Author: Lee Picklesimer

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Koffie Labs | Software Engineer | Remote (US or Can) | Full Time

We’re an InsurTech focused on trucking insurance. This line of business (like most of insurance in general!) is anachronistic in every way. We bring an experienced team and strong industry relationships. Intersects with logistics, autonomous vehicles and shipping. We’re getting our commercial licenses. Currently looking for someone with 2-5 years experience who will intersect with engineering and data science daily. Read more about us the position and apply at https://apply.workable.com/koffie-labs/ and say HN sent you!

How to Create a Business Plan

Why do You Want to Create a Business Plan?

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, “One of the cornerstones of launching a new business is writing a business plan.  The plan is a roadmap to a business’s goals and outlines the steps to achieve them.  The plan also serves as a sort of resume to put in front of loan officers, investors, and partners to secure funding.”

See: uschamber.com/co/start/business-ideas/writing-a-business-plan

Benefits When You Create a Business Plan

Every traditional lender wants to see one.  Potential investors also want to see one.  If you are working with a partner you will need one to show agreement on what the plan for the business actually is.  It is also a vital piece of communication with management.

If you want to sell your business, or need to do a business valuation, you need one.  Beyond all of that, you need a plan to follow for your business anyway.  There is a specific format and design that it needs to follow.  Some loan applications have a place for this, but it is best to already have one put together that you can adjust as needed.

You have a couple of options.  You can either hire a business plan writer, or you can do it yourself.  There are a lot of resources out there to help you if you choose to do it yourself or work with a mentor.

Create a Business Plan with the Help of the SBA

The Small Business Administration offers extensive guidance in this area.  Local small business development centers can help as well.  The important thing is to make sure all of the necessary information is included.  It also needs to be in the right order.

See: sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/write-your-business-plan

What Information, and in What Order?

First, there is an introduction.  Then, there is a research section.  After that comes the financial information. Finally, though not required, you may have an appendix with additional information.

The introduction includes an executive summary, a description, and strategies.

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Executive Summary

The executive summary is a complete summary of the business idea.  The description goes into further detail than the summary.  It describes the business, answering questions like:

What type of business is it? What product or service will it offer?

This is where you work to get others excited about your business.  Catch their attention and make them want to keep reading.

Strategies Section

The strategies section lays out your plan for getting started.  Do you have a marketing plan? Where will you locate? How many employees will you start with? What is your ramp up plan?

Create a Business Plan: The Research Portion

After the introduction comes the research portion of the document.  This is also called the market analysis.  It has two parts: The Analysis of Audience and the Competitive Analysis.

Analysis of Audience

The analysis of audience answers the following questions:

  • What need will your business fill, and for whom?  For example, are you a childcare facility filling a need for affordable childcare for working moms?  Are you an eatery filling a need for a lunch spot for those working downtown?
  • How will your business fill the need?

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Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis is just what it says, it analyzes the competition.  It answers the following questions.

  • Is there already a business working to fill this need?
  • Is there room for more?
  • How do you plan to compete with them?

Create a Business Plan with a Planning Section

After the research section will come the planning section.  This will include the plan for design and development and the plan for operation and management.
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Plan for Design and Development

The plan for design and development explains how the process will play out, from start to finish.  What steps are you going to take? Basically, it is a more detailed version of your strategies section.

Plan for Operation Management

The plan for operation management discusses who will own the business, and who will run it from day to day.  This could be as simple as stating that you are going to be the sole owner and operator.  Or, it could be as complicated as laying out a complete partnership plan or board of directors format.  Do you plan to run the business daily or hire a manager for the day-to-day operations?  Discuss that here.

A lot of new business owners get lost here.  How do you have financials if there is no business yet?  You lay out your funding plan in this section.  What money do you already have? Where did you get your current funds?  Did they come from angel investors, crowdfunding, personal savings, or something else altogether?

How much do you need? How will you use the funds? This section also has a complete set of financial projections.  It usually goes out for at least 5 years.  It’s best, if possible, to have an accountant put together your projections.

Create a Business Plan with an Appendix

An appendix is optional, but recommended by most professionals, including The Small Business Administration.  It can include such things as credit histories, resumes, product pictures, and letters of reference.

If applicable, licenses, permits, patents, legal documents, and other contracts should be included as well.

Anything you can include that makes it easier for the lender is a good move.  You have the space, so why not use it? More detail is nearly always going to be better than less detail.
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Presentation

The presentation is important as well.  Your business plan should be professional in both appearance and content.  If you are using your plan to apply for a loan, do not just fill out the questions on a loan application.  Take the time to put together a well written and well-designed strategy.

This is where a business plan writer can come in handy.  It is possible to do it yourself but use all available resources like The Small Business Administration and Small Business Development centers.

You need this document for more than just to get funding.  It can help you make decisions about growth.  It can also help you recognize and shore up weaknesses. This document also highlights your strengths for potential lenders, investors, and partners.

That can help you convince partners to join your business.  A well-researched business plan can help you recognize opportunities, as well, even some you may not have considered previously.  Maybe there is a market need you can fill that you didn’t even see until you did the market research for this document.

Takeaways

You need a business plan.  Lenders and potential investors want to see one.  It is also vital to communication with partners and management.

It should include all the necessary information, in the right order.  This includes an introduction with executive summary, description, and strategies sections.  Next, it should have a research section with both a market analysis and an analysis of audience.  Then, there should be financial information with current funds and budget, sources of those funds, projections, and the funds request.  Finally, you should have an appendix if applicable.

The post How to Create a Business Plan appeared first on Credit Suite.

The 5 Best Amazon Marketing Companies of 2020

Amazon continues to dominate as the world’s largest e-commerce site. 

They already have an existing pool of active users and billions in revenue to plug your store into and start making sales. 

But as you’ll expect, millions of other store owners are also fighting for a piece of Amazon’s customers. 

So, with over 2.5 million sellers and more than 353 million different products to contend with, how do you rise above the noise and get your store found?

You need excellent marketing strategies unique to Amazon’s marketplace.  

And that’s where the top Amazon marketing companies come in. 

From setting up your store properly, optimizing the content of your product descriptions for target keywords to PPC, email marketing and others, you’ll need it all. What Amazon marketing companies can you trust? 

You’ll find the answer to that question and more in this guide. 

The 5 Top Amazon Marketing Companies in The World 

  1. Neil Patel Digital – Best for Store & Product Content Marketing
  2. Thrive Agency – Best for Amazon PPC
  3. Vertical Rail  – Best for Amazon Account Management
  4. Voice SEO – Best for Amazon Echo and Voice Search Optimization 
  5. Voy Media – Best for Amazon Social Media Marketing

No doubt, there are hundreds, if not thousands of Amazon marketing companies. A quick search on Google, and you’ll come back more confused than when you started your search. 

And online, you’ll find dozens of domains, listing digital marketing companies and consultants on their ranks of top Amazon marketing agencies. 

The only problem? 

Most of these ranked agencies offer the same services or only have Amazon marketing as one of their numerous services. 

Marketing that generates sales on Amazon is highly competitive. Hence, it’s best to avoid marketing generalists who do everything under the sun for a buck when marketing on Amazon. 

My recommendation?

Work with a marketing company with deep expertise in Amazon, and they’ll help you to grow your store on the Amazon platform. 

To make it easier for you, my team took the time to review and rank the top Amazon marketing companies based on what they are exceptional for, as you’ll find below. 

#1 Neil Patel Digital — Best for Store and Products’ Content Marketing 

About 23% of global shoppers said they first visit Amazon when they lack shopping inspiration. And for general online shoppers, 89% of them said they preferred Amazon to other e-commerce sites. 

Do you know what this means? 

It means that if your store and products are excellently optimized for the internet and Amazon’s search engines, they’ll find you when they make this research. 

No doubt, a lot goes into the mix of getting your store and products to rank highly on the web and Amazon. But, content is still the king of the web, and that includes on Amazon. 

With exceptional, SEO-driven content marketing, you can steer clear of the competition and help shoppers to find your store and products when they jump online to shop. 

Content can make your store and products discoverable to drive targeted traffic. It can also help to engage prospects until they hit your checkout button on Amazon. 

Neil Patel Digital’s specialty and core thinking is developing content marketing strategies that are both discoverable and engaging:

And don’t take my word for it. 

Companies around the world, including those who sell on Amazon, turn to Neil Patel Digital and love us for our expertise in using content to drive sales.

We regularly do audience and keyword research, store optimization, and product descriptions that align with search queries on Amazon.

And at Neil Patel Digital, we have a battle-tested SEO program to drive effective and engaging content marketing campaigns for Amazon sellers.

Finally, Neil Patel Digital is one of the few marketing companies with positive ratings on countless independent review sites: 

#2 Thrive Agency — Best for Amazon PPC

Only 3% of online shoppers who search for goods and services on Amazon go on to shop elsewhere. 

That is, when shoppers start on Amazon, they end up buying from a seller on Amazon. 

But when these buyers search things on Amazon, 70% of them don’t go past the first page and a whopping 64% click on the 1st three results. 

In other words, if you sell a competitive product, not only must your store be on Amazon’s top search results’ page to get found, you must also make the very top spots. 

For this, you need to invest in Amazon PPC. 

And the company that comes highly recommended is Thrive Agency

Thrive Agency has been helping Amazon sellers drive sales via PPC management since its existence in 2005 and have grown into a household name with offices in 25 locations in the US. 

This company has over 150 five-star reviews across Google, Facebook, and Clutch. 

Thrive Agency’s work and expertise in Amazon PPC is among the services that has earned them numerous awards from reputable domains, and they equally have Amazon-specific case studies.

#3 Vertical Rail — Best for Amazon Account Management

How you manage your Amazon account goes a long way in determining how much sales your store can generate on the platform in the long-term. 

And a lot go into the equation of managing an Amazon store to transform it into a thriving business.

For example, account health, shipping performance, product deactivation, intellectual property violations, and several others all have an impact on how you market your store and products on Amazon. 

Hence, to ensure 100% compliance, most sellers turn to seasoned Amazon account management services. 

And one company you can trust in this area is Vertical Rail

Vertical Rail also consults for sellers that prefer to keep the management of their Amazon accounts in-house. 

For this, they provide consulting services such as Amazon store setup, product listings, Buy Box strategy, ongoing staff training, and others to help you market your store on Amazon more effectively. 

They have numerous Amazon-specific case studies to show their for their work: 

#4 Voice SEO – Best for Amazon Echo and Voice Search Optimization 

Worldwide, the use of voice-enabled technology for shopping is growing rapidly. 

In the US, for example, over 111 million people used voice-assisted devices in 2019. 

And one of the most-used devices is the Amazon Echo. 

In short, over 65% of brands project voice ordering would play a critical role in future marketing and sales strategies. Also, two-thirds of consumers with a voice-enabled device said they consider using their voice devices to place orders. 

What do these trends show? 

If you properly optimize your Amazon store and product listings for Amazon Echo and voice search generally, you’ll boost your marketing efforts. 

And one company focused on helping Amazon sellers on this front is Voice SEO:

Voice SEO offers a full-fledged voice and Alexa search optimization services, including coverage for Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant. 

TopSEOs, a reputable ranking domain, ranks Voice SEO as the number one marketing company for voice search optimization. 

Voice SEO is a California-based marketing company with a transparent pricing model, which starts at $3,000 monthly

And this company has earned relevant awards and accreditations to show for their commitment to excellence

#5 Voy Media – Best for Amazon Social Media Marketing

With this amount of addiction to social media, it’s safe to assume that when people aren’t shopping for new items on Amazon, you could find them on one social media platform. 

If you do a great marketing job on a social platform your target audience frequents, you can engage and drive them to your Amazon store and product listings. 

Most successful Amazon sellers leverage social media to drive growth. 

And one marketing company exceptional at helping Amazon sellers take advantage of social media to drive sales is Voy Media:

Not only is Voy Media a top Facebook marketing company for e-commerce brands and Amazon sellers, but their Amazon marketing services extends to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and others. 

Voy Media combines strategy and high-level creative deployments to help Amazon sellers drive sales via social media. 

And they have dozens of impressive case studies in their portfolio.

5 Characteristics That Make a Great Amazon Marketing Company

No Amazon marketing company becomes great overnight. Even in rare exceptions where one does, there are characteristics that show they know their onions. 

Let’s explore some of such characteristics below. 

1. They Know the Amazon Platform In-side Out

Most marketing companies will claim their generic digital marketing services apply to the Amazon ecosystem automatically. 

That’s not 100% correct. 

Marketing on Amazon has its best practices, dos and don’ts. Hence, a characteristic of exceptional Amazon marketing companies is a practical, in-side out knowledge of the platform. 

To can check for this trait, see if the company has guides or training resources, teaching how to increase sales on Amazon

2. A process for implementing their core service 

This characteristic of the best Amazon marketing agencies has two dimensions. 

First, it’s a reminder that the top agencies have a core Amazon marketing service. And that they have developed tested programs for implementing this service. 

3. A diverse team of experts 

Successful Amazon store and products’ marketing campaigns start from proper store setup, optimization and products listings to descriptions development of brand-specific creatives, and others. 

It also depends on knowing what PPC keywords to bid on and how to optimize your pricing strategy to outrank competitors with positive ROI to show. 

All the above hardly works with a one-man team. 

Hence, a characteristic you’ll find with exceptional Amazon marketing companies is a team of diverse experts

4. Impressive clients’ portfolio

Scrolling the website of any marketing company is something we do on default before we even consider talking to them. 

And I highly recommend this, as that’s an excellent way to see who they have produced results for. 

But when it comes to Amazon marketing companies, you can confirm if they belong in the top league by checking if they have an impressive clients’ portfolio:  

5. Real customer testimonials

Next to an impressive portfolio of clients, real testimonials by past and existing customers is a characteristic of exceptional Amazon marketing companies. 

You should look out for this, as it gives you a sense of what customers they’ve served think of their services.

What To Expect From a Great Amazon Marketing Company 

Top Amazon marketing companies exist first to help sellers score positive ROI on the platform. 

As I’ve shown you so far, the seller competition is sky-high on Amazon. And with more adoption of the platform by consumers and sellers alike, there’s no sign of this slowing down soon. 

With a top Amazon marketing company, you can navigate this growing competition, reach customers when it matters, and grow a profitable business on the e-commerce site.  

To partner with one, some steps you’ll likely follow are: 

1. Filling an inquiry form

Filling an inquiry form is the first step to partnering with a top Amazon marketing company. 

As I said earlier, exceptional Amazon marketing brands are there to help you drive more sales. But to help your store generate more sales on Amazon, you’ll need to share your unique challenges and needs via the inquiry or contact form on their site.

2. A discovery session

An inquiry form usually only scratches the surface on your needs or how a marketing company can help you. 

Expect an experienced Amazon marketing company to invite you to a discovery session where you’ll share more insights into your needs and challenges over a one-on-one call with an expert.  

3. Strategic recommendations

A discovery session allows an expert at a top Amazon marketing company to get a more insightful grasp of your challenges and needs. 

After this call, most will assign tasks to relevant members on their team to perform in-depth research, using what you shared with them. 

Strategic recommendations customized to your needs, as it concerns driving more sales on Amazon with marketing is usually the outcome of conducting in-depth research based on what you’ve shared with a top Amazon marketing company up to this point. 

So expect this.

4. A Proposal and contract 

Top Amazon marketing companies usually hop on a call to discuss and clarify findings from their research and strategic recommendations. 

In some cases, you’ll receive this as a document via email.

And if conversations with you and a top Amazon marketing is positive up to this point, expect to receive a proposal and contract to work together.

Conclusion: Is Partnering with a Top Amazon Marketing Company Worth it?

Yes. 

Amazon’s growth is steadily on the rise. 

Not only is Amazon the world’s largest e-commerce marketplace for sellers with but it is miles ahead of its closest rival, Walmart. 

Millions of sellers are flocking to Amazon for a bite of the billions the platform generates. And this scenario explains why selling on Amazon is so competitive. 

For instance, only 200,000 (about 0.08%) on Amazon manage to cross the $100,000 revenue mark. 

To give yourself a chance of succeeding on Amazon, partnering with a top Amazon marketing company is a no-brainer, as there’s more that meets the eye in driving sales on Amazon. 

And you won’t go wrong, choosing from any of the top five companies I profiled above. Or, start by going through this detailed marketing training I created for Amazon sellers.

The post The 5 Best Amazon Marketing Companies of 2020 appeared first on Neil Patel.

How Being Fundable Helps You Get the Best Business Loans

Everyone wants the best of the best, and it should be no different when it comes to business loans.  However, you may need to change your thinking about what actually makes the best business loans the best. 

Build Fundability So You Can Get the Best Business Loans

For example, do great terms make a loan one of the best?  Could it be low rates? These things are awesome. However, the best business loans are the loans you can get.  Of course, you can look at the cream of the crop. Still, if you cannot access them, they will not do you any good.  You need to know what the best business loans are that you can access. Furthermore, you need to know how to gain access to those that are even better.  

Find out why so many companies use our proven methods to get business loans

What Makes a Loan One of the Best? 

Fortunately, U.S. News helps us out by outlining the best business loans in various categories. When compiling their list, they consider such factors as product availability, terms, and service ratings. 

Best Business Loans for Borrowers with FICO Credit Scores as Low As 530

BlueVine takes the prize in this category. The minimum loan amount available from them is $5,000 and the maximum is $100,000. Annual revenue must be $120,000 or more and the borrower must be in business for at least 6 months. Personal credit score has to be at least 600. It is also important to know that BlueVine does not offer a line of credit in all states. 

They report to Experian.  They are one of the few invoice factoring companies that will report to any business credit bureau.  This helps build business credit and in turn, fundability.

Best Business Loans for Up to Five Year Loan Terms

The winner in this category is Funding Circle.  Honestly, if you’re looking for a low APR, then this is your go-to.  They have fixed rate term loans and require a credit score of 620 or above.  There is no minimum revenue requirement, but they do require you to be in business for at least 2 years.  

Best Business Loans With No Collateral Required

OnDeck offers lines of credit and term loans with fixed interest rates.  You can get up to $500,000 with a term loan.  The minimum FICO they require is 600. In addition, you must have $100,000 minimum annual revenue and be in business for at least one year.  

Best Small Business Loans for Up to $1 Million 

With a large selection of financing products that includes term loans, Rapid Finance can be a great option for larger amounts.  In addition to term loans, they offer bridge loans, healthcare cash advances, and lines of credit.  Terms are from three to six months. Amounts range from $5,000 to $1,000,000. Unfortunately, they do not make their minimum credit score readily available on their website.  However, you can use their quote tool to get an idea of what you qualify for. 

Best Business Loans for Borrowers In Business for 6 Months or More

StreetShares offers invoice financing, term loans, and lines of credit.  The number of years in business requirement is one.  They require less minimum annual revenue than the others at only $25,000.  The minimum credit score is 600.  

The key with each of these loans is, your ability to get them is dependent on the fundability of your business.  

What is Fundability? 

Fundability is, in short, the ability to get funding.  It is the complete picture of your business and personal financing and your ability to repay debt. If you think of fundability as a puzzle, there are hundreds of pieces that come together to complete it.  The problem is, a lot of business owners cannot see the complete picture because they are unaware of what additional pieces may be floating around out there.  

Also, unlike a puzzle, the pieces are not all the same size.  Some are very large, while others are smaller. If your large pieces are in great shape, the smaller ones may not matter so much. If, however, your large pieces, like credit history, are not so great, the smaller pieces can make a much bigger difference in your ability to get the best business loans. 

What Makes Up Fundability?

What are these puzzle pieces and how can you make sure they are in the best possible shape?  Hold on to your hats. Some of these may surprise you.

Contact Information

That’s right.  Even something as small as your contact information can affect the fundability of your business.  Your business needs to have its own phone number, fax number, and address.  

EIN

An EIN is an identifying number for your business that works in a way similar to how your SSN works for you personally.  You can get one for free from the IRS.

Incorporation

Incorporating your business as an LLC, S-corp, or corporation is necessary to fundability.  It lends credence to your business as one that is legitimate. It also offers some protection from liability. 

Business Bank Account

You have to open a separate, dedicated business bank account.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, it will help you keep track of business finances.  Also, it will help you keep them separate from personal finances for tax purposes. 

Additionally, there are several types of funding you cannot get without a business bank account.  Many lenders and credit cards want to see one with a minimum average balance.  Also, you cannot get a merchant account without a business account at a bank. As a result, you cannot take credit card payments.  Studies show consumers tend to spend more when they can pay by credit card.

Licenses

For a business to be legitimate and fundable it has to have all of the necessary licenses it needs to run.  If it doesn’t, warning signals are going to go off all over the place.  Do the research you need to do to ensure you have all of the licenses necessary to legitimately run your business at the federal, state, and local levels. 

Website

Your business website, or lack thereof, can affect your ability to get funding. In fact, these days, if you don’t have an online presence you may as well not even exist.  Still, a poorly put together website can be even worse.  Truly, it is the first impression you make on most. If it appears to be unprofessional, it will not look good to consumers or potential lenders. 

Spend the time and money necessary to ensure your website is professionally designed and works well.  Pay for hosting too. Don’t use a free hosting service.  Similarly, your business needs a dedicated business email address.  Make sure it has the same URL as your Website. Don’t use a free service such as Yahoo or Gmail.

Find out why so many companies use our proven methods to get business loans

Business Credit Reports

Much like your consumer credit report does for the individual, business credit reports detail the credit history of your business.  Basically, they are a tool to help lenders determine how credit worthy your business is.  

Where do business credit reports come from?  There are a lot of different places, but the main ones are Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, and FICO SBSS.  You have no way of knowing which one your lender will choose.  So, you need to make sure all of these reports are up to date and accurate. 

Other Business Data Agencies 

In addition to the business credit reporting agencies that directly calculate and issue credit reports, there are other business data agencies that affect those reports indirectly.  Two examples of this are LexisNexis and The Small Business Finance Exchange. These two agencies gather data from a variety of sources, including public records.  This means they could even have access to information relating to automobile accidents and liens. While you may not be able to access or change the data these agencies have on your business, you can ensure that any new information they receive is positive.  Enough positive information can help counteract any negative information from the past. 

Identification Numbers Best Biz Loans Credit Suite

In addition to the EIN, there are identifying numbers that go along with your business credit reports.  You need to be aware that these numbers exist.  Some of them are assigned by the agency, like the Experian BIN.  One, however, you have to apply for. It is absolutely necessary that you do. 

Dun & Bradstreet is the largest and most commonly used business credit reporting agency.  Every credit file in their database has a D-U-N-S number.  To get a D-U-N-S number, you have to apply for one through the D&B website

Business Credit History

Your credit history is the crux of your credit score, which is a huge factor in the fundability of your business.  

It includes a number of things like: 

  • How many accounts are reporting payments?
  • How long have you had each account? 
  • What type of accounts are they?
  • How much credit are you using on each account versus how much is available?
  • Are you making your payments on these accounts consistently on-time?

The more accounts you have reporting on-time payments, the stronger your credit score will be. 

Business Information

On the surface, it seems obvious that all of your business information should be the same across the board everywhere you use it.  However, when you start changing things up like adding a business phone number and address or incorporating, you may find that some things slip through the cracks. 

This is a problem because a ton of loan applications are turned down each year due to fraud concerns simply because things do not match up.  Maybe your business licenses have your personal address but now you have a business address.  You have to change it. Perhaps some of your credit accounts have a slightly different name or a different phone number listed than what is on your loan application. Do your insurances all have the correct information?  

The key to this piece of the business fundability puzzle is to monitor your reports frequently.   

Financial Statements

First, there is the obvious. Both your personal and business tax returns need to be in order.  Not only that, but you need to be paying your taxes, both business and personal.  

Business Financials

It is best to have an accounting professional prepare regular financial statements for your business. Having an accountant’s name on financial statements lends credence to the legitimacy of your business. If you can’t afford this monthly or quarterly, at least have professional statements prepared annually. Then, they are ready whenever you need to apply for a loan. 

Personal Financials

Often tax returns for the previous three years will suffice.  Get a tax professional to prepare them.   This is the bare minimum you will need.  Other information lenders may ask for include check stubs and bank statements, among other things. 

Find out why so many companies use our proven methods to get business loans

Bureaus

There are several other agencies that hold information related to your personal finances that you need to know about.  Everyone knows about FICO.  Your personal FICO score needs to be as strong as possible. It really can affect business fundability and almost all traditional lenders will look at personal credit in addition to business credit. 

In addition to FICO reporting personal credit, you have ChexSystems.  In the simplest terms, this keeps up with bad check activity and makes a difference when it comes to your bank score.  If you have too many bad checks, you will not be able to open a bank account.  That will cause serious fundability issues. 

For this point, everything comes into play.  Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Do you have a bankruptcy or short sell on your record?  How about liens or UCC filings? All of this can and will play into the fundability of your business. 

Personal Credit History

Your personal credit score from Experian, Equifax, and Transunion all make a difference.  You have to have your personal credit in order because it will definitely affect the fundability of your business.  If it isn’t great right now, get to work on it.  The number one way to get a strong personal credit score or improve a weak one is to make payments consistently on time. 

Also, make sure you monitor your personal credit regularly to ensure mistakes are corrected and that there are no fraudulent accounts being reported. 

Even the Application Process Matters

Often this part isn’t even considered by those looking for the best business loans.  For example, consider the timing of your application.  Is your business currently fundable?  If not, do some work first to increase fundability.  

Then, are your business name, business address, and ownership status all verifiable.  Lenders will check into it.  Also, make sure you choose the right lending product for your business and your needs. Do you need a traditional loan or a line of credit?  Would a working capital loan or expansion loan work best for your needs?  Choosing the right product to apply for can make all the difference. 

Increase Fundability to Get the Best Business Loans

How do you get the best business loans?  You need to know how to find the best business loans for your specific business needs.  Make sure your fundability is as strong as possible. Pay bills on time, work on building business credit, and make sure to dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. Do these things, and most all business loans will be yours for the taking. 

The post How Being Fundable Helps You Get the Best Business Loans appeared first on Credit Suite.

Under Cover: Sometimes Minority Owned Business Loans are In Disguise

Minority owned business loans are probably different than you think.  Sometimes they are just like they sound, loans for minority business owners. Other times, they are just loans for everyone that work well for minority business owners as well. 

Minority Owned Business Loans Do Not All Look the Same 

Sometimes you can be so busy looking for minority owned business loans specifically that you miss the great options that will work but are not for minorities only.  In a way, these loans are undercover. They are available to more business owners than just minorities. However, they work really well with the challenges that are unique to minority business owners. Here are just a few examples. 

Loans from The Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration specializes in helping all small businesses. They offer a number of products and resources through SBA programs, not just minority owned business loans.  For the most part, the SBA does not lend money directly. They work through partner financial institutions to guarantee SBA government loans. As a result, they are able to leave the administration of the loans and disbursement of funds to those who do it on a regular basis. That is, lenders and non-profits that are in the communities where the businesses exist. 

SBA 7(a) Loans & 8(a) Business Development Program

These loans are open to all small business owners.  However, if a minority business owner takes part in the SBA Business Development program, they increase their chance of getting this type of loan.  

Honestly, about 80% of SBA loan applications from Hispanic and African Americans are for $150,000 or less.  This is according to the SBA itself.  Surprisingly, these smaller loans seem to be harder to get. Honestly, this is probably because lenders don’t make as much money from them.

In fact, the SBA got rid of the fee for loans that are less $150,000 to help with this.

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SBA Community Advantage Loans

These are to meet the needs of small businesses in neglected markets. That includes minorities. The goal is to get local lenders to increase loans up to $250,000.  This is done by backing up to 85% of the loan amount. The hope is that this helps small business owners who might not be able to get traditional financing. 

SBA Microloan Program

First, loans through this program go up to $50,000.  Secondly, funds come from a third-party lender.  Usually, this consists of nonprofit organizations in the community. Often, they also offer other types of assistance to business owners along with the loan. 

Minority Owned Business Loans: Non-SBA Loans

There are private lenders that offer loans that will meet the needs of minority business owners also, but they are not specifically minority owned business loans.  One such example is Accion.

Accion U.S. Network

Accion offers loans in all states.  Funds are available to the following: 

  • minorities 
  • veterans
  • women
  • those with disabilities
  • and low to medium income business owners 

Typically, loan amounts start at $200,000 and go up to $300,000. Also, Accion can put owners in contact with others to help build a network of support.

Comparatively, the minimum credit score for these loans is 575.  In addition, you cannot be 30 days late on paying any accounts.  Finally, you will not qualify if you have late rent or mortgage payments over the past 12 months.

Minority Owned Business Loans That Don’t Wear a Mask

In contrast to the above loans that anyone can apply for, some minority owned business loans are exactly what you expect.  They are designed specifically for those in minority groups to aid in overcoming the unique challenges they face in obtaining business funding. 

Union Bank Business Diversity Lending Program

This program from Union Bank offers business loans for minority business owners. Indeed, this one is specifically for minorities. In fact, to qualify, you must be Hispanic, American Indian, Latino, Asian, Alaskan Native, African American, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander.    

Furthermore, a business that makes up to $20 million could qualify for a loan of $2.5 million.  However, you must be in business for at least 2 years.  Likewise, the business must be at least 51% minority owned.

The National African American Small Business Loan Fund

This is a partnership between JP Morgan Chase and the Valley Economic Development Centers .  It serves small businesses with minority owners that are in low income or medium income communities.  However, only those in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are eligible.  

Business Center for New Americans

Presently, The Business Center for New Americans offers minority business loans of $5,000 to $50,000.  They work with immigrants, refugees, women, and other minority entrepreneurs.  The goal is to help minority business owners who have not been able to get traditional financing.  

Camino Financial 

Camino Financial is a lender that operates all online.  They offer minority owned business loans. Conveniently, their entire application process is online.  Microloans range from $5,000 to $50,000.  Additionally, they offer small business loans between $10,000 to $400,000. 

Build Business Credit to Increase Your Chances of Approval with Any Loan

Business credit is a huge piece of overall fundability.  The business credit building process is the same for everyone, minority or not.  When you work through the process, you increase your fundability. That in turn, increases your chances of being able to get funding of all types in the future.  How do you build business credit? 

It Starts with the Foundation

When you set up your business, you need it to have a foundation that will help build fundability and separate it from you as the owner.  Even if you are already in operation, you can take the steps necessary to do this. However, the sooner the better, for a number of reasons. What does it take to build a foundation of fundability

  • Separate contact information

Your business needs its own phone number and address

  • An EIN

This is free on the IRS website. 

  • All necessary and appropriate licenses

If you are not properly licensed to do what you do, lenders will not take you seriously.  This step is necessary to being a legitimate business. 

  • Incorporation

There are many reasons for this.  However, for business credit building the big thing is it further separates your business from you as the owner. 

  • A D-U-N-S Number

This is free to get on the Dun & Bradstreet website.  You cannot have a business credit profile with D&B without one. 

  • Business Bank Account

Like incorporating, there are many reasons for this.  The main one for building credit building however, is that it further solidifies your business as an entity separate from you the owner. 

  • Professional website

This one surprises a lot of people.  These days, if you don’t have an online presence you might as well not even exist.  However, a poorly put together online presence is just as bad. Pay for professional design and hosting.  It’s worth it.

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These things are not only necessary for overall fundability, but they are also the first step in the business credit building process, and it is a process.  It takes time, and you have to start at the beginning.  

The Business Credit Building Process

Even though most lenders will still take personal credit into account, separate business credit allows them to judge your business on its own merits.  If they can see that, despite some personal credit issues, business credit is just fine, it may sway them if they are wavering on approving funding. 

In addition, business credit opens up new funding doors that are not available to individuals, which in turn can only help you run and grow your business. 

You Need Accounts Reporting to Your Business Credit Report

The key to this is to get accounts in your business’s name that do not really take your personal credit into account.  It may feel like it is impossible, but it isn’t. There are a few ways to do it. 

First, vendors you already have a relationship with may be willing to extend credit without a credit check.  If that isn’t happening, they might be willing to offer net 30 terms on invoices.  The worst that can happen is they say no.  If they say yes, ask them to report the payments to the business credit agencies. 

Utilities might also report accounts to your business credit.  You already pay utilities, rent, and internet each month.  Ask those providers to report your payments to the business credit reporting agencies.  Make sure your accounts are set up in your business name with your business contact information.  Worst case scenario is that they say no.  It never hurts to ask.

Starter Vendors in the Vendor Credit Tier to Help Build Business Credit

This is the business credit building secret that many business owners are unaware of. We call them starter vendors. These are part of the vendor credit tier.  They are certain companies that will extend Net terms in your business name without a credit check.  After you pay, they will report those payments to the business credit report agencies (CRAs). 

Since they do not check your credit score, it doesn’t matter that you do not have one.  Of course, they do have other ways of reducing risk.  They vary by vendor. Below, we have listed a few of these starter vendors to give you an idea of what you are looking for.  

Crown Office Supplies 

Crown Office Supplies is a true starter vendor. They sell a variety of office supplies and take helping clients seriously. They say, “just starting your business, or maybe have an existing business, but you have a question regarding office supplies… we are here to help!” And they report to Dun and Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax.

There is a $99.00 annual fee, though they do report that fee to the business credit reporting bureaus. For other purchases to report, the purchase must be at least $30.00. Terms are Net 30.

Grainger Industrial Supply 

Grainger sells power tools, pumps, hardware and more. In addition, they can handle maintenance of your auto fleet. You need a business license and EIN to quality, as well as a D-U-N-S number.

You can apply by fax or over the phone. If you need less than $1,000 in credit, you only need a business license for approval. For over $1,000, you will need trade and bank references.  

If you are just starting out and do not have references, the $1,000 is plenty to get you started building your business credit. 

Behalf.com 

Behalf is a way of getting paid through an app.  However, they also offer funding. The more you have your customers pay you through Behalf, the more likely Behalf is to offer you favorable terms when it comes to funding.  

Funding can be through purchase financing or a virtual Mastercard option. Terms run from Net 30 to 180 days, and they report to Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax. The fact that they report to all the major credit reporting agencies makes them an extremely valuable tool in building business credit.

Minority Owned Business Loans Credit Suite

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Then What? 

After you have enough of these types of accounts reporting payments to your business credit report, you should have a strong enough score to move on to the next tier. We call this the retail credit tier.  They offer more traditional credit.  These are credit cards for use at specific stores such as Office Depot or Lowes.  This is also sometimes referred to as store credit. 

After you have several of these store credit accounts reporting, you can apply for cards in the fleet credit tier.  These are gas cards with companies such as Shell and Fuelman.  They can be used for fuel and auto repair and maintenance only. 

Lastly, with accounts reporting from all previous tiers, you should have a score strong enough to apply for cards from what we call the cash credit tier.  Of course, that is only if you have been making payments consistently on time. 

These are traditional credit cards that are not connected to a certain store or type of purchase.  They can be used for anything and everything.  In addition, they often have better interest rates and nice rewards programs. 

Building Business Credit Can Open the Door to Many More Funding Options

Looking for and applying to minority owned business loans is a completely viable option.  However, do not limit yourself. Take a look at other loan possibilities that you may not even realize you qualify for.  At the same time, start working through the business credit building process. Then, you’ll have many more funding options available in the future.  The more funding available to you, the faster and stronger you can grow your business.

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