Free Business Coaching Can Help You Get a Small Business Loan
July 31, 2021
Kim McCool, owner of Auburn Total Health and recipient of free business coaching, cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of her new wellness center. She was joined by her husband, Jerry; Carrie R. Ellinwood, a SBA lead lender specialist (far left); and Auburn Mayor Bridget Powers (third from left); and McCool’s daughter (far right.)
Kim McCool envisioned bringing to the Sacramento area a wellness-center concept that would help clients physically, spiritually and mentally — offering everything from massages to relationship counseling.
In the spring, an SBA microloan obtained through community lender FE Small Business Finance pushed McCool’s idea, Auburn Total Health, closer to reality. And recently, she and her team celebrated Auburn’s grand opening.
To casual observers, this may have seemed like any other community ribbon-cutting function. But Auburn’s launch actually represents the culmination of work by a web of business coaches McCool collaborated with behind-the-scenes to reach this coveted point in an entrepreneur’s life.
FE and a network of other nonprofits provided free, professional services — from business-plan writing to digital marketing — to guide McCool pre- and post-launch. At FE, we cannot succeed in helping small business borrowers without our trusted partners at our side, from the SBA to small business development centers, or SBDCs, and everyone in between. In fact, teamwork is one of our core values.
The best part about this? These services are available to any up-and-coming entrepreneur such as yourself. Here’s how:
How can a small business development center help me get loan ready?
McCool began her entrepreneurial journey last fall with Anna Marie Cruz, a loan officer at FE Small Business Finance — a leading small business lender and award-winning nonprofit. McCool approached Cruz to explore how she could fund her business idea: a wellness center offering a combination of colon hydrotherapy, infrared sauna treatments, and relationship coaching.
After reviewing McCool’s paperwork, Cruz saw great potential in her idea. What McCool needed, Cruz observed, was a professional hand to help her finish and finesse her business plan.
That’s when Cruz referred McCool to Sean Snider, director of the Small Business Development Center at University of La Verne. What’s an SBDC? They are providers of free training and business coaching to aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs, funded by taxpayer dollars. FE Small Business Finance has long partnered with SBDCs in the areas in which we serve to bring small business borrowers quality service that we highly value and appreciate.
At FE, we cannot succeed in helping small business borrowers without our trusted partners at our side, from the SBA to small business development centers, or SBDCs, and everyone in between. In fact, teamwork is one of our core values.
Snider worked closely with McCool to craft a business plan with forecasted financials to support her loan request and the initial launch of her new venture, said Snider, who has an MBA.
What types of services should you expect at a typical SBDC?
“We help small businesses at all stages of development in areas such as licenses, permits, market research, business planning, budgeting, website development, buying businesses, small business loans and government contracting,” Snider said.
With completed business plan in hand, McCool returned to FE Small Business Finance, who helped her apply for an SBA microloan. Roughly two months later, she was funded.
The participation of organizations like SBDCs in the community-loan process is crucial because they can offer entrepreneurs laser-focused advice to become loan ready — with absolutely no strings attached.
“They have no interest other than helping them,” Cruz said.
McCool is grateful for the pre-funding assistance.
“ FE Small Business Finance was instrumental in helping us start Auburn Total Health,” McCool said. “Anna Marie Cruz was amazing, walking me through every step from the idea phase to the finalization of the loan.”
How can I find a small business development center?
Cruz and many other loan officers at FE Small Business Finance maintain strong relationships with local small business development centers.
Typically, an SBDC will help entrepreneurs develop their financial strategies. And once these entrepreneurs are deemed ready to pursue their business dreams, SBDCs will often refer them to lenders such as FE for start-up financing.
The relationship also works the other way. FEs can refer potential clients to SBDCs for coaching to try to get them loan-ready. The two top referral reasons are business-plan coaching and creating realistic financial projections.
Business loan experts like Cruz also routinely give presentations at SBDC- or SBA-sponsored events on what it takes to get a loan through a community lender such as FE Small Business Finance, which has more lending flexibility than a traditional lender. These events are free and open to the public.
RELATED: Find your local SBDC center here
Andrew Erickson, another FE loan officer, also works closely with an SBDC by referring over clients who need professional business coaching and by giving workshops a few times a year.
One of Erickson’s recent borrower applicants, an aspiring nail salon owner, had a good credit score, but her business plan and projections needed some fine tuning. If the original projections had been submitted to underwriters, Erickson said, the loan request very likely would have been rejected.
Anticipating that, he referred the client to the staff at the Inland Empire SBDC, who provided targeted, high-impact advice to the potential borrower within two days. The loan request is now in process and will likely get funded.
“What I like is that they really focus in on just getting it done,” Erickson said. “The people at the SBDC, most of them have MBAs or they’ve been in consulting in the past.”
What other business coaching groups can help me get loan ready?
The widespread SBDC network is just one powerful cog in the massive machine out there to support entrepreneurs such as McCool and the would-be nail salon owner.
Other organizations that we closely partner with and that offer free, high-caliber services to small business borrowers include:
SCORE: Access the nation’s largest group of volunteer business mentors. More than 10,000 volunteers are at your disposal to provide you business coaching at no cost to you. SCORE can pair you with a mentor in pretty much any field. The organization also offers workshops and educational resources. Like SBDCs, they are supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA. | Find your local SCORE chapter here.
Women’s Business Centers: Seek guidance through this organization of more than 100 educational centers throughout the U.S. Their services are geared toward women who want to launch or grow their ventures. These taxpayer-funded services are also available to men. | Locate your local Women’s Business Center here.
SBA’s LenderMatch feature: Are you looking for a community lender that offers affordable SBA and non-SBA loans? LenderMatch, a revamped SBA feature, can help. Simply input some basic information about yourself and your business and you’ll be matched with a nearby lender within 48 hours. FE is a proud partner of LenderMatch.
What kind of help can small businesses get post-funding?
What sets FE Small Business Finance apart from other, more traditional lenders? In addition to increased lending flexibility, we also offer free business coaching to select potential borrowers before, during and after funding.
Kim McCool, the wellness center founder, was no exception.
After funding, Marsel Watts – a member of FE’s business-advising unit — stepped in to ensure McCool was on track for a smooth and successful opening. As McCool waited for key equipment to arrive and the completion of her buildout, Watts suggested she deploy a robust marketing strategy that included:
- Advertising on social media,
- Running coupon deals on Groupon, and
- Releasing a flyer in the local area offering a grand-opening promotion.
RELATED: How our business coaching team helped this brewer
Watts also coordinated the grand opening itself by picking the date, inviting local politicians, the SBA, the SBDC and different chambers of commerce.
The additional support proved to be a game changer for McCool, who already has 300 clients.
“After the loan was finalized and especially while I was waiting for my equipment Marsel Watts kept me on track, not letting the bumps in the road get in the way,” McCool said. “Each week it was encouraging to hear from Marsel and her excitement as we met and exceeded our goals.”
Do you need help getting your new business of the ground? The experienced loan experts at FE Small Business Finance are here to help connect you to our highly valued resource partners that will get you loan ready. And once you are loan ready, we can help guide you through the many affordable loan options out there.