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Everything To Know About The Best Startup Business Loans 2021

  • What Is a Startup Business Loan?

  • How Startup Business Loans Work

  • 8 Types of Startup Business Loans

  • How to Qualify for Startup Business Loans

  • How to Get a Startup Business Loan

  • What If You Are Denied a Startup Business Loan?

Startup business loans help new companies get off the ground without having to qualify for traditional business loans. Options like term loans, asset-based financing and business credit cards can help business owners cover operating costs. Whereas, funds from friends, family and crowdfunding campaigns can help startups with insufficient credit history access more flexible funding. We’ll introduce you to the types of startup business loans and what you need to apply for financing.

What Is a Startup Business Loan?

A startup business loan is a type of financing that’s accessible to businesses with limited—or no—business or credit history. While the most common startup loans are term loans or U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, startups may also opt for business credit cards or asset-based financing. Startup founders also can opt for less traditional financing tools like crowdfunding to get the working capital they need to start and grow their businesses.

How Startup Business Loans Work

Startup business loans refer to various forms of financing available to businesses without an established track record or credit history. For that reason, different types of startup loans have different qualification requirements and application processes. Available loan amounts and borrowing terms also vary by lender and loan type. In general, though, startup business loans have less stringent qualifications than traditional business loans, making them more accessible to new businesses.

8 Types of Startup Business Loans

Getting a small business loan can be challenging if your company doesn’t have an established history of success. However, there are several types of startup loans that are suited to a range of needs and qualifications.

Online Term Loans

Term loans are typically available through traditional banks and online lenders; however, banks may require more qualification requirements than online lenders. Term loans from online lenders generally have maximum limits between $250,000 and $500,000, but newly established startups likely won’t qualify for loan amounts that high. What’s more, online lenders usually require startups to be operational for at least six months to one year before they can qualify.

Online term loans can be an excellent way for startups with at least six months under their belt to secure business financing to help grow their company. If your startup has not been in operation for this amount of time, consider the other seven startup business loans below.

SBA Microloans

The SBA Microloan program offers eligible business owners access to startup loans up to $50,000. Terms extend up to six years and interest rates typically are between 8% and 13%, though this number varies by lender.

Loans are issued through nonprofit lenders and other financial institutions and backed by the SBA, so they’re generally more accessible to startups with limited financial records and credit history. And, while not helpful to all businesses, SBA microlenders are often more committed to funding startups in disadvantaged areas and those owned by women and minorities.

Asset-based Financing

Asset-based financing is a type of lender financing that’s secured by a business’ valuable assets, including inventory, machinery and equipment, accounts receivable and real estate. Secured financing often comes with more flexible lending standards because it poses less risk to the lender. This makes it an excellent option for startups that can’t meet traditional business loan qualifications.

One of the most common types of asset-based lending, invoice factoring, involves selling outstanding invoices to a third party in exchange for a lump sum of cash—usually between 80% and 90% of the total invoice amount. This can provide startups with working capital quickly and without having to demonstrate a strong business credit score or meet other stringent borrowing requirements.

Personal Loans for Business

Startup founders may also benefit from taking out a personal loan rather than a traditional business loan. Notably, personal loans are easier for a new business owner to qualify for than a business loan—especially for startups with limited or nonexistent business history.

What’s more, the application and approval process may be less rigorous with some lenders than for a business loan. Startup owners may also be able to access lower annual percentage rates (APRs) than available with some business loans, though available borrowing limits are usually lower.

Borrowers who use personal loans to fund their startups are personally liable for repaying the debt. Still, most lenders look at an applicant’s personal credit score when evaluating a startup business loan application anyway, so startup founders are likely to be personally liable for a startup loan as well.

Keep in mind, however, that using personal loan funds for business operations also involves commingling personal and business assets, which may cause bookkeeping, tax and/or legal issues down the line. What’s more, some personal loan lenders prohibit the use of funds for business purposes, so be sure to confirm with your desired lender before applying.

Business Credit Cards

Like personal credit cards, business credit cards offer revolving access to funds that can be used for everything from office furniture and supplies to legal fees, equipment and larger purchases. The application and approval process is faster compared to traditional loans, and startup owners are more likely to get approved based merely on their personal credit scores. What’s more, business credit cards are unsecured so new business owners won’t have to come up with valuable collateral.

Business credit cards can be used on an as-needed basis, and cardholders only pay interest on any unpaid balances at the end of the billing cycle—typically every 30 days. This makes it a good option for month-to-month operating costs and other expenses that can be paid off each month to avoid interest. Some cards also offer introductory 0% APRs that let borrowers make interest-free purchases for six months to two years.

Friends & Family

It can be difficult to obtain business financing as a startup with limited credit history and financial records. Business owners who are unable to qualify for a traditional business loan or another method like a business credit card—or who only qualify for a small startup business loan—may want to borrow from friends or family.

Before agreeing to borrow money, startup owners should confirm they are comfortable entering into what is essentially a business relationship with them. This involves reviewing the business plan with the lending party, discussing their role (or lack of role) in the business and memorializing the terms of the loan in writing. Ensuring all parties agree to the loan amount, repayment terms, interest rate and other relevant factors can prevent conflict down the line. Crowdfunding

If traditional lending tools aren’t an option and borrowing directly from friends and family feels too personal, crowdfunding may be a suitable alternative. Likewise, prospective borrowers who are unable to qualify for a business loan as a startup can use a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to access cash and cover operating expenses.

To get started, choose an online fundraising platform, create an account and decide how much money you’re trying to raise. After setting up a crowdfunding campaign, users can donate varying sums of cash that will become available as soon as the campaign ends.

Not only does this form of business funding not require qualifying through a financial institution, but business owners also don’t have to give donors startup equity in exchange for funds. Likewise, the startup isn’t charged interest or other lender fees

Because of the nature of crowdfunding, this strategy is best suited to startup owners who don’t need to raise a large amount of money and businesses with creative or otherwise enticing offerings. It’s not necessary to provide a thank you gift, but campaigns may be more successful if startups entice donors with an exclusive product, service or commemorative gift.

Small Business Grants

A small business grant is money given to startups and other businesses to help them get off the ground and grow. Grants are offered by a range of entities, including state and local governments, the federal government and corporate organizations. Unlike other startup financing methods like loans and credit cards, small business grants don’t require repayment, and business owners aren’t charged fees or interest.

That said, this form of financing is extremely competitive and applications are often rigorous and time-consuming. Many grants also focus on specific types of businesses, including those owned by women, minorities, veterans and immigrants. So, it may be difficult to identify an appropriate open grant, prepare an application and await the award in the time available.

How to Qualify for Startup Business Loans

In general, lenders look at a startup owner’s personal and business credit scores when evaluating a loan application. Because startups generally have limited financial records and credit history, it can be more difficult to qualify for a business startup loan. In this case, the lender will rely primarily—or exclusively—on the borrower’s personal creditworthiness.

To qualify for a startup business loan, compile these documents before submitting an application:

Personal credit scores and reports. When finalizing your startup business loan application, a lender will conduct a hard credit inquiry—which can temporarily drop your score by up to five points—to confirm your creditworthiness. Request copies of your credit reports and check your credit score before applying for a loan to better understand your approval odds and the potential interest rate you’ll qualify for.

Tax returns. Where possible, be prepared to provide business tax returns from the previous two years. Also compile copies of your personal tax returns and IRS documents for the same period of time. Personal returns will be especially important if your startup is brand new and lacks past returns, and may be necessary for all of the business’ owners and registered agents.

Additional financial records. In addition to tax returns, the lender may require a startup’s bank statements, accounts receivable, credit card sales and unpaid invoices as part of the application process. Lenders often need records going back at least four months, which may be feasible even for a startup.

Business plan. In the absence of lengthy financial records, an up-to-date business plan demonstrates to lenders that your business is capable of repaying its debts. This document should also include a business forecast that describes likely future revenue and expenses.

Business licenses, registrations and legal documents. If applicable, you may need to provide copies of licenses and registration necessary to operate in your state or local jurisdiction. Lenders may also require copies of incorporation documents, business leases, franchise agreements and other contracts.

Banking information. If you’re approved for a startup business loan, the lender needs banking information so it can deposit the funds. This information is typically provided during the application process.

How to Get a Startup Business Loan

The process of getting a startup business loan varies by financial institution and financing type, but most banks and online lenders impose similar requirements. Even so, you may face some additional challenges as a startup with limited financial records and credit history. Follow these steps to get a business loan as a startup:

1. Evaluate what kind of loan you need. Available loan amounts and repayment terms vary by loan type and lender, so first consider how much you need to borrow and what type of financing you prefer. If you’re a brand new startup, consider whether alternative types of startup financing may be appropriate, or if you’re likely to qualify for a business loan based on your personal credit.

2. Check your personal and business credit scores. Before you apply for a startup business loan, check all your credit scores. This can help you gauge your approval odds for traditional financing. If necessary, take time to improve your credit score before applying for a startup loan. Likewise, if your startup has been in business for at least a year, it may have a credit score through Experian, Equifax or Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). But it usually takes up to three years for a business to establish credit.

3. Prepare your startup for due diligence. The loan underwriting process typically involves extensive due diligence to evaluate the business’ creditworthiness. This generally includes a review of the applicant’s business plan, personal and business bank statements and other financial documents. It may also be necessary to provide copies of applicable business licenses and legal documents, a description of how you will use the funds and details about available collateral. As a startup founder, it’s even more important to have a robust business plan that demonstrates the business’ likelihood of success.

4. Compare lenders to find the best deal. In general, the most competitive interest rates and terms are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Depending on your personal credit score and how long your startup has been operational, it may be difficult to qualify for the lowest rates. However, shopping around and comparing multiple lenders will help you lock in the best rates available for your business.

5. Submit an application. After identifying your preferred lender, review the application process and compile the necessary documentation. Business loan application and underwriting processes vary by lender, but applications can generally be completed online, via telephone or at a branch. Once you submit an application, you may be contacted by a lender representative regarding additional information or documentation, such as business projections or proof of collateral.

6. Consider alternatives. If you’re not approved for traditional financing like a loan or credit card, evaluate whether there are any feasible alternatives. If you have a friend or family member who has expressed interest in supporting the new business, consider borrowing from them. Alternatively, using a platform like Kickstarter may be the most convenient way to attract new customers and investors.

What If You Are Denied a Startup Business Loan?

Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take if you are denied a startup business loan. Start by finding out why your application was denied. This may be a matter of contacting the lender directly or, in the case of an SBA Microloan, reviewing the notice of denial.

Once you understand why your application was rejected, take steps to address those shortcomings. This often involves waiting to borrow until your startup has more established financials, or taking steps to improve your personal credit score by paying down debt and making on-time payments.

Alternatively, consider another type of startup financing with less stringent lending requirements. For example, if you are denied a traditional loan, a business credit card may offer the funds you need with less robust qualifications. If your startup is simply too new to qualify for any kind of conventional financing, consider starting a crowdfunding campaign or working with friends and family to raise the funds you need.

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