Business finance options in South Africa 

Whether you're trying to get your start up running or are looking to grow your existing business it's not easy to find affordable business loans in South Africa. LoansFind are here to guide you through the business finance market and help you find the credit you need fast.

How to Finance Your Business in South Africa

Find out whether applying for finance is the best option for you and find out more about the difficulties you may encounter when trying to access business loans in South Africa. Read on and you’ll get valuable advice on making a loan application as well as top tips on how to manage your business' finances and how to maximize your chances of getting your loan approved.

If you already have a running business, there are a range of finance options for you to choose from and we will help you find out which option is the most suitable for the purpose you wish to use it for.

Business loans for existing business owners

Reasons to apply for business loans in South Africa

Is your business struggling with inefficient production or a price mark-up that is too low? If this is the case, a business loan will not help you resolve these internal issues but will merely assist you in extending the time period that your business will be running. In addition, most lenders will evaluate your business when you apply for a loan and will not grant it if they see such issues

Develop a long-term business growth plan

If you want to increase sales, you have to take into account profit margins and operational and financial efficiency and prepare a long-term plan for growth. This is the only way in which you can obtain finance and ensure the success of your business. Additionally, banks and other South African lenders would like to see that you have already invested in the growth of your own business in order to support you further.

Business finance strategy & timing

If you need cash urgently, you may be better off applying for an overdraft or a short-term loan for business use. You will have the best chance of getting finance when your business is in a stable position with proof of stable revenue and profit. Lenders assess risk very carefully and generally have very low risk for tolerance. For long term loans it usually takes up to 3 months for a company to obtain the funds after having applied. If you need a quick loan you will certainly have to make use of credit cards, over drafts or other short term business loans.

Business loans for South African start-ups

How much should I borrow?

If you do not know exactly how much you need to borrow, you should either meet with a business finance consultant or make use of an online calculator as well as financial projections. If you do not present a precise figure, this is a sign that you have not planned for borrowing and that you may not have serious intentions.

What can I use my business loan for?

In order to get approved for a traditional business loan, you have to present a complete plan for the use of the finance with precise figures. You must explain what you will spend the money on in detail, when you will spend it and what returns you expect to get.

When you have a proper plan, you can also consider alternatives to borrowing. If you need equipment and want to save on costs you may be able to share its cost with another business or lease it. If you require finance for purchasing raw materials, you can negotiate a flexible payment deal with the supplier.

Will my business qualify for a loan?

If you thought that obtaining a business loan in South Africa would be easy and simple, think again. The application process is typically quite slow as lenders require a large number of information and supporting documentation. Additionally, the banks and other companies providing business finance are traditionally risk averse. They grant funds only to businesses which have an extremely low risk of defaulting on the loan. At the same time, most of the small, micro and medium enterprises do not fall into the low-risk category.

This is not to say that it is impossible to obtain finance as there are many micro lenders that offer small short-term loans as well as peer-to-peer lenders and loans offered by companies that are not financial services providers and are aiming to meet their BBBEE requirements. You just have to be aware of the challenges which you will have to overcome of which some may be:

Offering up collateral for a business loan

Collateral is security which the lender requires in order to ensure that they can recover the money loaned to you should you default. Once you place an asset as collateral, the lender will have the right to repossess it in case you are unable to repay the loan through the courts. A wide range of business assets can be used for this purpose. The list includes buildings, equipment, savings, investment portfolios or other financial instruments.

It is possible to use a personal asset as security, but in this case the risk is much higher. The value of the collateral must correspond to the loan and level of risk which the lender assumes. Since smaller businesses carry higher risk, they will have to use an asset with greater value. At the same time, smaller businesses typically have smaller assets with lower value.

How long will I wait for a business loan?

Lenders are not known for speed when it comes to granting business loans in South Africa. The processing of an application can take up to 2 months. If you are approved, you will receive the funds in another month or as per the agreed time frame. As a result, the period from applying to obtaining the loan can be up to 3 months long and this may cause business owners to have insufficient time to implement their plans. You can opt for a range of quick loans available however these will not offer large sums of money and must be repaid within a short space of time. 

The financial health of your business

Unless your business has a flawless credit history, you may have difficulties obtaining finance. If you have had some debt issues in the past, you will likely be rejected for a business loan. You should repay past debt as soon as possible and attempt to repair your credit history. You should not make attempts to hide your past delinquencies as this can have a huge negative impact on you and on your business. The best course of action is to explain what happened and what measures you have taken to prevent such issues from occurring in the future.

12 Expert tips for getting a business loan

Do not give up

For most businesses it’s hard to get business loans in South Africa, but certainly not impossible. You just have to use your talent as an entrepreneur and be creative when looking for credit providers as well as in putting together a business plan and loan application.

Consider loans from family and friends

This is a major source of finance for businesses around the globe and South Africa is not an exception to the rule. You can use the funds for getting started and then borrow from a financial institution once your venture is stable and able to qualify for finance. Generally, even if you decide to use a business loan right from the start, you may have to ask the people around you to become co-signers. There is one simple rule to follow when it comes to borrowing from family and friends; you have to do it professionally and sign an agreement so that they can have peace of mind about their money.

Make a loan application

Even if your chances of qualifying are low, you should give it a try and complete and submit an online loan application. This is best since it will be faster and easier and you do not need to drive out to meet a consultant. If you prefer to meet with a consultant face to face most business lenders have specialist consultants that can assist you.

Apply to many business loan providers

This will give you higher chances of getting a business loan and save you time as well. If you do not have the time or ability to make multiple loan application you can make use of a broker or consultant that can make the applications on your behalf.

Use your business plan to support your application

It has to be comprehensive, concise and well organised. You have to be able to explain every detail to the lender and ensure that your financial make sense. Whether you are required to include projections or not it is always a good idea to get them done, even if it is just so that you know what your finances will look like as a result of the loan.

Tell the lenders exactly how much you need to borrow

You have to know how much you will borrow and what return the investment will generate over a given time period. Generally, the smaller the requested amount is the higher your chance of getting finance will be. If you don’t know how much you qualify for, start with how much you actually need.

Be patient with your business loan application

You should provide for considerable delays in the processing of your loan application if you have not prepared well in advance. For a lender to comb through your application, only to find that there are key documents missing, will delay the process significantly.

Keep building your business while waiting

You should use all possible alternative options of finance and support to establish your venture and stabilise its performance. You should work towards building equity as well. When your business is stronger and you has attained assets, you will have much higher chances of obtaining a business loan to grow your business even further.

Start small

You may have big plans for conquering the local and national market, but it is impossible to achieve this right away. That is why it pays off to down scale your plans so that they match the amount of finance which you can obtain.

Arrange finance before bidding for a contract

This is essential for ensuring the execution of the work. If you have already won a contract, but you do not have finance, you should consider alternatives such as partnering with another company, even if this is a competitor. Your profit will be smaller, but you will earn a good reputation, solidify your position as a leader in the field and improve your chances of getting finance in the future.

Negotiate with suppliers

You should try to arrange a longer term for paying your suppliers so that you can manage your money more easily and more effectively. They will most certainly show some flexibility, especially if you have paid them on time and in full in the past. You will go a long way, if you rely on personal contacts and high business ethics.

Negotiate with clients

If you have secured a contract, you can arrange the client to pay a deposit and then to make progress payments as each milestone of the project is completed.

Collaborate with other businesses

You can share assets with other business owners or use their facilities for a share of the profit which you will earn.

Top business Lenders in South Africa

Commercial Banks

The big four South African banks offer business loans to small enterprises. They consider lending to small businesses highly risky, but they are required to support such ventures under the Financial Services Charter of South Africa. In addition to the higher risk which they have to assume, the big banks have to invest the same amount of resources in processing the application for a small loan as for a big loan. The higher cost makes small business loans less profitable as well as riskier.

All of these factors bring down your chances of securing a business loan, but this does not mean that they are equal to zero. Hence, you can try applying to the big four banks.

Asset Finance Houses

These companies are actually part of the big four banks' groups. Bankfin is part of Absa while Wesbank is part of FNB. Stannic belongs to Standard Bank.

The asset finance houses are more flexible when it comes to extending loans to businesses. You stand much better chances when working with them especially if you have already developed a relationship with them. One of the reasons for this is that the loans are usually smaller.

More importantly, since the funds are used for the purchase of an asset, the asset is often part of the collateral. This makes the risk for the lender lower because if you fail to repay the loan, the lender can simply repossess the asset.

Specialised business lenders

The lenders specialising in providing small business loans fall into two categories:

DIRECT LENDERS

They lend funds directly to small businesses. They provide loans to entrepreneurs who would not typically qualify for finance from a commercial bank. They are willing to provide finance to borrowers posing a higher risk and even to ones with a bad credit record that require secured bad credit loans. They are able to accept less valuable assets such as used machines. The easy access comes at a price. These business loans typically cost more than those offered by banks.

Some of the major lenders in this group are business partners, a former government company which was privatised and is now on the road to becoming a venture capital fund, Khethani Business Finance, which is a non-profit, organisation, and New Business Finance, which is a small private company.

ORGANISATIONS FACILITATING ACCESS TO BUSINESS LOANS

There are organisations which do not provide direct financing, but can guarantee a part of the bank loan which you take out. You have to guarantee the remainder of the loan with an asset of yours. Out of this group of organisations, Khula, which is a government agency, is the most prominent.

There are also organisations covering the cost which the lender incurs for processing loan applications from small businesses. They also work to reduce the risk for the lenders by assisting businesses with managing their operations and finances and repaying their credit and business loans. One such organisation is Sizanani. It assists businesses with obtaining bank loans for up to R100 000.

Venture capital

Venture capital funds do not offer loans, but invest directly in businesses in return for profit. This return is a share of the profit.

Venture capitalists typically take a board level position in the business. They will sell their shares in the company within three to seven years. The shares can be sold to the business owner or to another investor. Venture capitalists usually aim for getting a 30% return on their investment. This makes it difficult for most small businesses to obtain finance in this way. The government agency for small business loans - Khula Enterprise Finance, has its own venture capital fund which has more easily accessible finance.