SBA Loans: Frequently Asked Questions

Merchants Bank Small Business Loans, Commerical Lenders

Are you thinking about starting a small business? Have you heard about the Small Business Administration and the loan programs it offers? You might be wondering if an SBA loan is right for you or simply how SBA loans work. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about SBA loans

1. What is an SBA loan?

While the Small Business administration oversees a number of loan programs, the SBA does not lend money itself. When you apply for an SBA loan, you’ll work with a local bank to receive financing for your project and a portion of the loan is guaranteed by the SBA.

SBA Loan programs include:

  • 7(a) Loan Program – The most common general small business loan offered by the SBA.
  • Microloan Program – Small, short-term small business loans.
  • Real Estate & Equipment Loans or CDC/504 Loan Program – Loans for real estate and equipment.
  • Disaster Loans – Low interest loans to repair or replace items damaged in a disaster.

Learn more about these SBA loan programs and eligibility on the SBA website.

2. Should I apply for an SBA loan or traditional bank loan?

Which loan is right for your business depends on a number of factors. First, you’ll want to know which SBA loan programs you may or may not qualify for. In addition, you’ll want to compare the SBA loan programs versus a traditional commercial loan. While an SBA loan might not be a fit for every business, it may provide certain benefits over traditional loans, in certain situations, including:

  • Longer terms
  • Lower down payments
  • Increased cash flow
  • Flexible repayment options

As an SBA Preferred Lender, Merchants Bank has experience helping businesses choose between SBA and traditional commercial loans. Your local Merchants Bank Commercial Banker can guide you through our options to find the right loan program for you.

Use SBA’s Online Loans and Grants Search Tool to begin research which government financial programs may help your business.

3. What information do I need to complete my loan application?

Educating yourself on the SBA loan processing and knowing what information you need for the application can save you a lot of time. Use these resources to prepare yourself when applying for an SBA loan:

For more information on SBA loans, talk to a Commercial Banker at your local Merchants Bank. We’re proud to be an SBA Preferred Lender.

Subject to credit approval. Equal Housing Lender.

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Meet Kerri Bronk, Senior Operations/eChannel Officer at Merchants

Kerri speaking in Spring Grove about fraud

Kerri speaking in Spring Grove about fraud.

When did you start your career in banking?

Kerri: In November of 1996, I started as a teller at the Merchants Bank location in Goodview. A few years later, I moved to the Operations Department and I’ve been here ever since.

What’s one thing someone can do right now to protect their personal information?

Kerri: Think about where you are storing your personal information. For example, do you know where your birth certificate is or your Social Security card? You should keep paper items somewhere safe and accessible, like a safe deposit box – not in your purse or wallet.

Are there any websites where you’ve used the “save password” option? If so, this could make it easier for fraudsters to figure out your password for other sites. If there are websites you don’t use any more, go out and delete personal information that is saved or stored with that website.

What’s your biggest tip for preventing fraud?

Kerri: Know who you are providing your information to and question if sharing personal information is necessary in every circumstance. For example, a form at a business might ask for your Social Security Number. Is it necessary for you to give them the information or is it on file? Ask. Many times a Social Security Number isn’t required – it is just habit to have on the form for the business.

It’s always important to question if a situation seems too good to be true. If people listened to their gut more often, many of them wouldn’t be facing fraud issues on their account. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Kerri: When I was a little kid, I sold produce. I would ask my dad if I should sell something for two “bucks” and he would always tell me that money was not called “bucks” they’re “dollars.” He would say “bucks are deer, not dollars.”

If you won the Powerball, what’s the first thing you would do?

Kerri: I would set up a foundation so that I could continue to do good after I’m gone.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Kerri: Flowers and produce. I grew up in the garden.

Has being the Security Officer at Merchants affected your life outside of work?

Kerri: My friends tease me all the time about being the “Security Officer.” I’m always thinking about the risks of a possible situation. I am always aware of my surroundings – making sure people see me when I walk outside, being aware of emergency exits in a building, using caution when giving out my personal information and posting on social media. I also think about how I respond to emails…if I don’t know the sender should I delete the email or risk getting a virus or being scammed? I think it is important to be in aware of and in control of your situation.

Traci Stier Promoted to Item Processing Officer at Merchants Bank

Traci Stier, Item Processing Officer

Traci Stier, Item Processing Officer

Traci Stier has been promoted to Item Processing Officer at Merchants Bank, according to Kerri Bronk, Vice President and Senior Operations Officer.

“Traci has shown leadership, especially in our most recent bank conversions following acquisitions,” Bronk said. “Traci and her team work with many departments in the Bank and have a daily impact on helping our customers because of the number of checks that process through their area.”

Stier manages all the aspects of Merchants Bank’s ability to accept checks and remote deposit capture files, including setup, testing and the coordination of all the pieces that allow Merchants Bank to accept payments. Stier has been with the Merchants organization for the past 15 years and noted that changes in technology, especially over the past few years, provide for faster responses for customers in processing their items.

“I enjoy and welcome the opportunities I have to assist any customers – both internal and external, to build relationships with people and earn their trust because they know I will take care of their needs,” Stier said.

Waikiki Meatballs

BlogRecipeEmployeeFav-WaikikiMeatballsIngredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 2/3 cup cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. shortening
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 13.5 ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve liquid)
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup green peppers, chopped

 

Directions:

Mix beef, crumbs, onion, egg, salt, ginger and milk thoroughly. Shape mixture by rounded tablespoonfuls into balls. Melt shortening in large skillet. Brown and cook meatballs. Remove meatballs. Keep them warm. Pour fat from skillet. Mix cornstarch and sugar. Stir in reserved pineapple juice, vinegar, and soy sauce until smooth. Pour into skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Stir while boiling for one minute. Add meatballs, pineapple tidbits and green peppers. Heat through.

 

 

Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Meet Rodney Nelsestuen, Chief Information Officer at Merchants

Rodney with his cat, Tinkerbelle

Rodney with his cat, Tinkerbelle

When did you start your banking career?

I’ve been in the financial services industry for over 30 years. I began as a commercial lender, actually, and did that for seven or eight years. Then, I went into the management as a Chief Credit Officer and eventually became a CEO of a financial institution in Michigan. We did a lot of commercial and ag lending to small and large businesses alike.

My first job as Chief Information Officer was at AgriBank, where I stayed for six years. Then, I worked for CEB TowerGroup, which is a financial services advisory firm. I did a lot of research, wrote reports, published articles and spoke at conferences and other speaking engagements around the world. But I missed “being in the ring,” as I call it. I missed the opportunity to actually practice what I was advising.

From my time at CEB TowerGroup, I learned that I wanted to work at a bank where personal contact is still important. At Merchants, I’ve found this strong culture of personal service and yet a bank that wants to offer digital products that are right at what the industry and its customers need.

Describe one of the biggest changes in technology you’ve witnessed in your career.

There is a dichotomy that’s evolved where the traditional approach of face-to-face service is not going away, but the digital approach and expectations of customers are growing rapidly. It’s more than generational. I see it happening as new digital ideas evolve. The time from developing a digital product to the time it becomes important to the business and the consumer is very short. And that time frame is only getting shorter.

How should customers approach protecting their personal information?

People have to think “I am responsible for my information.” They have to ask themselves…how much do I want to share and with whom? The social network is great, but it opens up a whole new field for fraudsters, so people need to take care with how much they share online. As a customer, I do have to share confidential and private information with the bank if I want a loan.. But, I also expect the bank to protect that information and to stay up to date with security practices. Both sides need to take responsibility.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

You know those ads on TV right now about people cutting their cell phone bill in half? They say “money doesn’t spend itself.” Well, I say “money doesn’t make itself.” Quite simply, they taught me that you don’t spend what you don’t have, and when you borrow, you need to do so knowing how you’re going to pay the loan back. Take charge of your finances, that’s kind of the first step…especially for young people.

If you won the Powerball, what’s the first thing you would do?

I’d pursue my dream of writing the great American novel. I write short stories and fiction. I actually had a book accepted for publication at one time, but it was a small publisher and went out of business before it was published.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

The first thing my wife purchased after we got married (a long time ago) was a pair of green velvet chairs. We still have them today. They’re not going anywhere.

Have you ever googled yourself? What did you find?

Yes, I have. Actually, there was another Rodney Nilsestuen – from Arcadia and I knew him growing up. I’m originally from Galesville and we both showed cattle in 4-H at the Trempealeau County Fair. He spelled the last name with one letter different and of course that meant we’d debate who got the spelling right. I’m pretty sure I’m right…

How Can I Save Money on My Business Checking Account?

Business Checking

On average, banks offer five different business checking account options, according a comparison study by online resource NerdWallet. If you then consider the number of banks or credit unions in your community, the sheer quantity of choices for business checking may begin to seem overwhelming. To find an account that fits your business, and ultimately may save you money, use the guide below.

1. What type of business do you own?

Some banks offer special accounts to the following types of businesses:

  • Sole proprietorship, government-owned or a non-profit: These accounts usually earn interest, include lower fees and allow more transactions.
  • Small Business: Small Business accounts typically have lower fees and allow fewer transactions.

Merchants Bank offers Small Business, Business, Nonprofit Business and Interest-Bearing Business Checking accounts.

2. How many transactions do you typically make per month?

Many business checking accounts have a pre-determined transaction limit per month. For example, the average business checking account allows 175 transactions per month*. When a business goes over the limit, the bank may charge the business a fee per item. The average excess transaction fee is $0.40 per item and can be as high as $0.75.* If your business makes a large amount of transactions, look for a checking account with a higher transaction limit.

You’ll also want to take into consideration the type of transactions and which you use the most often – check, deposit slip, debit card, point-of-sale, ATM**, etc. Banks may charge different fees or no fee depending on the type of transactions.

Merchants Bank offers different transaction limits per Business Checking account and the type of transaction.

3. Do you need to deposit a large amount of cash on a regular basis?

Some business checking accounts also place a limit on the amount of cash that can be deposited into an account and charge a fee for every $100 in excess of this limit. The average cash handling fee is $0.15 per $100 in excess and these fees can be as high as $0.75.*

If your business deposits cash regularly, look for a checking account with a high cash deposit limit or one that offers no charge for cash handling.

Merchants Bank does not charge a cash handling fee as part of a Business Checking account.

Learn more about Business Checking at Merchants Bank or contact a Customer Service Representative at your local Merchants Bank to open an account today.

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*How Business Checking Fees Work: A Beginners Guide by NerdWallet
**ATM surcharge and foreign fees may apply.
No minimum deposit required to open Merchants Bank Small Business Checking, Business Checking, Interest-Bearing Business Checking or Nonprofit Business Checking accounts.

 

Garage Sale Do’s and Don’ts

eNews-SaleBlog

It’s garage sale season! How does getting paid to have people take the items you don’t want any more off your property sound?

Garage sales are a great way to get rid of things you don’t use any more — from your old children’s toys to the multiple sets of dishes boxed in the garage collecting dust. Maybe you’re moving and need to downsize. Or maybe you’re just fed up with the clutter in your home. Whatever the reason, if you can make a few bucks while getting rid of unwanted possessions, it seems like a no-brainer.

But before you simply drag all your items onto your front lawn, know that there are a few strategies to holding a successful yard sale. Consider these do’s and don’ts:

DO

Be realistic with prices – As a general rule of thumb, garage sale prices should be between 25 and 30 percent of the item’s original price, and even less if your true motive is to get rid of things. However, it’s also important to note that most people will bargain you down even more (all the fun of a tag sale!), even if you do start at a low price, so be sure to keep that in mind when pricing.

Present special offers – If you’re trying to get rid of one specific genre of items that you have multiple of (think books, clothing, stuffed animals, etc.), proclaim that if someone buys, say, $10 worth of items, they get a book of their choice for free. Or, price those kinds of items with some kind of deal attached to it (i.e.: Books are 25 cents each or five for a dollar, or if you buy one stuffed animal, get one free, etc.).

Advertise your sale – Spread the word by placing an ad in your local paper in the garage sale section. Typically, this section is also posted online. You can list when your garage sale is happening, your address, and the types of items you’ll be selling. Also, try hanging signs around your neighborhood, especially at busy intersections. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: a piece of paper written with black ink, announcing the garage sale, with your address and a large arrow that people can see from their cars.

Label as many items as you can – Depending on how many items you have for sale, it may be difficult to mark every single item. But price tags let people know exactly what something costs without having to ask you — and if you’re busy helping another customer and someone is waiting to ask you about price, they may decide they don’t want the item and you’ll lose the sale. Tip: Label items that you want to get rid of most with “Make an offer.” This will intrigue your customers, even if they weren’t necessarily interested in the item in the first place.

Organize your items –  Make sure your objects are arranged in an organized manner. Invest in a few fold-out tables and arrange items in ways you see fit. Have a lot of golf items? Make a golf table. A wealth of electronics? Keep them together. Also, think about what types of things people might be searching for. For example, is Father’s Day fast approaching and are you selling gifts a Dad might like? Create a “Father’s Day” table with those items. The same items people might not have thought of as gifts are suddenly very desirable to those who forgot about Father’s Day.

DON’T

Keep money out in the open – Some garage sale hosts may think that a shoebox or even a cashbox is a good spot for their cash, but if you walk away from it, someone could easily access it. Instead, invest in a fanny pack to wear during the day and keep your earnings in it.

Follow your customers around – While you may be vastly interested in what kinds of items they’re browsing and picking up, chances are the customer is going to find you more off-putting than helpful. They might even think you’re suspecting them of stealing, and could get offended and leave. Instead, let them know that you’re there if they have any questions, but then keep to yourself.

Let haggling get to you – More often than not, garage sale goers are going to bargain you down — that’s just part of the fun! Don’t let it get to you. If it’s an item of sentimental value that you simply can’t bear to sell for even less than your original offer, simply explain that in a calm manner. The customer is sure to understand.

Do it alone – Some of the most successful yard sales are when multiple families join in at once. Before the sale, see if you can get neighbors or friends on board to sell some of their own knick knacks. Not only are you bound to sell more items, but there’s someone to talk to when lulls occur (which typically happen around lunch time or towards the end of the sale).

Choose just any day – It may sound obvious, but the best times to host a garage sale are weekends from May through September. Also, try to avoid holiday weekends, as most people are on vacation or doing something other than garage sale trolling. If you’re able to hold a two-day sale, that’s great, but if you can just do one, Saturdays usually attract more visitors.

A garage sale is a great way to declutter and make some quick cash at the same time so get out there and get it done.

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