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Small Business

Best Equipment Financing Companies: Where to Find Them in 2019

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You may have the best team in place to run your small business, but you won’t get far without the equipment you need to operate. Whether it’s office furniture, software or heavy machinery, these pieces can be essential to your success.

If you don’t have enough cash on hand to purchase equipment outright, you can turn to equipment financing to help with the transaction. Small business owners can find equipment financing options at their local bank and equipment financing companies, many of which operate online.

When shopping for equipment financing, LendingTree can be a useful starting point. You can compare leases and loans from several equipment financing companies to help you figure out which is best for you. (LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.) Before you get started, we’ll help you understand why you might need equipment financing and what funding options are available to you.

What is equipment financing?

Whether buying something new or replacing an outdated piece of equipment, small business owners typically do not have money on hand to cover the purchase, said Michael Aversa, partner and head of the Private Business Services Group at advisory firm EisnerAmper. To finance equipment, you would need to obtain a lease or a loan from a traditional bank or an equipment finance company. No matter which one you choose, the equipment itself usually serves as collateral. If you fall behind on payments, the lender would take the equipment. With any type of business loan, collateral or a personal guarantee is typically required, reducing the risk to the lender.

Where can you find equipment financing?

Finance companies often specialize in certain types of equipment and they may be more willing to lend to you than a bank, said Mike Toglia, CEO and executive director of the National Equipment Finance Association. Financing companies usually have different eligibility criteria than banks and they’re often less strict.

“They’re willing to advance more money against the collateral because they’re more comfortable with the collateral,” Toglia said.

Financing through the equipment vendor. Most small business owners have the piece of equipment picked out before they go to their bank or a finance company to seek funding, Toglia said. The equipment vendor may offer a financing package, just like a car dealership would offer financing when you purchase a new car. However, you’re free to obtain financing from any institution or company of your choice, Toglia said.

“A small business owner should look around and see what else they can get,” Toglia said. “They should be shopping for expertise and competitive rates.”

Equipment loan vs. lease

Do you want to own a particular piece of equipment or would you be better off leasing it instead? Here’s how to understand the difference.

Equipment loan

A loan typically requires a down payment, usually 10 to 20% of the total cost of the equipment. You would finance the remaining balance and pay your debt with interest for a specific period of time.

Because equipment is used as collateral, equipment loans tend to have relatively low interest rates and manageable payments. Terms typically range from six months to 10 years, making a loan a good option if you will be using your equipment for a long time. But if the equipment quickly becomes obsolete or needs to be replaced, you would still have to pay the loan in full.

To qualify for an equipment loan, you need to have good personal credit. In addition to a down payment, you may have to pay an origination fee, application fee or appraisal fee, depending on your loan agreement. The fees would depend on the loan offering from a bank or online lender.

Equipment lease

An equipment lease from a financing company may be a good option if you need assets that don’t have a long shelf life. An equipment lease typically does not require a down payment, plus monthly payments are usually lower than those of an equipment loan. You may have the option to purchase your equipment at the end of the lease term for residual value or trade out equipment for a newer version in the middle of your contract.

The interest rate would be built into the total lease amount, and high rates tend to make leases more expensive overall than term loans, Aversa said. However, you wouldn’t have to meet high credit requirements to qualify for a lease like you would if you were seeking a loan and you wouldn’t be stuck with a potentially obsolete piece of equipment.

“There are a lot of companies that don’t have bank financing and the lease is the only way to go because their credit isn’t good enough,” Aversa said.

Two types of equipment leases

One of the main differences between the leases is how you record them in your books, Aversa said. A capital lease would appear as an asset on your balance sheet, while an operating lease would not appear on your balance sheet.

  1. Operating lease: These are generally used for short-term leasing. They don’t involve transfer of ownership at the end of the lease term, making them similar to renting, which is why they would be treated as an operating expense, not a loan, on your balance sheet.
  2. Capital leases: These are typically used to lease longer-term assets, and ownership can be transferred to the lessee at the end of the term. A capital lease could also present the option for the lessee to purchase the equipment at the end of the term for a discounted price. Because a capital lease involves the transfer of ownership, it is considered a loan on your balance sheet and you would have to record interest expenses.

However, rules from the Financial Accounting Standards Board that go into effect in 2020 will require all leases to be recorded on balance sheets. The change could lessen the appeal of equipment leases compared with loans, Aversa said. “That could have a dramatic impact on a lease versus buy scenario.”

Best equipment financing companies

Celtic Commercial Finance

Celtic Commercial Finance offers equipment leases ranging from $100,000 to $10,000,000. Leases spanning 24 to 120 months are available to finance a variety of equipment, including machinery, software and computers. Celtic Commercial Finance issues operating leases and capital leases, as well as several specialized leases and purchase/leasebacks. Celtic works with businesses that have $20 million to $250 million in annual revenue and at least three years in business. No down payment is required but Celtic does ask for one month’s payment upfront, as well as a documentation fee. You can submit an application online.

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Crest Capital

Crest Capital offers several equipment loans and leases. Many Crest Capital leases come with purchase options to give you full ownership of your equipment at the end of the lease term. Crest Capital also offers flexible payment plans. Crest Capital provides 100% financing for transactions between $5,000 and $500,000. Applying for a Crest Capital loan or lease won’t impact your personal credit and you could be approved in a matter of hours.

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National Funding

National Funding offers up to $150,000 in equipment leasing for new and pre-owned assets. National Funding requires just six months in business and a personal credit score of 620, as well as a quote from your equipment vendor. Businesses owners could obtain a lease for a range of items, from construction equipment, fitness equipment, office equipment and commercial vehicles. For customers who pay off their balance early, National Funding takes 6% off their total remaining balance.

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Reliant Funding

Reliant Funding helps business owners lease new or used equipment, including software, work vehicles, office furniture and other fixtures. Borrowers can apply online and could be approved within one month. After approval, it takes three to five days to receive funding. Reliant Funding considers the type of equipment and your credit rating when determining the cost of your lease. Reliant Funding finances between $5,000 and $500,000 and works with businesses in a range of industries, including construction, restaurants, health care and transportation.

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CIT Equipment Finance

CIT Equipment Finance funds small-ticket transactions up to $500,000, as well as larger deals ranging from $3 million to $100,000 million. CIT offers equipment financing for small businesses, equipment manufacturers, franchisers and commercial entities. CIT’s core markets are technology, office imaging, health care, industrial and franchise finance. The company’s loan programs include capital leases, operating leases and loans, and are tailored to the specific borrower and their industry.

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What you need to apply

When shopping for equipment financing, it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure you’re choosing a trustworthy finance company if you’re not borrowing from a bank. After you submit an application, the company will also make sure you can be trusted as a borrower during the underwriting process, Aversa said.

“Depending on how your company has done and is doing, it can a be a very straightforward or very difficult,” he said.

In addition to your application, the finance company will likely want to see a few documents:

  • Business license, Employer Identification Number or statement of incorporation to prove ownership
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Recent tax returns
  • Business plan
  • Personal or business credit report

Business owners should think about the future when applying for equipment financing, Toglia said. You’ll likely need additional equipment in the future, and if you maintain a good relationship with the finance company, you would have a better chance of being approved again next time, he said.

“Look for a finance company that can help with your equipment needs today and tomorrow,” Toglia said.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Melissa Wylie
Melissa Wylie |

Melissa Wylie is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Melissa at [email protected]

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Small Business

Small Business Grants: 10 Programs to Get Started

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Small business grants
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When you need funding for your small business, receiving money you don’t have to pay back would be the best case scenario. Various organizations award grants to small businesses without expectations of repayment. The catch: steep competition and stringent standards.

Government grants for small businesses, as well as corporate and private grants, are highly sought after, and are given to businesses that meet specific eligibility criteria. The application process can be time-consuming and competitive, but your efforts could pay off if your business is selected.

We’ll help you better understand what types of small business grants you may be eligible for, as well as a few programs that could be a good fit for your business.

Who can apply for small business grants?

Many grants are targeted toward certain types of businesses or owner demographics, such as women, minorities or military veterans. Grants could also be industry-specific, and recipients could be restricted in their use of funds.

Business grants can be separated into two general categories – grants from federal agencies and those from private groups or entities, including nonprofits.

Federal grants are available to all levels of government entities, like city or county governments or independent school districts, nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses. Grants.gov provides a searchable database of federal grant programs. State and local governments also have grant and assistance programs for small businesses. In these programs, federal money is typically awarded through state agencies. Recipients are typically chosen based on statewide social or economic concerns. You can find resources for business owners in your state at USA.gov. It’s also possible your city or county could have available grants for small businesses, so check your local government websites as well.

Private grants are available from for-profit businesses or nonprofit organizations. Corporations and foundations offer private business grants to small business owners, and these programs are usually competitive and focus on certain types of business.

Government grants are usually distributed to businesses that could help advance certain causes or initiatives or stimulate the economy in a specific way. Private grants are typically awarded with similar intentions, and grant makers would select businesses that support a particular focus or goal.

How to apply

Grant eligibility requirements would be based on the goals of the organization: who they want to give money to and how they want that money used. You could also expect a grant application to ask for common business information including how many years you’ve been in business and your annual revenue.

You may have to disclose additional personal information depending on the grant program. Your gender or income level could be a factor. You could be required to submit a personal statement or resume, as well as a business plan and a proposed use for the grant.

10 business grant programs to get started

The competitive nature and strict requirements of grant programs could make it challenging to receive a small business grant. But if you are chosen as a recipient, you would have access to debt-free funding for your company. We’ve compiled a list of general small business grant programs for which you could apply.

Government business grants

1. Small Business Innovation Research Program

The Small Business Innovation Research program, or SBIR, encourages research and development among small businesses. Through the Small Business Administration-powered program, federal agencies allocate a percentage of their research and development budgets to eligible businesses. Participating agencies include:

Grants for first-time applicants could be up to $150,000. Recipients can then apply for a second grant up to $1 million.

2. Small Business Technology Transfer Program

The Small Business Technology Transfer program is associated with the SBIR program and promotes technological innovation in business. Five federal agencies participate in the SBA-backed program:

The program has the same maximum grant amounts as the SBIR program – up to $150,000 for new applicants and up to $1 million for recipients continuing in the program.

3. Environmental Protection Agency Grant Programs

In addition to providing grants through the SBIR program, the Environmental Protection Agency offers grants for a range of environmental activity, such as making improvements to air quality and public health. Grants are available to small business owners, as well as community organizations, tribal programs and college students.

4. Challenge.gov

Government agencies post contests on Challenge.gov to crowdsource innovative solutions. Small business owners, academic researchers, hobbyists and students have won past challenges, which come with prize money to carry out the proposed solution.For example, the Department of Health and Human Services is awarding a total of $400,000 to three winning ideas for improving Alzheimer’s and dementia care through technology.

5. State Business Incentives Database

To help business owners find local assistance programs, The Council of State Governments provides information on available resources through the State Business Incentives Database. For instance, the site lists the Kansas Tourism Marketing Grant Program designed to help businesses and organizations in the tourism industry with innovative marketing strategies.You can’t apply through the database, but it could be a valuable resource when searching for state grant programs.

Private and corporate small business grants

1. NASE Business Growth Grant

The National Association for the Self Employed awards $4,000 grants each month to business owners looking to grow their enterprises. Applicants must be members of the organization to be eligible. Purchasing an annual membership for $120 would allow you to apply immediately after joining, but you would have to wait 90 days to apply after buying a monthly membership for $11.95.

2. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

The Tory Burch Foundation, created in 2009 by fashion mogul Tory Burch, awards $5,000 to women entrepreneurs as part of a one-year fellowship. Recipients also receive four days of workshops with experts in the Tory Burch office in New York, as well as one year of access to the foundation’s online resources and peer network. Each year, 50 fellows are chosen to participate in the program, and a select few are also invited to pitch their businesses to industry professionals.

3. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

FedEx chooses 10 businesses each year to receive grants and FedEx Office services. One grand-prize winner receives a $50,000 grant and $7,500 in print and business services, while a second-place winner receives a $30,000 grant and $5,000 in print and business services. Eight additional winners each receive a $15,000 grant and $1,000 in print and business services. The general public can vote for contestants online, and FedEx selects winners from a pool of 100 finalists who received the most votes.

4. Street Shares Veteran Small Business Award

Business owners who are veterans, active-duty military members, spouses of military members or children of military members who died on active duty can apply for grants from the Street Shares Foundation. Eligible businesses must have some sort of social impact on the military community. The Street Shares Foundation awards a $15,000 grant to a first-place winner, while a second-place business receives $6,000. A $4,000 grant is reserved for third place. The Street Shares Foundation is a philanthropic branch of Street Shares, an online lender that specializes in loans for veteran-owned businesses.

5. Visa Everywhere Initiative

Visa awards business owners in the financial technology industry who pitch winning solutions to various business problems. For instance, Visa challenged applicants this year to create solutions that make it easier for consumers to access digital payment tools. Applicants’ ideas must be relevant to Visa’s business and should have the potential to add value to the company’s clients. The winning business receives $50,000 from Visa and a possible partnership with the company.

Alternatives to small business grants

Applying for grants may feel like a pointless effort because of tough eligibility requirements that are often tied to the agenda of the grant sponsor, whether it’s a federal entity or a private corporation. The way you use the funding could be regulated as well.

There are other ways to secure business financing if you would rather avoid the grant application process and competition for funding. Consider these alternatives, but keep in mind you would typically have to repay the money you receive, possibly with interest.

Small business loans

Different types of small business loans are available to meet your funding needs. You could take out a long-term or short-term loan and pay back the money over a set period of time. You may need a strong credit profile to qualify for a business loan, and lenders would also consider your business history, cash flow and assets that could secure the loan. If you need funding right away, you may want to consider a short-term loan rather than taking your chances on a grant. Short-term financing typically has fast time to funding because of minimal application requirements.

Crowdfunding

Small business owners can solicit funding from the general public through crowdfunding. Platforms like GoFundMe, Indiegogo and Kickstarter provide a platform for you to collect contributions for your business. Some platforms require you to offer products or equity in your company in exchange for funds, but others allow you to accept donations. Like applying for a grant, starting a crowdfunding campaign doesn’t ensure you’ll receive funding. It could take time to generate contributions, and you may not raise as much money as you’d like.

Microloans

Microloans are disbursed in small amounts less than $50,000 and are typically reserved for businesses involved in community development. Like many grants, some microloan programs target underserved demographics, such as the SBA Microloan Program that prioritizes low-income, women and minority business owners. A microloan may have higher interest rates than a traditional bank loan, and the small loan amount could result in a quick repayment schedule.

The bottom line

Small business grants are often referred to as “free money” from government entities or private organizations. Although you wouldn’t have to repay a grant, it’s not a handout for just any business.

Many grant programs are designed for certain types of businesses or business owners. You may have to meet strict requirements to be eligible. Competition is usually fierce for business grants, especially those from giant corporations like FedEx. Your chance of receiving a coveted grant could be slim.

However, if you do qualify for a small business grant, you would be able to fund your venture without the worry of paying off debt. There are numerous small business grants available both nationally and locally, so it could be worth your while to find grant programs that align with your business.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Melissa Wylie
Melissa Wylie |

Melissa Wylie is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Melissa at [email protected]

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Small Business

Most Profitable Industries for Small Businesses in 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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The economy is growing and the market is (mostly) thriving, so if you’ve been thinking of launching your own small business into the world, the time just might be right. But if you’re an entrepreneur, there can be such a thing as too many ideas. You might have a dozen or more brilliant concepts but perhaps you don’t know how profitable a certain industry is likely to be.

We’re here to help. Working with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and software company Abrigo, we’ve pulled together the most profitable small business sectors. Whether you’re a small business owner interested in where you rank or an entrepreneur doing market research, there are some important insights ahead.

Most profitable industries

The Census Bureau ranks, among other things, profitability by sector in its Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs. Here are the top 10:

Industry

% businesses reporting profits

Finance and insurance

73.1

Professional, scientific and technical services

70.9

Management of companies and enterprises

70.5

Real estate and rental and leasing

66.9

Health care and social assistance

65.9

Construction

65.1

Wholesale trade

63.8

Administrative and support and waste management

63.5

Manufacturing

61.7

Retail trade; accommodation and food services (tied)

60

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2016 Survey of Entrepreneurs

Management of companies and enterprises topped the list as well when Abrigo looked at the most profitable small businesses by net profit margin for a 12-month period ending April 30, 2019. Net profit margin is calculated by taking a small business’ revenue minus all expenses, including interest and taxes. As part of its services to the banking and accounting industry, Abrigo collects financial information on private companies that is then anonymized and aggregated by industry.

Industry

Net profit margin (%)

Management of companies and enterprises

22

Lessors of real estate

20.9

Financial investment activities

19.4

Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment rental and leasing

17.7

Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services

17.7

Legal services

17.4

Agencies, brokerages and other insurance-related activities

16.4

Activities related to real estate

15.7

Offices of real estate agents and brokers

13.9

Support activities for mining

13.3

Source: Abrigo

Fastest-growing occupations

Clues may also be gleaned from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment projections in the decade between 2016 and 2026. Clean energy and health fields dominate this list of the 10 fastest-growing occupations:

Occupation

% change in employment

Solar photovoltaic installers

104.9

Wind turbine service technicians

96.3

Home health aides

47.3

Personal care aides

38.6

Physician assistants

37.3

Nurse practitioners

36.1

Statisticians

33.8

Physical therapist assistants

31.0

Software developers, applications

30.7

Mathematicians

29.7

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to getting started

But before you start a business, you’ll need to put in some leg work. We’ve rounded up four key steps that are essential to starting a business. Here’s what it takes to get your business off the ground.

1. Do your research

If you’re reading this article, congratulations. You’ve already started tip No.1: doing your research.

To start a business, you’ll need to do your homework — a lot of homework. That means thorough market and competitor research, as well as an analysis of financial feasibility, before you start making any business moves. You want a good answer to the question: “What does your business do, and what sets it apart from competitors?”

Some questions to get you started include:

  • What’s the demand for your product or service?
  • How big is your potential market?
  • Which competitors are already out there, and how many are there?
  • What do these consumers already pay for your product or service?

2. Make a plan

You won’t get very far without a well-researched, clear and solid business plan. This plan is a map — it will outline where your business is right now, where it’s going and how you will get there. If you’re not sure what a good business plan looks like, the U.S. Small Business Administration has a few templates and samples to help you get started. Most business plans will have the same information, but how you structure it will depend on how much detail you want to use.

3. Figure out financing

This is one of the most crucial steps to making a successful business. You need funding to grow, but you may not be able to get it as easily as an established venture. The first step is to figure out how much funding you need. That will determine where you get it from: if you’ll be self-funded, need to find investors, or apply for a loan. Your funding will obviously have an enormous impact on what your business will look like in the future, so it’s important to make figuring out how you’ll get capital one of your first steps.

4. Make it legal

This is not the most exciting part of starting a business, but everyone has to do it. You can make the process more painless by figuring out early what permits, licenses and forms you’ll need to fill out in order to become a business in the eyes of the law. Figuring out what paperwork you need early on in the process is one way to stay on top of things and make sure there aren’t any legal surprises later on.

A closer look at top industries

Specialized services

Industries such as legal services and mining activities are regular fixtures on the list compiled by Abrigo and formerly Sageworks — Sageworks became part of Abrigo after it was acquired in 2018 — said Libby Sharman, Abrigo’s vice president of marketing. One reason for this is steep barriers to entry or high degrees of education required. Keeping the talent pool small benefits these businesses.

They also may not require steep overhead costs, added Sharman. In the case of businesses involved in support activities for mining such as exploration, “they’re not necessarily buying and maintaining all the heavy equipment necessary for running a mine,” she noted. Low overhead costs may also apply to some of the professional industries on the list, firms where their primary expense is the people they have in revenue-generating roles. Without much overhead to account for, “they can have a higher than average profit margin. So many of these industries, legal, accounting, there’s so much training [for business owners] to get to that point, their experience is going to be a calculable asset relative to other small businesses.”

Machinery and equipment rental and leasing

“Construction may be a significant driver of profitability for this industry,” Sharman said. Smaller, local stores that provide machines to rent are more likely to be able to charge a slight premium because of their convenience or react quickly to the inventory needs of their local clientele. According to industry research firm IBISWorld, a key factor of success in this industry is the ability to control stock, so keep this in mind.

Construction equipment rental

This business provides construction equipment rentals to local contractors and property owners alike. Swift delivery and pick-up and a commitment to customer service will set you apart from larger competitors.

Medical equipment rental

Medical equipment rental businesses are also a part of this sector. Customers can rent everything from a hospital bed to a breast pump from these businesses.

Activities related to real estate

This has been one of the hottest growing sectors in the country recently, both for residential and commercial real estate (albeit one predicted to grow slightly slower in the near future, in the case of the latter). “These shops can also benefit from a low overhead since there is no inventory carrying costs or high-tech needs in the business,” Sharman said.

Under the umbrella of real estate are other types of work:

Property management

Property managers deal with the operation, control, and oversight of real estate, often acting as a go-between for landlords and tenants. The key to building a property management company is building a robust client base — so network, network, network.

Property appraisal

Property appraisal is generally an area of steady work (particularly if you live near a hot real estate market). Different areas and markets will often have different licensing needs, so make sure you do your research before beginning your training.

Traveler accommodation

This is the sector that includes short-term lodging. Aside from a place to sleep, these businesses might offer other perks like food services or recreational activities. Location is key for these businesses — hotels in touristy areas are always a good bet, but filling a niche in a less-trafficked locale means there’s less competition. U.S. travel bookings and revenue swelled to nearly $800 billion in 2017, according to Deloitte. Even though the accounting giant predicted growth in 2019 as well, it warned of challenges ahead. Here’s how small businesses can fit into this global business.

Bed and breakfasts

Bed and breakfasts aren’t always the cheapest option for accommodations, but they can offer travelers character and charm that chain hotels can’t compete with.

Resorts

Small, seasonal resorts occupy a similar niche to bed and breakfasts. “Given their smaller operating levels and boutique experience, they may be able to charge a premium to guests and avoid franchise fees, which protect their profit margin,” Sharman said.

Motels

Location and upkeep is everything — weary travelers are more likely to choose a well-maintained and attractive motel near major roads to turn in for the night.

The bottom line

No single factor will determine whether your small business is profitable. Decisions you make as a business owner, conditions in your particular city and in the country as a whole may affect the success of your enterprise. The important thing is to leverage your particular expertise and follow best practices for developing a solid business plan. These will help you weather the inevitable ups and downs of starting and running your own business.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kate Rockwood
Kate Rockwood |

Kate Rockwood is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate here

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