From the April 2001 issue of Startups

Need a quick loan? Well, is 36 hours quick enough? Believe it or not, you can get an SBA- backed loan of up to $150,000 to help start or expand your business--and the agency promises a rapid response.

While the SBA's 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program, which provides financing up to $2 million, is the most well-known, other agency programs may be more user-friendly for start-ups, which generally need substantially less money. SBAExpress, for instance, one of the SBA's newest loan programs, allows participating lenders to approve loans of up to $150,000 within 36 hours of receiving a completed application.

And while the SBA requires guaranteed loans to be fully secured, lenders may approve unsecured lines of credit of up to $25,000 with SBAExpress. Featuring maturities of five to 10 years (up to 25 years for fixed-asset loans), SBAExpress loans bear a negotiable interest rate (fixed or variable) ranging from 2.25 to 2.75 percent over prime.

The SBALowDoc program is also tailored to meet the needs of start-ups. Like SBAExpress, SBALowDoc features a maximum loan amount of $150,000 and calls for a response from the agency within 36 hours. Negotiable interest rates (fixed or variable) are subject to SBA limitations (the same 2.25 to 2.75 percent over prime), and maturities range from five to 10 years (up to 25 years for fixed assets). While loans must be secured by available business and personal assets, applications are not declined when inadequate collateral is the only unfavorable factor. Personal guarantees of the principals are required.

Need less money? Look into the SBA's MicroLoan Program, designed to increase the availability of very small loans to prospective small-business borrowers. Under this program, the SBA makes funds available to nonprofit intermediaries, who, in turn, make loans to eligible borrowers in amounts ranging from less than $100 to a maximum of $25,000. Loans, which average $10,000, are made at competitive interest rates and run a maximum of six years. Although collateral policies for the MicroLoan Program are up to individual intermediary lenders, business owners must pledge personal guarantees and any assets bought with the MicroLoan under the SBA's general requirements for the 7(a) program.

For a complete description of all SBA loan programs, go to http://www.sba.gov/financing/indexloans.html or call (800) 8-ASK-SBA.