Getting a business loan from a bank isn't easy. Nearly half of companies that try fail, according to a 2014 survey by Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Sharon Jones and Chinwe Onyeagoro are working to change that—especially for women and minorities. Two years ago, the entrepreneurs launched FundWell (thefundwell.com), a technology platform that helps small businesses access loans. Last year, 75 percent of FundWell's clients who applied for loans were approved. Here, Jones and Onyeagoro share how you can increase your chances of getting approved.
Put your personal finances in order. Lenders consider both your personal and business assets when evaluating a loan. Establish a credit score of 700 or higher. "The vast majority of loans you can get, you have to personally guarantee," explains Onyeagoro, CEO and cofounder. "If you don't have a personal track record of repaying your bills, then your guarantee is worthless."
Manage your cash flow and create financial projections. This will show that you have the cash to pay your loan each month. "Consider an online software program like Quick-Books to help," says Jones, president and cofounder. Make this a monthly exercise, or weekly, if cash is tight.
Avoid reporting personal and business losses on tax returns. "It's important to show some type of income, because that's proof that you've made money in the past, are going to make money moving forward and have the capital to repay the loan," says Onyeagoro. Reporting a loss indicates that you're not making enough money to meet your obligations.
Apply before you need it. "It's easier to get a loan when your business is robust or when you still have a job," says Jones. Don't wait until you're down to your last dollar. "That's when all the measures that lenders look at are probably going to be the most negative."
This article was originally published in the October issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands now.