This blog post is about how to get a loan using the SBA for $25,000. I recently closed on a loan using the SBA. I am not going to specifically say which bank I used or SBA person, I will get into how to start your search, because this is a region/local issue, and you need to use the SBA effectively on the local level to figure this stuff out. I am not a banker, in the SBA, a lawyer, or have anything to gain by giving you this advice. I am just a fellow entrepreneur. Plus at the end of this blog, I will tell you some of the biggest mistakes I made in the process. Quite honestly the biggest mistake I made was being honest… I would do it the same way all over again though. Being honest is your best policy in working with a bank.
If you are reading this blog post, you are either interested in the process of acquiring a $25k loan, because you are thinking of starting a small business, have already started the business, are a regular reader of my blog, a friend or relative. If you just found this post by accident and just like reading this just, well, good for you!
First, let’s start by analyzing whether or not you need this loan.
Are you starting a business that can use the $25k effectively? This means, for instance, many businesses are needing a lot more than $25k. I guess even if you are looking for $2 million to start your business, having $25k is a start. It would typically pay the legal fees, business costs, etc., that you need to get to the $2 million. If you are seriously getting the $25k because that is all you need to start, like a consignment shop or a hot dog stand or a small franchise then this is probably the way to go…
I will get into the positives and the negatives with this type of loan and how I felt the wrath of banking, a feeling you apparently aways get, in getting a business loan. One question, a very important one, is can you afford to pay back the $25k? This means is your idea or current business viable, does it make money or lose money, what is the break even point, and will it have the cash flow to afford the monthly payments. The loan I acquired was for 7 years, so this is a good amount of time to pay it off.
One thing a lot of entrepreneurs think is “I don’t want this debt”. Let’s say you can live without this loan, because you have $50k or a $100k in savings or a 401k plan. Well, don’t break open the 401k plan if you don’t have to. Keep your money in the bank is my feeling, especially since you have to separate business and personal money. They are 2 separate issues you see as I discuss this. One of the best issues behind the SBA $25k loans, if you get the loan, the loan is not personally guaranteed. You need to qualify in terms of credit and many, many other issues, but once you get it, it is not like you are personally responsible. Your business, however, is responsible. So if your business fails, the business will be in trouble with the loan, not you. Important reminder, remember to set up a corporation if you need a loan, because if you don’t have an S corporation or an LLC you will be making a big mistake. Like many gotcha’s in this article, that is a big one.
That said, even if you have the cash on hand, here is why you should get the loan, especially if you are a startup:
1. You are a startup, having a source of cash for your business is always a smart move, especially with a decent term and rate.
2. This “express” loan is only for startups. If you are in a failing business and are thinking of starting a new business to get this loan to help your business sliding out the door, stop right now. That is one of the red flags they look for.
3. This type of loan is great for establishing credit. A guy I consulted with at SCORE once told me to get credit early on in your business. It establishes credit to get larger loans down the road.
4. You don’t have to give up equity in your business. There are pluses and minuses to this, but having an investor is a guy or gal looking over your shoulder.
So, let now tell you about all the crap I had to go through to get the loan.
I first contacted the SBA. You can just go to http://www.sba.gov and on their website find a local contact or office. They are most everywhere. This is the first step. Going directly to the banks will not be the right process. You need to get SBA consultation to get this loan!
Once you contact the SBA, typically you have a call or meeting with an SBA advisor. They will confirm for you if you are ready for a loan. If so, they will recommend a bank and give you all the contact information you need. They will also tell you the ins and outs of getting a loan. They will give you a song and dance about how hard it is to get money for a startup business these days, and if they are a good advisor they will tell you how easy it is to get this $25k loan, as long as you quality.
Next you contact the bank. You will shortly find out if you qualify for the loan. If you have anything wrong in your life, such as a felony, bankruptcy, foreclosure, bad credit, and a litany of other problems you are probably not getting this loan. If you are a government employee, an SBA employees, have gotten this loan before, defaulted on loans such as student loans or are a party to a major lawsuit, your chances of getting this loan are diminished. If you have any of these problems, kiss this loan goodbye. Sorry about that, but there are other places to get loans.
Once you get the banks attention they typically, or immediately ask for a financial disclosure form. This means telling them about all your assets, all your loans and all your monthly payments. They will ask for a credit check. If you are below a certain level, I assume they will raise the rate possibly. This form needs to be filled out for you and your spouse, if you have one. They need to know about YOU, and the potential risk level you pose to them.
Next they give you a list of about 10 things you need. Having these in advance of the process, really, I MEAN REALLY HELPS…. They are what is required:
1. A business plan with about 2 years of projections. I have a feeling this is a problem for many people. But they understand you are a start-up… If you have a buddy who has an MBA, ask them to help you out. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but you need it.
2. Incorporation Proof/Papers. If you lost mine, well, thank god, in florida they have an online way of downloading a copy.
3. Signing Forms to release a summary of your last 5 tax returns. If this is a problem for you, because I have been back 3 years on getting my taxes filed, you are in for a big problem. Get your returns up to date before continuing with this process. You will not get the loan unless they are up to date!
4. Your EIN, your Federal Tax Id and a government document proving you have one… This one was a pain in the butt for me. I did not know where this was. If you don’t have one, contact the IRS and get one. If you lost the original doc, call the IRS and ask for another one.
5. Business or Occupational License. This one drove me insane. I started a software company so what the heck is a occupational license. I thought this was for restaurants and hair salons. Turns out you can get a occupational license in any state for any profession. Typically it is associated with a location, but for a virtual company like mine, it is just a piece of paper. To start the process of getting one go to your local township and ask them and then the county… In my county they are now calling a business receipt. Huh?
6. Copies of Drivers license
7. Personal statements that say you are who you are that are notarized. You will have to do this.
8. Rent or lease statements if you lease. This one drove me insane because if I had just said I run the business out of my house I would have been good. However, I slipped and was honest and said I was going to share an office with a local CPA firm. Basically I would be subletting, and I had not yet started. Was this info I should not have offered? Well I did. This caused the loan process to back up 2 weeks as I had to get the CPA firm to write up a lease agreement… What a pain.
9. Signatures from Directors of Company. Once again I was honest and told them about another officer of the company, which I did not have to do. This caused me to have to duplicate all the documents I signed for the other officer. The officer in my company by the way was not listed on the corporation papers. No matter, once the bank found out, it had to be done.
11. Signoff from the SBA. Remember you will need the SBA to approve your application as well.
12. Explanation of Corporate Interests. If you have founded other corporations, and they are no longer active. Doesn’t matter. In the state of florida they can look you up and they will all be available at http://www.sunbiz.org. Now I know why people incorporate in Delaware and Nevada. I hear those states don’t have an online Database you can quickly look somebody up on. What this meant is explaining each and every business I am in or have been in. If you have a dirty history, thank god not a problem for me, you may have an issue. It still may not be an issue, but you will have to write a document telling them what the heck business you did back when and why and how, blah, blah, blah. Did I give you the caveat that if you have dirty laundry. They will find it. I still have not regrets here, just another pain to write the letter to explain things.
13. More documents. Only saying this because I am forgetting something. There was always one more this and one more that. This process made buying a house look easy, even under the current conditions of the mortgage industry.
Let’s face it, it took me 3 months to get them all the documents… Once time I got close to finishing and they wanted one of the original documents again. Huh? And of course I could not find it, so I had to get my notarized document done twice. Turns out the UPS stores do it but the Fedex stores do not notarize things.
All that said, we got down to the wire and 4 months from the date of first filling out the paper work, meeting with the SBA, lo and behold I finally got a settlement date, when the underwriters would approve and they would fund a bank account. At the last moment, a lot of gotchas. Turned out that I was off base on the loan, and I ended up with a variable rate. I was happy to get the loan and did not complain. Worse case scenario, if the rates go up, I will pay it off… Also at the end they sent me a bill and told me that they would take $500 off the loan right at funding. Did I know about this? No. Was there anything I could do about this? No. So the biggest caveat is, if you are business starting the business, and you are not OCD or anal retentive you are going to miss something and be surprised later on. I am not OCD, I am your regular mortal guy, you may miss something like this in the documents they first send you. You have to just be happy to get the funding and live with whatever small details you missed. It is a price you pay.
One interesting thing I learned in this process is that there was no discrimination, no reverse discrimination or anything like that. I remember going down the path of looking for an SBA loan like 10 years ago and there were problems with being a white adult male… Back then if you were not a woman, a minority, Latino, American Indian, a senior, handicapped or a veteran you could just say bye bye to a loan. All of these criteria seem to have been removed. This is not the focus of the current SBA and I really think this is truer under the Obama administration than any other time. And this is the right way to do this. There should not be any criteria if you want to start a business, even if you are 15 years old… It is an open system, which means those who need this loan should go and get it.
End of story, get the money if you need it. Nothing is for free and you seem to pay a price for any loan you get. It is a bit of mental anguish. What I learned is it is probably just as much pain to get a loan for $2 million as it is for $25k, so next time I will try for a bigger loan if something like this will take that much time. I could have easily taken the time that went into getting the $25k loan and consulted as a programmer. In the 4 month period I could have made a part of that in cash with my blood, sweat and tears and not have to pay it back!
Another interesting thing I realized when they sent me a form asking me a simple question of how many employees part time or full time I hired is that I did have an impact on the economy. My start-up business will use about 10 separate part time people over the next year as 1099s. This means the loan is helping our economy and this is a very important part of the economic recovery!