If you have plans to open an additional location, expand your current location, build out a retail boutique area or open a juice bar, bootstrapping the project could take years.
However, there are many alternatives to raising the financing you need to grow your studio. When you have big plans for your small business, you may find yourself shopping for cash. If you decide to leave organic growth to your garden and want to infuse your business with capital, these four options could be a place to start.
Bank loans are typically the lowest-cost options for business borrowers. But these traditional sources of capital can be challenging to secure. The small business loan approval rate is only 20%. And banks take a lot of time to make decisions. You will likely face a lengthy application process and an even lengthier wait time for approval.
One alternative to bank loans is a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. While the funding for SBA loans comes from banks, a percentage of each SBA loan is guaranteed by the federal government, which gives financial institutions an incentive to lend them.
There are several types of SBA loans that each serve a different purpose. For instance, the 7(a) loan can be used for general business purposes. However, if you are raising funds to purchase major fixed assets, such as new spin bikes or reformers, the CDC/504 loan could be a fit.
These types of loans also have a longer term for repayment than most traditional bank loans. For example, the 7(a) terms range from monthly payments for up to seven years when you borrow for working capital or up to 25 years for real estate purchases.
While you may have a better chance of getting approved for an SBA loan than you do a traditional bank loan, they do require just as much documentation on your end, and if you have credit issues or your company is relatively new, your application will be disqualified.
Merchant Cash Advances (MCA) became a more widely used option during the recession, when small business lending by banks came to a screeching halt.
Instead of requiring regular fixed payments, MCA lenders directly collect a percentage of your daily credit card sales until the loan is paid off. The benefit is that when your studio has a slow down, the rate of payment is less. These loans may be fit for a fitness studio with strong credit-card sales, but a poor credit score or little or no collateral.
Good news: MCA loans are typically issued quickly and can provide a viable option when you need cash fast. The bad news is that the fees are high and range anywhere from 15% to 80% APR.
LINES OF CREDIT
Lines of credit are designed to finance a short-term working capital need of a studio, such as remodeling costs or retail inventory. The amount of credit your studio can qualify for depends on your business’s revenue and cash flow in the past, present and future.
Businesses can open a line of credit before they need to borrow any capital. In fact, it may be a good idea to do so. This will give your studio access to funds when you need them, without having to wait through an approval process. You will only pay interest on the money you use, so there is little cost to get a line of credit in advance of your needs.
PLAN BEFORE YOU APPLY
Before you approach a lender, you should have a clear idea of how much money you want to borrow, how much debt you can afford to take on and the expected return on investment you should see. The best place to start figuring out your answer is to calculate your debt service coverage ratio.
This ratio is fairly simple to calculate. Compare your monthly cash flow — your sales and expenses — to your monthly loan payment. That ratio, at it’s absolute minimum, has to be one to one to qualify for a loan. A safer ballpark would be a three to one ratio, meaning your total cash flow is three times more than the cost of your loan.
Before taking on the debt, you need to make sure that you will have a return on your investment. Sit down and calculate a conservative projection for how much revenue you think your studio will pull in as a result of the capital investment you are making. This process should also help you determine when you can pay the loan off.
PEER-TO-PEER (OR MARKETPLACE) LENDERS
Peer-to-peer lenders are online platforms that match businesses looking to borrow with investors who want to lend. Typically with user-friendly online interfaces, these platforms ask simple questions relevant to the load you’ve applied for, offer competitive rates and can typically give you a decision in under a week. Most platforms only charge one fee – an origination fee often between 1-5% upon the funding of your loan.
These loans are suitable for established fitness centers that have assets and cash flow to secure loans, and a well thought-out plan for growth.