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A Buddy’s Guide to Finding Small Business Loans

Starting or growing a small business can be tough, I feel ya. Getting the money you need is often the hardest part. But don’t sweat it, there are options out there if you know where to look. This guide will give you the down low on small business loans and point you toward some lenders that can actually help instead of wasting your time.

An Overview of Financing Options for Small Businesses

When it comes to funding a small business, you’ve gotta think outside the box these days. The old school bank loan just doesn’t cut it anymore unless you’ve got mad collateral. Here are some of the main choices to consider:

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SBA Loans – These loans are backed by the government to encourage lending to small businesses. They offer lower rates and fees compared to other financing options. The catch is it takes longer and requires a ton of paperwork.

Business Credit Cards – Putting expenses on a business card can earn you points and cashback. Just be careful not to max it out or make late payments because that will trash your credit.

Peer-to-Peer Lending – With P2P lending, you borrow from regular people instead of a bank. The rates can be very competitive if you have an awesome business idea.

Crowdfunding – Get the money you need from tons of supporters contributing small amounts. You gotta really sell your idea though. Kickstarter is probably the most well known crowdfunding site.

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Angel Investors – These rich investor dudes (or ladies) will give you business capital in exchange for partial ownership in your company. Make sure you don’t give up too much of your company though!

Venture Capital – VC firms will invest larger amounts, but expect to surrender a lot of control over your company. Only consider this if you can really scale up fast.

Bootstrapping – If you want to avoid getting in bed with banks or investors, bootstrapping means relying on your own capital and cash flow. It’s slower but lets you retain full ownership.

SBA Lenders That Can Actually Come Through

The Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees loans made by lending partners to qualifying businesses. Here are some top SBA lenders to check out:

Fundera – Offers SBA 7(a) and 504 loans from $5K up to $5 million. Over 130K businesses funded.

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Lendio – Provides access to SBA loans through multiple lending partners. Loan amounts up to $5M.

Credibly – Focuses on short-term working capital SBA loans up to $500K. Fast funding in as little as 24 hours.

SmartBiz Loans – Specializes in SBA loans from $30K up to $5M for all business types. Low-cost loans with extended terms. I feel ya, the SBA loan application makes doing taxes look easy. But working with an experienced SBA lender can take some of the pain away. The homies at Headway Capital know this loan stuff inside out and will hold your hand through the process.

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Alternative Online Lenders to Explore

If the SBA isn’t the right fit or will take too dang long, check out these online small business lending options:

Kabbage – Offers lines of credit up to $250K that can fund in a day or two. Great for short term needs but the rates are kinda high.

OnDeck – Provides term loans and lines of credit tailored to all types of small businesses. Can approve in minutes and fund quickly.

BlueVine – Specializes in invoice factoring plus business lines of credit and term loans. Lines of Credit up to $5 million.

Fundbox – Revolving credit lines from $1K-$100K to bridge cash flow gaps. Only pay for what you use. One word of warning on some of these online lenders – make sure to read the fine print! The rates and fees can pile up quickly. Peep user reviews to see real experiences.

Tips for Getting Approved and Finding the Best Rate

Getting that loan approval takes some prep work. And securing the best rate saves some cheddar. Here are pro tips to set yourself up for success:

Boost Your Credit – Having a credit score over 720 will get you the lowest rates. Pay down balances and dispute any errors on your credit reports.

Get Your Paperwork in Order – Have 3 years of business and personal tax returns, bank statements, business plans and projections ready to go.

Use Collateral – Putting up an asset like real estate or equipment you own means better loan terms and more trust from lenders.

Bring on a Cosigner – Add a business partner or investor with good credit to strengthen your application. Just make sure you create legal agreements detailing the terms.

Compare Multiple Lenders – Take the time to check rates and fees across several financing options. Even a 1% difference in APR saves you thousands.

Negotiate Everything – Don’t be afraid to negotiate rates, fees, repayment terms, collateral requirements and everything else. The worst they can say is no.

Starting that convo with lenders can be intimidating. But the small business financing advisors over at Nav offer free tools and advice to help you demystify the process. The crew at Guidant Financial has your back too when it comes to navigating loans.

Other Business Funding Sources Worth a Look

If loans aren’t your thing, scope out these alternative funding options:

401(k) Business Financing – Yep, you can actually invest your retirement savings in your own business without penalties. Make sure you understand the risks though!

Home Equity Loans/Lines – Tap the equity you’ve built in your home for things like working capital, equipment, renovations. Rates are killer low right now.

Hard Money Loans – Asset-based financing from private investors at higher rates/fees than banks but way quicker approvals.

Equipment Financing – Finance needed equipment, machinery, vehicles over 2-7 years. Preserve capital and cash flow.

Business Cash Advances – Get an upfront lump sum of capital in exchange for a percentage of future credit card sales. The payback can be pricey if sales drop though.

Friends & Family – Bringing on people close to you as investors comes with its own set of risks. Make sure you formalize agreements on equity stakes and payback terms.

Credit Card Rewards – Rack up points and miles for your business expenses, then cash in for statement credits to help fund growth. Just avoid those sneaky annual fees!

Key Takeaways – You’ve Got This!

I know digging into financing options makes your head spin. But avoiding funding will only stunt your business growth. Taking it step by step is totally doable:

Start with the Paperwork – Get your business house in order first – plans, projections, taxes, statements. This is key to getting loans approved.

Check Govt Backed Loans First – SBA loans should be your first stop for the best rates/terms. But prepare for a marathon, not a sprint.

Compare Multiple Lenders – Whether you go SBA, online lenders or alternative financing, check rates across at least 3. A little effort pays off big time.You got this, dude! And there are tons of small business finance advisors out there if you need guidance. Once you get that paper, you can get back to doing what you love – running an awesome business.

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