There's a lot to love about Florida. The southeastern-most U.S. state has hundreds of miles of beaches and Walt Disney World. But the real magic in the sunshine state is the small business landscape.
It may sound cliché, but small businesses are the backbone of Florida’s economy. With around two and a half million registered businesses employing 3.3 million, Florida is a great place to start or grow a business. The SBA has put together a comprehensive infographic with more details on the Florida small business landscape here.
However, it’s not all good news. The Florida Small Business Confidence Index survey from the SBDC Network highlights the issues Florida small businesses are most concerned about. Those issues are:
- Access to capital (28 percent)
- Economic uncertainty (24 percent)
- Workforce quality (22 percent)
The number one concern, access to capital, is important for small business owners in many ways. Low cost funds can be used for working capital, equipment purchases, hiring, marketing and more. An injection of low cost funds can also lead to big savings. For example, business owners can refinance high interest debt.
If you own an established business in Florida , here’s what you need to know about getting the low-cost funds you deserve to grow your business.
Financing Options for Established Florida Businesses
Some financing options are fast, others take more time, some are costly and others offer low-cost funds.
So where do you turn? Here are options available in Florida for established small businesses.
SBA Loans in Florida
If you qualify, the Small Business Administration’s nationwide low-cost loan programs can be your best option. SBA loans have low rates, long terms and very low monthly payments.
There are three types of SBA loan programs available for business owners 7(a) Loan Program, the CDC/504 loan program and the microloan program.
The 7(a) Loan Program
An SBA 7(a) loan can be used for a variety of purposes.
- Working Capital – Purchase equipment, increase inventory, add marketing programs, use for operating expenses or to hire additional staff.
- Debt Consolidation Loans – Refinance merchant cash advances, short-term business loans, high interest business loans, daily or weekly payment loans or business credit cards.
- Commercial Real Estate – Refinance an existing commercial real estate mortgage, buy an office building or other owner-occupied commercial space.
For in-depth information about the popular SBA 7(a) loan program, visit the SmartBiz Small Business blog and review our comprehensive article: What is an SBA Loan?
The 504 Loan Program
This program was created to give small businesses low cost funds for expansion or modernization. Typically, up to 50% of project costs are funded by a lender backed by the SBA. CDCs (Community Development Corporations) usually fund up to 40% of the project cost. The final 10% is a cash down payment expected to come from the small business owner.
A 504 SBA loan might be a good fit for small business owners interested in purchasing a commercial real estate property and if their unique business circumstances fit with the public policy goals of your local Florida CDC. To contact your local CDC, visit the SBA website here.
The Microloan Program
The Microloan Program is for very small businesses, including start-ups and provides loans of up to $50,000. Requirements to qualify for a microloan can vary depending on the lender. Proceeds from an SBA Microloan can be used for most business expenses but not for paying down debt or real estate purchases.
Non-SBA Loans in Florida
There are plenty of non-SBA loan options available in Florida although they may have higher rates, shorter terms and larger payments.
- Business Lines of Credit
A business line of credit allows you to borrow funds up to a limit based on your credit, typically smaller than a term loan. You only pay interest on the amount you use, and you can continue borrowing as necessary until you reach the set maximum. These loans are usually unsecured, meaning that you won’t have to provide collateral to qualify. For in-depth information, read this post from the SmartBiz Blog: Small Business Lines of Credit Pros and Cons.
Business credit cards are revolving lines of credit. The main distinction is that they don’t terminate once the predetermined limit is reached and function like personal credit cards, with varying spending rewards and offers depending on the lender. Learn more here: 5 Business Credit Card Myths.
- Merchant Cash Advances
A merchant cash advance (MCA) is most often used by small businesses that accept credit and debit card sales. You receive a specific sum in advance that is repaid either by a percent deduction from daily transactions or through daily or weekly payments.
Keep in mind that MCAs often lead to extremely high annual percentage rates. Even the minimum within the range can be several times larger than term loan annual percentage rates. Some APRs can reach up to well over 300%. For more info, read What You Need to Know About an MCA.
Bank Term Loans
If your business isn’t quite ready for an SBA loan, or need funds more quickly than an SBA loan, consider applying for a bank term loan. SmartBiz currently offers term loans through its bank partners for working capital, debt refinance and new equipment purchase:
- $30,000 to $200,000 loan amounts
- 2 – 5 year repayment terms
- Fixed interest rate*
- Monthly repayments
- No pre-payment penalties
*Interest rate depends on loan term and the applicant's credit and financial profile.
Advantages of SBA 7(a) Loans in Florida
SBA 7(a) loans are known as the “gold standard” in small business funding and are available nationwide. An SBA 7(a) loan has several advantages compared to other options including:
- Low interest rates
- Long terms
- Very low monthly payments
- Available for many uses
- Can help build business credit
- No prepayment penalty
- Available nationwide
Read why SBA loans are so popular on the SmartBiz website here.
Requirements to apply for an SBA 7(a) loan in Florida
Lenders and loan programs have unique eligibility requirements for an SBA loan. For example, some lenders may require a business plan while others do not. (SmartBiz Loans does not require a business plan). Requirements for an SBA loan facilitated by SmartBiz include:
- Time in business must be above 2 years
- Business owner’s personal credit score must be above 650
- The business must be U.S. based and owned by US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident who is at least 21-years old
- No outstanding tax liens
- No bankruptcies or foreclosures in the past 3 years
- No recent charge-offs or settlements
- Current on government-related loans
How to apply for an SBA 7(a) loan in Florida
Step 1: Check your eligibility. Before you even begin your application, make sure your business is eligible. Visit the SBA website for a list of eligible businesses. You must also meet the requirements listed above.
To determine if your business is SBA loan ready, sign up for SmartBiz Advisor, a free tool that helps you learn how banks typically evaluate your business and recommends ways to increase your likelihood of approval when applying low-cost funding.
Step 2: Review requirements and gather paperwork. The more organized you are, the swifter the application process will move. For a list of documents required for an SBA loan, visit the SmartBiz Blog. How to Get an SBA Loan: Documents You Need
Step 3: Choose a lender. Although SmartBiz Loans is not a lender, we work with multiple banks to match you with the lender most likely to fund. You won’t waste time going from bank to bank. This video has step-by-step information about how to get an SBA loan:
When you work with SmartBiz Loans, expert support is available. Our loan consultants can answer any question that might come up during the loan process. To read 5-star reviews about our customer service, visit Google Reviews, the Consumer Affairs website or the SmartBiz Loans TrustPilot page.
Discover if you’re prequalified for a low-cost SBA loan in minutes without impacting your credit score here.
Congratulations on the decision to strengthen and grow your business in the great state of Florida!
* The information provided through SmartBiz Advisor, including the Loan Ready Score, is for educational purposes and is not the same as scores used by lenders for credit decisions. SmartBiz Advisor is not a financial or legal advisor as defined under federal or state law. Use of this information is not a replacement for personal, professional advice or assistance regarding your finances or credit history.