Everything you need to know about SBA loans for US small business

When you’re looking to grow your US small business, there are tons of great financial loans offered and backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In this post, we’ll review what SBA loans are, some of the pros and cons, how you can apply for an SBA loan and more!

SBA loans
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Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey is an exhilarating processing, fueled by passion, innovation, and the dream of building a successful small business. Sometimes that success comes with its fair share of challenges, particularly in the realm of finances and getting funding to grow a new business.

In the dynamic landscape of business financing, one resource stands out as a beacon of support for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs alike – Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. These loans, backed by the federal government, play a pivotal role in empowering small businesses by providing access to affordable and flexible funding solutions.

As we dive into all there is to know about SBA loans, together let’s demystify the process, shed light on the various loan programs available, and equip you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions for your business.

Whether you’re a startup looking for initial capital or an established business seeking to expand, understanding the ins and outs of SBA loans can be a game-changer.

Some of what we’ll cover is:

  • What are SBA loans, and different kinds
  • Why the government started SBA loans
  • Pros and Cons of SBA loans
  • Best way to apply, and qualify for SBA loans

Let’s jump right in and learn more about one of our favorite and most commonly used loans—SBA loans. 

What are SBA loans?

An SBA loan is a loan provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a government agency that supports and assists small businesses.

The SBA doesn’t directly lend money to small businesses but instead works with approved lenders, such as banks and credit unions, to guarantee a portion of the loan in case the borrower defaults. This guarantee encourages lenders to offer loans to small businesses that might not otherwise qualify for traditional financing. 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers various loan programs to support the diverse needs of small businesses. Each program is designed for specific purposes, and the eligibility criteria, terms, and conditions can vary.

Here are some of the main types of SBA loans:

  • 7(a) loan: This is the SBA’s primary and most flexible loan program. It can be used for various purposes, including working capital, equipment purchase, and real estate acquisition. The loan amount can go up to $5 million.
  • 504 loan: Designed to help small businesses acquire fixed assets, such as real estate and equipment. It involves collaboration between the borrower, a Certified Development Company (CDC), and a traditional lender. The CDC typically provides 40% of the project costs, the lender provides 50%, and the borrower contributes 10%.
  • Microloan Program: Microloans are smaller loans (up to $50,000) designed for startup and small businesses. These loans are provided by nonprofit community-based organizations and are often used for working capital or the purchase of inventory and equipment.
  • Express loan: The SBA Express program provides expedited processing for loans up to $350,000. It’s designed to provide quick access to capital for businesses with straightforward financing needs.
  • CAPLines: CAPLines is a set of SBA loan programs that help small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working capital needs. There are different types of CAPLines, including Seasonal CAPLines, Contract CAPLines, and Builders CAPLines.
  • Export working capital program: This program assists small businesses in obtaining the necessary working capital to support their export transactions.
  • International trade loans: SBA’s International Trade Loan program helps small businesses engaged in international trade by providing financing for expansion, modernization, or development of facilities to support international trade.
  • Disaster loans: The SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses, homeowners, and renters who have been affected by declared disasters.
  • Veterans advantage: There are SBA loan programs specifically tailored to meet the needs of veterans, including the Patriot Express Loan and the Veterans Advantage Loan.

It’s important to note that the terms and conditions of these programs may change over time, and new programs may be introduced. Business owners should check with SBA-approved lenders or visit the official SBA website for the most up-to-date information on loan programs and eligibility criteria.

However, the application process can be more involved, and businesses need to meet specific eligibility criteria to qualify for an SBA loan. Additionally, the terms and conditions of SBA loans may vary depending on the type of loan and the lender.

Why did the government start the SBA loan program?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) loan program was established by the U.S. government to address the challenges faced by small businesses in obtaining financing and support their growth and development.

The primary objectives of the SBA loan program include:

  • Promoting small business growth: Small businesses are often crucial drivers of economic growth, innovation, and job creation. The SBA aims to foster the development and expansion of small businesses by providing them with access to the capital they need to start, grow, or recover from setbacks.
  • Facilitating access to capital: Small businesses may encounter difficulties in obtaining loans from traditional lenders due to factors such as limited collateral, a short credit history, or higher perceived risk. The SBA, through its loan programs, helps mitigate these challenges by guaranteeing a portion of the loan, making it more attractive for lenders to provide financing to small businesses.
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship: The SBA seeks to encourage entrepreneurship by supporting individuals who want to start and operate their own small businesses. Access to affordable financing is a critical factor in enabling entrepreneurs to turn their business ideas into reality.
  • Providing disaster assistance: In addition to regular business loans, the SBA is involved in providing low-interest disaster loans to businesses and individuals affected by declared disasters. This assistance helps businesses recover and rebuild in the aftermath of natural disasters or other emergencies.
  • Promoting job creation and economic stability: Small businesses are significant contributors to job creation and economic stability. By assisting small businesses with financing and resources, the SBA contributes to the overall health and resilience of the economy.

The SBA does not directly lend money but partners with approved lenders to facilitate loans while reducing the risk for these lenders. This collaboration encourages financial institutions to lend to small businesses that may not otherwise qualify for traditional loans.

Overall, the SBA loan program plays a vital role in supporting the small business sector, fostering economic development, and promoting entrepreneurship in the United States.

Looking for a SBA loan?

Levr.ai can help you find the right loan—it’s easy and fast

What are the Pros and Cons of SBA loans?

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans can be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners, but like any financial tool, they come with their own set of pros and cons.

Here’s an overview:


  • Low interest rates: SBA loans typically offer lower interest rates compared to other financing options, making them an attractive choice for small businesses.
  • Longer repayment terms: SBA loans often come with longer repayment terms, providing borrowers with more time to repay the loan and reducing the pressure on cash flow.
  • Lower down payments: SBA loans may require lower down payments than traditional loans, which can make it easier for businesses with limited capital to access financing.
  • Flexible use of funds: SBA loans can be used for various purposes, such as working capital, equipment purchase, real estate acquisition, and debt refinancing.
  • Government guarantee: The SBA partially guarantees loans, which can make lenders more willing to provide financing to businesses that might not qualify for conventional loans.
  • Assistance for disadvantaged businesses: The SBA provides specific loan programs to support businesses owned by veterans, women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups.
  • Educational resources: The SBA offers educational resources and counseling services to help small business owners succeed, which can be valuable for those new to entrepreneurship.


  • Stringent qualification requirements: SBA loans can have strict eligibility criteria, and businesses may need to demonstrate a strong credit history and financial stability to qualify.
  • Lengthy application process: The application process for SBA loans can be time-consuming and involves substantial paperwork. This may not be ideal for businesses in need of quick funding.
  • Collateral requirements: Some SBA loans may require collateral, which could be a challenge for businesses with limited assets.
  • Personal guarantee: In many cases, owners may be required to provide a personal guarantee, putting their personal assets at risk if the business fails to repay the loan.
  • Fixed loan amounts: There are limits to the amount of money you can borrow through SBA loan programs, which may not be sufficient for larger businesses with significant capital needs.
  • Risk of default: While the government guarantees a portion of the loan, if the business defaults, the lender may still experience losses, and the borrower may face legal consequences.
  • Impact on cash flow: Monthly loan payments, even at favorable terms, can impact a small business’s cash flow, especially if the business faces economic challenges.

Before pursuing an SBA loan, it’s crucial for business owners to carefully evaluate its financial situation, assess the specific terms of the loan, and consider alternative financing options to determine the best fit for business needs. 

The best way to apply for an SBA loan.

Applying for an SBA loan involves a structured process, and careful preparation is key to increasing your chances of success.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on the best way to apply for an SBA loan:

  • Understand business needs: Clearly define the purpose of the loan and how it will benefit your business. Different SBA loan programs cater to specific needs, so understanding your requirements will help you choose the right program. 
  • Research SBA loan programs: Familiarize yourself with the various SBA loan programs available, such as the 7(a) Loan Program, 504 Loan Program, Microloan Program, etc. Each program has its own eligibility criteria and terms, so choose the one that aligns with your business needs.
  • Check business eligibility: Review the eligibility criteria for the specific SBA loan program you’re interested in. Ensure that your business meets the necessary qualifications, including size standards, industry requirements, and intended use of funds.
  • Prepare a comprehensive business plan: Develop a detailed business plan that outlines your business goals, market analysis, financial projections, and how you plan to use the loan funds. A strong business plan is a crucial component of your SBA loan application. Shopify has an excellent, free, business plan template.
  • Organize financial documents: Collect all necessary financial documents, including income statements, balance sheets, tax returns, and cash flow statements. Provide accurate and up-to-date financial information to strengthen your loan application.
  • Work with an SBA-approved lender: Identify and approach a lender approved by the SBA. Many traditional banks, credit unions, and online lenders are SBA-approved. Choose a lender that has experience with the specific SBA loan program you’re interested in.
  • Complete the loan application: Fill out the SBA loan application form provided by your chosen lender. Be thorough and accurate in providing information about your business, personal financial history, and how you plan to use the loan funds.
  • Provide supporting documentation: Submit all required supporting documents along with your application. This may include personal and business tax returns, financial statements, business licenses, and any other documents requested by the lender.
  • Wait approval: The lender will review your application and supporting documents. Be patient during this process, and respond promptly to any requests for additional information. The lender will make a decision based on your creditworthiness and the viability of your business.
  • Negotiate T&C’s: If your loan application is approved, review and negotiate the terms and conditions with the lender. This includes the interest rate, repayment schedule, and any other relevant details. Make sure you fully understand the terms before accepting the loan.
  • Complete closing process: Once you’ve agreed upon the terms, complete the closing process. This involves signing the necessary documents and finalizing the details of the loan agreement.
  • Communication: Maintain open communication with your lender throughout the loan term. If you encounter challenges or changes in your business, inform your lender promptly to discuss potential solutions.

Remember that the SBA loan application process can take time, so it’s important to be patient and proactive in providing any additional information requested by the lender. Being well-prepared and thorough in your application will significantly enhance your chances of securing an SBA loan. A free Levr.ai account, can make finding an SBA-approved lender and loan approval fast and easy. 

Looking for a SBA loan?

Levr.ai can help you find the right loan—it’s easy and fast

How to qualify for an SBA loan?

Qualifying for an SBA loan involves meeting certain criteria set by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the participating lender.

The specific requirements may vary depending on the type of SBA loan you are applying for. 

However, here are some general factors that can impact your eligibility:

  1. Size of the business: The SBA sets size standards based on industry, usually defined by the number of employees or average annual receipts. Your business must meet these size standards to qualify for an SBA loan.
  2. Nature of the business: Some industries are excluded from SBA loan eligibility due to specific regulations. Certain businesses, such as those involved in gambling, lending, real estate development, and speculative activities, may face restrictions.
  3. Owner’s personal credit score: Lenders typically consider the personal credit history of the business owner. A good credit score improves your chances of qualifying for an SBA loan. Different lenders may have varying minimum credit score requirements.
  4. Business financials: Lenders will assess your business’s financial health, including profitability, cash flow, and debt-to-equity ratio. Prepare accurate and up-to-date financial statements, tax returns, and other relevant documents.
  5. Use of Proceeds: Clearly define how you plan to use the loan funds. Different SBA loan programs have specific allowable uses, so ensure that your business purpose aligns with the program’s guidelines.
  6. Collateral and personal guarantee: While the SBA does not require specific collateral for all loans, lenders may still request it. Be prepared to provide collateral, and in some cases, a personal guarantee. Collateral can be business assets or personal assets, depending on the loan program.
  7. Equity injection: Lenders typically want to see that business owners have invested their own money into the business. This is known as the equity injection, and it demonstrates your commitment to the success of the business.
  8. Business plan: Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your business goals, market analysis, financial projections, and how you plan to use the loan funds. A strong business plan is crucial in demonstrating the viability of your business.
  9. Experience and management: Lenders may consider the management team’s experience and qualifications. Highlight the relevant skills and expertise of key personnel in your business.
  10. Personal background: Provide a thorough personal background, including resumes of the business owners. This helps lenders assess your ability to successfully manage and operate the business.
  11. Legal requirements: Ensure that your business complies with all legal requirements. This includes licenses, permits, and any other regulatory obligations specific to your industry.
  12. Loan Size and Type: Different SBA loan programs have specific requirements. Be sure to understand the criteria for the program you are applying for, whether it’s the 7(a) program, 504 program, microloan program, or another.
  13. SBA-approved lender: Work with a lender that is approved by the SBA. Approved lenders have experience with SBA loans and can guide you through the application process.

Before applying for an SBA loan, it’s advisable to consult with financial advisors or SBA-approved lenders to ensure you meet all eligibility requirements and have a strong application.

Keep in mind that eligibility criteria can change, so always check with the SBA or your lender for the latest information.

Looking for a SBA loan?

Levr.ai can help you find the right loan—it’s easy and fast

How many small businesses in the United States have an active SBA loan?

The number of small businesses with active SBA loans can change over time as new loans are issued, repaid, or defaulted upon. For the most current and accurate information, you may want to check the latest reports and statistics provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) or other relevant government agencies.

The SBA’s official website and publications, as well as reports from financial institutions and industry organizations, could be good sources for up-to-date statistics on the utilization of SBA loans by small businesses.

Now that you have a better understanding of SBA loans and how they can help your business it’s important to review all your options. If you have experience applying for a business loan (really any kind of business loan) you will already know the work involved can be time consuming.

Levr.ai is designed to make this process easier, faster and more straightforward. A safe and secure platform allows you to collaborate with the key members of your team i.e. accounting, financial planner, and business operators to organize all the required financial statements and necessary business forecasts, plans and documents. Having everything in one place makes it easier to apply with multiple lenders to secure the rates and loan repayment terms that are best for your business.

In addition to making the process of getting a loan better, Levr.ai’s free loans platform allows you to review options and compare offers from multiple lenders based on what is right for you and what allows you to achieve your growth goals.

Using the data you provide in your profile in tandem with our team’s financial industry experience—Levr.ai provides the data intelligence to customize options to review that are best to consider. Levr.ai also can negotiate exclusive loan rates with its expert team of certified financial advisors and loan industry partnerships.

Businesses should also consider other options such as merchant cash advance, accounts receivable (A/R) financing, venture debt financing, or business term loans along with SBA loans before making a final decision.

To learn more about Levr.ai and SBA loan option simply create a free account today.

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