Small Business

You're on an Equal Footing at the SBA


By Karen E. Klein Q: Minorities and women have gained from set-asides and preferences and government-backed small business loans for some time now. As a gay male amputee (I lost my leg in a motorcycle accident about 16 years ago), do I qualify for any financial advantages if I open the leather store of my dreams? If not, why not? -- J.R., Greenwich Village

A: While it is true that minorities and women benefit from government contracting set-asides and preferences, they receive no special breaks or advantages from the U.S. Small Business Administration when it comes to loans and small business financing, says SBA spokesman Mike Stamler. Nevertheless, women and racial minorities apply for and receive a reasonable percentage of SBA loans. "For example, so far this year, women have received 21% of the SBA's guaranteed loans and minorities have received about 30%," he says. Of course there is significant overlap among those two groups, so the total is not 51%, he notes.

APPROPRIATE PAYMENTS. As a gay male amputee, you could apply for the same SBA loan package available to minorities and women. The loans are made by commercial lenders, such as banks, and carry a partial guarantee from the SBA if that is the only way the lender will make the loan. The interest rates are negotiated between borrowers and lenders, which results in a market-rate loan. The special advantage -- available to all applicants who qualify -- is that the SBA guarantee allows the lender to stretch out the term of the loan so that monthly payments can be lowered to fit reasonable cash-flow projections for the business.

Check with your bank to learn if it participates in SBA lending, Stamler suggests, and pursue a loan from there. If your bank does not handle SBA loans, you can contact the SBA's office in Manhattan to ask for guidance as to what lenders might be more receptive to your project. You can get more detailed information on how SBA financing works on the agency's Web page.

Have a question about your business? Ask our small-business experts. Send us an e-mail at Smart Answers, or write to Smart Answers, BW Online, 45th Floor, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020. Please include your real name and phone number in case we need more information; only your initials and city will be printed. Because of the volume of mail, we won't be able to respond to all questions personally. Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.


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