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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers guaranteed commercial loans by the federal government for small businesses. These loans are offered through approved partners in the lending industry and not directly through the SBA. When the SBA guidelines are followed and approved, the lender has less risk since a significant percentage (up to 85%) is guaranteed to be repaid. The standard SBA loan interest rates are a maximum of 2-1/4 points above the prime rate; the final rate, as with commercial loans, is based upon the risk of the borrower and determined by the assigned lender.
There are 4 basic programs offered: 2 types of business loans (Section 7-a and Section CDC/504), a Microloan and a Disaster/Assistance loan program. Each one fits a specific business financing requirement. All of the programs require the applicant to provide detailed financial documentation to prove stability and credit- worthiness. If your business is only doing marginal and you think this is easy money, then you’re in for a little shock.
The following requirements are needed for any of the 4 programs and some of them need additional documentation.
- Detailed business profile. This describes the type of business you operate, length of time in business, overall sales, location and number of employees. In this section, you tell the whole story of how you operate and paint the big picture.
- Loan request. You will identify the type of SBA loan suited for your purposes, the total amount you are seeking and the specific details on what you will do with the funds. It is important you apply to the correct program with the correct paperwork otherwise your application will be tossed out.
- Business Financials. This is the same as any standard commercial loan package request; you need to provide all business financial statements for 3 years and current interim statements. Also include cash flow projections and account receivables and payables in detail. A key item in this section is to prove that you can pay back the loan with good monthly cash flow records.
- Collateral. A collateral list are all the tangible assets in your business including property, equipment, equity in the business, borrowed funds and cash on hand. Like any finance, the SBA wants to make sure you have invested into your business and have good stability.
- Personal financial statement. This is needed from every partner and owner in the business which has 20% ownership. The PFS details what you personally own, owe as a liability and your overall net worth. In this section, your personal tax returns for the past 3 years are also required. Unlike some commercial financing, the SBA will require that you personally guaranty the loan. If you were looking for a “corp only” type of finance then this is not the avenue for you.
Qualifying for an SBA loan has many similar features as qualifying for a standard commercial finance. Documentation will be required to prove stable performance before approval is granted. The process is not fast and easy but for those businesses which qualify, it can be a great source of capital at rates several points below market. A word of advice is to work with an experienced SBA consultant to help navigate through the system.