Florida offers small businesses many advantages, including access to several loan options and other financial resources.
Learn the most important aspects of starting a small business in the Sunshine State. Find out how much it costs to start, the licenses you need, how to get a small business loan, and writing a business plan that supports your loan application.
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Small Business in Florida?
How do you register your small business in Florida?
There are 10 steps required to register your small business in Florida. Also, be sure to check the availability of the name you want for your new business.
The first step in the registration process is choosing your business structure, such as:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited partnership
Once you’ve decided on the structure of your business, follow these steps to get it registered:
- Register with the Florida Department of State.
- Register the business name.
- Register for an Internal Revenue Service Employer Identification Number (EIN).
- Register with the Florida Department of Revenue.
- Fund the business.
- Register for the new hire program.
- Apply for a business license, permit, or registration.
- Check local regulations and requirements.
- Apply for a business bank account.
What business licenses and permits do you need in Florida?
Most businesses in Florida need either an occupational license or professional license, plus a sales and use tax permit. There are other licenses and permits your business might need depending on its industry. They include occupational or professional licenses, sales and use tax permits, building and zoning permits, and health permits.
Once you’ve registered your company and applied for all necessary licenses and permits, it’s time to look for small business loans. Depending on your financing needs, there are several options to help your enterprise get off the ground.
What Types of Small Business Loans Are Available in Florida?
Florida offers robust options for a variety of small business loans. They include:
Microfinance Guarantee Program
Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) is an organization that promotes economic development across the state. In support of that mission, it offers the Microfinance Guarantee Program to help small businesses get microloans by guaranteeing a portion of the loan.
A loan guarantee makes it much easier for small businesses to get credit because lenders don’t have to worry about you not paying them back. If you get a loan from the Microfinance Guarantee Program and can’t pay it back, EFI pays the lender the portion of the loan it guarantees, which is up to 50% of loans of $250,000 or less.
To qualify for the Microfinance Guarantee Program, you must:
- Be an entrepreneur or small business owner in Florida.
- Have fewer than 25 employees.
- Have an annual gross revenue of less than $1.5 million per year for the last two years.
- Meet any additional requirements established by Enterprise Florida, Inc.
SBA 504 loan program
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers the 504 loan program for small businesses to use for the purchase of real estate, machinery, and equipment. Financing through this program is offered at below-market, fixed interest rates.
To be eligible for a 504 loan program, your business must:
- Operate as a for-profit company in the United States or its possessions
- Have a tangible net worth of less than $15 million
- Have an average net income of less than $5 million after federal income taxes for the two years preceding your application
SBA 7(a) loan program
The 7(a) loan program offers another option from the SBA that provides funding of up to $5 million. The funds can be used to buy real estate and equipment or for working capital.
To be eligible for 7(a) loan assistance, businesses must:
- Operate for profit
- Be considered a small business, as defined by SBA
- Be engaged in, or propose to do business in, the United States or its possessions
- Have reasonable invested equity
- Use alternative financial resources, including personal assets, before seeking financial assistance
- Be able to demonstrate the need for a loan
- Use the funds for a sound business purpose
- Not be delinquent on any existing debt obligations to the U.S. government
What Do You Need to Apply for a Florida Small Business Loan?
Getting a small business loan in Florida can be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with what lenders look for in applicants. Finance companies need the following to approve your application.
- Credit score: You’ll need fairly decent personal and business credit scores to qualify for small business financing. Your credit score is important for lenders to assess how you manage debt. A personal credit score between 640 to 700 is considered the minimum threshold for securing a loan. Most institutional lenders also require a robust business credit score to consider your loan application.
- Business industry and size: The SBA definition of a small business varies by industry. In addition to being a for-profit company, your company is automatically ineligible if you operate in industries like real estate investing, gambling, religious activities, etc. Factors like being late on federal student loans or government-backed mortgages will negatively affect your application.
- Collateral and personal guarantee: You may also need to back your loan with collateral for small business finance. That could be assets such as real estate, inventory, and equipment. You can also opt for a personal guarantee, which will require you to repay the loan from your assets if your business cannot.
- Business plan and loan proposal: Lenders would like concrete evidence that you have a viable business plan. They will be most interested in knowing your business targets and how you propose to achieve them. Some lenders require an additional loan proposal detailing the purpose of the loan and support for your ability to repay it.
- Financial and legal documentation: Florida-based businesses applying for a loan must also provide extensive financial and legal documentation to prospective lenders. They include personal and business income tax returns, balance sheets and income statements, financial projections, commercial leases, and business licenses.
How Do You Find The Right Business Lender?
You have several options to choose from in applying for a small business loan in Florida. Factors like loan conditions and repayment period are important considerations in finding the right lender. Here are a few others:
- Affordability: Check interest rates and compare them with those from other lenders. Get a thorough understanding of repayment and other conditions to which you’ll be subject. You may need that loan desperately, but make sure your business can afford it.
- Cost of borrowing: Interest rates eventually determine the cost, but they are not the only factor. Business loans usually have several other costs attached, like documentation fees and service charges. Also, check if there are prepayment penalties or other additional costs.
- Trust: Approach a small business lender with a sound reputation who has been in the market for a long time. Reputable lenders are interested in building trust with their clients and establishing relationships. They are also better at customizing a loan that works best for your needs.