Microlending is the practice of lending smaller sums of money, typically to those who are unable to obtain funding through an established federal institution. Microlenders typically don’t request any type of collateral before loaning out the money. For-profit institutions may charge a high rate of interest to mitigate financial risks should the borrower default on their loans.
Microlending has had a lot of traction overseas in developing nations, and most are non-profit ventures. Money is lent to people who need it to start a small business in their area. Would-be entrepreneurs can get the cash they need to fill a vital need in the community, and lenders can contribute in their own way to helping individuals find their niche and lead more productive lives.
Learn how to start your own Microlending Company and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start a microlending company by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Microlending Company
- Form your Microlending Company into a Legal Entity
- Register your Microlending Company for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Microlending Company
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Microlending Company
- Get Microlending Company Insurance
- Define your Microlending Company Brand
- Create your Microlending Company Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your microlending company. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Microlending Company Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a microlending company?
Microlenders typically don’t have a lot of overhead, though you’ll likely need to hire a loan processor, a collector, and a bookkeeper. If you plan to take on all of these roles on your own at the beginning, you'll need to be extra careful. Even one mistake on your part can land you in legal hot water.
What are the ongoing expenses for a microlending company?
Overhead for a microlender is low, as you generally don’t need an office to conduct business:
- Employee salaries
- Advertising costs
- General office supplies
- Website costs
Who is the target market?
If you're hoping to make a social contribution as much as an economic one, an ideal person to lend a small sum of money to may be a woman in a third-world country, for example. She may be smart and capable of running a small family farm, but she lacks the resources to get started. A small sum of money may buy her enough for a few animals, which she can then raise to provide for her family. She may use the milk from goats or eggs from chickens to both nourish her family and sell to others in her community.
If you're hoping to make money on your loan, you may want to consider lending to young go-getters who lack the credit history they need to get a conventional loan. There are a number of reasons why people may need a small amount of money, so do your research first before you decide which areas need your assistance the most.
How does a microlending company make money?
Microlenders make money by charging people interest on their loans. You may lend out $500 at a 20% interest rate, meaning the debtor will owe $600 by the time all is said and done.
How much can you charge customers?
Interest rates vary widely from place to place. Some may charge 10% while others charge up to 80%. The average is about 35%, but you’ll want to do research on the interest rates in any given area. Some well-known non-profit microlending websites don't even offer the option of interest, while others may go as low as 3%. In these cases, it's more like charity than a business venture though. Those who charge extremely high interest rates are usually for-profit businesses.
How much profit can a microlending company make?
With persistence and patience, a microlender can make a considerable amount of money when in the right area. Some studies state that up to 97% of low-income borrowers pay back their loan under the agreed-upon terms. If you make $100 on average on each loan, you’ll need to make 600 loans in a year to make $60,000.
How can you make your business more profitable?
You may wish to expand to other parts of the world to make your business more profitable. Or you could consider opening up a payday loan store in your neighborhood if you feel you have a good handle on microlending and want to serve others who may need financial assistance.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your microlending company is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a microlending business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws, and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a microlending office location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a microlending business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a microlending office location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your microlending business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Microlending Company needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Microlending Company.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a microlending company
The best way to promote and market your business is to understand the need you’re filling in any given area. For example, if you’re only targeting small family farmers, then you need to determine how they learn about financial opportunities in their area. This may include physical advertising, such as flyers, or online advertising on specific websites. Depending on your goals, it may even include going door to door.
You should also have your own website that describes what you do, and how you do it. Consider having your information in several languages for the best results, and hiring an interpreter for better communication.
How to keep customers coming back
The best way to generate customers is to be as fair a lender as possible. This doesn’t mean letting people get away with constantly missing payments, but it does mean trying to work with your clients whenever possible. Always do what you say you're going to do, and ensure excellent customer service and professional behavior at all times.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
This business is excellent for those who understand the power of responsible lending. This isn't charity, but it is giving someone else a helping hand when they need it the most. The successful microlender will need an excellent balance between helping others and remaining financially solvent.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a microlending company?
Microlenders must do a number of things to prepare to lend money:
- Research target client/demographic
- Screen clients
- Create reasonable billing plans for pay back
- Comply with all state/federal laws for financial lending
- Study lending practices in different areas.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful microlending company?
Having some type of formal education in how finances work around the world will help, as will an in-depth knowledge of current law for both the country you operate out of and the country of those you’ll be lending to.
What is the growth potential for a microlending company?
Microlending has done well in Latin American countries and third-world nations because there are a limited amount of ways to obtain conventional funding. If you wish to open a for-profit business, you may want to concentrate on these areas as opposed to lending within the US.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a microlending company?
The best thing you can do is learn how to screen your clients, and to create detailed contracts about each loan. You will get a lot of applications from hard-working, responsible people who will do everything possible to use the funds wisely and pay you back. However, you will get a certain amount of people who are out to take your money, or who are asking for the money to achieve an unattainable goal. Consider video chat or in-person meetings as a way of getting to know your clients. Ask them about their business plan, and look to see how much effort went into their model.
You also need to keep meticulous records to ensure you’re never in danger of violating the laws. Start with sketching out a business plan that details how each transaction will work, and how everything will be recorded. Owners also need to have enough capital to start the business. Even with a limited amount of clients at the beginning, all of your loans will add up quickly.
How and when to build a team
Those familiar with the microlending business say to hire people right away because the risks of making a mistake can be high. However, if you’re starting small with just a few clients or you don’t have very much capital, you may be able to get everything started without external help.