If you’re trying to start your own small business, you likely already know that it’s nearly impossible to be approved for a bank loan to secure the funds you need. With increased regulations and stricter lending standards placed on banks after the 2008 financial crisis, they simply aren’t handing out loans to aspiring small business owners like they once were. Thankfully, other avenues have opened up for determined entrepreneurs ready to fire their boss and secure their financial futures.
In fact, last month, Prosper and Lending Club, the two largest peer-to-peer lending sites, were responsible for more than $280 million in loan originations. The rise of peer-to-peer, or P2P, lending has been well-documented, and it’s estimated that the burgeoning industry has generated more than $3.4 billion in loans since being launched in 2006.
While the majority of the loans issued by these sites are used for debt consolidation, Lending Club, Prosper, and other peer-to-peer lending networks also provide credit for small businesses, offering them an additional borrowing option that didn’t exist a decade ago. By matching entrepreneurs and ordinary individuals with investors, peer-to-peer lending networks are able to take banks and middlemen out of the equation, providing low, fixed-rate loans to people to be used however they want.
Thus, if you’re seeking capital to start a small business, peer-to-peer lending has become a premier funding solution.
Who Qualifies for a Peer-to-Peer Loan?
The majority of peer-to-peer lending networks don’t provide business loans. However, if an entrepreneur or a potential start-up needs a loan to pursue a business idea, they can borrow as an individual. Instead of the loan being issued to a business entity, it is issued to an individual, and he or she can use the funds however they want. The loan will simply be categorized as personal debt.
While this is true for most peer-to-peer lenders, peer-to-peer lending networks specializing in funding small businesses in need of $35,000 or more now exist as well. Therefore, budding small business owners can turn to peer-to-peer lenders for any of their financial needs.
Understanding Peer-to-Peer Lending
Peer-to-peer lending is similar to eBay. You simply set up an account at one of the peer-to-peer lending networks, such as Lending Club, read the site’s borrowing guidelines, and review the types of loans they fund. Although Lending Club and Prosper don’t officially provide business loans, they do fund entrepreneurs looking to start a small business.
After registering an account, you simply enter in the loan amount you’re looking for and the maximum interest rate you are willing to pay. Once your listing is created, investors will begin sending you bids stating the amount they’re willing to lend you and the interest rate they would like to charge. As with any type of lending or financing, the higher your credit score, the better.
It’s also important to note that you need a credit score of 640 or above to receive funding from most peer-to-peer lenders. If you have a good credit score and history, you may receive a lower interest rate than you expect, because unlike traditional lenders, peer-to-peer lenders provide loans starting at only 6.78 percent.
Best of all, the monthly payments and interest rate are fixed, and the interest rate is amortized as well. There is also no prepayment charge, so you can pay off your unsecured small business loan as soon as you want without penalty.
As mentioned earlier, since you may need more than the $35,000 maximum loan amount offered by most peer-to-peer lending networks, some peer-to-peer lenders, such as Dealstruck, are now specializing in providing larger loans of $100,000 or more to the small business market. Typically, sites like these offer two to five-year loan terms with low interest rates starting at only five percent.
The Cost to Peer-to-Peer Borrowers
Businesses often find that borrowing from a peer-to-peer lender is much cheaper than borrowing from a bank, because there is no middleman involved. In addition to having more overhead, banks are still struggling to recover the money they lost during the financial crisis.
This added financial stress trickles down to borrowers in the form of higher interest rates, if they are able to get a loan at all. Since peer-to-peer lenders compete with one another to provide you with the loan you need to start your business, you’re able to benefit from the lowest interest rate possible.
From Dream to Reality: Rob’s Story
Two short years ago, Rob Strong dreamed of opening his own landscaping business. Although he pinched pennies and saved for years, he still found himself in need of additional funding to purchase the equipment necessary to finally launch his dream of being his own boss.
Sick and tired of fattening someone else’s pocket each day, one day Rob decided enough was enough. Unfortunately, he still needed $10,000 to buy all of the necessary equipment, so he went to his bank with the business plan; he spent hours upon hours completing in order to get a small business loan for the money he needed. Despite banking there for years, the banker denied his application because his credit score was only five points below the threshold.
“What am I going to do now?” he asked himself. Luckily for Rob, he was browsing online two days later and ran across a major peer-to-lender. “It’s worth a shot,” he thought. After spending five minutes filling out the application and setting up his profile, he turned his computer off and waited. Two days later, Rob signed in and was shocked to see that 50 investors had provided him with bids. The next day, he received the full amount he needed.
Two years later, Rob’s landscaping business is in full swing. He now has 20 employees and earns six figures a year while “working” 20 hours a week.
There are thousands of people who share Rob’s story. Thanks to peer-to-peer lending, people across the country have been able to achieve their dreams of becoming small business owners. With the peer-to-peer lending industry growing each day, thousands more are sure to become small business success stories as well.