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Tracking expenses can feel like a full-time job, especially if your business requires daily purchases or frequent travel expenditures. But failing to track or inaccurately tracking expenses can lead to a host of problems

Without a clear view of costs, it becomes impossible to efficiently manage cash flow and prepare for the future. Further, valuable tax deductions are lost if you don’t accurately track expenses over the year.

Fortunately, the right tracking system can make a world of difference, and implementing one may be far simpler than it seems.

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a business owner overseeing numerous employees, these tips can help you stay on top of mileage and other business expenses.

1. Separate your business and personal spending

The first step in accurate expense tracking is to limit your business spending to a specific business account. This means opening a business checking account and using it as the exclusive funding source for business purchases.

The same logic should be used when making purchases with a credit card — apply for and use a business card, not your personal credit card.

2. Use a designated checking account or credit card

In the past, business owners and consumers alike were often forced to keep meticulous logs in order to track spending. And while those logs are still an important piece of the puzzle, today’s online banking platforms often take away much of the manual labor.

In most cases, your online banking platform will provide you with all the pertinent info regarding transactions, including the amount, date, and the payee. Further, many banks and credit card companies allow online user to download an activity report, which can be used to further filter and record your expenses.

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3. Log info regularly

Whatever method you choose to implement, regularity is the key to success. For some, particularly those who rely on manual entry methods, a daily log will prove to be the most efficient way to keep track of expenses.

Others, however, may find that a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly schedule is just as efficient. However, don’t wait too long. The longer the gap between spending and logging, the more likely you are to forget, lose, or omit vital information.

In your log, make sure to note the date, total amount, and nature of the purchase. Though these logs certainly don’t need to be super detailed, providing basic information will help you segment your expenses when it’s time to budget and provide documentation in the case of an audit.

4. Use an expense tracking app

While the good ol’ pen and paper combo, or even the note feature on a smartphone, can serve as an easy expense recording tool, there is certainly room for error. There are numerous apps that can help streamline and add integrity to the process, some of which even integrate with your accounting software.

As you review your app options, it’s a good idea to take note of what type of expenses you can track. For example, Expensify and TripLog both allow you to track mileage and business expenses in one place, but that’s not always the case.

In addition, it’s also important to take note of any limits that make be in place. Some apps are free for a single user but require payment for more than one user. Similarly, other apps limit the total amount of expenses, employees, or vehicles you can track.

5. Have a clear expense tracking and submission policy

If you’re responsible for reimbursing employees for their expenses, it’s essential that you create a clearly defined expense submission policy. This should include things like mileage rates, an outline of acceptable expenses, and submission deadlines (e.g., within 5 business days of the purchase).

Further, it’s important that you specify what documents should be included. At the very least, you’ll want employees to save receipts and record mileage, where applicable.

6. Set limits

In reality, limits fall into the expense policy, but the notion is important enough to merit its own section.

If you’re reimbursing employees, it’s important to explicitly state any limits or spending criteria that will dictate reimbursement. By doing though, you can set behavioral expectations (e.g., no elaborate lunches) and maintain control of your operating budget.

For instance, you may want to set limits on how much an employee can spend on meals, what type of airfare you’ll reimburse (e.g., first class vs business class), or maximum hotel stay expenses.

7. Know what’s deductible

Since taxes represent a primary reason to practice regular expense tracking, it’s helpful to know what type of expenses you can and can’t deduct.

In general, the IRS states that business owners can deduct any expense that is “both ordinary and necessary.” Of course, it can be hard to determine exactly what that means. If you’re unsure if a business expense is considered ordinary and necessary, your best bet is to consult the IRS small business deductions page as well as your accountant.  

As a business owner, tracking expenses can be a challenge, but doing so can make it easier to run your business and manage your finances. The tips above can help you create a strong process that can alleviate some of the pain points often associated with expense tracking.

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The post 7 Tips to Track Mileage and Expenses for Your Small Business appeared first on Nav.

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Ken Wong is the founder and managing partner of sFoundation, a startup accelerator in Silicon Valley. Following a layoff, Wong decided to start a software firm, but felt excluded by existing accelerators because of his age. That experience caused him to shift paths and start a new inclusive startup accelerator focused on companies with women founders, minority founders, and founders over 40. sFoundation works with companies producing a technology-related product to help them reach the next step in their growth. The company’s 8-10-week program is offered quarterly to a diverse range of budding startups.

Starting Out

Why did you start your business?

I had been doing IT-related work for about 14 years. About 12 years ago, I decided to change careers to accounting. About a year and a half ago, I lost my job. At that time, I was thinking that I wanted to start my own business. I started a software company and realized that I needed help to move faster. I found a few accelerators that I tried to apply to, but I found out that I was too old. At that point, I thought that instead of starting a software company, I would start an accelerator that would be geared towards people in a different demographic.

How did you fund the business at the start?

I always saved money. I used my savings. This year, we’ve been cash-flow positive. So, the expenses for each month are paid by revenue.

Running the Business

How do you manage cash flow?

Because of my background in finance and accounting, I know a little bit about bookkeeping. I use a spreadsheet to look at income and expenses. I recently also started using QuickBooks online. Now, at one click of a button, I know my cash flow. That’s better, because having to juggle a spreadsheet is not a good way to manage money.

What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?

Juggling tasks and juggling people. On the supply side, we need mentors to help the accelerator program work. On the demand side, we need enough startups to apply to our program. I have to go out looking for customers and for people to help me who have the same mentality to help startups. The majority of my time is spent finding mentors and advisors. I also have to talk to a lot of engineers and people with startups to find startups that want to move to the next level. There are so many people involved and so many things going on. My to-do list on a daily basis is tremendously long.

What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?

Helping a startup is almost like seeing a kid grow up. Seeing them go from one step to the next is extremely rewarding, whether they find financing or get their first customer.

What I’ve Learned

What’s the biggest mistake you made at the start?

I spent too much money in the first year. I realized that if I kept doing that, I would have no money left in my savings. A friend warned me that if I kept doing that, the IRS wouldn’t let me continue without making a profit.

Also, I didn’t have a 15-second elevator pitch. That’s so important, because I talk to so many people. After 15 seconds, you kind of lose them.

What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?

Reserve cash. Don’t spend on so many things, especially on advertisements through Facebook or Google. That can chew up a huge amount of cash – literally thousands of dollars. The return may not be what you expect. Prepare for the long haul. Spend cash slowly so your business can last longer. You’ll get more customers and the business will eventually pay for itself.

Network with people. It’s the most important thing. Know as many people as possible. People are generally willing to help startups.

Future Plans

What’s next for sFoundation?

The company has grown so much. I’m hoping to form a braintrust group. Also, now that we’re generating cash, I can pay more people. When you pay good people good money, you get good results.

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The post How this Entrepreneur Used Savings to Start a Cash-Flow Positive Business appeared first on Nav.

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The minimum wage debate has been on the radar of workers, politicians and government officials for quite some time now, but 2019 marks a year of increased activity. This year, at least twenty states will work to increase their minimum wage, with some hoping to meet their ultimate wage goals within the first few years of the new decade.

For many small business owners, that means identifying ways to meet these new standards while maintaining healthy margins. The same is true for business owners who are hoping to begin potentially straining process before state mandates.

Either way, if you’re trying to account for minimum wage increases, there are a few ways you may be able to free up financial resources in an effort to offset your growing payroll obligation.

Take note of state and local wage changes

Minimum wages increases are currently at the discretion of state and local lawmakers, and that means there isn’t one overarching policy by which to abide. For example, business owners in Oregon are in the midst of a wage increase process that ends in 2022.

Similarly, wage increases also may vary at the city or county level. That’s the case in New York where New York hourly workers now receive $15 an hour while workers in Westchester County will receive $12 and others around the state of New York will receive $11.10.

In addition, many states enacted a multi-phase process that allows businesses to adjust to wage obligations over a period of several years as opposed to a drastic shift. As such, it’s important to account for those incremental changes as you plan your future budgets.

Reduce unnecessary spending

One of the first things you may want to do is inventory your expenditures. If business is going well, then it’s easy to overlook spending habits that may not be ideal. And, over time, these seemingly innocuous bills can become a significant weight on your budget.

For example, you may be able to revisit supplier relationships to negotiate lower rates or identify monthly services that you can find cheaper elsewhere or eliminate altogether.

Streamline processes

A common reaction to age increases is to decrease staffing, and we’ll get to that, but before you do that, it may be beneficial to take a hard look at your existing processes. Are there ways you can make them more streamlined or efficient? Can you cross train employees? Implement apps or software to take care of some tasks?

As a result of this exercise, you may be able to find ways to optimize employee performance by changing the way they approach certain tasks, implementing resources and tools that improve workflow or decrease the need for additional employees during busy periods or seasonal upswings. As an added bonus, it could potentially make your life a lot easier in the long run.

Consider raising prices

Though few business owners want to worry about the ramifications of raising prices, doing so is often necessary in the face of a rising minimum wage. It’s not always easy, however.

If you’re considering raising prices, completing the first exercises above can help keep increases as low as possible. In addition, it’s helpful to look to other competitors to determine how your prices compare to theirs so you can limit customer alienation

The good news? If you’re raising prices due to minimum wage increases, it’s likely your competitors will be forced to do the same, at least to some extent.

Make smart staffing decisions

Another unsavory side effect of increased minimum wage requirements may be employee layoffs or other staffing changes, like decreased hours. If you find ways to increase efficiency, thinning out your staff may be a logical move, but it’s not always an easy one. The same can be true when it comes to cutting hours, which can make it hard for employees to adjust to decreased paychecks, even if they are receiving a higher hourly wage.

Keep in mind that a decreased staff can negatively impact operations, which can end up decreasing revenue and eating away at your margin. As such, you may want to leave layoffs and cuts as a last-ditch effort.

If you do need to make cuts, it’s important to do so in a respectful and dignified manner. Anything else can cause long-lasting workplace cultural issues like decreased morale, rumors, or ongoing fear and apprehension. Need some tips? Here are a few ways you can make downsizing easier for everyone..  

For many small businesses, particularly those with a significant amount of hourly workers, adapting to the rising minimum wage can be challenging. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help make the transition easier.

Don’t run your business in one of the impacted states? Though you may not be required to make adjustments, current trends may mean a change is just around the corner. As such, taking these steps can help you prepare for future increases far before they’re mandated.

Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit For Free (No Credit Card Required).

The post How to Keep Up With Wage Increases appeared first on Nav.

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If you have a significant amount of debt, or are looking to borrow again sometime soon, you may be asking yourself this valuable question: when will prime rate finally go down again? Since it can have a big impact on your budget, it’s smart to know the factors that go into deciding the prime rate. It’s historically a somewhat nuanced number that isn’t always easily understood, but it is something on which most everyone has an opinion.

Before you bemoan the current state of the rate, take a quick read through the basics, along with what experts predict in the years ahead for the prime rate.

What is the Prime Rate?

Before the system we have now, “prime rate” used to the same as the “interest rate.” It’s now its own number based on the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate. As you might recall, the Fed bumped up rates last December, which forced the prime rate to its new high of 5.50%. This means that any short term loan you take out will be at least 5.50%, but certain financial products – such as credit cards – will be much more than that. The new average for card APR is hovering right around 17 – 18%.

(Long term loans, such as mortgages, follow their own rules. They are usually lower than prime rate for the most qualified borrowers.)

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What Does It Mean for Businesses?

There are quite a few ways that a rise in the prime rate affects a company. On the upside, it brings back guaranteed larger returns for some types of fixed investment vehicles, like CDs and other savings accounts. Since a jump in rates – even just a little – will create a higher Annual Percentage Yield (APY), you’ll feel it positively if you’ve invested.

The downside to the rate going up is that borrowers will now pay more. Your APR on any credit card or variable rate loan will bump up a little. This can usually happen right away, with banks notifying their customers the same week or even month about increases in interest rates. (Note that this bump in interest is separate from any other interest rate increases, such as penalty rates paid for being late with payments or going over your credit limit.) Fixed-rate loans shouldn’t be affected, provided the contract states the APR is static.

Realistically, you should see the rates on business credit cards and loans that you may be considering applying for to be higher than they were before Prime Rate went up. Take a look at potential cards carefully, however, as the default rate may not be prominently displayed on marketing materials. Intro offers for lower rates are more likely to catch your eye, but once those promo periods are over, you’ll pay whatever the regular APR is on outstanding balances – a higher number now that prime has been increased.

Will It Go Down Again?

This is a tricky question. Last year brought about a steady raising of the rates from the Fed in the hopes that higher rates would result in some inflation. (Historically, we have been in somewhat of a slump in terms of inflation, and the rate boosts were a now-abandoned effort to manipulate the markets.) The Fed’s announcement that the rates won’t likely go up again for a while means that we may see a temporary end to prime’s continual increase. This does not, however, indicate a reversal in our future.

So, will prime go down? Kiplinger’s rate forecast spells out the possibilities, but no one but the Fed knows for sure, and even they aren’t particularly forthcoming about what things will finally look like at the end of this year. We do have a few key predictions:

  1. Fed won’t raise rates again in 2019, and the prime rate will stay steady.
  2. Some investors think Fed may cut rates this year, but it’s unlikely, as Fed Chairman boasted of economic gains and a strong market that wouldn’t require this action.
  3. Rates could go down in 2020. The soonest most experts agree a decrease could happen is next year, and that’s only if GDP growth slows from a predicted 2.5% this year to 1.8% next year. Strained China trade relations could hasten the decision, and a subsequent rate cut would result in lower prime rates on credit cards.
Why Operating Independent of the Prime Rate is Key

So, like most matters of money and markets, we don’t know anything for sure. A smart business owner won’t hang their hopes on the prime rate going up, down, or sideways and will instead look at their bigger overall debt portfolio. With prime rate changes affecting a very small amount of the monthly business budget, it’s wise to see the ways you can make bigger changes to the interest you pay or your overall debt load. Freeing up cash is a good idea, as well, so that you could even take advantage of higher rates with smart investments.

One savvy money move you can make at any time is to know your credit score. Getting the best rate available to you is more dependent on the actions you take and not the Fed. Do you pay on time? Can you transfer balances to reduce interest paid this year? Are you making the most out of perks such as cash-back offers and travel bonuses?

It’s likely that an overlooked benefit of your existing card will save you more money than a lower prime rate, and switching your business to a more competitive card is another option. These opportunities are only available to businesses with good credit, however, so give your credit profile some TLC. You’ll be ready for whatever the next Fed meeting throws at you.

Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit For Free (No Credit Card Required).

The post When Will the Prime Rate Go Down? appeared first on Nav.

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You have a vision and you want to apply for a small business loan to bring it to pass. Congratulations! This is an exciting moment for any entrepreneur.

Yet you may soon find out, if you haven’t already, that finding and qualifying for the right small business loan isn’t always easy. Between gathering the small mountain of documents you’ll need to supply and deciphering each lender’s qualification (and collateral) requirements, applying for a business loan can be quite confusing.

One fact is certain – the more prepared you are when you apply for a small business loan, the better your chances of being approved.

Here are four simple steps to get ready for your business loan application.

  • Look at your situation honestly.
  • Create a solid business plan.
  • Find the right financing option and lender.
  • Gather your documents.
1) Look at your situation honestly.

Before you can qualify for a commercial loan, you’ll need to prove that doing business with your company is a good risk. This means you’ll need to pass successfully through a lender’s qualification process.

Factors you should consider (because they will matter to lenders) include:

  • Is your business and personal credit in good shape? – You can be sure that the condition of your credit is going to matter whenever you apply for a new small business loan. If you haven’t checked your business and personal credit lately, you can access this information by setting up a free account with Nav. Bad credit isn’t necessarily a deal killer, but credit score problems could mean fewer financing options available.
  • How long have you been in business? – If your business is young, qualifying for certain types of loans can be challenging. A startup loan may be the best place for you to search for initial funding.
  • Do your business financials look good? – A thriving company with solid financials is more likely to qualify for attractive terms from lenders. A struggling company, on the other hand, may need to look at alternative funding options and might have difficulty qualifying for financing at all.
  • Are you willing to put up collateral to secure financing? – Depending upon the type of financing you need, a lender might ask you to put up assets (aka collateral) to secure a loan. Collateral requirements may be satisfied with equipment, real estate, accounts receivable, and even personal property. (See below for answers to frequently asked questions about collateral.)
  • Is a personal guarantee something you’re comfortable providing? – Another way that lenders can reduce risk is by making sure that you, the business owner, have some skin in the game. If you’re willing to put your personal name on the line to secure financing, it can make lenders feel better about your likelihood to repay the loan (especially if you have good personal credit).
  • Why do you want to borrow money? – When you apply for a loan you need to know specifically what you plan to use the money to accomplish. You can bet lenders will want to know your plans with the money you’re applying to borrow as well. Having a good answer to this question could be the difference between an approval and a denial.

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2) Create a solid business plan. 

Part of convincing a lender that loaning your business money is a good risk involves demonstrating that you have a solid plan for the future of your company. A good business plan should contain:

  • A sound description of what your business does, who it serves, and how you stand out among the competition in your industry. The Small Business Administration (SBA), for example, requires your business to have a “sound business purpose” to be eligible for financing.
  • Short and long-term goals you’ve set for your company in terms of annual revenue and profit.
  • How much financing you need to reach your goals and the specific ways you plan to invest the money you borrow to help your company succeed.

Ready to create a business plan of your own? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

3) Find the right financing option and lender.

Determining which financing option and lender is the best fit for your company is more complicated than it seems on the surface. There are over 44 different types of business financing including:

  • Business Credit Cards
  • Business Lines of Credit
  • SBA Loans
  • Startup Business Loans
  • Microloans
  • Business Loans Without Collateral
  • Peer-to-Peer Lending
  • Asset-Based Financing
  • Short-Term Loans
  • Long-Term Loans
  • Accounts Receivable Financing
  • Bad Credit Business Loans
  • Invoice Factoring
  • Seller Financing

In addition to 44+ types of financing, there are hundreds of lenders (including banks, online lenders, and more) who offer various financing options to businesses. It can be overwhelming to simply identify the right loan program. Finding the best deal among hundreds of small business lenders can feel downright impossible.

Nav’s online marketplace can help you to filter through the noise and find the best financing options available, based on your credit and other factors.

4) Gather your documents.

Once you’ve chosen your preferred lender and loan product, it’s time to gather up the information you’ll need to complete a loan application. Every lender is different, but most have common documentation requirements such as:

  • Tax returns (business and personal, generally for the past 1-2 years)
  • Bank statements (business and personal, generally for the past 6-12 months)
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Existing business debts
  • Incorporation paperwork
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • DBA registration, if applicable
  • Business licenses and permits
  • Proof of collateral
Frequently Asked Questions About Collateral for Business Loans

Keep reading to learn about how collateral can help you secure a loan, what types of collateral lenders may accept, and how to possibly avoid the requirement altogether.

Do I need collateral for a business loan?

A simple definition of collateral is an asset you promise a lender if your business can’t pay back the money it borrows. In the event of a loan default, the bank can take ownership of the asset and sell it to recuperate some of its lost funds. These types of loans are sometimes called “secured” or “collateral loans on property.”

Many banks require business loans to be completely collateralized. So, if you want to borrow $50,000 for your business, you’ll need to put up $50,000 worth of assets to back the loan.

Before any lender agrees to let your business borrow money, it needs to be sure that the loan represents an acceptable level of risk. Collateral matters to lenders because it reduces risk – perhaps significantly.

Is it possible to get a business loan without collateral?

It’s possible to get some business loans without collateral, but the financing may be more difficult to obtain (and more expensive).

Unsecured loans are riskier for lenders to issue. As a trade-off, you might have to provide a personal guarantee, borrow less, and/or reduce a lender’s level of risk in other ways. If you want to avoid a collateral loan, it helps if you have other factors working in your favor.

When you apply for financing, the lender will use a system to evaluate your risk and creditworthiness and determine whether it wants to take you on as a new customer. This system is commonly referred to as “The 5 Cs of Credit.”

The factors lenders typically consider in the “5 Cs” system include:

  • Character – This is typically your credit history (business credit, personal credit, or both).
  • Capital –Does you have working capital (aka business assets like equipment, inventory, or cash which outweigh your company’s debts)? Did you or others invest personal money into your business? If yes, these can make your business appear stronger in a lender’s eyes.
  • Capacity – Lenders may evaluate your cash flow to make sure your business is earning enough to cover debts and expenses, along with any new monthly payments.  
  • Conditions – What is the current condition of the economy and your industry? Is your company able to survive an economic decline? These are questions lenders may consider when evaluating your loan application.
  • Collateral – When you apply for business financing, you may qualify for better terms by securing the loan with assets or cash.  

The stronger your application is in the other areas, the better your chances of qualifying for business financing with no collateral requirements.

Additionally, certain types of financing are less likely to require collateral, such as:

What can be used for collateral to secure a business loan? / What kind of collateral do you need for a small business loan?

While every lender is different, here are some common types of collateral which a lender might accept to secure a business loan:

  • Real Estate
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Cash Deposit/Savings
  • Equipment
  • Inventory
  • Personal Property (e.g. Homes, Vehicles, Retirement Savings, etc.)

Sometimes the asset you’re borrowing money to purchase can serve as collateral for its own loan. For example, if you borrow money to buy a commercial warehouse, the property itself could be seized by the bank and resold if needed.

Also, the better the collateral you put up, the higher the loan amounts lenders may be willing to give you. When you back a loan with cash deposits or savings, for example, a bank may be willing to let you borrow between 95%-100% of that amount.

Banks may loan you money based on other types of collateral too. However, if you put up inventory or some riskier form of collateral (from a bank’s perspective), you might not be able to borrow as much. You also might need to find additional sources of collateral and stack them together to back the loan.  

When you put up collateral like equipment, inventory, or even real estate, the bank will do its own valuation of what the asset is worth. You might believe a piece of equipment is worth $50,000, but a bank could estimate the value to be far lower. It’s probably a good idea to have an independent appraiser give you an estimate on the value of the asset you want to put up before you apply for a business loan.

Types of Collateral Loans for Businesses

Secured Business Loans for Bad Credit

A secured business loan is another name for a loan backed by collateral which reduces the lender’s risk. Collateral can be especially important when you or your business have less-than-stellar credit.

A few examples of secured business loans for bad credit include:

While these types of loans may be easier to qualify for with bad credit, they’re generally much more expensive for the borrower.

Trying to build your business’ credit rating? Consider a secured business credit card. By providing a cash deposit upfront, you reduce the lender’s risk and may be more likely to be approved, even with credit problems.

Secured Startup Business Loans

Getting funding for a new startup business can be especially challenging. Most banks have strict lending criteria and will require a business to be established (and profitable) before issuing a new business loan.

There are, however, several small business startup financing options available to newer businesses. These include:

SBA Loan Requirements

An SBA loan represents one of the most affordable ways for business owners to borrow money. But affordability comes with a tradeoff; SBA loans feature notoriously strict approval criteria which can be difficult to satisfy.

Some of the most common requirements your business will have to meet to qualify for an SBA loan include:

  • You must sign a personal guarantee.
  • You and your business must have decent credit.
  • Cash flow must be sufficient to satisfy a lender.

The collateral requirements on SBA loans, can also be a bit steep. To secure funding through an SBA loan, small business owners are commonly required to put up a mix of business and personal assets – often including the business owner’s personal home.

Interested in applying for an SBA loan? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process.

Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit For Free (No Credit Card Required).

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With Linda McMahon set to retire as the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA) on April 12th, all eyes are on President Trump’s nomination for her replacement. He has named Republican Jovita Carranza, current treasurer at the Department of the Treasury to fill the role. What do we know about Carranza? Here is a rundown of what new outlets and the Trump Administration have shared so far:

1. She is not new to the SBA.

Carranza served as the Deputy Administrator for the SBA from 2006 to 2009 under President George W. Bush. Her confirmation was unanimous. Her duties included the oversight of 80+ U.S. field offices and the various business loans, investments, and disaster aid packages available to small businesses through the SBA. (The total portfolio of SBA assets to disperse was almost $80 billion.)

2. She has business experience.

Before her time at the SBA, she was the founder of JCR Group, a supply-chain management business. Her experience in logistics started long before that, however, with her 20-year tenure at the United Parcel Service (UPS.) A White House bio mentions her journey from overnight, part-time worker to the president of Latin America and Caribbean operations. She had been credited as the highest-ranking Latina in UPS history at the time of her promotion.

3. She is a Chicago native with community ties.

Carranza was born in Illinois and grew up with her immigrant family in Chicago before becoming involved with both local and national organizations and charities. Her board roles include the Illinois Enterprise Zone Advisory Board, The American Cancer Society Corporate Advisory Board, National Center for Family Literacy, U.S. Small Business Administration—Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Trustee Chair at the School of Business Council at Alverno College, and the United Way.

4. She has achieved high honors.

Carranza’s confirmation would result in her holding the highest office for a Latina within the Trump administration, but she had clout long before the nomination. Her awards include:

  • 2004 Woman of the Year by Hispanic Business Magazine
  • 2008 Woman of Distinction by the American Association of University Women and NASPA
  • Honorary Alumna for Alverno College
  • Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award
  • 2008 recognition for contributions to the Hispanic community and national public service by The Latino Coalition Leadership
5. She has relevant educational experience.

As an MBA earner from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, her executive and management training includes time at the INSEAD Business School in Paris, Michigan State University, and the University of Chicago.

If confirmed, she will leave a hole in the Treasury Department but will be installed in the SBA in time for their annual National Small Business Week, taking place on May 5 – 11. Activities for the special event include hackathons, awards, Twitter chats, and virtual trainings.

There is no formal word on who would be Carranza’s Treasury replacement at this time.

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The post 5 Things to Know about SBA Administrator Nominee Jovita Carranza appeared first on Nav.

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If entrepreneurship runs in your blood, you may not want to wait until you’ve graduated from college to start a business. And why would you? Some of the most recognizable companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Dropbox, were founded by college students.

But running a small business in college requires not only masterful time management but also creative budgeting strategies. Here are some tips that can make it easier to afford your business aspirations while paying for an education.

Use campus resources

Your tuition and fees don’t just cover the cost of attending classes; they also help pay for services and resources that you can use to run your venture. Free access to Wi-Fi and library materials and cheap or free copy and printing services can help you save on some of the costs you might otherwise have to pay on your own.

What’s more, your university’s business school may have counselors and professors who are more than willing to help you fine-tune your business plan and give you some advice on how to improve your product or service.

What could your business do with $10,000? Check out Nav's Small Business Grant now to find out how your business could win interest-free financing.

Take advantage of offers for free money

As a student, you may have access to special entrepreneurship programs, grants, and competitions that you might not qualify for after you graduate.

For example, the Hult Prize provides up to $1 million in seed money to student entrepreneurs who win its flagship competition. There may also be some local organizations that provide grant money to students who are looking to start a business while still in school.

Check with your college’s business school to find out more about opportunities in your area and how you can qualify.

Keep your priorities in check

A healthy social life is an important element of the college experience. But if you’re going out for food and drinks every weekend, those tabs can add up. When you have the opportunity to spend money on other things, think about how it might affect your ability to run your business.

That doesn’t mean you need to say “no” every time your friends want to go out. But you might need to take some time to decide how much of a balance you want between the two.

Be careful about student loans

It can be tempting to use student loan money to fund your business, especially if you qualify for subsidized federal loans and the government is paying your interest while you’re in school.

But when you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, you sign a statement agreeing to use federal student loans and grant money only for educational purposes.

If you use the loan funds for anything else, you could run into some problems with the U.S. Department of Education. And while private student lenders aren’t run by the government, they typically have the same restrictions for how you can use the money you borrow.

Sign up for business courses

Whether or not you plan to study business management, it may be a good idea to apply for some business courses. Since you’re paying the same amount every semester anyway, taking classes that can help you learn the skills you need to run a business well can pay off in the long run.

Get an internship

Depending on the type of business you’re running, it could help to apply for an internship in the same field or industry. An internship can give you hands-on experience, as well as help you understand how companies in the industry operate.

In the long run, these benefits can help you build your business more quickly and help you avoid mistakes that others have made before you. You may even get paid for the internship, which you can use to run your business.

The bottom line

Running a small business in college can be difficult, but it’s definitely possible. As you consider what you might need to balance, make sure to have a plan for how you’re going to afford your business along with all of your other expenses.

As you follow these tips, you’ll have an easier time getting the funding you need without having to seek out investors or borrow money unnecessarily. And while it’s no guarantee that your business will succeed, it sure can help.

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The post How to Run a Small Business While in College appeared first on Nav.

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U.S. veterans are a proud part of American heritage and an ongoing source of wisdom, leadership, and business acumen. It should come as no surprise that they make up a significant portion of our best and brightest business founders. While many vets are heading up small business and startups, some of our best-known brands were started by those who once served in our armed forces. Their impact is significant, owning more than 2.4 million – or 9% — of U.S. businesses and paying over $210 million in wages to over 5.8 million workers.

Have you heard of these companies? Of course! Some of the most notable businesses ever were started by vets. Some of the best up-and-coming, small companies are run by them, too. Check out this list of notable, veteran-owned companies that you may purchase from regularly in the course of your day.

1. Black Rifle Coffee

With some snarky marketing methods and a bold, black brew blend that’s become popular among home brewers and coffee shops nationwide, Black Rifle Coffee is a veteran success story that’s newer than most. Green Beret veteran Evan Hafer started the company with just $1,800 in personal seed money and took the business from $1.37 million sales the first year to an impressive $30 million just four years later!

While his results aren’t typical, they do show what hard work and some marketing know-how can do for a small startup. Hafer’s partnership with other veterans who help sell the coffee, create and market apparel and gear, and promote the message of unashamed pride in the military way of life has led to a loyal fan base and a fair bit of controversy (which has only led to more buzz and bigger sales numbers.)

2. Sports Clips

Proving that not everyone wants (or deserves) the same, old hair cutting experience, Sports Clips founder Gordon Logan took his experience as an Aircraft Commander in the U.S. Air Force and his years of financial planning with Price Waterhouse & Co., to start the perfectly profitable salon franchise for boys and men. The graduate of MIT and Wharton School of Business had salon experience but knew that something was missing for guys in the grooming services category.

With a heart for community, and a focus on serving other vets, Logan and his wife have used the growth of 1,600 stores to support initiatives such as VFW Foundation “Help A Hero” fundraiser American Red Cross Blood Services, Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the Aleethia Foundation, Honor Flight Austin, and many more.

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3. Plated

Food shopping, preparation, and enjoyment have changed so much over the last decade, and much of that has been due to startups like Plated making it easier to get quality ingredients without ever leaving the house. This innovative gourmet service was founded by Nick Taranto, a veteran of the US Marine Corps, and Josh Hix, who were rejected by Shark Tank and other startup competitions before finally making their mark in 2012. While the company has since sold to Albertson’s for an enormous sum, Taranto credits his military experience as training him for the grueling days that entrepreneurs face.

4. Bottle Breacher

A Shark Tank success story, the Bottle Breacher company was started by husband-wife duo Eli and Jen Crane. Eli was a former Navy SEAL, which inspired much of the heart behind the products they sell, which include personalized bottle openers made from recycled, authentic decommissioned .50 caliber ammunition. A hit at weddings, parties, and anywhere that custom gifts in large orders are needed, the Bottle Breacher line has expanded, thanks to the support of Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, their enduring hard work, and their largely veteran employee base.

5. Sperry Shoes

The world’s most comfortable (and stylish) boat shoe was the brainchild of a sailor in the Navy Reserve. While Paul A. Sperry only served a year, his influence on the branch was lasting, when he founded Sperry in 1935 and made the non-slip boating shoe that everyone still loves. The Sperry Top-Sider was a staple for Navy members during the 2nd World War, and it’s a favorite among even teenagers today.

6. Turbopup

People have had their choice in nutritional energy bars for years, but what about dogs? The need for a portable, balanced, and high-calorie dog treat inspired TurboPup founder Kristina Guerrero to come up with one of her own, so that her pup could accompany her on hikes and not go hungry. The former U.S. Air Force Lieutenant served in active combat missions and even became a qualified occupational therapist before starting her business. She kept her small business going well on her own and even earned the designation as the official dog-food for the National Association of Search and Rescue. She then reached out to Shark Tank judges and landed a deal with Daymond John who helped propel her product line to sellers like Chewy.com, where you can find a wide assortment of her products today.

These are just a handful of the more recent and notable businesses dominating their industries with the ingenuity and dedication of veteran owners. There is a long history of these companies doing well, including big names such as Walmart, FedEx, GoDaddy, Amway, Re/MAX, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and even Nike. With veterans having experienced something that the rest of us can’t always understand, they have a unique position in the marketplace and have consistently come out ahead. It will be exciting to see what other winners emerge from the small business world with a military background.

Do you want to support more veteran-owned businesses or learn how vets from all walks of life have used their savvy and dedication to launch companies in industries near you? Consider using the BuyVeteran.com website to search for businesses in your area, by service type and specialty! You will find even the smallest, local businesses – from dry cleaners to restaurants – have a history in serving our country before going on to serve their communities with high-quality goods and services.

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The post 6 Successful Businesses Started by Veterans appeared first on Nav.

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If you’re looking to get a small business loan to start or expand your company, you may be wondering about the average business loan interest rate.

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t entirely clear. With so many different types of business loans available for borrowers across a broad credit spectrum, business loan interest rates in 2019 can range from as low as 2% or 3% to as high as 100% or more.

Understanding the type of loan you need for your business and your credit situation can give you a better idea of what kind of interest rate to expect.

Average business loan interest rate by loan type

When searching for a business loan, you might come across several types of lenders, including large national banks, small community banks and credit unions, online banks, microlenders and more. Some lenders also offer access to SBA loans, which are partially guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

You may also come across different rates based on the type of loan you get. Secured loans, for instance, typically charge lower interest rates because the lender has collateral to fall back on if you default.

In general, though, here’s what you might see as you compare common loan options:

Loan type Annual interest rate (AIR)
Traditional bank loan 2% to 13%
SBA loan 7.75% to 10.25%
Online loan 7% to 100%
Merchant cash advance 20% to 250%
Invoice financing 13% to 60%

Because some of the interest rate ranges are very broad, it can be hard to know whether an interest rate offer you receive is competitive. As a result, it’s essential that you compare several loan options before applying to ensure you get the best deal.

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Where can I find business loan interest rates today?

With so many different commercial lenders out there, there’s no central place where you can view current rates. It’s also important to note that the interest rate you get will be based on your creditworthiness and the strength of your business’ financials and credit history.

With traditional commercial lenders, you might need to apply to get an idea of what rates you qualify for. Some online lenders, however, will let you get prequalified with just a soft credit check to view your rates before you apply.

Are startup business loan rates higher?

In general, the average business loan interest rate for a startup is going to be higher than for an established business. This is because the chances of a startup failing are much higher than for a company that already has a solid track record.

In some cases, it might be difficult even to get approved for a business loan when you’re just starting out. You may need to opt for a microloan, small business credit card, or an alternative form of financing to get the capital you need.

As you build your business credit history and establish a good history of strong revenues and cash flow, however, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved for a business loan with a lower rate.

How to improve your chances of getting a low business loan rate

It’s not possible to control every factor that goes into your interest rate. But there are some things that you can do to reduce your overall credit risk to lenders.

Improve your personal and business credit

Many business lenders not only look at your business credit history but also at your personal credit score. This is because you might need to provide a personal guarantee in case your business can’t repay the debt.

Even if you don’t need to provide a personal guarantee, a bad credit history can be a sign that you might also mismanage credit with your business.

Start by checking your personal and business credit reports and look for areas where you can improve. Then work to address those issues directly. A few examples include paying down high credit card balances, getting caught up on late payments, and avoiding unnecessary debt.

Watch out for fees

While fees aren’t included in your interest rate, they are part of the calculation of your annual percentage rate (APR) and can increase the overall cost of the loan. Fees to watch out for include application fees, origination fees, processing fees, service fees, prepayment penalties, and closing fees.

While you can’t necessarily avoid all these fees, compare what different lenders charge to see if you can lower the amount you ultimately have to pay.

Consider adding collateral

Because secured loans typically come with lower interest rates than unsecured loans, it might be worth using assets from your business to secure the loan. This is especially easy to do with equipment financing because you can use the equipment itself as collateral.

Just keep in mind that you may lose the asset you put up if you default on the loan. So avoid using anything that might make it impossible to run your business.

Avoid high-interest options

Some business loans tend to charge higher interest rates, regardless of how solid your credit history and financials are. For example, short-term loans, invoice factoring, and merchant cash advances all tend to charge higher loan rates than traditional term loans.

That doesn’t mean these financing options aren’t legitimate. In some situations, you might need to take advantage of them. But if your goal is to minimize your interest costs, they might not be the best option.

The bottom line

The average business loan interest rate can vary depending on the type of lender you borrow from and the loan type you choose. However, the interest rate you get can end up above or below that average, based on your creditworthiness and how your business is doing.

As you compare business lenders, look at both their interest rates as well as their fees to understand the total cost of credit. Also, look for opportunities to improve your credit so that you pose less of a risk to potential lenders.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved with the lowest rate a lender offers, these actions can help you qualify for more favorable terms.

Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit For Free (No Credit Card Required).

The post What is the Average Business Loan Interest Rate? appeared first on Nav.

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Want to watch a movie this weekend? If you agreed, it’s likely we’d sit down, grab a remote, and start perusing the catalogs of mega streaming companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. However, if I asked you the same question twenty years ago, the evening’s events would unfold quite differently.

It’s likely that instead of heading to the couch first, we’d get into the car and head to the local video store. There, we’d probably bump into friends as we strolled the aisles and held on to the hope that when we happened upon the must-see flick or off-beat film we’ve been dying to check out, a ready-to-rent DVD would be waiting on the other side — I’m sure some of you can recall the disappointment that followed if there wasn’t.

Today, we no longer have to beat the rush, cross our fingers, or loiter in front of the return box. Instead, we just have to hope that the streaming service we have carries the movie or series we want. If they don’t, we can likely cough up $2 -$6 to “rent” it anyway.

Unless, of course, you live in Bend, Oregon. Then you may get to experience the nostalgia of your cinematic past.

In a recent AP article aptly entitled “Oregon Blockbuster Outlasts others to become the last on earth” author Gillian Flaccus tells the store of the world’s last BlockBuster. And in doing so, she may have uncovered a few noteworthy lessons that can help other businesses grow and maintain relevancy.

1. Keep equipment up-to-date

The owners of the Bend Blockbuster did so many things right, and really, this lesson is less about what they didn’t do and more about what limited budgets lead to over the life and subsequent death of BlockBuster franchises.

Today, the Oregon business is forced to use floppy disks to reboot their computer system and back up transactions on reel-to-reel tape. The first isn’t’ widely used or understood by many of today’s emerging workforce — to no fault of their own. The latter is no longer available, as they were products by Radio Shack, another business that has been laid to rest.

If you’re relying on a single method of backup or on aging equipment, you may want to consider the long-term implications of how that can impact your business should technology change or products become unavailable.

That’s not to suggest that storage devices like hard drives are going to become irrelevant any time soon, but there are some things, like CDs that may go the way of the eight-track, cassette player, and of course, the floppy disk. It may be wise to have a backup system in place, just in case.

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2. Customize the customer experience

As most Blockbusters were dropping like the rating for a poorly made sequel, the Oregon video franchise held on to customers. One reason for that was their ability to connect with their customers.

In addition to rental wish lists and recommendations, they also offered select customers delivery if they were otherwise unable to make it to the store. Small but impactful gestures.

So many times, in a play, to make things easier and streamlined, businesses look to efficiency instead of personal touch. The cost-effect streamline approach certainly has value, particularly in operational processes, but when it comes to customers, it’s important to make them feel like they’re valued. If they don’t, then they won’t value your brand.  

3. Play up what makes your business unique

If the opening lines of this article made you nostalgic for your video store forays, you’re not alone. There is an attractive novelty in what BlockBuster, and video stores in general, used to represent to the masses.

To make up for the dwindling rental market, Sandi Harding, the general manager, has taken to selling sweatshirts and t-shirts, some of which include the business’s new slogan “The Last Blockbuster on the Planet. She also sells homemade beanies donning the iconic blue and yellow.

Laying your claim to fame on a t-shirt may not be the best move for your business, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think of ways to play up the products, services, and characteristics that make your business different from the rest.

4. Consider how you can attract new audiences

One of the fundamental rules of marketing is to identify your target audience and develop strategies to bring them in. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your business is only suited for a specific audience.

Harding sites a new audience that may pave the way towards continued longevity, the children of parents who visit the store for a trip down memory lane.  

While mom and dad may re-live their youth as they peruse video racks as the smell of buttery popcorn wafting through the airs, their children create their own memories, and as she points out, “later leave happy, holding stacks of rented movies and piles of candy.”

If your business is struggling, it may be time to take a long look at your products and services and ask if there is another audience who may benefit, and if so, how you can start to include them in existing marketing efforts or pivot in a new direction.

In the end, perhaps the best lesson that we can take away from the last Blockbuster on the planet is that one of perseverance in the face of all odds.

Ready to see your credit data and start building better business credit? Check Your Personal and Business Credit For Free (No Credit Card Required).

The post Business Lessons From the Last Blockbuster Ever appeared first on Nav.

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