One of my managers, Misty, came back from a Women A Work! meeting this afternoon with some interesting information. (Perhaps I should say that she swam back from the meeting, since she was driving/floating down East Bay Street during that downpour early this afternoon!) She spoke with Liza Cluney, a Financial Advisor with First Command Financial Planning. First Command offers loans to small businesses. Each year they actually give back money to the federal government because they couldn’t find enough qualified small business borrowers. They want to do business with the small business community, so she was at the meeting hoping to spread the word about their business banking services.
This information brings up a good point: although free money can be anywhere from hard to impossible to come by, there are loans out there designed for entrepreneurs trying to start or expand their small business. I learned a lot about business loans at a recent SCORE Small Business Resource Seminar, a two-night seminar that I highly recommend to anyone seriously considering opening a small business in the Charleston area. Plenty of people out there in the business community want to make small business loans happen. You’ll need some cash of your own and good credit before you look for a business loan. (If you don’t have good credit, be sure to take the time to work on building up good credit before you try to find a business loan.) Start by contacting banks and lenders like First Command, or any local community bank (which are banks headquartered in your local area). Interview them. Ask them what kind of programs and services they have for small businesses. After all, your small business needs to be able to accept several forms of payment and needs somewhere to deposit its money, right? Consider building a relationship with a bank that can offer you the most number of financial services for your business. Start looking for a loan with these banks first.
Now, suppose you find a lender willing to lend you almost all of the money you need–but not quite all. What do you do then? You’ll want to try an agency such as the Charleston Local Development Corporation. Patrick King, Loan Services Director of the LDC, can help you explore other options for finding the rest of the money. The LDC itself has some loan programs which can help you in this instance and with other kinds of special case business loans.
Finally, if you can’t find a loan no matter how hard you try, be sure to ask the institution why they can’t make the loan to you. Perhaps you have all the knowledge and skills necessary to make your business idea a success, but you can’t get the loan because you don’t have enough assets in your name. In that case, consider looking for a partner. Someone out there might be interested in partnering with you as an investment. You’ll get your business of the ground and they’ll get some extra income as a partner in your business. The bank may be able to make the loan happen for the two of you when it couldn’t make the loan if you asked for it on your own.
For more great ideas on how to approach looking for small business startup financing, among other absolutely invaluable advice, you just can’t beat the SCORE Small Business Resource Seminars. For more information on this wonderful program, contact mel or check with our local SCORE Chapter for upcoming dates for the Seminar!