Show Me The Money

I just started a small business, and I hear that the SBA has loan programs for entrepreneurs, but I think there might be lots of red tape. Can you provide information on some of them and how to apply?
–J. Miller, Via the Internet

One of the most popular loans available by the Small Business Administration is the 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program. Through it, private lenders will make loans to your business that the SBA will guarantee, up to 85% (on loans up to $150,000) or 75% (on those more than $150,000) up to a maximum guarantee of $2 million. You can obtain an application from a local SBA lender in your area (www.sba.gov).

Before you meet with the lender, you’ll need to decide on how much money you need, what it will be used for, and how it will be repaid. Existing businesses should provide a history of the company and how it has performed since inception, as well as financial records such as profit and loss statements for the last three years.

If you’re looking for less than $150,000, there are other SBA-backed loans that require less documentation. The SBALowDoc (low documentation) program, for example, was created for fast processing (the SBA says approval time is 36 hours or less) and has just a one-page application.

If $35,000 or less will work for your company, then a good, low-hassle option is the SBA Microloan Program, which guarantees an average loan size of $10,500.

For more information, I’d recommend reading SBA Loans: A Step-by-Step Guide, 4th Edition by Patrick D. O’Hara (John Wiley & Sons; $24.95) or The SBA Loan Book by Charles H. Green ($12.95; Adams Media Corporation).

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