Startup business loans can help entrepreneurs secure funding for equipment, inventory and other costs to get their business off the ground. Lenders know your business has a limited financial runway. For this reason, the application process may look different than for a conventional business loan. 

The documents needed for a startup business loan are likely to focus more closely on your personal financial history to assess creditworthiness, as records for the business are not as extensive or robust yet.

Note that not every lender will require all these documents — online lenders often have light documentation requirements. But having them handy will save you time if they are required and help you answer any questions the lender poses.

Documents about yourself

Assuming there is limited documentation available about your business, lenders may want to see substantial information about your personal finances and business plan before issuing a loan. Background information you will want to have on hand include:

  • Your name
  • Your address (and, if different, your business address)
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Personal bank statements
  • Personal tax returns

Documents about your business

Lenders want to know your business is legitimate and that you own it. They’ll also look for early signs your business is heading for success. Gather:

  • Business tax returns (if available)
  • Receipts from quarterly tax payments
  • Profit and loss statements 
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number): This acts much like a Social Security number for payments and tax documents. You can apply for one online through the IRS.
  • Business licenses and permits, if applicable
  • Foundational documents, including articles of incorporation
  • Outstanding invoices, especially if you’re applying for invoice factoring

Business plan

Writing a business plan can help you to develop a clear vision for the path ahead and can help build confidence and buy-in from potential investors. A good startup business plan will include the following elements:

An executive summary: This introduction provides an overview of your business, its objectives, and why you will be successful. Keep this section brief: ideally two pages or less. Introduce information about:

  • Your business and its products or services
  • The target market being served
  • Your key qualifications as a business owner
  • Information about the organizational structure of your business
  • Pertinent background information about your business and/or market sector
  • Funding information: Any capital dedicated to date and its sources, as well as your plans for future funding

Your company description: Think of this as your elevator pitch. What problem is your business solving? What differentiates it from competitors in the field?

Market research: Show your understanding of the current market conditions; underscore any noticeable themes from successful businesses in your industry.

Your product or service: Go into more detail here than was provided in your executive summary.

Marketing plan: Describe how you will build and retain a customer base.

Funding request: Go into detail here about why you are requesting funds and how this money will be used. 

Other documents

Other documents you may need as you prepare for a startup loan application include the following: 

  • Collateral information: Documents related to any assets that belong to the company. This can include equipment, technology, vehicles, real estate and bank accounts. You may need to include an appraisal to prove the asset’s worth.
  • Personal guarantee: A clause in your loan agreement stating you take personal liability for the debt.

Bankrate tip
Not every loan will require these — ask your lender if you’re unsure. Secured loans are more likely to require the first, while most small business loans require the latter.

Documents for a startup SBA loan 

In addition to the documents listed above, applications for Small Business Administration-backed startup loans require extra documentation. Be prepared also to provide:

  • Financial plan: Describe your projections for the next one to five years. This should inspire confidence in lenders about the stability of your business.
  • Appendices: Any supporting documents that may strengthen your funding request and provide more context about your business.
  • SBA forms: The SBA has its own application forms you must complete. Requirements will vary by loan. For example, 7(a) loans require form 1919 and form 1920.

The bottom line

Lining up your documentation in advance can ensure a straightforward application process once you are ready to apply for funding. Having the information handy can also demonstrate your readiness to secure funding and grow as a business. 

Once you collect this paperwork, you can use these documents to apply for all kinds of business loans and business lines of credit.