the overall cost of borrowing by using your credit card responsibly and paying all or a significant portion of your balance each month.

Business credit cards are available for all types of credit situations. Borrowers with the highest scores will receive the lowest rates and highest credit limits, in addition to the best rewards cards, introductory rates, and bonus offers. There are options available for fair credit scores that come with higher rates and lower limits. For bad credit borrowers, a secured card requires a cash deposit but helps you rebuild your credit and qualify for additional cards and financial products with responsible use.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 22.99%, Variable

If you have good to excellent credit and need a business credit card, consider applying for the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. This card has a variable APR of 17.99% to 22.99%. There is a $95 annual fee associated with this card.

This credit card is great for marketing and advertising expenses. You’ll earn 3 points for every $1 spent on advertising purchases with search engines and social media platforms. You’ll also earn 3 points for every $1 for shipping purchases, travel, cable, internet, and phone purchases. It’s important to note that this offer is only valid for the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases.

For all other purchases, you’ll receive 1 point for every $1 spent. If you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’re worth 25% more, giving you the most bang for your buck.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card also has a bonus offer of 80,000 points when you spend at least $5,000 within three months of opening the account.

Does The Government Offer Loans For Manufacturing Companies?

There are so many options when it comes to financing your manufacturing company. You have traditional lenders like banks and credit unions. You have alternative lenders that you can seek out online. You even have government loan options available to you.

One of the most popular government loan options has already been discussed in this post: SBA loans. These loans are backed by the government, so lenders feel more comfortable approving them since there’s less risk. In addition to the 7(a) loan that is open to any qualified small business owner, the SBA has programs for veterans, startups, and businesses operating in underserved areas.

Another option to consider is the United States Department of Agriculture’s Business & Industry Loan Program. This government-backed loan program allows lenders to provide affordable loans to businesses that don’t qualify for traditional financing. Any business that saves or creates jobs in a rural area is eligible to apply. This includes manufacturing businesses.

These loans can be used for almost any purpose, including acquiring a business, updating or constructing facilities, purchasing equipment and supplies, paying startup costs, or for use as working capital. Loan proceeds can also be used to refinance certain types of debt. These loans come with terms between 7 and 30 years. Most loans distributed through this program are between $200,000 and $5 million.

The Best Loan Options For Starting A Manufacturing Business

The options previously discussed work well for established businesses, but what happens when you need financing for a manufacturing business that hasn’t even been started yet? You need capital to fund your venture, but it seems impossible to receive a loan … or is it?

If you need capital to start a manufacturing business, you have to know where to look. At times, you may even have to get a little creative. Since traditional lenders like banks prefer to work with low-risk borrowers, you won’t be able to receive a loan, right? Not exactly. If you have a high personal credit score, you can apply for a personal loan through your bank, credit union, or another lender for money to start your business. Since it’s a personal loan and not a business loan, your business information — or lack thereof — won’t be a consideration for approval. You will, however, need a solid credit score and income that is sufficient to pay back the loan.

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

If you don’t want to go that route, there are additional options. Microloans are perfect for startups and new businesses. The SBA Microloans program provides up to $50,000 for startups, new businesses, and established companies. These loans are available through nonprofit intermediary lenders. Other nonprofit organizations also provide microloans to eligible business and startup owners.

You can also look to private investors. Peer-to-peer loans have less stringent requirements than traditional loans and may be an option to explore. You can also spread the word about your business and appeal to investors with crowdfunding. If you have a family member or friend that believes in your business and has money to invest, a loan from that person is a possibility. Just remember, no matter who gives you the money, borrow responsibly, read and understand all contracts, and pay your loan as agreed to start your business off on the right foot.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

Now that you’re familiar with the types of loans available for your manufacturing business, you may be tempted to jump online and start an application. Before you apply, you still need to choose a lender. The internet gives us access to more lenders than ever, so you may be tempted to just pick and choose based on what your search engine pulls up. However, a smart business owner knows the importance of shopping around for the best rates and terms.

Before you choose a lender, consider these factors to help narrow down your choices so you can feel confident that you’ve selected the most affordable financing option for your situation.

What Is The Loan Used For?

This question should be easy to answer. Why do you need money? Once you know how you’re using the money, you can choose the type of loan that’s best for the situation. For example, if you need a more flexible option for making purchases or in case of an emergency, apply for a line of credit or credit card. If you want to make an expensive real estate purchase, you don’t want a high-cost, short-term option. Instead, an SBA loan would be the best choice.

Once you know which type of loan you need, you can narrow your search to include only those lenders offering these products. You won’t apply with a short-term lender for an SBA loan or a lender that specializes in equipment loans when you need a flexible line of credit. Choose your loan, then narrow down your pool of lenders based on your business needs.

How Much Money Do I Need?

This is another simple question. How much money do you need? If you want to purchase equipment that costs $150,000, a lender that has maximum loan amounts of $100,000 won’t be a match. Before you fill out an application, calculate how much you need, how much you can afford, and find a lender that offers that amount.

Do I Qualify?

Applying for loans you won’t qualify for is simply a waste of time. If a lender has annual revenue, time in business, or credit requirements you just don’t meet, move on to another option. If you have challenges in these areas, find a lender that works with your specific situation. For example, if your credit score is low, consider loan options that are based on the performance of your business. If you have a new business, apply for loan options that work for startups and new businesses, like microloans. Also, take collateral and down payment requirements into account when selecting your lender and applying for a loan.

One important step to take before you apply for a loan is to know your credit score. Pull your free credit score online and review your credit report for errors. If your financing need isn’t immediate, take steps to raise your score if it’s low. With an improved credit score, you’ll qualify for more financing options that are more affordable and come with more favorable terms.

Do The Rates & Terms Work For My Business?

A loan may help you out right now, but you have to consider whether it will benefit your business over the long term. You want to select a lender that offers loans with the lowest rates and best terms you are qualified to receive. A short-term loan may be funded fast, but daily payments and a high factor rate could become a burden. In this situation, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by waiting for a long-term option with better rates and terms.

Of course, in some situations, getting a loan quickly is important. Even so, shop around to make sure that you get a loan that you’ll be able to afford that has payment terms that are best for your business.

What You’ll Need To Apply For A Loan

Some types of financing for your manufacturing business require very little information about yourself and your business. For example, your name, business name, federal tax ID, social security number, contact information, and annual revenue may be all that’s required to qualify for a business credit card. However, there are other loans that require much more information and documentation before you’re approved.

Before you apply, you can get the specific requirements from your lender. However, you may want to go ahead and gather a few documents, including:

  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Business & Personal Credit Scores/Reports
  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Licenses & Articles Of Incorporation
  • Business Plan
  • Future Projections
  • Account Numbers & Balances If Refinancing Debt

Your requirements may vary based on the lender you select, the type of loan you’re applying to receive, and the amount of your loan. Sometimes, a lender may even require additional information after you’ve submitted your application and documentation. Be prepared to offer this additional information promptly to move one step closer to approval and funding.

Final Thoughts

You need money just to keep your manufacturing business operating each day. This amount increases even more when you face a challenging situation, from growth and expansion to emergency expenses.

When you need money, it’s important to not stress yourself out over the situation and remember that you have financial options. Take a deep breath, run some calculations, pick your lender, and apply for the financing you need. You’ll be out of your financial rut and heading toward success again in no time.

The post Financing And Loan Options For Manufacturing Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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