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Using Business Loans to Your Advantage

By Christy Laxton, Executive Director, Wyoming County Economic Development Authority

The idea of applying for a loan can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. 

At the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority, we believe that loans are a fundamental part of business development. Whether you’re an established business or a startup getting ready to launch, loans can be the catapults that propel you into the next phase of your business’ growth. 

Over the last 20 years, the Wyoming County EDA’s small business micro loan lending program has provided $11 million to more than 350 businesses and entrepreneurial efforts across the Mountain State. But our investment goes beyond funding: We also offer various resources, such as site selection, technical support, and referrals for every business’ needs. 

As a local entity, we know our communities, our economy, and our people — and we know how to support them. That’s because our team takes a different approach to lending. We don’t just consider the economic impact of a growing business. We also take into account the impact it will have on its community. 

Below, we’ve created a step-by-step breakdown of the Wyoming County EDA’s loan application process and included a few words of advice for business owners applying for our micro loan program. If you’re not ready to take that next step yet, consider sharing with a friend who is.

  1. Make contact with a member of our team. Start by connecting with a member of our team. We can help you determine the best course of action. Once we identify the loan that best suits your business, we’ll share paperwork and connect you with the Small Business Development Center for additional small business resources. *Depending on your location, you may be eligible to apply for regional and statewide funding.
  2. Start the application process. Now it’s time to talk through the application process in-depth and get started on your paperwork. Though most loan paperwork requires the same core documents, each loan program requires unique materials. Here, we’ll share a checklist of documents necessary for submission and determine if additional assistance is needed. A nonrefundable fee is required at the time of submission.

    A word on business licenses: Startups are not required to obtain a business license before applying for funding. Loans must, however, be issued to businesses. Though not required prior to application, approved businesses and startups must obtain a license before funding can be issued.

  3. Establish a business plan. Unless you’re applying for a COVID-19 relief loan, all applicants must have a detailed business plan, and it’s important that you invest time in developing one. Be as specific as possible when itemizing expenses like equipment, marketing services, insurance, accounting, and wages. This helps the loan committee understand your vision and aptitude to carry out your entrepreneurial dreams! Loan applications also require various financial records from businesses and future business owners, including tax returns and credit checks.

    A word on credit scores: While we do look at individuals’ credit reports, credit scores don’t always make or break an application. Sometimes life hands us stressful and unexpected things, like divorce, accidents, etc., and often, those events can have an effect on one’s finances, including their credit. Instead of focusing on the hiccups, we analyze the overall history, especially their rebounds, and if necessary, provide an opportunity for applicants to share a written explanation about the event that affected their credit.

  4. Submit your application. Applications are reviewed by the Loan Committee on the third Thursday of each month. All submissions must be received by the first day of the month to be scheduled for committee review.
  5. Decisions, decisions. The committee will meet to discuss all submissions received by the first of the month, and decisions will be mailed to applicants immediately afterward. Applicants will receive an approval or denial letter with terms and conditions stated. If the applicant is approved, they must move forward with follow up information, such as insurance, to get the ball rolling. 

Now that you have the insight needed to apply, I’ll leave you with some personal advice. 

  1. Don’t get discouraged if your application gets denied! Sometimes we don’t get the answer we were hoping for, and though it can be disappointing, sometimes it’s for the best. Consider it an opportunity to perfect your application! 
  2. Timing is everything. It sounds cliche, but bear with me: Let’s say a startup client applies for enough funding to purchase a building to house their new endeavor. However, at the present time, leasing may be the best solution for this new business to ensure that the client isn’t getting too deeply invested with a massive overhead before they open their doors. 
  3. Try and try again. If an applicant’s loan request is denied, the applicant may revisit their initial application, submit again, and get approved for a different level of investment. This does not mean it’s not meant to be. It simply means you have a safety net if anything goes south. As we’ve learned throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, nothing is truly predictable in the business sphere. 
  4. Before applying, know what exactly you’re looking for. This is the time to step back and look at the big picture. What kind of assistance is needed? What’s considered a necessity? Be honest.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. If we are unable to answer your questions, we’ll point you in the direction of your nearest Small Business Development Center business coach!
  6. Know what you’re getting into as a business owner. Being a business owner is a 24/7 job, and it’s anything but easy. When starting (or expanding) a business, make sure this is something you’re deeply passionate about and committed to long-term. We don’t just want you to be successful: we want you to be happy and successful!
  7. Remember: We’re on your side. At the end of the day, we want you to be successful. We’re here to help, and we’re always looking forward to opportunities to see our communities grow and thrive. 

As Executive Director of the Wyoming County EDA, it’s been my privilege and honor to serve West Virginia and our ever-blossoming business community. I, and the rest of our team, look forward to serving you in the years to come. 

This blog was originally published by West Virginia BusinessLink. Learn more about the WV BusinessLink and their commitment to supporting small businesses and entrepreneurship here