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aking on debt to start your business can feel daunting. But if you want to get kickstart your company’s growth, a small business loan might be exactly what you need. It all comes down to picking the best lender for your business, making payments on time, and having a clear plan for your new business.

This guide will cover the ins and outs of small business loans in California, including tips on how to find the right lender for your needs.

What is a small business loan?

A small business loan refers to funds given by a lender for the purpose of starting or growing a small business. While there are no official guidelines restricting loan amounts, most small business loans are around $100,000 or less, depending on the borrower’s industry and plans.

There are a few different types of small business loans, each with its own pros and cons:

  • SBA loans: These loans are backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They offer low interest rates and long payback terms, but often have strict requirements.
  • Business term loans: A term loan is a lump sum paid upfront to the borrower with a strict set of terms.
  • Business lines of credit: A business line of credit is an accessible pool of money you can borrow from at any time, then repay with interest. A business line of credit loan offers flexible day-to-day spending as your profit margins grow.

Before you apply for a small business loan in California

Before you take out a small business loan, you’ll need to follow a few basic steps to get your business started:

  • Decide what type of business you’re starting: California has six types of business entities, including LLCs, sole proprietorships, and S corporations.
  • Reserve your name: According to California law, your business’s name must be unique and not misleading. You can reserve your name with the California secretary of state for up to 60 days.
  • File the appropriate paperwork: Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you might need to file articles of incorporation or articles of organization.
  • Apply for your EIN: Your employer identification number (EIN) identifies your business to the IRS and allows you to open a business bank account.
  • Open a business checking account: You should open your business checking account before you apply for funding. Novo offers free business checking accounts with plenty of features to help your business grow.

Options for small business owners in California

Applying for an SBA-backed loan can be an extensive process with strict requirements. But there are other options available to California business owners who want flexible loan terms. Here are a few grants and loan programs you may want to consider.

California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program

The Small Business Loan Guarantee Program (SBLGP) is run by the Small Business Finance Center of California. The SBFC provides 80% to 95% guarantees on loans funded by California financial development corporations.

SBLGP loans are available to California small businesses with fewer than 750 employees. Credit qualifications vary depending on the lender you're working with. Loan amounts also vary by lender and can be as much as $20 million, but only up to $2.5 million is guaranteed through the program.

CalCAP Access Program for Small Businesses

The California Capital Access Program provides funding to financial institutions so they can then provide loans to small businesses.

CalCAP loans are available to California-based small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The maximum guaranteed loan amount through the program is $2.5 million. Specific requirements and fees are determined by the lender.

To begin an application for a CalCAP loan, contact one of the participating CalCAP institutions.

EmployABILITY Business Grant

The EmployABILITY grant program offers $20,000 to $200,000 in funding to small and medium-sized businesses in California that employ individuals with disabilities. The grant is designed to improve hiring practices in California, and you can use it to pay for employee relocation or make your workplace more accessible.

California Paid Family Leave Small Business Grant

The California Paid Family Leave Small Business Grant is available to California small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. It offers up to $2,000 per employee to help supplement the costs of paid family leave.

Accion Opportunity Fund

ACCION Opportunity Fund offers loans with fair terms to underrepresented small business owners. Loan amounts range between $5,000 and $100,000, with interest rates as low as 5.99%.

Accion doesn't turn away borrowers based on their credit scores alone. Instead, it looks into your background and mission to support minority-owned small businesses.

How to find the right lender for your small business loan

The right lender for you depends on your business plan, industry, and priorities. Here are a few tips to help you find a lender that works for your small business.

Consider your qualifications

Traditional banks often have strict requirements for small business loans, especially if you’re applying for a larger term loan or a business line of credit. If you have poor credit, a limited credit history, or your business is brand new, you may not qualify for a loan with a traditional bank.

Fortunately, traditional banks aren’t your only option. You can look into online banks and microlenders to get a quick loan with no or little collateral.

Apply for assistance programs

Look for small business assistance and loan guarantee programs for which you might be eligible. Guarantee programs work with lenders to offer you better loan terms. You might also qualify for local, state, or federal grant programs to support your business.

Compare lenders

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, compare top lenders based on their:

  • Company background
  • BBB score and customer ratings
  • Accessibility and customer service—for example, a mobile app can be a helpful resource
  • Requirements for eligibility
  • Rates and loan terms

Final thoughts

A California small business loan can help you afford the infrastructure, overhead, and equipment you need to get your business started. If you’re a small business owner in California, you have plenty of options. Check out the federal and state loan programs you might be eligible for and compare top lenders in your area.

Novo can be a great resource to start organizing your business's finances before you apply. Our business checking accounts have no monthly fees and have a number of features and integrations to help get your small business off the ground.

Novo Platform Inc. strives to provide accurate information but cannot guarantee that this content is correct, complete, or up-to-date. This page is for informational purposes only and is not financial or legal advice nor an endorsement of any third-party products or services. All products and services are presented without warranty. Novo Platform Inc. does not provide any financial or legal advice, and you should consult your own financial, legal, or tax advisors.

Novo is a fintech, not a bank. Banking services provided by Middlesex Federal Savings, F.A.: Member FDIC.

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