Dr. Karyl Ropko worked closely with the SBA to obtain a building loan. Here are some tips she learned along the way and the steps she took to smooth the road:
- Study the SBA Web site at www.sba.gov before diving in. "This Web site offers advice on SBA 504 loan rules and guidelines as well as business planning basics that will help you during the process," Dr. Ropko says.
- Complete a business plan, including a two-year pro forma statement.
- Work on an initial program with an architect or builder. "Before approaching the SBA, you should develop a basic site and building plan along with a rough budget," she says. "Preparing this information ahead of time will give you a jump on developing a thoughtful business plan to submit for agency approval."
- Cultivate a relationship with local city and municipal planners to work through zoning, setbacks, and city regulations.
- Contact the local SBA Economic Development Foundation for help with your plan, a service the foundation offers for free. "The local center helped me put together my business plan, gave me community demographics, and more," Dr. Ropko says. "The foundation, a branch of the SBA, gave us specific financing information, and this was the agency that endorsed our project, laying the groundwork for final SBA approval."
When you're ready to get started, Dr. Ropko says you need to set up a meeting with the SBA and prospective lenders. Remember:
- A sound business plan should answer most of the questions they'll ask.
- Good demographics will support your case.
- You'll need a project budget.
- A realistic pro forma shows how you will repay the loan. "Be prepared to discuss and defend future earnings and growth centers, addition of staff members, and the repayment of your new loan along with existing debt," Dr. Ropko says.
"Most of all, remember that most of the work is in preparing your plan," she says. "I spent 12 months preparing for the presentation meeting, and it only took me 45 days to get financing approval from the SBA afterward."