Take Advantage Of These Small Business Grants For Coronavirus Relief

The post Take Advantage Of These Small Business Grants For Coronavirus Relief appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

How To Start An Online Tutoring Business: Prerequisites & 8 Steps To Success

The post How To Start An Online Tutoring Business: Prerequisites & 8 Steps To Success appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Small Business Loan Resources & Guides For Businesses Affected By The Coronavirus

The post Small Business Loan Resources & Guides For Businesses Affected By The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Find The Next Grant For Your Nonprofit Through One Of These 7 Resources

The post Find The Next Grant For Your Nonprofit Through One Of These 7 Resources appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Iowa Small Businesses

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Iowa Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Connecticut Small Businesses

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Connecticut Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Oregon Small Businesses

Sandwiched between booming tech sectors in California and Washington, Oregon is one of the quirkier states in the nation in which to start a business. Oregon is widely considered a great state in which to start a small business, but a difficult state in which to grow one, so you’ll want to be aware of the financial resources available to you if you’re operating within the Beaver State.

Below, we’ll look at some of the types of financing you can access in Oregon, as well as some specific resources you can tap.

Online Business Lenders For Oregon Businesses

Geography can be cruel, and Oregon has some of the most formidable and varied environments in the nation (valleys, mountains, dessert, ocean). Finding a local lender can be easy if you’re in Portland, but may be challenging in some of the more remote areas of the state. Luckily, geography matters much less than it used to when it comes to financing.

What are the advantages of working with an online lender? Generally speaking, online lenders are faster, have simpler application processes, and more flexible lending standards than traditional lenders. The tradeoff, of course, is they also tend to have higher rates and more concentrated repayment term lengths. That said, the best online lenders offer transparent terms and excellent customer service.

Oregon has some of the stricter usury laws in the nation, which helps to weed out more predatory online lenders. Note that regulations governing loans usually only apply specifically to loans and not to loan-like products like merchant cash advances.

Here are a few of the better ones that lend within Oregon:

SmartBiz

Review

Visit Site

SBA loans offer some of the best terms small businesses can find, but the application process can be a bit of an ordeal. For those who want some help navigating it, SmarBiz will streamline and walk you through the process.

BlueVine

Review

Visit Site

BlueVine is an alternative option for businesses that need a line of credit or that have unpaid invoices that they’d like to cash in a little early. Invoice factoring is not for everyone, but it is a way to infuse your business with cash without going into debt.

LoanBuilder

Review

Check Eligibility

PayPal’s LoanBuilder service is one of the faster and more transparent digital lenders, allowing you to tweak the terms of your loan somewhat to fit your needs. Their rates are also pretty decent, but as short-term loans, you’ll have to pay them back fairly quickly.

Fundbox

Review

Visit Site

Businesses with credit issues can have a hard time finding funding, but lenders like Fundbox make it a little bit easier. Like BlueVine they offer lines of credit and invoice factoring. They also offer a service similar to invoice factoring called Fundbox Pay, which allows sellers to receive money for their services right away.

While Fundbox doesn’t have any hard credit requirements, they do want to see that your business does at least $50K/year in revenue.

Lendio

Review

Visit Site

Lendio is a great resource for businesses that are tapping the online lending market for the first time and don’t have a lot of time to fill out multiple applications. Lendio lets you access their network of lenders with a single application and with no direct fee.

Oregon Banks & Credit Unions

Just because online lenders offer speed and convenience, don’t think brick and mortar banks are obsolete. Bank and credit unions tend to offer better rates and terms, provided you have the credit to qualify for them.

If you’re happy with the bank or credit union currently servicing your accounts (and they’re happy with you), it’s often a good idea to start there. The advantage is they already have a sense of you as a customer and records of your financial transactions, which can save you a few steps when you’re applying.

National banks with branches in Oregon include:

Chase Bank

You can find Chase branches in most of the country, particularly in urban areas like Portland. Chase has some of the best business loans rates you can find, but they’re very selective about who they lend to. You’ll also need to be able to get to a branch in person; no digital applications here.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have excellent credit (high 600s)
• Must have access to a Chase Bank branch
Read our Chase Bank review

Bank Of America

If you live along the I-5 corridor, you should have little trouble finding a Bank of America branch. Even if you don’t, BoA does allow you to apply for a couple of products online, making them a more convenient option for remote customers.

Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business at least 2 years.
• Must have a personal credit score of 670 or above.
• Must have revenue > $200,000 for unsecured products, or greater than $250,00 for secured products.
Read our Bank of America review

US Bank

US Bank has Oregon well-covered with branches, even in secondary and tertiary markets. If you want to deal with a big bank that’s a bit more approachable, US Bank is a solid option.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be located in a state served by U.S. Bank
• Must have been in business for two years
Read our U.S. Bank review

Credit Unions

As non-profit entities, credit unions can, at least in theory, provide lower rates than similar for-profit entities. Whether or not they offer business lending will vary from union to union, though in many cases you may be able to leverage personal loans for business purposes.

Some of the more accessible credit unions in Oregon include:

  • OnPoint Community Credit Union 
  • Oregon Community Credit Union
  • Selco Community Credit Union
  • Rogue Credit Union
  • Columbia Credit Union

Small Business Grants In Oregon

startup grants

Why go into debt when you can get money for free? Grants can provide your business with just that: free money.

Of course, nothing’s truly “free.” Grants are highly competitive. If you’re trying to get one, expect to spend a lot of time in pursuit. They also tend to be very specific with regards to what they can be used for, so finding a grant that fits your business goals can be time-consuming.

For some general advice on where to find them, check out our grant feature.

Resources For Startups In Oregon

Remember how we mentioned Oregon is a good place for starting a small business? The state has some well-developed infrastructure that new businesses can tap.

One of the best resources for finding these programs is the state’s economic development agency, Business Oregon. They can help you access state programs like:

  • Oregon Business Development Fund: Offers up to $1 million in direct loans to business that create or retain jobs in manufacturing, processing, or distribution. Preference is given to businesses local in rural or distressed areas.
  • Small Business Expansion Loan Fund: Offers up to $250,000 direct loans to expanding businesses.
  • Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund: Offers up to $75,000 to businesses with less than $500,000 in revenue looking to get established in Oregon.
  • Oregon Credit Enhancement Fund: A loan guarantee program available to most businesses in the state.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

credit card refund

Remember that your lender ultimately has to serve your needs, not the other way around. Don’t settle for a deal that’s bad for your company.

Need some help narrowing down lenders? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Your Industry: Some lenders specialize in lending to specific industries. Others can’t or won’t lend to certain industries. If they can’t write you a loan, cross them off your list.
  • Borrowing Amount: If you need $5,000, you’ll be looking at different lenders than if you need $5 million. Choose the right tool for the job.
  • Rates & Fees: How much is it going to cost you? Are the lender’s rates in line with the industry standard? Do they tell you what additional fees they charge, or do they hide them?
  • Time To Funding: Do you need the money right away or next quarter? Choose a lender that can work with your timetable.
  • Term Lengths: You’ll want to know how quickly you have to pay the money you’re borrowing back. Make sure you can afford the loan over the long-term.
  • The Type Of Expense Being Financed: Some financial products are limited in what they can be used for. Do you need a lump sum of cash? Or do you need a line of credit that you can draw upon periodically?
  • Collateral: Secured loans and lines of credit require some form of collateral, usually in the form of an asset, real estate, or cash deposit. If you don’t have collateral to put it, you’ll want to look at unsecured loans.

Final Thoughts

If you’re ready to start a business in the Pacific Northwest, or planning to expand the one you already have, there’s no shortage of resources to help you reach your goals. Now that you know the basics, what’s next?

Want to see more options for business loans in Oregon? We can help you compare lenders and credit cards.

Just starting out? Check out our resources for startups.

Need more specialized information? Check out our small business loan recommendations for veterans, women, minorities, or individuals with bad credit.

What’s Next
    • Learn what you can write off as small business tax deductions
    • Business loan options that don’t require a credit check
    • A guide to consolidating business debt

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Oregon Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Arizona Small Business Loans

Arizona is one of the fastest growing states in the nation; its warm, arid climate is a big attraction for people suffering from winter fatigue. That swelling population comes with some distinct advantages for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the Grand Canyon State.

Of course, opening a business anywhere comes with challenges, many of which require money to circumvent. When that happens, you’ll want to know where you can turn to for a cash infusion.

We’ll take a look at some of the types of lending available to you in Arizona, as well as some specific lenders you may want to consider.

The Best Online Business Lenders For Arizona Businesses

If a local lender doesn’t immediately come to mind, you may want to consider an online lender. Most online lenders are willing and able to lend to Arizona-based businesses.

What are the advantages of working with an online lender? Generally speaking, online lenders are faster, have simpler application processes, and more flexible lending standards than traditional lenders. The tradeoff, of course, is they also tend to have higher rates and more concentrated repayment term lengths. That said, the best online lenders offer transparent terms and excellent customer service.

Arizona does have a maximum legal interest rate for loans, but these are easily circumvented with written contracts, so don’t necessarily count on state regulation to keep your rate under control. Note that regulations governing loans usually only apply specifically to loans and not to loan-like products like merchant cash advances.

Since there are tons of online lenders to sift through, here are some of our recommendations to get you started:

OnDeck

Review

Visit Site

One of the oldest and most mature online lenders, OnDeck offers short-term loans and lines of credit to businesses. They don’t necessarily have the lowest rates in the business, but their product lineup is versatile and transparent, so you should have few surprises.

BlueVine

Review

Visit Site

BlueVine is an interesting option for businesses that need a line of credit or who have unpaid invoices that they’d like to cash in a little early. Invoice factoring is not for everyone, but it is a way to infuse your business with cash without going into debt.

LoanBuilder

Review

Check Eligibility

PayPal’s LoanBuilder service is one of the faster and more transparent digital lenders, allowing you to tweak the terms of your loan somewhat to fit your needs. Their rates are also pretty decent, but as short-term loans, you’ll have to pay them back fairly quickly.

Fundbox

Review

Visit Site

Businesses with credit issues can have a hard time finding funding, but lenders like Fundbox make it a little bit easier. Like BlueVine, they offer lines of credit and invoice factoring. They also offer a service similar to invoice factoring called Fundbox Pay, which allows sellers to receive money for their services right away.

While Fundbox doesn’t have any hard credit requirements, they do want to see that your business does at least $50K/year in revenue.

Fundera

Review

Compare

An alternative approach to finding an online lender is to use an aggregating service like Fundera. Fundera doesn’t originate their own loans. Instead, when you apply to them, they’ll attempt to pair you with one of their lending partners. The advantage for you is that you’ll effectively be applying to multiple lenders at once with a single application.

Arizona Banks & Credit Unions

As convenient as online lenders can be for small businesses, that’s usually not where you’ll find the best interest rates or terms. Traditional banks aren’t obsolete, they’re just a bit trickier to qualify for post-2008, especially if you don’t have stellar credit.

Typically, the easiest way to get a bank loan is to have a pre-existing relationship with the bank you plan to apply to. Having the requisite accounts in place, as well as a convenient, in-house record of your transactions, can smooth out some of the bumps you might encounter in the application process.

If you have a good relationship with your local bank or credit union, be sure to inquire about their business products. National banks with branches in Arizona include:

Chase Bank

America’s biggest bank has branches scattered through Arizona’s major population centers. Despite their size and market share, they’re still pretty traditional when it comes to business loans, so you’ll have to apply in person.

If you can meet their requirements and don’t mind dealing with an enormous lender, Chase offers some of the best business loan rates out there.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have excellent credit (high 600s)
• Must have access to a Chase Bank branch
Read our Chase Bank review

Bank Of America

Another bank with a big presence in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, Bank of America has very stringent lending standards. They do offer a more modernized application process than many of their competitors, however.

Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business at least 2 years.
• Must have a personal credit score of 670 or above.
• Must have revenue > $200,000 for unsecured products, or greater than $250,00 for secured products.
Read our Bank of America review

 

US Bank

US Bank is one of the smaller of the big national banks, with a reputation for being a bit more personable and flexible. You’ll find them mainly around Phoenix and Tuscon.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be located in a state served by U.S. Bank
• Must have been in business for two years
Read our U.S. Bank review

 

Credit Unions

If you’re looking for the absolute best rates on loans, it’s hard to beat credit unions. As non-profit entities, credit unions can, at least in theory, provide lower rates than similar for-profit entities. On the other hand, be aware that even the biggest credit unions are nowhere near the size of even most mid-sized banks, so they can’t wield the advantages that come with scale.

Credit unions offering business loans are uncommon, but many offer personal loans that can be used for smaller business expenses.

Some of the more accessible credit unions in Arizona include:

  • Desert Financial Credit Union 
  • OneAZ Credit Union
  • Arizona Federal Credit Union
  • Vantage West Credit Union
  • TruWest Credit Union

Small Business Grants In Arizona

startup grants

Grants represent the holy grail of business financing: free money! Of course, as you can imagine, you won’t be the only one seeking it. Competition for grants is fierce and time-consuming; expect to make grant-seeking a part-time job if you choose to seek funding this way.

Grants tend to be targeted — to a specific industry, to a specific problem that needs to be solved, or to a specific demographic. They can be public or private in origin. Find a grant to apply for that fits the profile of your business and/or you as a business owner.

For some general advice on where to seek them, check out our grant feature.

Some Arizona-specific options you may want to consider include:

Arizona Step Grants

The AZSTEP program combines funds from the federal Small Business Administration with those of the Arizona Commerce Authority. These grants are designed to help small businesses enter the export market and increase their international sales.

Arizona Innovation Challenge

Held twice annually, the Arizona Innovation Challenge is a competition awarding applicants up to $150,000, with 10 awardees named each cycle. The grant is designed to help tech companies commercialize their products. An interesting note: you don’t actually have to live in Arizona to apply, you just have to be willing to relocate to Arizona within a 12-month timeframe.

Arizona Job Training Grants

Arizona’s Job Training Program can provide employers creating new jobs a grant that reimburses up to 75 percent of their eligible training expenses. Worth looking into if you’re expanding.

Resources For Startups In Arizona

Starting a business can be an anxiety-producing experience if you don’t have a network ready to support and advise you. Some organizations and programs that might be able to help you include:

  • Arizona Commerce Authority: A public-private economic development organization oriented around expanding Arizona businesses and recruiting new ones from out-of-state.
  • Arizona Small Business Association: A private organization that offering information and resources to the Arizona business community.
  • Small Business Administration: Though technically a federal agency, the SBA publishes state-specific information such as the Arizona edition of their Small Business Resource Guide.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

Even if your lender search feels desperate, remember that you still are their client, not the other way around. And that means they need to meet your requirements as well.

Need some help narrowing down lenders? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Your Industry: Some lenders specialize in lending to specific industry. Others can’t or won’t lend to certain industries. If they can’t write you a loan, cross them off your list.
  • Borrowing Amount: If you need $5,000, you’ll be looking at different lenders than if you need $5 million. Choose the right tool for the job.
  • Rates & Fees: How much is it going to cost you? Are the lender’s rates in line with the industry standard? Do they tell you what additional fees they charge, or do they hide them?
  • Time To Funding: Do you need the money right away or next quarter? Choose a lender that can work with your timetable.
  • Term Lengths: You’ll want to know how quickly you have to pay the money you’re borrowing back. Make sure you can afford the loan over the long-term.
  • The Type Of Expense Being Financed: Some financial products are limited in what they can be used for. Do you need a lump sum of cash? Or do you need a line of credit that you can draw upon periodically?
  • Collateral: Secured loans and lines of credit require some form of collateral, usually in the form of an asset, real estate, or cash deposit. If you don’t have collateral to put it, you’ll want to look at unsecured loans.

Final Thoughts

Companies seeking financing in Arizona have a wealth of options so long as they know where to look. And remember that just as important is finding a funding source that fits your needs and strategy.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Want to see more options? We can help you compare lenders and credit cards.

Just starting out? Check out our resources for startups.

Need more specialized information? Check out our small business loan recommendations for veterans, women, minorities, or individuals with bad credit.

What’s Next
    • Learn what you can write off as small business tax deductions
    • Business loan options that don’t require a credit check
    • A guide to consolidating business debt

The post Arizona Small Business Loans appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Tutoring Business

The news cycle is full of hype about the “knowledge economy” but often light on details about how the average person can catch a piece of the tutoring action. Do you have a skill you’ve carefully honed over the years — or even one you have accidentally cultivated through repetition at your job? Don’t have state certification and six years of college handy? No worries; you don’t have to have an MA in education to be an effective teacher. One of the more accessible points of entry to a career in education is to teach those skills to other people via the increasingly lucrative tutoring industry.

Have you considered starting a tutoring business? Tutoring may be one of the easier avenues to make a little cash in the knowledge-selling economy, but expanding a part-time coaching gig to full-time, lucrative business can take a surprising amount of planning and resources. Not sure where to start? We’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for planning your tutoring business. We’ll also give you some ideas for where you can turn for funding when you need it.

Ready? Let’s go!

Pick A Tutoring Niche

Life is full of paradoxes, but one key part of thinking big is to narrow your focus. Creativity is as informed by limitation as it is by possibility.

As you would when starting any kind of business, think about where you can add value and what problems your skill set can solve. Are people in your area already doing what you’re planning to do? Is there an X-factor you could offer? A different spin on the familiar? Or is there a niche that’s unserved or under-served, particularly in your local area? For that matter, does your area have needs for specific skill sets?

Don’t have the skills or the local demand to create a flute tutoring business?

You can always fall back on subjects that are in high demand. Languages. Writing. Math. Science. And remember, each of these subjects can be broken down farther into sub-categories like algebra, chemistry, conversational Spanish, etc.

Another safe approach is to tutor students who are studying for standardized tests like the SATs, GREs, and LSATs or even trade certification tests like CompTIA A+ for IT technicians. The possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they are numerous.

Choose A Business Location

One of the great things about tutoring is that you can do it just about anywhere: at a dedicated business site, at a college library, at a coffee shop, at your home, or remotely over the internet.

Early on, your choice of location may not be critical–you can tailor your work environment to meet your own needs and the needs of your clients. Obviously, some of those options will disappear once your business gets large enough–your local coffee shop may or may not appreciate you using their space to run your business–so you’ll want to have a growth strategy in mind if you’re planning on turning your business into a tutoring empire down the road.

At the same time, you’ll want to avoid spending more on overhead than your business strategy requires. If you don’t need a brick and mortar space or a fancy interactive website right away, it may be best to hold off on those investments while you build your brand and reputation.

You’ll also want to consider the demographics of your clientele. Are they easily distracted teenagers who may have a hard time concentrating with a lot of background noise? Are they older adults who aren’t as tech-savvy as you are? Are they dependent on public transportation or parents to get to you? Does your subject matter require extra space for demonstrations? Are you working with clients with learning or physical disabilities? Are you going to need WiFi?

Keep all of these factors in mind when you’re considering a location for your tutoring business.

Create A Business Plan (If You’re Going Big)

If you’re going to be tutoring as a side gig, you can probably skip this part, but it’s not a bad exercise for anyone to try, even if they aren’t planning to incorporate anytime soon.

A business plan is simply a written, organized description of your planned business and business strategy. It’s your vision of how your business will develop, operate, and finance itself. It can also help show prospective financiers and grant-money sources that you’re organized and serious about your operation.

You can find a lot of guidance online about how to organize your business plan. Likewise, your local chamber of commerce and government economic development agencies (and similar organizations) often have resources you can tap.

A typical business plan includes the following:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Overview
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy
  • Operating Plan
  • Organizations & Management Team
  • Financials

Calculate Starting Costs

Once you have a basic idea of how your business will operate, it’s time to calculate your starting costs. Does your subject require materials, teaching aids, or similar items? Are you renting a workspace? Are you paying employees or subcontractors? Shelling out for a web host? Purchasing hardware or software? Buying insurance?

Some of these costs may be trivial enough to finance out of pocket, while others may require additional effort. As a new business owner, finding funding can be especially challenging. Many traditional sources of funding, bank loans in particular, usually aren’t available to businesses that are newer than two years old.

Funding Options For Tutoring Businesses

So what do you do if you need money? Here are some options:

Personal Savings

Obvious? Maybe, but tapping your personal savings has distinct advantages over going into debt. You may be accessing your rainy funds, but you won’t be losing additional money on interest payments.

Of course, you are taking a risk using your own money to finance your business. If your business fails, you’ve effectively lost that money. For that reason, and as a general best practice, it’s a good idea to separate your business finances from your personal ones.

Tap Your Support Network

Another option, especially if you don’t have much in personal savings, is to ask friends and family for a loan. Unlike a private lender, your support system probably isn’t trying to make a profit off of you.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

One of the easier–and riskier–ways to fund your startup expenses is with personal or business credit cards (you don’t actually have to own a business to get a business credit card). Credit cards offer a lot of flexibility and convenience when it comes to making purchases. Even better, many credit cards offer reward programs that can actually save judicious users money.

However, keep in mind that credit cards carry very high interest rates on any balances you carry from month to month. Most business credit cards — and all personal credit cards — offer a grace period of at least 21 days. Purchases that you pay off within that window do not accrue interest. This makes credit cards ideal for purchases you can pay off quickly, and problematic for ones that you can’t.

Note: Avoid taking out cash advances on your cards unless absolutely necessary. They come at a very high cost.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Business credit cards often have aggressive rewards programs, but rarely will you find one that offers 5 percent cash back on qualified purchases. And since that includes office supplies, the card’s not a bad fit for tutoring.

There’s a $25,000 cap on the higher rates of return, but with no annual fee, it’s quite a bargain.

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Classic

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

If you don’t qualify for the Chase Ink Business Cash, Capital One’s Spark Classic is an easy-to-qualify-for, no-frills cash back card that can help you save money on purchases while building up your credit.

You’re only getting 1 percent back on purchases, but it’s not a bad place to start if you’re coming off a year or two of hard luck.

Personal Loans

Traditional business loans may not be an option for new businesses, but you can often use personal loans to cover some of your startup expenses. Since you don’t have to worry about business-oriented qualifying factors like the amount of time you’ve been in business, these loans can be easier to get when you’re first starting out.

The downside is you won’t have the liability protection you’d theoretically have if you applied as a business. You may also be more limited in terms of the amount of money you can take out.

Still, if you need a little money to get started and don’t have funds on hand, it’s not a bad option.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

Review

Check Rate

Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable when you’re first starting out.

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Recommended Option: Upstart

upstart logo

Review

Visit Site

Another solid option for non-traditional borrowers is Upstart. So long as you have fair credit (620+), a stable source of income, and live in a state other than West Virginia or Iowa, there’s a pretty good chance Upstart will work with you.

Flexibility is the name of Upstart’s game. How so? They’ll use non-traditional means to get a picture of your credit worthiness and they’ll allow you to select between different payment schedules. And with three to five years to settle your loan, you won’t have to worry about paying it off right away.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Grants

Nothing’s better than “free” money, and grants might be the closest thing to that in the real world. Grants usually require a fairly involved application/writing process and, as you might expect, are often highly competitive. So while you may not have to worry about interest with grants, you do want to factor in the amount of time you have to spend trying to get a grant, especially considering there’s a high chance that you won’t be selected for the grant.

On the other hand, being awarded a grant comes with some prestige that you can then use in your marketing efforts. And it is “free” money, after all.

If you need some help figuring out where to look for grants, check out our feature on the topic.

ROBS

Not your neighbor-with-the-nice-car Rob, but Rollovers as Business Startups. If you haven’t heard of ROBS, don’t feel bad. They’re extremely niche products for entrepreneurs with retirement accounts like 401(k)s.

For a fee, a ROBS provider allows you to use money from your retirement account to pay for startup costs without incurring the tax penalty you normally would by tapping those funds early.

As is the case with personal savings, you are risking your own money.

ROBS will be overkill for most new tutoring businesses, but if your startup costs look like they’re going to pile up, keep them in mind.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

Review

Pre-qualify

If you’re in the market for a ROBS, it’s worth checking out Guidant Financial. If your retirement account has at least $40k in it, you can roll over up to 100 percent of your funds.

Register Your Business

blogging

This part is technically optional, but if you’re planning to build your tutoring business into more than an occasional source of freelance income, you should probably register your business.

If you do nothing at all, your business will default to a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name. Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same. While it won’t separate your personal and business finances, you should consider filing a DBA (Doing Business As) with your local county clerk. This will allow you to legally operate your business under its own name (Uber Math Works as opposed to Barry Holgram, for example).

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages. This is where the business plan we talked about earlier will come in handy, because you’ll need one if you’re going to incorporate. Keep in mind that incorporation comes with costs and additional responsibilities, so make sure you’re at the point where it makes sense for your business.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Separate Personal And Business Finances

Even if you’re going to run your tutoring business as a sole proprietorship, you should take steps to separate your business finances from your personal ones. A separate business checking and/or savings account can save you a ton of headache when it’s time to pay your taxes. And even for your own edification, it will make your profits and losses much easier to track.

Choose An Hourly Rate

Get your merchant funds fast. Image description: Clock with money underneath it

Figuring out how much to charge for your tutoring services can be one of the more challenging parts of getting your business up and running.

A good place to start is to do some research on the prevailing rate for similar services in your area and then figure out a strategy for your business. Are you going to try to undersell the competition? Charge more but offer something your competitors don’t? You can glean this information often from your competitors’ websites or by checking out third-party sites that do regional salary comparisons for different industries. You may also want to speak to local colleges and schools about how they handle independent tutors.

It sounds obvious, but you don’t want to charge so little that you’re breaking even, or even losing money, on your gig. Take into account the transportation costs of meeting your clients, any money you’re spending on coffee, etc. And be sure to deduct those expenses when it comes time to pay your self-employment taxes!

Bolster Your Web Presence

Word of mouth can still go a long way in the tutoring business, but these days there’s really no way to avoid the necessity of building a strong digital presence.

It never hurts to have a sleek, attractive website. Indeed, it can make your operation look professional as well as help build hype for your services. Luckily there are user-friendly and cost-effective ways to build a website.

That said, a website is not the only way to use the internet to build up your tutoring business.

Remember that the web is, itself, a medium for instruction and tutoring. You may want to consider offering some freebies on YouTube, for example, to build up your reputation. In addition, free services can function as advertisements for your paid services. Just make sure you don’t make your paid services extraneous.

Social media strategy is too complex to go into in great depth here, but making posts that are fun to read and interact with is a good place to start.

Advertise Your Business

In addition to what we covered above in web presence, you’ll also want to get your name out there in other ways. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably not looking at expensive media buys on TV, radio, or even your local newspaper.

Let your network know what you’re up to so they can spread the word about your new tutoring. Make a Facebook page. Get yourself a Twitter account. Offer free consultations with curious parties. Even cheap, low-tech solution like flyers with tear-off tags can be powerful if you post them in the right places.

Final Thoughts

Does helping someone grow and learn while earning money sound like a dream job? Tutoring can be one of the more rewarding and flexible businesses you can get into. But while the demand for expertise is often high, you’ll still want to approach the industry with a strategic mindset. Take your time, narrow down your niche, and build your reputation and tutoring can turn into so much more than just a side gig.

The post The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Tutoring Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Small Business Grants: Resources For Free Money

small business grants

From business loans to credit cards, it’s assumed that funding a growing small business necessarily involves taking on debt. No pain, no gain, right? Well, in the event that your business doesn’t turn a profit, you’ll be taking on the pain without seeing any resulting gain. Wouldn’t it be nice if there existed a way to fund your small business that relied on your capabilities, not on your willingness to go into debt?

As it happens, there is one way to get funding that doesn’t rely on your willingness to take on debt: small business grants.

What Are Small Business Grants?

A small business grant is a sum of money — issued either by a government agency or a private organization — awarded to a growing business. While it’s tempting to think of a grant as “free money,” that doesn’t quite capture the essence of a small business grant. For one thing, when a business receives money in the form of a grant, that money always comes with strings attached. The terms of a grant are usually quite specific about how the money can be used. It isn’t like getting a loan, where you get to decide exactly how to invest your funds.

Additionally, getting approved for a grant will likely involve lots of work on your part. Grants are difficult to qualify for and applying for them involves lots of jumping through hoops. Since time is money, grants aren’t exactly free of cost. Then again, these “costs” aren’t going to imperil your credit score!

Small Business Grant Pros & Cons

Grant Pros Grant Cons
“Free” money Long application process
Can lend prestige to your small business Funds must be used in the manner specified by the grant

Getting one grant makes it more likely you’ll get others

Most applicants for a grant won’t get it
Grant information is always publicly available Business grants are not always renewed from year to year

The nice thing about receiving a grant is that, because grants are generally awarded based on a company’s contribution to the public good, they come with a certain degree of prestige. In turn, getting one grant will make your business more attractive to other grant issuers.

Of course, when you pursue grants, you need to be aware of the harsh realities. The vast majority of grant proposals are not accepted, and even if you are ultimately successful, the application process can be rigorous and time-consuming. What’s more, the money will likely be earmarked for a certain purpose. You can’t treat the money received via a grant like any other funding — you must use the money exactly as specified (or exactly as you laid out in your grant application).

The downsides of business grants don’t hold a candle to the downsides attached to other forms of business financing, however, so don’t let these challenges discourage you!

How To Find Business Grants

Business grants can be found by checking the online offerings of every level of government (federal, state, local) and by seeking out directories of private grants that allow you to search for a program that fits your mission and your business.

When searching for grant programs, narrow your search to those that pertain specifically to your business type. Since grants are often meant to incentivize social responsibility, certain businesses will be more likely to find a grant than others. A company working on a new type of water filtration system stands a better chance of scoring a grant than a vape juice maker, for example. Likewise, certain grants may be aimed at specific segments of the population. An organization might award grants specifically for women-owned businesses or veteran-owned businesses.

What To Do Before Applying For A Grant

  1. Define your exact funding need: be ready to define the precise objectives a grant would help you meet.
  2. Create a detailed business plan.
  3. Gather and assemble all the business records you can from at least the last three years.
  4. Have your plan and records reviewed by experts, whether they be SCORE mentors or others with experience in guiding business owners through the grant-hunting process.
  5. Consider hiring a professional grant writer if you can.

8 Places To Look For Small Business Grants

startup grants

Grants.gov

Grants.gov is the place you should go if you want to search every grant program administered by the federal government. There are 26 grant-making agencies in the federal government, and although the website feels clunky and dated, you’ll at least get to search for the sort of grant program that your particular business could qualify for.

I should warn you, however, that most of the grants offered by the federal government are medical research grants, and these are typically awarded to nonprofit organizations and, in some instances, local and state governments. This blog post from the Small Business Administration details the limited instances in which private businesses may be eligible for a grant from the federal government.

Your State & Local Governments

This may actually be a better place to start your grant search than the federal grant database. That’s because grant programs initiated by your state government — or perhaps your city government — stand a better chance of aligning with your business mission than a federal grant program.

Check out your local Chamber of Commerce for grant opportunities as well as any city, county, and state websites that might have information about grant programs. Depending on where you live, selection may be limited, but you may well find a grant program that aligns with your mission. Most of these programs only accept grant applications at certain times of the year, so it pays to be vigilant and check the relevant websites frequently.

National Association For The Self-Employed

If a smaller grant for your small business is worth pursuing, the NASE provides grants and educational resources for small businesses owners. Through their Growth Grants Program, grants of up to $4,000 are awarded to small business for specific purposes, such as hiring employees.

To apply for a grant, you’ll first have to join the NASE. You’ll then need to detail exactly how you’ll use the funds and how the funds will fit into your overall business plan.

Along with grants, the NASE offers the following services to small business owners:

  • 24/7 expert advice
  • UPS discounts up to 32%
  • $10K included term life insurance
  • Medical emergency help
  • Office Depot discounts
  • LifeLock ID theft protection

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a nationally prominent grant contest that has, since its inception in 2013, awarded over $500,000 in grant money to small businesses. Qualifying entities must be for-profit U.S.-based businesses with fewer than 99 employees and at least 6 months of time in business.

The contest is held annually, with applications typically accepted starting in late February. Keep a watch on FedEx’s website to find out when you can apply. Here is a closer look at the winners of the 2018 Grant Contest.

USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program

An endeavor of the United States Department of Agriculture, this grant program offers grants of between $10,000 to $500,000 to rural small businesses. If your business has fewer than 50 employees, takes in less than $1 million in annual revenue, and is located in a rural part of the US, it is eligible to apply.

Rural small business owners looking to apply should do so through their USDA Rural Development state office.

Amber Grant Program

The Amber Grant program is a grant set up by WomensNet to support female-owned small businesses. This is how it works: the program awards $1,000 to a woman-owned business every month. At the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly grant winners wins another grant for $10,000. All female entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to compete, and there are no restrictions on the type of business eligible to receive a grant.

The program accepts applications year-round, and unlike some other grant programs, the Amber Grant program makes applying as easy as possible. According to WomensNet:

Applying for the Amber Grant is easy. Don’t try to “sound corporate.” Past grant winners are women who have simply shared from the heart. Our judges are looking for passion as well as business smarts.

Visa Everywhere Initiative

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a multi-national grant program offering grants to companies meeting the following description:

When evaluating submissions for VEI, we look for startups that have ideas relevant to Visa’s business, a product in market, traction with early customers, and early funding from external investors.

Submissions for the 2018 program were accepted from March 19th until April 23rd, so if you’d like to submit your proposal for the coming year, keep an eye on the VEI website around that time of year and look for information on how to apply.

StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award

StreetShares is an online lender specializing in lending to veterans and veteran-owned businesses. The lender also has a grant program called the StreetShares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award. The program is open to any military veteran, reserve or active duty member of the Armed Forces, or a qualifying spouse.

The StreetShares Foundation is currently accepting applications for the upcoming cycle of the Veteran Small Business Award, so if you’re interested, apply now. StreetShares gives out three grants at the end of each contest. 1st place gets $15,000, 2nd place gets $6,000, and 3rd place gets $4,000.

Don’t Qualify? The Best Alternatives To Small Business Grants

Grants are awesome because you don’t have to pay them back. Naturally, this makes them popular, but it also means the vast majority of grant applicants are rejected. If you’re not successful in securing a grant, don’t despair! You’re in good company. Of course, you’ll still need funding to launch and grow your business. Two of the primary ways entrepreneurs launch and build their small businesses are personal loans and lines of credit. Here are some of the top lenders in each field, vetted by the fine folks at Merchant Maverick.

Personal Lenders For Business

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest Rate Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$2K – $25K 2 – 4 years 15.49% to 30% 600 Apply Now

$1K – $50K 3 or 5 years 8.16% – 27.99% 620 Apply Now

$2K – $35K 3 or 5 years 6.95% – 35.99% APR 640 Apply Now

lending club logo

$1K – $40K 3 or 5 years 5.32% – 30.99% 640 Check Rate

Lenders That Specialize In Lines Of Credit

Lender Borrowing Amount Draw Term Draw Fee APR Next Steps

$6K – $100K 6 months None Starts at 13.99% Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies Varies Varies Apply Now

$5K – $5M 6 months 1.50% per draw 21% – 65% Apply Now

$1K – $100K 12 weeks None 12% – 54% Apply Now

Final Thoughts

Great business ideas can come from absolutely anybody. Unfortunately, startup capital is not so equitably distributed. Grant programs can help small business owners — particularly those who make an identifiable contribution to the grant-giving organization’s conception of the public good — with much-needed cash. Just be persistent, be undaunted by rejection letters, and be prepared to accept the strings that come attached to grant money should you be successful.

The post Small Business Grants: Resources For Free Money appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”