Every client who uses the Business Impact NW Loan Readiness Center is a success story, according to its director Christine Buckley.
“Of course if we can assist a business in getting a loan, that is a success, but we also consider it a success if we can get them the information they need and help them strengthen their businesses. This might come in the form of creating awareness in credit, weaknesses in their accounting systems, alternative sources of capital, operations management, understanding and managing cash flow or some other area of growth.”
Studies show that most businesses fail because of cash flow issues, so working with a business advisor and learning how to access capital increases many businesses’ likelihood of long-term success.
With its low interest rates and accessible requirements, the best loan choice for most small businesses in Washington right now is the Small Business Flex Fund.
“Many businesses survived the pandemic with the help of federal aid like PPP, and are now without those options. On top of that, many businesses are facing financial issues due to inflation and increasing costs. It’s forcing many to take a deep look at their finances,” says Buckley, whose employer Business Impact NW is one of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) administering the Small Business Flex Fund loans.Buckley and her team provide Technical Assistance both to businesses who want help with their application to the Small Business Flex Fund, and to businesses who were denied and are looking for advice or other funding options.
“Meeting with an advisor that specializes in lending and finances can be a tremendous support in either helping a business identify why they didn’t match with a lender, or why they were denied a loan,” Buckley says. “Financial education and information are key to breaking down the barriers many underserved business owner have faced. For example, some communities traditionally don’t like taking out loans, don’t have established credit, or don’t have collateral such as property.”
Apply for a Small Business Flex Fund before Feb. 28, 2023!
Eligible businesses must meet the following requirements:
- Fewer than 50 employees
- Annual revenues of less than $3 million
- Experienced direct economic hardship due to COVID-19
- See the full list of criteria at SmallBusinessFlexFund.org
Small Business Flex Fund loans are flexible, with low interest rates:
- Borrow up to $150,000.
- Fixed 3-4% interest rates.
- No fees.
- Interest-only payments for the first year (note: this is not a grant; at the 13-month mark borrowers begin making payments towards interest plus principal)
- 60-month loan terms.
- The money can be spent flexibly, including on payroll, utilities & rent, supplies, marketing & advertising, building improvements or repairs, and other business expenses.
So far, the Small Business Flex Fund has provided flexible loans with fixed interest rates to over 870 Washington businesses, and 78 percent of loans have gone to diversely-owned businesses, meaning women-owned, BIPOC-owned, LGBTQ+ owned and veteran-owned businesses.
Tips for a smooth Small Business Flex Fund application process:
- Understand the process and what’s required. The Flex Fund loan is not forgivable, and is subject to underwriting review and approval. “Some businesses have expressed surprise that they were not matched with a lender, thinking that the Flex Fund is easier and simpler to get than other loans. They don’t understand that while the underwriting and lack of collateral are designed to make the process more streamlined, they still need to go through some underwriting — as with all commercial loans,” Buckley says.
- Prepare the documents required by the lender before you apply. Applicants can review this video, which details the documents they’ll need to have ready.If you need assistance preparing documents (before or after you’re approved), reach out to Technical Assistance at smallbusinessflexfund.org/help.
- After you click ‘submit’ online, read the webpage carefully. Note the name and contact information of the lender you picked when matched.
- Check spam or junk email folders, and answer unknown phone calls. The lender you matched with will contact you, so be sure to listen to voicemails and check spam folders! “The lender can’t move forward with your application and make a decision without the necessary information. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, the lender will need to withdraw the application so they can attend to other Flex Fund applicants,” Buckley says.
- Don’t be afraid to ask! Seek out assistance to understand the terms of the loan if you’re approved, or the reasons you were denied. Technical assistance can assist with loan management and financial health for both. “If, after receiving a loan, you experience difficulties making payments or have major changes in your business, be sure to communicate with the lender. They are there to help,” Buckley says.
Most businesses that want to grow will need a commercial loan at some point. Free coaching from the Loan Readiness Center will help improve your financial literacy, strengthen your business plan and connect with lenders.
Learn more at smallbusinessflexfund.org, and apply before Feb. 28, 2023!