MIAMI – U.S. Small Business Administration South Florida District joined organizers and more than 200 franchise representatives to motivate thousands of entrepreneurs exploring the possibilities of small business ownership at the Franchise Expo South held in the Miami Beach Convention Center, Jan. 11-13.
Sponsored by the International Franchise Association (IFA), approximately 10,000 people attended the expo which was estimated to be 3000 more attendees from last year.
SBA South Florida District Deputy Director Jonel Hein joined IFA Vice President Development and Member Services Scott Lehr in welcoming the first entrepreneurs at opening ceremonies. Holding the oversize scissors in both hands, Hein cut the traditional ribbon to signal the start of the expo.
“The SBA South Florida District offices are here to help start new business and create jobs,” said Hein. “Franchises are an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to start their own business. Having worked closely with bank lenders, it’s easier to gain access to capital to start a franchise business than a start-up.”
According to SBA South Florida District, the office approved 603 loans, representing 250 different franchise brands totaling more than $323.3 million during the past five years.
“During the worse months of the economic crisis, entrepreneurs were able to access SBA guaranteed loans for franchises,” said Hein.
Women, minority and veteran entrepreneurs had the opportunity to learn about what SBA could do to turn their business dreams into a reality in a seminar co-hosted by the district’s outreach specialist, Althea Harris. Harris was one of more than a dozen featured speakers who led seminar discussions on franchise and small business ownership. While SBA provided options for entrepreneurs to gain access to capital, Harris stressed the importance of presenting a strong business plan to officials at SBA-approved banks.
“You need to learn how to think like a lender when you go into a bank to ask for money. Learn how to read numbers and understand cash flow when writing your business plan,” explained Harris. “SBA has resource partners in SCORE and Small Business Development Centers nearby that can help. You can also find online videos that can teach you on the SBA.Gov website. You can’t go into the bank without knowing the numbers in your business plan.”
Of all the business represented at this year’s expo, nearly half were part of IFA’s “VetFran” program that provides incentives to military veterans who pursue ownership in a franchise.
“Since November 2011, we had 64,000 new veterans in franchising and major hiring initiatives are expected this year,” said Lehr. “”There are over 540 VetFran member companies offering veteran owners major discounts and incentives.”
SBA South Florida district public affairs and Navy veteran James Brooks explained SBA veteran resources and the Patriot Express Loan during a seminar segment targeted specifically for veteran entrepreneurs.
“Whether you are inspired today to start a franchise or perhaps be inspired by these companies to open your own small business, the SBA can help you. Our south Florida district approved almost 950 loans to veterans for almost $231.5 million in the last five years. Assistance is there to help you succeed.”
More information for south Florida entrepreneurs can be found online at www.sba.gov/fl/south.