If exporting is part of your business game plan, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) can be your biggest ally. The bank makes working capital guarantees to small and medium-sized companies to cover up to 90 percent of the principal and interest on commercial loans. The guarantee can apply to a single loan or a revolving line of credit, and generally must be repaid in one year.

Entrepreneurs must have been in business at least one year in order to be eligible. Loans of up to $5 million are available and can be used for raw materials or finished products for export; to pay for materials, labor and overhead used to product goods for export; or to cover standby letters of credit, bid and performance bonds. Business owners can apply directly to the Ex-Im Bank for a preliminary guarantee and then shop around for up to six months for the best loan package.

Business owners can approach Ex-Im Bank directly (202-565-3946) or through any commercial bank that deals with the agency.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-Up Guide You'll Ever Need