Starting or growing a small business can be hard
If you have a small business — or even a plan for a small business — there’s a local non-profit that wants to help you.
Starting a small business is tough. And when you’re operating a small business, it can be equally tough to grow it. You can see an opportunity, but there are obstacles to grasping that opportunity.
One of the toughest things is when you’ve got a plan you know will work, but your plan requires an investment you can’t afford right now.
Maybe you need to buy a truck. Or some inventory. Or a website. Or some specialized computer gear. The cost might be only a few thousand dollars, but it’s a few thousand dollars you don’t have.
Or maybe the number is a lot higher. Maybe you work for an insurance brokerage, the owner wants to retire, and she’s offering to sell you the business. Or your landlord is selling the building you occupy and is giving you the first chance at buying it. The benefits are obvious, but they’re long-term, and they require cash right now. Cash you don’t have.
If you’re a large, established business, you’ll have a relationship with a bank, and these things aren’t obstacles, they’re paperwork.
But if your business is young and small, it’s not that easy. Here are some of the problems:
Because your business is young and small, you don’t have much of a financial history, so it's tough to get a loan from a commercial bank.
Because the dollar amount you need is small, you're not really suited for a loan from a commercial bank.
Because you lack good financial records, you can’t assemble the information a lender requires.
Because you’re inexperienced, you don’t know how to put together a business plan that demonstrates to a lender that you can succeed.
You don’t even know where to start. Or who to ask. Or what to ask.
That’s where LiftFund can step in.
A LiftFund Success Story: Southtown Barbers
David Lara owns Southtown Barbers on St. Mary’s, across the street from Brackenridge High School.
He’s been in business for about eight years now, but before that, he worked for years as a barber in someone else’s shop. Back then, he knew that he wanted to open his own place, and he knew exactly what he wanted: a first-class place with a vintage look.
This LiftFund loan page is really helpful (see the article for a link). You'll find lots of useful information, and you'll also find two very important buttons (we've circled them in red): AM I READY -- click this button to walk through a simple questionnaire that let's you know whether you're ready to apply for a loan. APPLY NOW -- click this button if you're ready to start the loan application process.
What is LiftFund?
LiftFund is a non-profit ‘alternative’ lender. It helps small businesses by providing loans that those businesses couldn’t get from a bank (for exactly the reasons outlined above) and by providing advice and education to businesspeople who are just starting out.
LiftFund has now spread across fourteen mostly-southern states, but it got its start and is still headquartered in San Antonio. Its offices are located on Hackberry; and its founder and CEO, Janie Barrera, lives here in the neighborhood.
So if your San Antonio small business needs some help, you couldn’t be better located to access it.
LiftFund can not only provide you with a loan, its people can also help you put together the documents and the plan needed to justify that loan. And, if you’re not really ready to assemble a loan application yet, LiftFund can guide you to the point where you will be ready.
In a conversation I had last week with LiftFund’s CEO, Janie Barrera, and Vice President of Strategic Communications, Martha Zurita, Martha described LiftFund like this:
"Our goal is to help business owners who, for whatever reason, don't feel that they can approach a bank, or who have maybe been turned down by a bank. So I'd say that, if that describes you, we would love the opportunity to have a conversation with you and see if any of our products can help you to realize your business goals.”
LiftFund will provide loans for the purchase of equipment and supplies, for working capital, for purchasing your building or renovating your space. They’ll provide loans ranging from $500 to $5,000,000.
Interest rates vary, depending on the nature of the loan.
Typical loans carry a nine percent rate, but some loans are available with no interest at all. Once LiftFund understands your needs, it will connect you with the loan program that works best for you.
The people at LiftFund are experts — they know how to access programs aimed at small businesses, at minorities and women, and at veterans.
As just one example, if your loan will enable you to hire more staff, they know how to get you an interest rate buy-down from the City of San Antonio. As another example, if you’re trying to buy your building, they can work with you to get an SBA loan that requires only a ten percent downpayment — and then, says CEO Janie Barrera, LiftFund will even loan you that downpayment.
ALERT: Read this article by Janie Barrera that explains two special, low-interest loan programs available right now, while funds last.
Getting started with a loan
So how do you get started, if you want to get a loan from LiftFund?
I’d suggest you visit this page of the LiftFund website: LiftFund Loan Offerings
There’s some good background reading on that page. You can fill out a simple questionnaire to determine if you're ready to apply for a loan, and, if you’re ready, you can even start your loan application.
David Lara, owner of Southtown Barbers, wanted a first-class, vintage look for his shop. A loan from LiftFund helped him buy chairs, workstations, and all the other things he needed to make that vision a reality. (Photo provided by David Lara at Southtown Barbers).
“I wanted to give my customers — and the barbers who were going to work with me — a really nice environment,” he says.
But he needed money for that vision. He would need to buy everything from chairs and stations to a barber pole and framed pictures for the wall. That was a chunk of money he didn’t have.
So he started saving.
And then one day he was chatting with a customer, and he mentioned that he was saving up to eventually open his own shop. The customer told him about LiftFund.
“So I contacted them, had a one on one meeting, and did an application.”
In many ways, David was a perfect candidate for a LiftFund loan. He was already skilled at his trade. He knew his business and had an existing customer base, so he could predict revenue and expenses. And he wanted to purchase physical assets that would also serve as collateral.
LiftFund agreed. The result was a $10,000 loan at 0% interest for five years.
“Once I found out about LiftFund, everything changed for me,” he says. “I got my dream barbershop.”
Now his business is thriving. There are seven barbers, and he’s got the revenue to cover everything he needs.
“But maybe one of these days I’ll open another shop,” he says with a smile, “and I’ll have to contact LiftFund again.”
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.
Our goal is to help business owners who, for whatever reason, don't feel that they can approach a bank, or who have maybe been turned down by a bank.