Growing your small business without additional funding is not easy, but small business loans can provide you with capital that is critical to expanding your company. You might need to hire and train staff, buy equipment or rent a space to operate out of. These are all necessary things to increase your company’s revenue.
On today’s show, we speak with Ray Pennie, president of business development at ACE or Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, a non-profit lending company based in the metro Atlanta area. Since 2000, ACE has made more than $57 million in loans and created or retained more than 7,300 jobs in metro Atlanta and north Georgia.
ACE is a non-profit, CDFI (community development financial institution), and their mission is to lend money to existing businesses and startups with a focus on under-served communities, i.e. minority and women-owned business.
Founded 18 years ago by current CEO Grace Fricks, ACE has the capacity to offer loans between $15K to $1M, but their program is much more involved than just lending capital. According to Ray, ACE takes a three-pillar approach:
- Capital Lending
- Focusing on those who may not fit in the typical credit box
- Providing mentorship and education for entrepreneurs. This includes everything from marketing assistance, website creation, and business plan workshopping just to name a few.
If you are looking to apply for a loan, Ray recommends coming prepared with the following things:
- Existing businesses: three years of personal and business returns, financial statements, budget, and projections.
- Startups: a viable business plan, expertise in your industry, knowledge of your market (competition and audience), and a support system to help you sustain the business.
The next step would be preparing for the loan interview. Ray says he likes to see a candidate really convey knowledge about their mission and how they will accomplish that mission in their chosen industry.
Paying attention to loan interest rates and repayment terms is essential for borrowers, says Ray. Especially as you craft your business plan and calculate potential revenue, you need to be aware of what you can afford. Ray explains that some caveats to avoid are high-interest rates, pre-payment penalties, and other unforeseen fees. This can be avoided by using ACE’s resources that Ray previously mentioned.
The Suntrust Foundation recently reward ACE with the Lighting the Way Award, which comes with a $75K grant. Ray says that money will be leveraged for micro-loans in Atlanta’s west-end coupled with a robust education program for the area’s burgeoning entrepreneurs.
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