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W

e’ve all heard the old adage “it costs money to make money.” If you own a small business, you’re probably no stranger to business-related financial challenges. From time to time, you need to spend money on marketing, production, utilities, and other expenses, even if you don’t have the cash on hand.

Securing a small business loan in Florida can help you cover basic business expenses, expand to new markets, increase production, or offer new services.  

But figuring out how to get a business loan in Florida can feel overwhelming.

You’ll be glad to learn that the process can be painless. Let’s take a look at the types of loans you can secure for your small business in the state of Florida and how to qualify.

Types of Small Business Loans

If you’re in the market for a small business loan, you need to know what your options are. There are several different types of loans available for small businesses in Florida, each with its own pros and cons.

  • Term loans: These provide the funding your business needs in a lump sum. Term loans come with a fixed payment that you’ll pay throughout the predetermined term of the loan. Although they’re great for large one-off purchases, they’re not typically the best option for funding day-to-day business operations or making relatively small purchases. That’s because term loans are not revolving. You’ll get a set loan amount and pay it off over time.
  • SBA loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) makes it easy for small business owners to access the funding they need by partially guaranteeing loans with banks. These loans have similar terms to traditional term loans but are typically easier to get. However, they also take longer to process. If you need money quickly, this won’t be the best option.
  • Revolving lines of credit and credit cards: These give you a credit limit that you can access when you need it. You’ll pay off the credit you use with monthly payments based on your balance, interest, and fees. These options are great for accessing small amounts of money from time to time and helping your company operate smoothly from a financial perspective. You can also earn rewards with some offers that you can funnel back into your business. But revolving lines of credit and credit cards often have high interest rates and fees, which can make them less attractive options than other types of loans.
  • Equipment financing loans: These loans are secured by the equipment you’re purchasing. Like term loans, you agree to make fixed payments for a predetermined period of time. Because these loans are secured, they often have better interest rates and lower fees than other options. However, you can only use them for the purchase of equipment, so they won’t help you meet other business needs.

Steps to Secure a Small Business Loan

Now that you know your options, you’re ready to start the loan application process. Follow the steps below to secure a business loan:

  1. Determine how much money you need: As a business owner, it’s important that you don’t put too much debt on the books, but it’s also crucial to get all the money you need. Figure out exactly how much cash you need before you apply for a loan.
  2. Choose a lender: There are several Florida-based lenders, and even more across the United States, that might be happy to give you a loan. As you compare lenders, look into fees, interest rates, and reviews from other business owners who have used that lender in the past.
  3. Gather documentation: You’ll need several documents to complete your loan application, including your articles of incorporation, business plan, profit and loss statements for at least the past year, and two or three years of business tax returns. You may also need to make a personal guarantee, which will require some personal information. If you’re securing the loan with an asset, you’ll also need ownership documents associated with that asset.
  4. Submit your application: Once you have everything you need, go to the lender and submit your application.
  5. Wait for approval: It may take a few days or a few weeks to hear back from your lender.
  6. Close the loan: Once your loan is approved, sign all the documents to close your loan.

Requirements for a Small Business Loan

As a recap, here’s a checklist of the documents you’ll likely need to give your lender:

  • Articles of incorporation
  • Business plan
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Business tax returns
  • Personal identification information
  • Ownership documents for assets if you plan to secure the loan

Although there aren't any specific requirements that set Florida apart, it's important to remember that small businesses have their own credit scores. As with people, businesses must have relatively good credit to qualify for loans. In fact, the most reasonable loans typically require a 670 credit score or higher.

Tips to Increase Chances of Approval

There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of being approved for a business loan:

  • Get a secured business credit card to start building your business’s credit
  • Guarantee the loan with your personal credit
  • Maintain good financial records
  • Highlight your business’s strengths on the application
  • Consider offering up collateral as security for the loan
  • Offer truthful and reasonable projections for the future of your business

Small Business Loan Opportunities in Florida

Small Business Administration Loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several kinds of loans, including a Basic 7(a) loan for general business financing. The 7(a) loan program is SBA's primary program for providing financial assistance to small businesses and accepts a wide range of business types and categories. Other SBA loans may include an International Trade Loan for businesses adversely affected by competition with imports or an Export Working Capital Loan for companies preparing to engage or already engaged in exports. 

For more information about SBA loans, you can read more here

Enterprise Florida Microfinance Guarantee Program

Enterprise Florida is a public-private partnership that offers funding programs for small business owners in the sunshine state — it intends to diversify the economy and help create more jobs. 

The Microfinance Guarantee Program is one such program. To qualify, your small business must meet the following requirements:

  • Have 25 or fewer employees
  • Generated $1.5 or less in average annual revenue for the past two years

Participating lenders fund these loans, so there may be additional requirements you’ll need to meet. Small businesses who qualify can borrow anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000, with a guarantee of up to half the final loan amount. This term loan requires you to pay your loan back in up to three years. 

You can apply through a local lender and find more information here.

Enterprise Florida State Small Business Credit Initiative

This small business credit initiative is another financial aid program offering participating loans to help ensure more accessible funding for Florida small business owners. The State Small Business Credit Initiative offers capital to different commercial lenders in Florida, who then, in turn, provide loan funds to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. 

You can find more information here

Florida Black Business Loan Program

The Florida Black Business Loan Program offers funding to black business owners with Florida-based businesses. Depending on different qualifying factors, you may be able to borrow from $2,500 to $150,000.

It’s best to check the loan program website for the latest list, but so far, the following organizations offer this loan:

  • Miami Bayside Foundation: To qualify, your business needs to be located and operating in Miami-Dade county
  • FAMU Federal Credit Union: Your business must be based in Florida and majority-owned (at least 51%) by a black entrepreneur. 

Learn more about this business development program here.

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LiftFund in Florida

LiftFund is a non-profit offering funding to business owners who don’t always qualify for loans from banks or other types of traditional financial institutions. The non-profit offers microloans and small business loans to established businesses and startups in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. 

Small businesses can borrow anywhere from $500 to $1 million, and you can use the funds towards expenses such as equipment, inventory, lease improvements, and lease improvements.

Find out more about the program and how to apply here

SSBCI Loan Participation

The Florida Small Business Loan Support Program, or SSBCI, offers funds to Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and other lenders that provide small business loans to business owners in Florida. 

Here’s how to qualify for this loan program:

  • Must be a small business in Florida that have less than 750 employees
  • Must use funds for specific expenses such as funding or startup costs, equipment, inventory, franchise fees, working fees, and real estate

Small businesses can borrow anywhere from $250,000 to $5 million and typically have a five-year repayment plan. Some lenders may approve loans less than $250,000, but they consider such loans on a case-by-case basis.

You can find other facts and information here.

Florida Venture Capital Program

This program isn’t a loan per se, but it offers small businesses access to other financing options. The Florida Venture Capital Program may require more research and due diligence on your part, but it could be worth it to get up to $3 million in funding. You’ll need to be in specific industries like manufacturing and life sciences.

Accion Opportunity Fund

Institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America back the Accion Opportunity Fund. This organization offers small business loans for those that may not have access to traditional funding sources. 

Small business owners may qualify for loans ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. Repayment terms are usually up to five years, and interest rates start at 5.99%. The organization also offers various mentorship and other programs to help you grow your business. 

Learn more about the program here.

State Tax Credits in Florida

If you’re looking for some financial relief, you may also qualify to take advantage of Florida tax credit opportunities. These tax credit opportunities can supplement or even take the place of  small business loans. 

Community Contribution Tax Credit Program

The Community Contribution Tax Credit Program is one of Florida's more accessible tax credits. In order to qualify, your business must donate money to a housing or development project benefitting low-income communities.

Once you qualify, you can use the tax credit by getting a refund on your insurance premium tax, corporate income tax, or sales tax. 

Rural and Urban Job Tax Credit Program

The Rural and Urban Job Tax Credit offers incentives for Florida small businesses that create jobs. Your small business may receive a $1,000 to $1,500 tax credit per employee if your business resides in one of the 36 designated Qualified Rural Areas of Florida. You can use this credit towards state sales tax or corporate income tax.

Tax credits are also available for businesses operating within one of Florida's 13 designated urban areas. The tax credit ranges from $500 to $2,000 per employee and can also go towards state sales and corporate income tax. 

You can find out more information here. 

Research and Development Tax Credit Program

The Research and Development Tax Credit Program is for small businesses in Florida that work in certain industries. 

These industries include: 

  • Aviation and aerospace
  • Cloud information technology
  • Homeland security and defense
  • Information technology
  • Life sciences
  • Manufacturing
  • Marine sciences
  • Materials science
  • Nanotechnology

You’ll also have to qualify to claim a research credit — if so, you can use this tax credit for expenses directly related to the research. Don’t forget that you’ll need to apply for this tax credit through the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR).

Conclusion

If you own a small business, you’re likely going to need a small business loan at some point. That means deciding how much money you need, determining the lender you’d like to work with, looking for the best loan offers, preparing your documentation, and then applying.

A good business loan with reasonable terms will help your company thrive. However, a loan with poor terms could be a big setback for your company. Be sure to compare your options and choose the loan that fits your business best rather than applying for the first loan you come across.

If you're in need of a business checking account, Novo can help you streamline your business banking so that you can focus on what matters most — growing your company.

This page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal, financial, or accounting advice. Please consult your own professional if you have any questions.

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