There’s a hunger among entrepreneurs to find financing to get their business off the ground or take the next big step in their expansion plan. Across the country, thousands of small businesses are searching for term loans, equipment financing, lines of credit, invoice financing and real estate loans to help them start, hire and expand. Too often, they spend time they don’t have, cold-calling and door-knocking their way to a lucky break, to find the money they need.
Technology is the answer. Entrepreneurs and lenders now have the option to use online matchmaking services. Pairing lenders with prospective borrowers comprises a multibillion dollar industry. Using the power of the Internet, commercial lenders are finding creditworthy small business borrowers and entrepreneurs are finding loan officers who are ready to sit down and talk.
SBA not only supports this concept, we’re implementing it. A new SBA initiative called LINC (Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital (LINC (Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital)) has just been announced. LINC is a matchmaking service to help entrepreneurs get a date with a lender.
We spent months surveying our lending partners to discern what information they require before they’re ready to receive a loan pitch. Based on those talks, we’ve developed a simple online form that takes only minutes to fill out. Once completed, the form is sent to participating SBA lenders in an applicant’s county, as well as financial institutions with a statewide or national reach.
While a positive “hit” won’t ensure entrepreneurs will receive a loan, it will put them on a fast track, because they will have been pre-screened. If LINC doesn’t produce an immediate match, entrepreneurs will be directed to their local SBA adviser, for additional assistance with their loan application.
We’re rolling out LINC in two phases. First we’re connecting small business owners with nonprofit lenders that offer free financial advice and specialize in microlending, smaller loans (SBA’s Community Advantage program) and real estate financing (SBA’s 504 program). Phase 1 is off to a strong start. We have participating LINC lenders in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These lenders have made a combined 42,000 loans totaling more than $17 billion since 2009. In phase 2, we plan to add more traditional banks that offer an even wider array of financial products.
In the longer term, we believe LINC can be modified to facilitate government contracting by connecting eligible small businesses with procurement officers, prime contractors, and federal buyers. The future is upon us, and the SBA is proud to be leading the way.
LINC is expanding small business lending options beyond someone’s local bank. Technology is assisting with getting entrepreneur’s feet in the door, based on their merits. SBA is committed to becoming as innovative, as the small businesses we serve. LINC is paving the way. For more information about LINC or other SBA programs, contact a local SBA District Office at www.sba.gov/offices/district/wa/seattle.