SBA loans

By Karen Bricken, Guest Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — One of the best ways for a small business to fund its growth is through a Small Business Administration loan.

An SBA loan is a standard business loan made by a lender, like a bank, but it carries the backing of the Small Business Administration, which allows the lender to make loans that might not meet conventional criteria.

Yet, a lot of businesses never consider applying for an SBA loan, mainly because there is a misperception that it is a lengthy and difficult process to maneuver. But if you work with an experienced financial professional who is an expert in the SBA loan process, this doesn’t have to be the case.

USAmeriBank recently helped St. Petersburg-based Central Animal Hospital refinance a SBA loan the owners originally obtained in 2005 to help start their business.

“There is a lot of paperwork involved with an SBA loan, but USAmeriBank was there to walk us through the process and tell us what information we needed,” said Nancy Brown, hospital administrator at Central Animal Hospital. “We talked with seven or eight banks, but USAmeriBank seemed to be the only one willing to help us with the SBA refinance.”

If you’re thinking about pursuing an SBA loan to help finance your growing business, here are some things you should consider before you start the process:

Be ready to say how you will specifically use the funds. SBA loans can be used for a variety of purposes, such as buying equipment, purchasing a building, hiring new employees, providing long-term working capital or refinancing debt, as Central Animal Hospital did. Know what you will use the funds for and how much you’ll need – these are important facts for a successful application.

Make sure you meet the minimum requirements. In order to get an SBA loan, your business has to be an operational, for-profit entity. You can’t use the funds to buy investment property, like an apartment complex.

Be able to prove consistent cash flow. Lenders will want to see that you can pay back the debt, so you have to be able to prove that your cash flow projections are reasonable. At a minimum, your monthly cash flow must be sufficient to cover your operating costs (including adequate compensation for the owner) and your monthly loan payment.

The SBA will take your personal finances into consideration. A bank will want to see corporate and personal tax returns as well as a personal financial statement. This means a foreclosure or bankruptcy on your record could come into play. It is sometimes possible to work around these issues, but it depends on the reason for the issue and how long ago it occurred.

Understand your financials. As a business owner, you need to have a working knowledge of your business, such as an understanding of your income statement and balance sheet. The lender will also look at any affiliated businesses you have, so know where you stand with those as well.

Understand the SBA’s timeframe for approval. On average, the SBA process can take around 45-60 days. Of course, that depends on how quickly you can get all of the information required for the loan. This is why working with an experienced SBA lender helps.

Most importantly, meet with your banker if you’re considering an SBA loan, preferably one that has done a lot of SBA lending. An experienced SBA banker knows the rules and regulations, has a grasp of what information you need to provide, and can get the application done quickly and efficiently.

Karen Bricken

Karen Bricken

Karen Bricken is Senior Vice President of SBA Administration for USAmeriBank, the top Tampa Bay-based SBA lender the past three years. Bricken has more than 30 years of commercial banking experience and began her SBA affiliation in the early 1980s.

For more information about SBA loans or other banking needs, contact USAmeriBank at 813-347-4700 or

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